Archive | February, 2013

Interesting that the News Services Now Go With Whatever Gender a Person Calls Himself!

28 Feb

Interesting that the News Services Now Go With Whatever Gender a Person Calls Himself!

And the wider issue is that this child is not the only child who needs appropriate schooling in that school.

We have truly become a nation of individuals who don’t care whether others lose their rights when we claim ours.

By claiming a right to the girls’ bathroom at an age where he either can’t yet have sexual reassignment surgery or it isn’t happening for some reason . . . this child is claiming the right to not only use a toilet in a private stall but also to use gym showers with girls as his body develops into an adolescent male’s body.

In a world where 20% of our girls are sexually molested, most before adulthood, I don’t suggest forcing a girl to change her clothes next to a person with male equipment.

Does she not have the right to avoid trauma, too?


Women’s Thursday: A Majority of the Human Race is Never Born

28 Feb

A Majority of the Human Race is Never Born


Writing about abortion, I have been running into statistics like those expressed in this chart about the miscarriage rate.  As you can see, it is estimated that 75% of pregnancies spontaneously abort before the mother knows she is pregnant.

Beyond that, be careful with interpretation.  The next statistic means that 10% of the 25% of pregnancies that survive the first few days will then go on to spontaneously abort in the next period.  Then 5% of the pregnancies that have survived the first two periods will spontaneously abort in the next one . . . and so on.

If we read that incorrectly and assume that 10% of the original pregnancies will spontaneously abort in the next period, then 5% of the original pregnancies in the next period after that, we end up with a chart that seems to imply that almost 100% of all pregnancies spontaneously abort.  Added to our 20-25% intentional abortion rate, that would make a birth rate of, say, 0%!!!

Now, for those of us who regard a fertilized egg as possessing an eternal soul from the moment of conception, there is a staggering thought here.

Take just a moment to contemplate that far more than half of the human race never gets to the birth process.

We pretty universally agree that those who have a soul and never reach the age of accountability go to heaven automatically.

So over half the human race will be in heaven without having ever taken one breath on this planet.  Without having made a choice to follow the God of the Bible.  In fact, He chose for them.

Now, I want us to dare consider another thought.  In the matter of election that can be so controversial, is it possible that God chose for the rest of us, too?

I know some Arminian folks are aghast at this idea.  Choice is very important to them.  They call it “free will.”

But is it as important to God as it sometimes is to us?  We love our choices, but does He see them the same way we do?

Especially the choice to be saved.

We willingly acknowledge that He knows who will be saved in the end.

Could He also have chosen them, chosen for them to come to the part of their life where they get saved?

It’s just a thought . . .


How Thomas Barrow on Downton Abbey turned me against a Universal Draft!

27 Feb

How Thomas Barrow on Downton Abbey turned me against a Universal Draft!

In the second season of Downton Abbey, Thomas the footman turns into Thomas the medic and gets deployed to the front in World War I.  While in the trenches, terrified with everyone else of the incoming rounds, he purposely raises a hand with a cigarette in it above his trench to draw incoming fire.

It works and wins him a trip home to England, where he gets to employ his medical talents till the end of the war in relative safety.  (And he gets to continue his scheming, maneuvering ways, but that is the fun of watching the Thomas character, isn’t it?).

The U.S. and Great Britain did not enter nor fight the world wars in the same way!

My sister-in-law (in England, but aware of the history of our family both there and in Ireland) reminded me of that this morning when my Facebook page contained a discussion of the proposal that women in the U.S. register for Selective Service (the draft).  The idea is that now that women have been cleared for combat for three full weeks (if they qualify and if they volunteer) it is now time to make combat mandatory for every woman, in case of a war breaking out in the future.

If you know me at all, you know that I am not in favor of that proposal.  I don’t want to stand in the way of those rare women who do well with fifty pound backpacks, but I don’t think all of us should be training to that standard.  We are not inferior to men.  Just different.  And less suited for combat, on the average.

However, there is always that idea that women get choices while men get told to “man up.”  Combat is one of those areas.  Selective service registration has been, too.

It goes along with the idea that a woman can choose to be a homemaker/homeschooling mom or choose to have a career, while a man who stays home to tend to the homestead or to homeschool his children will usually be made a laughingstock.

Not sure how to remedy all that.  And that is not the point of this post anyhow.

But I do have a remedy for the universal draft in the U.S.   Don’t do it (see article above, about the counterproposal to stand down the requirement for men to register for selective service).  Don’t do it for anyone.

As my sister-in-law reminded me, a trained, professional Army does better every time.  We got into the habit of manning our forces at the last minute as a war began because we were pushed into World War II unwillingly.  It worked out pretty well that time so we have used it as a modus operandi ever since, taking our forces from small to large during the Korean War and the Viet Nam war by means of the draft.

Call it a money-saving gesture.

And call it foolish.

We get the Army we are willing to pay for.  And if our frugality keeps us from training and paying soldiers until we need a fullscale mobilization, it is wicked to grab a bunch of civilians, turn them into soldiers overnight against their will, and send them off on a wing and a prayer to hopefully avoid death and disfigurement.

That doesn’t matter, morally, whether they are male or female.  It may insult our sensibilities more when they are female, but morally it is the same issue.  Forced service.  Related to slavery.

Even when everyone in the ranks agrees that it was done equitably, between the rich and the not-so-rich, it is still forced service.

Our constitution provides for a strong national defense, making that a responsibility of the federal government.  As we have seen since right after Viet Nam, if the military is paid well enough, you can keep it manned without a draft.

And that, my friends, is a federal government bill that should be paid because the states can’t do it on their own (nor should they).

Whatever happens with sequestration, it remains a federal responsibility . . . (if we must have fewer troops, then we will need to serve in fewer places accordingly.  We can’t do everything anymore!).

Who would have thought that Thomas Barrow and my sister-in-law would combine their voices to talk me into a persistent belief in an all volunteer military??!!  Thanks, Carol!


Things to Say When You Suspect you Might be Hearing Gossip!

27 Feb

Things to Say When You Suspect you Might be Hearing Gossip!

Do we really want to stop gossip in our local church?  Do we realize that gossip/dissension/accusation are Satan’s way of dividing the local church?  Do we understand that gossiping, or being passive when we should be active against gossip in others, plays right into Satan’s hands?

I have never been part of a church that collapsed and had to shut its doors, but I have been in several situations where there were people openly trying to bring down a pastor’s ministry.  I don’t know if they thought enough ahead to realize that there might be a power vacuum after that.  Or that the power vacuum could implode the whole church so that it ceased to exist.

Just on a sheerly practical level, what do you do with a multimillion dollar building when everyone who once gave to build it has moved on except for a handful of people?  If nothing else, once your tithes and labor have gone into constructing a church, why would you then turn around and labor at tearing down everything for which it stood?

These are questions to which I can find no valid answer.  Maybe there isn’t one.  Maybe our pride blinds us enough to the possible consequences of gossiping and/or dividing a church that no one has ever really thought through logically to ending with that empty church building that must be sold.

We should think through to that.


The Bible is not about you! (nor me!)

26 Feb

The Bible is not about you! (or me!)

Before you shut down reading the title, please read the article.  It is one of the best I have seen lately.  It absolutely provides the balance for my realization that Christ died for me in particular, not for a nameless group of humans.  In fact, He died looking down through the centuries straight at me.  Knowing, in advance, my name and my sin and my shame, the pure Son of God went to the cross to redeem me from the kingdom of darkness.

Balancing that is the fact that salvation is God’s plan, God’s way.  I am part of His script for history, and not the other way around.  I say that in the most loving and reverent of ways.  Once I was saved, I did not subsequently get the right to reimage the Bible to make it all about me.  It is still all about that pure Son of God Who went to the cross for me, for us!!!  Hallelujah, and let’s delve into it to learn more about Him!!!

Really? Really? Ganging up on Overweight People . . .

25 Feb

A friend writes on Facebook that she is aware she is overweight but “when did we overweight people become public enemy number one???”

I will trace the history of this a bit, but first I have to show the total illogic of it.

Ask anyone who is going on about “fat people” what their objection is to people who are overweight and you will hear something like this sampling:

“They cost too much to insure.  They raise the premiums at work for everybody in our company.”  

“Yes, but do they raise the cost much higher than the cost to insure sexually active people against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases?  AIDS requires a lifetime of very expensive drug therapy.”

“It’s none of our business what people do in their bedrooms.”

“Ah, but are you saying it is our business what they do at their kitchen tables, and in restaurants?  Is that because it is easier to observe?  So things are only wrong if we can see them occurring?” 

“Well, they also choose to let something easily handled go totally out of control.  If they would only go to the gym and watch their portions like the rest of us, this would not be a problem.  It’s all about self-discipline”.

“I understand our insurance premiums also cover a multitude of substance abusers, between alcohol and drugs.  Is self-discipline with food in a different category than self-discipline with alcohol and drugs?”   

“There you go blaming the victim.  People with addictions to alcohol and drugs deserve our compassion, not our judgment.”  

“But people addicted to food deserve our judgment?  Why is that different?”

“They get in my way walking, especially when they have to ride those little scooters in Walmart.”

“Okay, now you are finally saying what your true objection is.  Overweight people inconvenience you by not being invisible like people usually are with sexual issues, alcohol issues, or drug issues.  It’s really all about your convenience, isn’t it?”  

“They are just not nice people.”  

“I don’t hear you calling for laws against hypercritical, petty, vindictive people . . .”

“Fat people slow me down.”

“But you have no problem with the people who race to the front of a line of backed up cars, then cut in at the last minute, with potentially lethal consequences to you if you are in that first car.  That kind of thing could slow you down permanently.”

“I only want to make laws to get overweight people to reduce.”

“Wow!!!  Busybody much?”

You see, fifty years ago there were laws against all kinds of sexual contact outside of marriage.  The sexual revolution of the 1960’s turned those laws on their ear.  We decided to be “anything goes” sexually as a society.  

However, we are at heart judgmental people.  So when we stopped judging people for whom they loved (and believe me, this is not just about gay relationships because we also have stopped judging people for extramarital affairs and serial monogamy that produces five children by five different fathers and  . . .), we had to find a new target.  For a while, that was alcohol and drug abusers.  We then located our compassion for them.  

But . . . we still needed a target.  Ergo, those who are overweight.  Fifty years ago, butter and gravy were good things and everyone expected a woman to plump up after having children.  For her mate, it was optional.  

All that to say, we could outlaw rude, cold, mean people but they can become invisible in a moment by temporarily shapeshifting into a nice person.  And then where would we be?

No, we need someone who always looks the same.  Always looks on the fringes of acceptability.

“Ah, there we go.  Let’s single out people who are overweight, and already probably pretty embarrassed about it, for some special humiliation.  Ah, yes, that is a good place to fling our judgmental venom.  Not!”  

You see, I was there 105 pounds ago.  And I will never forget how much I felt I had to work harder and contribute more than others in every group just to justify being taken seriously.  For yes, society does have a standard by which obese people are instantly judged to be less gifted than others intellectually.   

I will never forget how it felt and I will always advocate compassion toward those who struggle with their weight.  Or even those who don’t struggle with it, but just accept it the way it is.  

Why is that our business again? 

Military Suicides

22 Feb

I had the perfect Associated Press article bookmarked for inclusion with this post, but it no longer exists.

That is okay.  The statistics are easy enough to Google, for anyone who feels compelled to check them.

The military suicide rate is up, against the number of battle casualties.  My coworkers and I on a military base were talking about this.

The number of battle casualties is way down.  There is a reason for that.  We are out of Iraq.  By this time next year, we will be out of Afghanistan, God willing.

Our battle casualties at this time next year should be zero.

So the military suicide rate should be way up against that statistic!!!

However, since we have a Department of Veterans’ Affairs and every life is precious, we do support continued research on military suicides, and interventions, where appropriate.

The number of military suicides, even related to PTSD, is still a lower percentage than the number of civilian suicides.

But civilians don’t have a Department of Veterans’ Affairs to help them stay away from suicide.

So military suicide research and intervention will continue.  For civilians, not so much.

Just one of the differences between us.  And one for which this veteran is thankful.


Women’s Thursday: One Voice in the Abortion Debate

21 Feb

Women’s Thursday: One Voice in the Abortion Debate

I disagree with this blogger on many different levels  She gives me the opportunity to address them.

First of all, most people who are against abortion are not also against contraceptives.  The people who are against both are usually traditional Catholics.  They are only a small percentage of Catholics, let alone of the pro-life movement!

Secondly, one bit of data usually not included in comparisons of countries where abortion is legal and those where it is illegal is the status of doctors conducting abortions in both places.  They are usually the same bunch, with one bringing women in the front doors of their clinics and the other bringing them in the back doors of their clinics.   That was also the difference that occurred in the U.S. in  January of 1973, when abortion became legal.  A totally new group of doctors did not get trained in the procedure from one day to the next.  The ones who were already providing it just became legal.

That is key because when a country makes abortion legal, the blood of those unborn babies accrues on that nation’s conscience.  When abortion is illegal, individual doctors and mothers incur the guilt for a baby’s death.  That may seem a fine point now, but that only proves how far downward our thinking has spiraled since 1973.  I don’t want anybody’s blood guilt spread over our entire nation.  If someone chooses to murder a child in the womb, let those people bear their own guilt.

So I do not concur when the post says that countries that make abortion illegal punish women who want abortions by making them seek them illegally.  In light of responsibility for blood guilt, I can’t buy that line.  For when abortion is legal, I am punished by living in a society where we collectively bear the blood guilt of every woman who aborts and every doctor who provides an abortion.  Why should I be punished with that?  Given the choice between “punishing” a woman by making her find an illegal abortion and punishing our entire society with blood guilt, I choose the former.

Thirdly, the post advances the shaky argument that a woman’s body naturally expels more fertilized eggs than are expelled via birth control; this event is referred to as a natural abortion.  Well, so what?  If God causes a fertilized egg to pass out of a woman’s body, then that is God’s decision.  I am not worried about those cases.  My objective is not to maximize the number of fertilized eggs coming to the birth process, but to suggest that people don’t have the right to play God and to cause the death of a fertilized egg, whether by a birth control method that works after fertilization or by abortion.

Fourthly, however, I do agree that those who are prolife must be consistently so and must advocate for ways in which poor women can be helped to raise the children they bear.  Those ways do not necessarily have to be funded by the government, however.

And fifthly, one final word about the post is that statistics should often be questioned.  The Western European abortion rate is said to be 12 per 1000 women, while the Eastern European abortion rate is 43 per 1000 women.  Yet we know that in the U.S., a western nation, we abort between 20% and 25% of all pregnancies.  If that were consistent with Western Europe, then we would be talking about an abortion rate in Eastern Europe that is almost 100%.  I believe the discrepancy exists because all women are included in the statistic, not just all women who get pregnant in a given year.  That would be a more meaningful statistic.

There is much to be said on the abortion issue; my initial two posts have merely scratched the surface.  But when we say it, we need to use meaningful words and concepts.


Women’s Thursday: Putting a Tenuous Toe in the Water on the Subject of Abortion

14 Feb

Putting a Tenuous Toe in the Water on the Subject of Abortion

This link is interesting to me.  I have some pretty fundamental differences with some stands Tony Campolo has taken in the past.  But that doesn’t mean I think he should shut up and never write anything again.  In blogging, there is no concept of secondary and tertiary separation, as there is in fundamentalist pulpits!

I do like the idea presented by both men here that we can’t just make it our project to dissuade women from abortion, then leave them on their own to pick up the pieces of their lives.  I think we have to be willing to use our own time, talent, and treasure to help them after their babies are born.

When we homeschooled, we collected gifts at Christmas for “Baby Jesus” in our homeschool support group.  Baby clothes, diapers, wipes, etc. to be presented to our local crisis pregnancy center.  The thought of it makes me cry even now, as Joey and I would drive a car full of packages over after our Christmas party.  Our saying was, “Since Baby Jesus isn’t here right now, let’s give to another baby in His Name.”  Such a blessing to be involved.

I do agree that the majority of abortions seem to be caused by hopelessness in women, particularly financial hopelessness.

However, I also see that many abortions don’t particularly appear to be a woman’s “choice” (as prochoice people constantly say they are).  When a young woman is being coerced by her parents or by the baby’s father to abort the child, that is no choice for her.  Just sayin’.

And there is the guilty secret, hardly ever addressed, that many, many pregnancies (and subsequent abortions) in minors involve a man who is not, himself, a minor.  How very cold of him to encourage or even offer to pay for the operation that destroys the evidence of his crime, eh?  Because sex with an underage person is still a crime.

Where is the mercy for the woman who wants to keep her baby but is being told by her parents or by her boyfriend that she will be abandoned if she chooses to give birth to the child?

And where is the mercy for the underage girl, abused by an adult and then pressured to abort an innocent child to hide the guilt of that adult?

Real people have to live with the consequences of these abortions, too.  And mental scars are no less real . . .

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part V: Lady Edith’s Treachery

12 Feb

In Season One of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith, the middle Crawley sister, shows herself to be absolutely conscienceless with her letter to the Turkish ambassador when she cajoles from Daisy, the cook’s assistant, the secret of how a Turkish diplomat died in her sister’s bedroom.  Rather than going to her sister and talking with her about her sin in any sort of redemptive way, she writes to the Turkish ambassador and busts London wide open with rumors about her sister’s reputation.

It is said that envy is the deadliest sin, for it has nothing of good in it at all, but sheer unadulterated evil.  For example, lust can have some elements of love.  Greed can include an appreciation of the finer things in life.  Gluttony can begin with an actual knowledge of and appreciation for good food.  But envy . . .

It is plain that Lady Edith lives in the shadow of her two sisters.  Only at Downton Abbey can this blonde girl come across as plain, in comparison with her two stunning, accomplished brunette sisters.  But . . . that is just the point, isn’t it?  God cautions us again and again in the Scriptures against comparing ourselves to others.  If Lady Edith were to just be herself, she would be an interesting, rich girl with much to offer a potential suitor.  When she lives a life of envy toward spirited Mary and gentle Sybil, she becomes a monster.

And she becomes a monster with no idea of proportion nor propriety in her responses.  Edith has found out suspicious circumstances that strongly suggest Mary has sinned so, in her desire to elevate herself by casting her sister down, she just goes with that and smears Mary’s name.  If there might be any alternative explanation, Edith doesn’t care to hear it.

Sexual sin can produce shame when found out, but that shame might have come as a natural consequence of what happened.  Instead, Edith plays God and spreads Mary’s shame all over the capital by telling the Turkish ambassador about it.

Two wrongs never make a right, but how often do we see people, even in the church, whispering wildly about others, and not in any redemptive way?  It even seems as though people enjoy repeating the more salacious details of the lives of others, as though they can get a secondary thrill by the mere reporting of the information.  The Bible clearly says there are some things so shameful they should not even be mentioned among us . . . Meanwhile, we seem overjoyed to kill people’s reputations.

In the end, Lady Edith becomes my least favorite character in the series.  I am never upset when her suitors leave her.  She is dull, both in looks (because she doesn’t carry herself as a child of God, but rather as an envious little drudge) and in intellect (because it takes so much time and effort to feed envy that she doesn’t come up with much else).

What a boring, pathetic little life.  But such is envy.  Boring (the most boring of sins) and pathetic.

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part IV: Lady Mary’s Lament

11 Feb

The biggest storyline touching on morality in Season One of Downton Abbey is the storyline involving Lady Mary and the Turkish diplomat, who visits her home with an English friend of his who is courting Lady Mary, then steals her heart away.

The diplomat, Kamal Pamuk, comes to Lady Mary’s bedchamber in the dead of night, led by the treacherous footman Thomas.  He enters her room to shock on the part of Lady Mary.  She had only hours before pushed him away when he tried to passionately kiss her downstairs.

She wildly protests and prepares to scream.  He tells her screaming would not help her–that she is already compromised.  In the society in which she lives, perhaps he is right.  She had been noted flirting with him downstairs.  It might just be that people would believe he had been invited to her quarters . . .

At this point, it is hard to explain what happens next in the light of modern values.  She acquiesces to his advances and kisses him back when he kisses her.  The cameras cut away with no sex and no nudity onscreen but it becomes obvious later that Lady Mary and Pamuk had relations, as he subsequently dies in her bed.

The rest of Season One has this storyline woven in and out of its fabric, as Daisy, the cook’s assistant, observes Lady Mary, her mother, and the maid Anna moving Pamuk’s body back to his own bed.

The story eventually comes out, first among servants in London, then later in the Turkish Embassy.

It is always whispered as a rumor, however, and becomes a major issue of morality when Lady Mary falls in love with her distant cousin Matthew Crawley.

Matthew proposes and Mary hesitates.  Matthew eventually concludes that she is waiting to see whether he will inherit Downton Abbey or her own family will keep it.

In actuality, Mary is hesitating because she believes she owes it to Matthew (not to her father) to explain that the rumors being heard in London are actually true and that she has given up her virtue before marriage.

All of this is reinforcing of Christian morality, that sex belongs within marriage.

It is possible to our modern minds that Mary’s sexual encounter might fall under sexual assault, as it was definitely coerced.  She was led to believe she had no escape so she might as well relax and enjoy it.

The main point that I see is that the show holds up morality as an ideal, and shows that consequences accrue when God’s law is set aside, for whatever reason.

For that reason, I will watch this show, when I choose not to watch about 95% of the shows out there today with their muddled values.


Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part III: O’Brien’s and Thomas’s Murderous Impulses

10 Feb

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part III: O’Brien’s and Thomas’s Murderous Impulses

I wrote in the above link, Part II of this series, about the part O’Brien played in the miscarriage of Lord Grantham’s only son in Season One of Downton Abbey.

In Part I of this series, I wrote about Thomas, described by Mrs. Patmore as a tortured soul, but known to everyone else as the show’s main villain and schemer.

I actually think it would be the most fun of all, as an actor or actress, to play Thomas or O’Brien.  The sheer evil of their actions sometimes must make it very challenging to play them, and rewarding when the performances are top drawer, as they always are.

Their value to us, as I started to point out yesterday, is that they confront us with the heart of evil in us all.  Not all of us break the law and not all of us do things that lead to someone’s death.  But all of us have broken God’s law and all of us did things that led to the death of the Holy Son of God.

So, if we are truthful, we have to move away from the idea that Thomas and O’Brien are “over there outside of us” and realize that we have some of their same murderous impulses inhabiting our own hearts.

But for the grace of God, we would be hopeless.

What else do you think is inside the person who tailgates you at 50 mph on the interstate onramp?  That person is not so stupid as to be unaware that you might have to suddenly brake in an onramp, which would lead to a rear-end collision and could lead to your death.

Truly, there is often not much of a difference between the impulses that lead to assault with a deadly weapon charges and the impulses that lead to vehicular manslaughter charges.

When we are running late and weave perilously in and out of traffic at speeds 25 mph higher than what is written, are we not coldly stating that our schedule and our convenience matter more to us than the lives we are possibly endangering?  We have done the risk assessment and have decided that it is worth the risk of ending a life or two in order for us to get to where we want to be in a quicker fashion.

Those are only a couple of examples.  Any thinking person can come up with myriads more.  I shared yesterday how, even at age seven, I could exhibit coldness toward a person who needed my help to keep from falling.  Coldness that regarded its own convenience as much more important than the safety of another person.  That, my friends, is original sin and it is in us all.

Now here I will end with the good news, of the world of Downton Abbey and of this modern world we inhabit:  Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

God knew we were hopelessly broken and provided His Own Son to redeem us from sin and from ourselves.  By putting our faith in Christ, we can be made a new creation and begin growing to be more like Christ.  Praise God for making a way!

Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part II : O’Brien and Miscarriage!

9 Feb

As anyone who has seen the first season of Downton Abbey knows, Lord Grantham’s wife Cora finally conceives a male heir after his three daughters are already adults, but then loses the baby when she slips on a piece of soap on the floor next to her bathtub.  The soap was purposely planted there by Cora’s maid, Miss O’Brien.  O’Brien thinks Cora is planning to replace her, after overhearing and misunderstanding a conversation about a maid being hired for Cora’s mother-in-law.

How often do we do that?  Hear a few words out of context and think we know the whole story?

But, beyond that, although most of us would never try to cause a pregnant woman to fall, have we ever done something out of equally hateful impulses?  Maybe something from motives so evil that the thought of it sends chills down our spine years or decades later?

I could hardly bear to look at O’Brien when she realizes that her mistress never intended to send her away and, in fact, loves her blindly.  Her mistress has not the slightest suspicion that the soap was intentionally placed in her path.  No one has the slightest idea.  But O’Brien knows.  She knows that she caused a baby’s miscarriage.  She did the equivalent act to taking a woman today and forcing her to have an abortion.

Looking at O’Brien in that moment, I see a desolate woman who has to live with private guilt forever, whether or not she ever confesses to anyone what happened.  Her sin cannot be undone.  It can be forgiven but its effects are permanent.

Even if her mistress had intended to send her away, her response was disproportionate, wasn’t it?  It is the equivalent response to the people today who are fired from a job and return with a weapon to shoot the place up!  Being fired, even wrongly, is not equivalent to being murdered.

But . . . I remembered tonight a time when I was about seven years old and was out in the countryside, at a friend’s slumber party for her birthday.  It was my first slumber party and it was exciting and scary at the same time.

My friend lived on a farm.  And we were having a hayride right after dark.  I only knew my friend at the party, as the other girls were from her school, out in the countryside.

One of the little girls started to fall off the back of the wagon but caught herself.  She struggled to get back on.  In the process, I looked down and realized she had grabbed my hand.  She was hanging off the back of the wagon, gripping my hand.  She struggled for what seemed like forever to right herself, with no success.

What happened next I could never explain if I lived a thousand years.  I got tired of holding onto her hand while she struggled to get back on the wagon.  Not physically tired.  Annoyed.  Tired of this needy stranger holding my hand.  I let go.

She plunged underneath the wagon.  We did not run her over, but she was injured.  She didn’t break anything, but we didn’t know that for sure until she had been taken to the doctor.

No one ever found out why she fell.  She didn’t remember holding my hand, I am sure.  I carried a cold edge of guilt over that act for many years.  In fact, I don’t remember ever telling anyone about it, until now.

We can make all kinds of excuses for me.  I was only seven.  I didn’t know she would fall.  I didn’t intend for anything bad to happen but just wanted to get her to stop holding on to me.  And she wasn’t really hurt badly after all.

Except . . . I know that in my heart lurked that same cold impulse that animated O’Brien when she set out to get revenge.  I didn’t care one toss for this girl.  She was an annoyance to me and I got rid of the annoyance, like swatting a bug.

I didn’t mean for her to fall, but if she had been crushed and killed beneath the wheels of the haywagon, it would still have been due to my cold, sinful heart.

You see, that is our guilty little secret.  In the hearts of all of us lurk those moments when we don’t really care about the wellbeing of others.  And, when we are like that, we are not much better off than Miss O’Brien.

That is the brilliance of Downton Abbey.  There are some true villains there.  O’Brien is usually one of them.  But when we look deeply at them, we realize the villainy of our own hearts.

And those of us who are Christians humbly bow and thank Jesus for coming to redeem our villainous hearts.

A Morality Play: Season One of Downton Abbey

8 Feb

Obviously, my title is its own spoiler alert for any who have not seen Season One yet!

I also must make a disclaimer here and say that I hardly watch any modern television programs.

“Jeopardy” and some Piers Morgan interviews because my husband likes them.  The news.  That is about it.

I love movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  I love retro TV from the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  

I love classic novels.

I evaluate television by those standards, not by other current shows.  So if something being made now has my stamp of approval, it is an amazing and unusual work of art.

Downton Abbey is that show.  We are watching Season Three, but were given the first two seasons on DVD as a gift for supporting public television.  So I am catching up on the earlier episodes right now.

I love the beautiful home, and the precious small town atmosphere around Downton Abbey.

I love the clothes.

I love the depth of the characters that are portrayed, both upstairs and downstairs.

I started out with Lady Mary as my favorite character, but it has slowly shifted to be Mr. Carson, the loyal family butler.  My favorite scene is at the end of Season One as he hesitantly offers his shoulder to the crying Lady Mary.  Wonderful characterization!

I also love the morality of the characters.  Even the villains know when they are doing wrong and consciously choose to do so.  Things were not portrayed with so many mixed signals and analyses back in the World War I era and the show is faithful to that.  People back then didn’t call good evil and evil good.

When someone does wrong on the show, even the moral characters, they have consequences to their actions, in the tradition of the best old movies and literature (think Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”).

Sure we are all flawed sinners.  But the show rewards the good things that are done and punishes the evil ones.  Eventually.  Just the way God has set up natural consequences to work in this world.

I also applaud the fact that there is no real violence portrayed onscreen, just a few scuffles between men using their fists.  The way Shakespeare used to write his plays.  The violence takes place offscreen.  Even World War I, in the case of Downton Abbey.

So does the sex.  Yes, there are two sexual storylines, one heterosexual and one gay.  But those stories are also take place offscreen and are told by the characters involved.  When things begin to get steamy, the camera stops rolling at the kissing part.  There is no nudity nor heavy breathing.

The word is “understated.”  It involves avoiding coarseness. I applaud the show for this.

One note about Thomas, the gay character, who by our modern definition is guilty of sexual assault (and blackmail) in every one of his attempted relationships:  if I were gay, I would regard his character, the biggest villain at Downton Abbey, as a big step backwards for gay rights.  I am not sure why a kissing scene, involving him as footman to a nobleman, happens in the first episode.  It has kept many traditional Christians from carrying on watching the series.  And it is not followed up in any of the other episodes.  It is like a bone being thrown to the gay lobby, but makes no sense, in context.  And, as I said, his character is despicable after that.  

Mrs. Patmore, the cook, refers to him as a “tormented soul,” while trying to explain him to a naive young girl who has a crush on him.  That is the kindest thing ever said about Thomas. Back then, that would be the phrase used for a gay person, I suppose.  

So “Downton Abbey” is a show that celebrates morality and does not involve coarseness and a cheapening of our standards and ourselves.

What is not to like?




Don’t Make me Invisible . . .

6 Feb

3 John 1:9, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.”

What a sad verse.  This man, Diotrephes, refused to receive the Apostle John, the very man who, when he was young, had been such an intimate friend of Christ that he reclined with his head on Christ’s chest at the Last Supper.

Do we ever cop an attitude like that with our treasured brothers and sisters in Christ?

I am afraid so.  How do I know?  Because I am made of the same flesh as everyone else.  And I know one scenario that hardly anyone among us can stomach graciously.

Try a night when, for whatever reason, you seem to be invisible to the other members of your church.

Are you squirming yet?  I am.

I am squirming because I remember a time this happened and how poorly I handled it.

It was during my cancer treatments.  I already was struggling to have enough energy to get through my days.  My emotions were sometimes a mess.

However, that does not excuse the fact that I nearly had a meltdown because I walked into church on a Wednesday evening and no one spoke to me.

I remember standing, after the service, up where our orchestra sits, watching people around the auditorium animatedly talking to each other.

I had nothing to say.  And no one had anything to say to me.  I was crushed . . .

I immediately began to think that, if I were already invisible, with no one aware I was watching them, then maybe I could just stand there and get an idea of what it would be like at church if I died of the cancer I was fighting.

And, yes, I got the idea that life would continue on without me.  As it does when anyone dies.

I was so undone by my thoughts that I grasped at the first person who walked by, as though I were an exhausted, drowning swimmer.

Why did I need to do that?  I honestly believe it is good for us to feel invisible every once in a while.  It shows us that life, especially life at church, is not all about us.

But we can’t handle it well, at least I can’t.  Why is that?

I believe it stems from our desire and our need to have the preeminence.  We need to matter to others so much that we will make a fuss if we gather that we don’t matter, even just for a few minutes.

Thing is, in Christ we already matter.  So grasping at people is not only ultimately unsatisfying, but it is totally unnecessary.

Now to just let that soak into our hearts . . . yours and mine.  God helping us!

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