Archive | October, 2013

Of God’s Word and Vampires . . .

24 Oct

When I was about nine years old, my friend Agnes and I used to sneak into her basement every night after school to watch the forbidden Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows.  A lot of our friends did the same, for there were lots of parents who did not think it wise to let us watch a show with vampires and werewolves, even if it was on during the afternoon.

I have recently been rewatching some of that show on Netflix.  It is tame by today’s standards.  But it does deal with the theme of vampires, the undead, those who could wish to die but never would be able to do so.

I recently saw the part where Julia Hoffman, the doctor/researcher, reveals that she has figured out that Barnabas Collins is a vampire.  She shows her hand by subtly pulling her compact out of her purse at his house and pretending to powder her nose, while noting that Barnabas does not reflect in her mirror.

Well played scene.  I had no idea that Julia had figured things out until I saw that mirror come out . . .

Barnabas shows the effects of the sin nature in man as it leads to death . . .

The Bible clearly teaches, in John and several other places, that God is light.  It teaches that, as we come to God, we come to the light.

Yet Barnabas stays in his coffin all day to avoid daylight.

The Bible teaches that God’s words are a mirror for us to hold up to see what we look like spiritually and to see how we can turn away from sin.  

Yet Barnabas does not even reflect in a mirror.

Sin can take us so far that it dumps us at death’s doorstep.  The show Dark Shadows shows us how.  

Perhaps it is a moral tale, after all.  

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Today is Prince George’s Christening Day (the BBC is All Over the Story!)

23 Oct

Today, four generations of British monarchs will pose for a royal portrait for the first time since Queen Victoria did that with her son, grandson, and great grandson (on his christening day).  I guess British queens just live the longest of anyone, don’t they?  I am sure Queen Elizabeth II is very much looking forward to this day and to her portrait with Prince Charles, Prince William, and little Prince George. 

Today, Prince George will be christened, or infant baptized and welcomed into the community of believers in Christ.

There are two extreme beliefs about this type of event.  

One extreme believes that Prince George will become a Christian today, a believer in Jesus, even though he is well below the age of accountability or even the age when he could understand such an abstract concept as salvation. 

But the other extreme believes that baptism, when it occurs to a person who has reached the age of accountability and has professed Christ as Saviour, is very much an individual identification with Jesus, not a corporate identification with Christ’s Body on earth (the church).  

Biblically, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  Salvation is individual but baptism, at whatever age, does signal our entry into the community of believers.  If it occurs before the age of accountability, it makes those who are already accountable in that community of believers responsible for raising that young child so that he or she has the greatest opportunity to make an individual decision for Christ later!

I don’t believe in infant baptism, but I do understand the above viewpoint, and I respect those who hold it.

Blood bought believers in Christ tend to go to war with each other over this issue, which is truly secondary if we all believe we are saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

And, to be crystalline about the tendency all humans have to go to excessive lengths in our beliefs, I see my own denomination, the independent fundamental Baptists, as being far too independent in relation to the fact that Christ stated He died for the church (as well as individuals).  We tend to not teach identification with a community in baptism, whether that is the local church, the universal church, or both.  

I think we were historically separated from that orthodox Christian belief when circuit riding preachers reached out across vast areas of the U.S. to disciple people who lived far away from any neighbors or community.  

However, that is history.  Theology teaches that Christ valued the church as a corporate entity enough to die for it.  We have to come to peace with that idea  or we are in rebellion against God’s very Word.  

Only goes to show that there is no perfect church nor denomination on earth.  If there were, we would not need Heaven someday, and our Lord’s sufficiency to get there!

Riffing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AKA Obamacare, Part II

22 Oct

Did you notice the Catch-22 that the supporters of the ACA got into while the government was shut down these last two weeks?

The president and his supporters did not want to vote on any issues about Obamacare.  He was hard over on that one.  

The Republicans were calling for a vote to delay the individual mandate for the ACA for one year, the way the President has delayed the corporate mandate for one year (without a vote–it was his decision).  

So . . . he gave companies permission to have an extra year to cover their employees.  But the employees have to be covered by February of 2014.  He would not hear of bringing that part to a vote.

Then . . . the problems with the enrollment software surfaced.  That would have been the perfect time to announce that individuals, like companies, would have an extra year to get on board. 

But, no.  Everyone up in D.C. seems to have developed a stubborn streak the size of the Grand Canyon during that two week period.  They were all Alpha Males (eye roll). 

And here is where the Catch-22 occurred.  While trumpeting the supposed virtues of the insurance coverage to be obtained in the marketplace, the President refused to give way to people who would not or could not get their coverage in place by February 2014.  

Let me get this straight.  We are talking about millions of people with no health insurance who are supposed to be thrilled with what the marketplace offers them.

If so, why would they wait a year, even if they were given an extra year to get enrolled? Why would an uninsured person choose to remain uninsured in the face of such a good deal?  Ya know?

Maybe it’s because it doesn’t turn out to be such a good deal after all.  But those of us who are already paying for health care insurance knew that was coming.  There will be shared pain and sacrifice across the board here, even for those who have previously not had health insurance.  

Now they are required to get it.  By February.   

Riffing on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AKA Obamacare

22 Oct

Southern Living, one of my favorite magazines ever, published a piece this month that was overtly political and overtly in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  

Funny, because the South tends to be the place where opposition to the ACA is strongest. Even among some people who have not traditionally had health insurance.  I understand this viewpoint.  

While there are many abuses that the ACA seeks to correct, like the phenomenon that a person used to be able to pay for health insurance for a lifetime, then get thrown off his insurance the minute he got old and sick, the ACA introduces some other anomalies.  I will write an occasional piece about the ACA, especially since I can see another side to it than the one put forth by Southern Living.    

Southern Living rejoices that a woman will no longer pay a higher premium than a man, even during her childbearing years.  

I remember those years.  We were privately insured after I left active duty in the Navy so, when we were contemplating having a second child, we chose to not have a pregnancy and childbirth rider (which would have doubled my premium).  Instead, we were banking money to have a homebirth attended by a midwife.  As a Navy reservist, I had the right to make that choice.  Active duty members had to use the Naval hospital (for free!) in those days.  

We never ended up conceiving a second child, so our decision was the correct one. However, now that a woman cannot be charged for either a pregnancy rider or for a more expensive premium including pregnancy and childbirth, do we really believe her premiums will be cut in half?

Or is everyone going to pay more as the pregnancy/childbirth risk is spread across the entire population?

We all know that the second one is the correct answer.  

It is just how you frame the conversation that makes the difference.  

And, maybe that does seem fair to a lot of people.  Having men pay for high risk pregnancies, too.  

And women who will not or cannot become mothers must also pay for the pregnancies of their peers.  

I won’t argue with that.  Maybe having pregnancy coverage implicit in every policy written is actually a fair and good thing.  

But let’s call it what it is . . .  spreading the risk out over everyone and charging everyone more.  

It is not just a costsaving measure for women of childbearing age.  Someone else is helping them pay their costs because those costs will come due and someone will pick them up.  

American taxpayers, just think through this with me as the months roll by, okay?

Facebook and Viewpoint Censorship!

22 Oct

Last week an outspoken prolife friend of mine got banned from Facebook for twenty-four hours when an unknown person reported her for abuse.  

My friend is one of the kindest people I know.  She speaks what she believes to be truth (and I agree with her),; she speaks it in love.

She came away from the experience with the belief that virtually anyone can report virtually anyone else to Facebook and get her banned for twenty-four hours merely for having hurt someone’s feelings in what was said.  Or that virtually anyone can have an enemy who is stalking her from site to site, systematically trying to get her banned.   

I think almost everyone would agree that, in the U.S., you are still allowed to have a prolife (antiabortion) viewpoint, even if that would bring up unpleasant memories for a woman who had had an abortion.  Even if she would regard your opinion as one that, by necessity, hurts her feelings (because she is postabortive and you disagree with the procedure’s legality).  

But, on the other hand, Facebook is a private company and, by virtue of that, does have the right to support one viewpoint over another, even to the point of banning those who are prolife, whether for twenty-four hours or forever.  

Thing is, will Facebook make this a pattern? 

If so, the principles of free speech and free enterprise would lean toward a Christian or prolife person starting an alternative site.  A site robust enough to support millions of people who would Just leave Facebook in their rearview mirror, since their viewpoints would not be acceptable to its censors anyway.   

I am going to bet Facebook does not start widescale viewpoint censorship, however.  They like being the leader in their field.  Having competitors arise because Facebook chooses to engage in viewpoint discrimination would not be a positive for them or their bottom line growth!

And WordPress (the site supporting my blog) virtually thrives on controversy.  It gets them readers and more readers mean more money.  

As a friend said when I started my blog, “As a Christian you must be kind, but don’t flee from controversy.  Wordpress will not censor you.  Especially when there is controversy involved.  It is in their best interest to just let that go by . . .”

Things to think about . . . we still have free speech, but we are not guaranteed a venue in which to express it.  Watch Facebook closely and see whether the occasional episode of viewpoint censorship becomes more and more common.  See what you think . . .  

 

Lockerbie and Me!

21 Oct

On 21 December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland due to a bomb placed onboard which turned out to be of Libyan origin.  The bomb had been placed in Frankfort, Germany, where the flight originated, but did not blow up until the plane had landed in London and then had departed for New York City.  Everyone on the plane and eleven additional people on the ground died.  

On 22 December, 1988, I flew from Stuttgart, Germany to Birmingham, England, to visit my (then) fiance and his parents for Christmas.  

As I departed that morning, investigators were still combing through wreckage in Lockerbie, trying to determine what had happened to that flight.  They suspected terrorism, but were not sure.   

I was pretty scared.  I self-talked into a state of relative calmness by saying that terrorists probably would not hit two Germany to England flights two days in a row.  Or would they?  It was all very confusing and frightening.

As I was in the air on my flight, a change came over me.  The more I heard about the carnage on the ground in Scotland, the sicker I felt.  There were no cell phones back then, so I had to await television and the newspapers on the ground, but it soon became apparent that body parts from people on that flight were spread over about a 20-mile square area in Scotland.  I think some parts were never found.

I got a huge lump in my throat that lasted six months.  I could not even think of eating meat without feeling a gag reflex start to happen.  And so . . . I gave up meat for almost a year (Noel and I got married the following May and I may have eaten a small bit of meat at our rehearsal dinner–I think I never got food at the wedding reception at all as we were too busy talking to friends I had not seen in years).  

That was my sole venture into vegetarianism and I would say I did not choose it, it chose me.

It worked pretty well, especially as I had hired a friend’s mom to cook for me in Germany those last few months that I was single.  She did some tremendous vegetarian dishes. 

Now, in my 50’s, I am toying with the idea of intentionally going vegetarian.  It will be interesting to see how different it is now.  I predict it will be much easier now to find fruits, veggies, and grains that work together well without meat.

Actually, it is kind of an exciting adventure now.

That was never the case when contemplating the immensity of the loss at Lockerbie.  God help us!  

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Were There Golden Ages (and Dark Ages) of Christianity?

21 Oct

Were There Golden Ages (and Dark Ages) of Christianity?

Or did God merely have a faithful remnant in every generation, diverse though those generations could be???!!!

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