Downton Abbey Redux

5 Sep

Rewatching the Downton Abbey series as a marathon this weekend (meaning I have had it on while awake and have used it as the background while I washed clothes, ironed, washed the floor, cleaned up my online accounts, read the paper, etc.), I have developed a whole new appreciation for this work of 21st century art.
I think one could watch the series five or six times and see something new every time. Like art throughout the ages, it has many levels and facets.
For example, one could watch the series just to concentrate on the history of the early 20th century. Or on the love stories/marriages of the characters.
One could watch it as a series of character studies of deeply drawn, complex characters. One could watch it as a study of good vs. evil, and how the fault line between the two runs through every one of us.
One could watch Downton Abbey once just to see the clothes and fashions, the ways of doing hair and wearing jewels.
One could watch it once just to concentrate on the furniture and once just to see the architecture.
I think one could watch Downton Abbey one complete time just to concentrate on the wit and wisdom of the quotable Dowager Countess.
This time through I am impressed with the richness of the way the plots and characters are drawn. They are like a warm, lovely, and complex tapestry, composed of many threads below the surface that hold the finished product together.
Some who are addicted to shows that supposedly expose the evil below the surface of every happy family complain that Downton Abbey is simplistic because most of the plots resolve happily at the end of each season; all of them resolve happily at the end of the series. To that, I would say “to each his own.” If someone needs to have misery or unresolved tension at the end of each work of art in order to regard it as art, I would claim that person has a narrow definition of art. Darkness has not always been a prerequisite for art. In our era it sometimes seems to be so, but that does not make darkness and uncertainty the only factors that define whether or not something is a work of art.
I noted this time that of about thirty marriages portrayed in the series, approximately 27 of them are happy marriages, with the couple showing mutual respect and having deep dialogue in their private moments together. That is a template to which I can relate! Those who want to claim that every marriage is secretly miserable behind the scenes simply have to turn revisionist about history and either claim that Downton Abbey misportrayed the marriages of its era or that marriage has gone severely downhill since then.
I also noted this time through how the dialogue at the Downton Abbey dinner table has much substance and richness, so much more than the dialogue at many communal meals I have attended within the last ten years. In this case, I do see a shift in social mores. We as a society have become both crude and obsessed with popularity to the point that we will prattle on in the crudest terms possible if we believe it will earn us a big enough audience of our peers. It is like we play a real life version of Facebook and its system of “likes.” We talk in shocking terms because we get more attention that way than by merely discussing deep ideas or remarking on the beauty around us.
Thankfully I know enough people who will engage in real and deep conversation that my heart and brain are not starving but I am not at all impressed with our societal shift to the banal and shocking.
In conclusion, Downton Abbey is one of my favorite pieces of 21st century art because it is a canvas on which we can reflect on modern life, with a palette to help us see both what may be better than those years a century ago and what may be worse.
Downton Abbey makes us think and feel and for that I am truly grateful to Julian Fellowes and his team.

Autism Challenges

17 Jul

My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About- Term life

Our son has high-functioning autism and is about to get a job and an apartment.

His life thus far has been an adventure for all of us–I am not trying to discount the hard work that he, my husband, and I have done to get him where he is. And God’s grace in making it all possible.

Nonetheless, for reasons known only to God, there are scores of kids with low-functioning autism who will not know the future our son has a chance to embrace.

For them, I run this post. We need to see what their parents and families see. And even what these precious children themselves see . . .

Can a Pro-Life Person Kill a Terrorist’s Kid?

4 Jun

A friend challenged me along these lines this week. What does it mean when the Republican party calls itself pro-life, yea, even has a pro-life plank in its platform, while running a candidate who says that, as commander in chief, he would consider giving troops a direct order to kill the families of terrorists?

Here is where a challenge can be issued specifically to Christians. Those who are not Christian believers, read if you like, but be aware this is not directed to you.

My friend’s first cut on this was that a terrorist’s kid stands more of a chance than your usual run-of-the-mill kid of growing up to be another terrorist. So . . . if you have to choose between, say, abortion of a random baby or targeted killing of a terrorist’s child, she thought maybe you should go for the terrorist’s child.

Only . . . God forbade that, even in the latter part of the Old Testament. He said the sins of the fathers would no longer be visited on the children. That each man or woman would bear responsibility only for his/her own personal sin. So . . . there is that. We can’t justify doing what God has forbidden us to do.

There is also a theological flaw running straight through this entire issue–we are missing the idea of total depravity being inborn to us all. Is a child in utero a sinner? Yes, for God said through King David “in sin did my mother conceive me.” That doesn’t mean that marital sex is sin. It means we are all born with the stain of original sin. We have it from conception onward because we are humans.

Babies are adorable and we long to protect them. That is good and right. But it does not mean that they are not born as sinners. They are. We are self-centered from the moment we emerge from the womb. We may even be that way in utero.

If we make the pro-life argument out of a belief that a child is born sinless until he commits an actual sinful act . . . we miss a huge part of our theology related to why we, as a human race, needed a redeemer.

Don’t you think that miscarried babies will sing of God’s grace in heaven someday, if they are not already doing so? Why is that? Because they, too, will be forgiven for the original sin they bore as humans, even humans who were never born.

Yes, His grace is amazing. Let’s not diminish it by a mistaken belief that children in utero or newborns are innocent and lack a sin nature.

So, in summary, we cannot preemptively kill a terrorist’s child in the belief that he might someday be a terrorist. God can gloriously save him. And we cannot kill a child in utero without having blood on our hands either. Both are equally bad. Both are murder.

Can You Be Sued for Using the Wrong Pronouns?

21 May

http://www.fox5ny.com/news/142860949-story

Turns out you probably can be . . . in New York City. But only if you are deemed to have done so with “malicious intent.” Which means . . . well, what does it mean? Since we can’t see inside a person’s heart to determine whether or not malice lurks there, it is a subjective judgment, isn’t it? Perhaps based on considerations such as whether that person believes and practices Genesis 1:27 as foundational to his or her faith.

Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

It is now becoming a crime, specifically a hate crime, to believe in binary genders. Or that God created binary genders.

This ruling, however, will undoubtedly lead to some unintended consequences when even the various progressive beliefs about gender collide. For example, there are progressives that believe each of the following mutually exclusive things about gender:
1) It is set at birth, is unchangeable, and is located in the brain. If the brain and the body don’t match, the body may be surgically or chemically altered to match the brain.
2) It is fluid and can change many times during a person’s lifetime.
3) Gender is only a concept that some believe in; it does not actually exist.

There are, it seems, many progressives who may recognize that those and other theories about gender are mutually exclusive but they don’t worry about the fact that all three can’t possibly be true because “each person’s reality is his or her reality; they get to define what they believe, we don’t.” The problem with believing three mutually exclusive things will surface when the lawsuits start. Because remembering the separate realities of seven billion people on earth is untenable–at some point someone will get mixed up and offend someone with an incorrect pronoun. And since there are people in every group who are just plain greedy for money, the race will be on to prove “malice” and to sue.

I have seen some Christians, some of them progressives, who don’t think this is a big deal at all. “Just call the person what they want–you know Genesis 1:27 is true but you don’t need to shove it down anyone’s throat.” So this does what? Reduces our faith to such a private dimension that we are not even allowed to attest publicly that we believe God’s Word is true? Doesn’t that sort of put our faith on the level of a mental illness–a belief we might have that is not rooted in reality and had better be kept inside our own mind?

Interestingly, seven billion people on this planet are all being given the power to express their own reality about gender *unless they are in agreement with Genesis 1:27 and gender being binary, established at conception and always aligned with the body (except for intersex births, which are rare genetic mutations, not a legitimate third gender).

It is symptomatic of a world that has given up the concept of God that we have all become, in effect, our own god. At least in the area of gender. Anyone asserting that they have a right to pronounce themselves rich or royalty or a great athlete or a brilliant mathematician would be told that they are delusional. Those things are regarded as objectively determined, by amount of money possessed, birth into a royal family, athletic skill and training, or inherent mathematical gifting and study. But on the topic of gender, we can be our own god and remake our own universe in our own image. At least until we interact with other people with their own personal realities on gender. With them, we can force them to speak our language when they are around us or we can sue them for vast amounts of money.

The most astounding thing about all of the above paragraph is that this entire transition is happening without the backing of one shred of scientific evidence. These realities are all internal in the mind. I call the non-binary gender theories as delusional as the theory that I am the Queen of England and should live in Buckingham Palace. But, in fact, I can’t prove nor disprove these theories since they are all constructed by individuals to explain the realities they believe they encounter. I can’t prove nor disprove them, nor can they.

So, for those whose reality is defined by standing on the Word of God, by believing in a good Creator who made us all for His own good pleasure (and ours), where do we go from here?

In the intertestamental period, when believers in Yahweh were still ardent practitioners of the Jewish law, including the dietary laws, the Greek rulers offered Maccabee believers in Yahweh a deal. “Just eat a bit of pork and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The Maccabees instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

In the early days of the church, the Roman rulers offered Christians a deal. “Just offer a pinch of incense to the emperor to signify that he is a god and we will let you practice your faith in peace.” The early Christians instead chose to die a martyr’s death.

So far, the deal in New York City is *only that a Christian will not be able to both believe in binary genders (an essential foundation of his or her faith) and own a company or a rental home without eventually running afoul of the law, but that is just an opening salvo. What will we do as 21st century Christians when told “Just speak the pronoun, even if you don’t really mean it, and we will let you practice your faith in peace”???

Questions about the Transgender Experience

3 May

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2016/05/03/7-questions-transgender-theories/?utm_source=TGC+List&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=c232fda084-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_621531349f-c232fda084-118242249

This sums up almost exactly the questions I have had about transgenderism. Since Trevin Wax is not reading my thoughts, I have to believe that I share these questions with many other American Christians of good will.

Some Call Him A Dinosaur from Another Era; To Me, He Makes Scientific Sense

29 Apr

Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme

Remember, when you ask the transgender movement adherents for the science behind their idea that, when the body and mind disagree, the body needs to change, they usually offer only anecdotal evidence (stories of people who thought they were unhappy at one point in their journey and, at their current stage, now think they are happy). Anecdotal evidence, remember, is only one point in time and does not sum up a person’s entire existence, including any future regrets.

An Extraordinary Insight into Same Sex Attraction

28 Apr

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-i-discovered-true-masculinity?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tgcblog#When:2016-04-27T05:00:00+00:00

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