Archive for category: Faith

The News According to Fear, Anger, Sex and Hope

This is the news according to Facebook, according to Twitter, according to CNN, according to fair-and-balanced Fox: Hillary pulls ahead by a nose; Trump is a hairpiece away from the presidency; Bernie is being Bernie, and the people love Bernie (“hip-hip BERN-IE!”); the black box was found; the boy is alive though the gorilla is dead; the starlet has a new sex tape (click, click, click and watch her work); the temperature and the terror alert are on the rise; the hurricane is coming; stocks are more volatile than the San Andreas; employment is more fickle than manna; the robots are here; we’re going to Mars; we’re shooting past Pluto; we are our only limitation–other than Trump, who is a hairpiece away from the presidency.

Some call the media a spin cycle, a constant tumbling of news (that is not news), which keeps us off kilter. I call it a mint, watch as they throw the machine into high gear, as they fuel the machine with fear, anger, sex, hope, shades of love, colors of greed. Out comes the money. (What does it profit a man to report on the whole world and lose his gold?)

“Tune in tonight for more fear.”

“After this commercial break, more sex.”

“Buy this box of hope.”

“Tonight’s angry political commentary brought to you by the good people at Sugar Soy American Porn Corp., Inc.”

The stories roll. The emotions roll. The dollars roll. The saints look up from their pine boxes–they roll, too. “The soul was not made to withstand this sort of manipulation,” they think; then, “Lord have mercy.”

The things I believe about the nature of men are simple: we were made to fear only saber-toothed tigers and the rustling of leaves in the dark; we were imbued with anger to bring gift of reformation; our eyes were meant to see only as far as the horizon, our legs made to walk a few miles at a time; sex was meant for the love our life; love was meant for the wife, the children, the community; hope was given so that we might create; hunger was purposed to push us as far as the next meal.

The things I believe about the nature of the soul are likewise simple: it is tiny, child-like, eternal; it stronger than the body, but so often led by it; it can master or be mastered by anger, fear, hunger, hope and sex. Can I prove this? No. But stop and reflect. You know this is true; don’t you?

The line between master and mastered is quite thin–this is the news according to Facebook, according to Twitter, according to CNN, according to fair-and-balanced Fox.

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I Haven’t Been Raptured Yet

I was raised in a religious tradition that believed in the rapture, the notion that all Christians would be whisked away before the coming of the great Antichrist, the strongman of Satan. We learned the signs of the times–earthquakes, wars, rumors of wars, religious persecution, the collapse of morality, the rise of the Demon-cratic party. There were plans to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, which meant something to someone better-versed in eschatological matters than I. The world was spinning out of control in 1994. If you closed your eyes hard enough, tuned yourself to the gyrations of the Earth, you could sense a new wobble in its rotation. Things were off-kilter.

I was only sixteen, green and trusting. Under the impression that the world was worse in 1994 than it’d ever been, I was naive to the liberal sexual ethics of, say, the Renaissance. I’d not studied the hellish trenches of the War to End All Wars, or the war that came after. I had not read Elie Wiesel.  I was unaware of Pompeii. I didn’t understand the genocides of history. The preachers and politicians told me the world was worse for the wear in 1994, and that was that; I believed them.

“The sky is falling!” they said. “The King is coming!”

That was twenty-two years ago. I haven’t seen the King, and I haven’t been called up yonder. I’m sipping coffee in an air conditioned cafe.

I’m thirty-eight now, just old enough to have witnessed more than a few natural disasters, a handful of presidential administrations, a smattering of global skirmishes, a handful of prophetic warnings, a societal shift or two, a social justice movement or three, the occasional Catholic and Protestant bar fight (in which everyone lost a tooth), the frequent Christian/Muslim/Jew conflicts (in which everyone lost a son), and the everyday violences that taste like blood. I’ve seen white terrorist blow a hole in the Alfred P. Murrah building. I’ve seen Islamic terrorist take down the Twin Towers. I’ve seen Shock and Awe, watched mothers carry their limp children from the rubble of Bagdad building. I’ve seen the boys come home from Shock and Awe with prosthetic limbs. I’ve seen the rise of the European Union, and might live to see its collapse. But these things, aren’t they just the echoes of history coming full circle? Isn’t this world just a plate of historical vinyl, skipping back to the previous track?

Humans–we’ve been singing the same dirges since Cain murdered Abel.

But this world isn’t just a series of  violences. I’m old enough now to have experienced the love behind a first kiss, the wedding, the consummation of that love in a honeymoon suite. I’ve witnessed the birth of four children, watched as friends brought their own children into the world. I’ve heard my grandparents speak of angels on their deathbeds, heard the eulogies and hymns sung in their honor. I’ve eaten cuisine on four continents, felt tiny explosions as slow cooked goat, beef, liver, or pasta has melted in my mouth. (Some of those meals were cooked by the rich; some by the poor.) I’ve had wine–celebratory wine (and too much of it). I’ve slugged communion wine, too–wine that tastes of salvation. I’ve done these things, and so have my brothers and sisters, so have you. The world is always creating, always giving birth to joy, after joy, after joy, after joy.

Things have never been as good as they are today. 

I’m just old enough to understand that the world is sometimes raucous, sometimes beautiful. It’s not falling apart. There’s no exigency today that has not existed since Eve first ate the fruit. There’s no true beauty today that has not existed since Adam first took the fruit from Eve. The world is raw, unfiltered, sometimes unfair, but it’s also beautiful and full of life. The world is a miracle.

It’s been over twenty-years, and though not disillusioned, perhaps I’m a bit wiser. And so, I’ll not keep an eye to the sky, though I’ll still say my prayers. I won’t expect any rapturous exit, though I’ll still read the pages of Scripture. I won’t warn you of a coming collapse, or the necessity to set all things to right. I won’t look for patterns where there aren’t any. Instead, I’ll love my wife, my kids, my life. I’ll ask God what it means to be sober, to be grateful, to be free from fear. I’ll ask where the Kingdom of God has already come, and if I find it, I’ll invite you to come along. I wonder if this is the genuine article of faith.

Sing your doxologies.

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Are We Alone?

Genius by Stephen Hawking was on the tube last night. It’s a PBS broadcast, a television show which poses a scientific problem and teaches average people to “think like geniuses” in order to solve it. Last night’s episode explored the universe, asked the question that niggles at the back of all our minds–are we alone.

Hawking and the participants began with an examination of the immensity of our galaxy, the 100 billion stars that comprise it. Comparing our sun to a grain of sand (can you imagine it on your fingertip?), the participants created a stunning visual representation of the number of starts in the Milky Way, dumping ton after ton of sand on the ground. The pile spread out, rose to a height of over eight feet, maybe ten. Grain after grain represented a star; star after star represented the possibility of life; possibility after possibility expanded my imagination (in common parlance, I might say “blew my mind”). And in that moment, I felt a wash of emotion. I felt grateful.

There are, perhaps, infinite worlds in the universe, each world comprised of infinite number of atomic particles. Time–isn’t it infinite, too? Isn’t it true that my own atomic particles could have been spread across the galaxy, could have existed as a moon orbiting Uranus? Couldn’t my particles have existed millions of years ago, millions of years in the future? The building blocks of my life–what if they had been space dust? Couldn’t yours have been? Sure, this is all speculation and conjecture, but I suppose that in the universe of possibilities, these possibilities are among them. And despite all of these possibilities–the infinite, boundless, inanimate possibilities–I am here, typing on this keyboard. You are here, reading the words. We are here together, two collections of innumerable possibilities sharing this space and time.

Welcome Time Travelers.

When I consider the immensity of the galaxy, the billions of stars comprising the Milky Way (not to mention the 100 billion trillion stars in the universe), when I consider the boundlessness of time (prehistoric and historic) it’s unfathomable that I was given this passage on Earth. It’s astounding that I have a lover, four children, a job, and two dogs. Is it possible that I’m working on a meager retirement? How is it that I’m paying down a kind, if not modest, house? How do my lungs work, work, work without thinking. How does my heart pump, it’s rhythm in my ears when my head hits the pillow? How do I sleep, dream, wake?  How am I now, both volitional and autonomic?

Surely there is a God.

I have a life of tiny blessings. I live among billions of others with their own tiny blessings. (Aren’t these blessings nothing more than possibilities existing by divine providence. Is there any other explanation?) We are small specks, traveling on a small speck, around a speck of a star, in a speck of a solar system, during a speck of time. Everything here–life, time, humanity, the ability to possess and dispose of possessions–is a speck-worthy miracle.

Be grateful for this miracle. Make love. (Do not be afraid of this pleasure.) Hug your children. Pet your dog. Buy ice cream. Star gaze. People watch. Self examine. Love the tiny explosions that animate you–explosions of love, happiness, anger, and sorrow. Look at your watch. Count ten seconds. Know that each second is another tiny miracle. Bless the divine. Search for it, even among the possibilities.

Live to the end.

Sing your doxologies.

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The Language of Abortion

1.

Abortion.

Let the word do it’s work. Let it take you to the edge of your emotions, whatever those emotions are. Consider it. Contemplate it. Do you have any connection with it? Have you terminated a pregnancy? Has your sister? Your mother? Sit with your emotions and connections for thirty seconds.

Now, let’s begin.

2.

Abortion has found it’s way into the news cycle again, as abortion always seems to do. This time, it’s the #ShoutYourAbortion social media campaign that’s causing all the stir. I’ll not go into the details of the campaign–you can find more than a few news articles on the hashtaggery–but sufficed to say, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were burning down the internet last night with the topic of abortion. The sides were chosen and the social media war was underway. The pro-choicers were shouting their abortions while the pro-lifers were decrying them, and some were taking potshots at their opposition from behind the safety of their avatars. (Isn’t this the way of debate these days–avatar pot shots from the safety of one’s own couch?)

Though I’m not one to get too wound up about these sorts of virtual debates, one particular subset of avatars got my goat last night. You might know them betters as the abortion-is-murder subset.

3.

The abortion-is-murder subset comprises many well-meaning, Bible believing (and very genuine) folks who cling to the notion that the taking of life–any life–is murder. They speak of the murder of babies callously, vacuously, as if there were no human eyes behind the decision to terminate a given pregnancy. They wield the language of shame–millions of legal murders a year; murder, murder, murder, and not justice for the unborn. They take a prophetic tone, an icy one.

I understand the point they’re hoping to make, and perhaps I even agree with some of their underlying ideology. But how does the language of murder prick the ears of the women who’ve made the decision to terminate a pregnancy? How do the husbands of women who’ve terminated pregnancies hear it?

Last night, on my own Facebook page, I put it like this:

I am pro-life and unashamed. However, allow me this gentle reminder.

The language in which we couch the discussion matters. If you call abortion murder, you are calling the women who chose abortion murderers. And though you might fold your arms and say, “yes, Seth, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” remember this: 1 in 3 women will chose to terminate a pregnancy, and many of them will carry that decision as a secret. Your wife, sister, mother, best friend, or Bible study leader may be one of these women.

So use whatever language you want to heap shame on whomever you want. I can’t stop you. But just bear this in mind: you might be unknowingly dredging up old wounds for some of your closest friends.

Posted by Seth Haines (Writing) on Monday, September 21, 2015

4.

Consider the statistic: 1 in 3 women have chosen to terminate a pregnancy. And if Christians are humans–a belief I cling to despite some preaching to the contrary–then the fact is, you are connected with someone who’s been touched by abortion–likely a good-hearted, Christ-centered, God-fearing someone. They’ve been splayed across the table, tears in their eyes, agonizing over the decision. They’ve unfolded the bills, paid for the abortion while trying to avoid the niggling of the Spirit in their conscience. They’ve made the decision; maybe they’ve later repented. But perhaps–and this is what I want you to hear–it’s a secret they carry with them to their graves. In other words, you may not know just who in your circle has chosen abortion.

The language we use matters. If we’re hellbent on using the language of shame, hellbent on shaming the women and men who’ve made the choice to terminate a pregnancy, we’ve forgotten the Greatest Command–love your neighbor as yourself. If we’re hellbent on naming all the murderers in the great-big-out-there, we’ve forgotten the law of grace that covers a multitude of sins. If we’re hellbent on splashing our dispassionate judgments across the pages of the internet, we’ve forgotten our own humanity, made ourselves into something akin to little gods. 

If you’re pro-life–as I am–by all means work to alleviate the conditions that lead a woman to choose abortion. Be active. Be an activist. But above all, love well. Love as you would want to be loved if you had made that decision to terminate a child. Love without reserve. Love in your language. Love as a form of resistance. Yes, in all things, love.

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Let the Babies Live and the Lions Die

1.

There’s nothing like a good social media meltdown, is there? The issue du jour comes down the pipeline and the folks choose a side. Some gather their facts like bullets to a munitions dump. Lock and load. Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes. Ready! Aim! Others enjoy the view from the cheap seats, watch as that-guy-I-could-have-sworn-was-conservative comes out of the closet as a liberal so-and-so, or as Suzie-liberal defends the historically orthodox position of such-and-such. Social media churns and churns, issue after issue, and the good folks at Facebook laugh all the way to the bank as we splash our opinions across their pages. Chop, chop; line, line; snort, snort. We’re addicted to these sorts of online debates.

2.

The latest debate–the by-golly debate upon which all of the prophets and saints hang–is some Moreauian amalgam involving Planned Parenthood and Cecil The Lion. The sides look something like this:

Side 1–Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts from abortion-on-demand clinics, and yet folks care more about a stupid Lion killed on another continent.

Side 2–Planned Parenthood provides a viable service, which include abortion education,  and animals shouldn’t be murdered by midwestern capitalists armed with a gun and a because-I-can attitude.

What one has to do with the other I’ll never know, and yet I’ve seen too many Planned Parenthood and Cecil the Lion mashup social media posts. (Oh, for the days when opinions were reserved for a section of the paper called, simply, Opinions!) Lions, and babies, and social media, oh my! Let the babies live and the lions die!

3.

Don’t get the wrong impression. I have firm opinions about life, the meaning of it, where it begins, and how it should end. I could spin those opinions for you here, back them up with facts, or at least anecdotal hypotheticals. I could come out swinging, but I choose to refuse. Why?

The people, yes. The people.

Allow me this anecdote.

3(a).

I married a beautiful woman from Alabama. Amber was a do-right girl until adolescence, when she grew out of sundresses and do-rightness. She made a few life choices that culminated in her lying on a doctor’s table in a Little Rock clinic where she terminated her first pregnancy at the age of 18. (The account is detailed here.)

We’ve been married over 15 years, and I’ve watched Amber as she’s dealt with the pain of that decision. She’s carried guilt and shame from it, but over time, she’s learned to overcome both. I think that’s what they call grace. Grace notwithstanding, whenever folks spin up the anti-abortion machine, when they rant and rail about life, life, life I wonder how Amber feels. I wonder if the old haunting shame comes wooing. I wonder if she bears under the weight of the judgment machine.

3(b).

Sure, folks mean well with their pro-life and pro-choice sentiments. But when these sentiments are filled with rhetorical vitriol and splayed across the internet, when they swing the sledge hammers of how-could-you or how-could-you-not, I wonder how the women who’ve had abortions feel.

There are humans behind our debates see. Are we human enough to see? Let me write it again so as to leave no doubt–there are humans behind our tiny debates, see.

4.

I wrote this on Facebook last week, but I’m writing it again. It’s a reiteration, a redundant array. I’m writing it again less for you and more for me. Or perhaps I’m writing it more for you, and me, and some of them. I’m writing it because I believe that a pro-life ethic is not so simple as choosing to protect unborn babies. It’s an ethic more encompassing than the myopia of our own politics.

Today I’m choosing to live pro-life, and by that, I do not mean I’m choosing to live a political ideology that bleeds itself out over Facebook, or Twitter, or in the local coffee shop. Instead, I’m choosing life wherever I find it.

Pro-life

At the Little Bread Company, across the table from a friend who’s bearing the weight of the world like Atlas and needs only a spare set of shoulders for an hour;

While I spin the Coltrane classic “A Love Supreme,” and drink dark coffee over a desk-load of work, over phone calls to heavy laden clients;

When I consider the unborn, babies whose mothers are torn between motherhood or not, when I pray for them;

When I consider the mothers who carry guilt like designer handbags stitched with names unborn to them, unborn by choice, or circumstance, or poverty, or convenience, or shame, or whatever;

When I consider the mothers, the babies, the babies, the mothers;

Over the lunch hour “Our Fathers” for the men imprisoned for trying to keep bread on the table, or for the murderers whose lights will go out when the chair is lit up;

At tonight’s birthday party, the celebration of the certain and North-Star-constant wife of my youth, the one who gave me four carbon copies of myself;

While I watch debates over lions and babies devolve into amoebic arguments, our infintesimal hatreds of each other, how we call names because it’s easier than self- examination.

Pro-life: this means more than good people think, means more than left or right. It means being: human, prayerful, present, alive.

 

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