Monday, July 20, 2009

Welcome Baby Christopher

Baby Christopher, grandchild # 2, came July 3 at 3:09 a.m. He was a bit of a surprise—about four weeks early. But we are thrilled that he’s with us and more than happy to have him around. He stopped breathing for a bit when he was first born. This was tough for the parents as a phalanx of medical professionals circled this little 6 pound boy and rushed the parents out of the room. Terrifying!

But he began breathing again and with that precious gift of breath he has filled our hearts with joy—and noise (which for now is more like a squeak). Forever, Christopher will be associated with breath and voice and words and glorious noise! I’m all for silence, but it is no accident that Jesus is called The Word (words that are seen and heard and not just read). It’s no accident that God spoke and creation erupted—out of nothing. Its not accident that the Spirit of God is described as a rushing wind in the book of Acts. There’s power in voice and breath and wind and air and words.

Baby Christopher reminds me of that power. He’s a gift from God and we celebrate his new life.

Book Review—Man Alive by G. K. Chesterton

I just finished reading the book, Man Alive. What a great book. The book is about one man, a guy named Innocent Smith, whose love for life prompts him to shoot at people (he’s an expert marksman and always seems to miss), remarry his wife over and over again, break into his own house, and pretty much shake up everyone he comes in contact with by his often bizarre behavior.

Smith’s unique journey to live life for all its worth begins in a college class where he is introduced to a nihilistic worldview. Coming to the end of himself, he would rather die than live a meaningless life. In a confrontation with his college professor he discovers, and to his amazement so does his professor, that life has meaning. It is worth living. He desires to be fully alive—thus the title of the book, “Man Alive.” Smith also helps others either embrace life or die. At one point, when confronting the reality that some people who live are, in fact, dead, Chesterton has one of his characters note, “We’ve been sitting with a ghost. ‘Blank’ (fill in the name by reading the story) died years ago.”

Chesterton is a Catholic and is known for his pithy sayings. Apparently years ago when a local newspaper posed the question, “What is wrong with the world?” Chesterton wrote a brief letter in response: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely yours. G. K. Chesterton.” I can read a book written by a guy like that! The book has many of these kinds of sayings in it. At one point he has one of his characters note, “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.” I have found this to be often true! Another Chesterton quote from the book, "I refuse to die while I am still alive."

The story unpacks Chesterton’s worldview but it’s not a religious work. A thoughtful reading of the book will challenge one’s thinking. Are any of us really desperately alive or do we just go through the motions of living, going to school, going to work, getting married, having kids, etc? The end of the book explains Smith’s often bizarre behavior with a humorous twist. I highly recommend it but it’s written in the early 20th century and Chesterton is British so his English is a bit tough but its worth it.

Why I Don’t Like Religion Part 2

I recently read Tim Kellers book, The Prodigal God. It came out last November. I got it then and read it in a little more than an hour. Keller is a master Christian apologist. He’s really amazing. In my mind, he’s the C.S. Lewis of the 21st century.

The book is a practical explanation of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. Actually, the story should be called the parable of the prodigal brothers. The younger son is highlighted by most of those who read it but it’s really about two brothers who are equally lost and one brother, the younger one, who is eventually found and ends up home celebrating with his family. The story ends without climax. No one really knows what happens to the older brother because the older brother (Mr. Grumpy) won’t go to the party and celebrate his brother’s return.

The purpose of this post is not to explain the parable or even comment on it but rather to share a quote from Keller’s book that highlights why I don’t like religion. In the parable the older brother represents the religious people and yet he is grumpy, blaming, disrespectful, unhappy, self-absorbed, self-righteous, and frankly, not a lot of fun. Keller, commenting on this virtually captures my thinking when he notes, “There are many people today who have abandoned any kind of religious faith because they see clearly that the major religions are simply full of elder brothers. They have come to the conclusion that religion is one of the greatest sources of misery and strife in the world. And guess what? Jesus says through this parable—they are right. The anger and superiority of elder brothers, all growing out of insecurity, fear, and inner emptiness, can create a huge body of guilt-ridden, spiritually blind people, which is one of the greatest sources of social injustice, war, and violence. (pg. 67)

I hate to admit this, but I think that there have been times in my life when I was an “older brother.” I didn’t want to be but didn’t know anything different at the time because that’s the way things were. But I am different now--I hope. Last Saturday I had a conversation with a self described atheist who essentially said the same thing as Keller. Religion is ugly. Really! But the gospel is very different from religion. Maybe in a future post I’ll explain why.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Stop (or at least temper) the Outrage

The letter was colorful, well done, and poignant. “Stop the Madness” it read boldly on the front. A picture of one of our elected officials—the one whose policies they wanted to stop—was artfully drawn on the outside of the envelope. I must admit, while I’ll not expose the source of the letter or its content, it got my attention. But there’s one thing more I’d like to stop, and that is the obnoxious tendency of pundits, government officials, left and right wing politicians, radio talk show hosts, the religious and non religions right, the non-religious and religious left, and general American Citizenry all over from using bombastic terminology to describe everything they don’t like other people doing or believing or saying or supporting. It’s nauseating.

We have dumbed down the term and made it meaningless. I’ve considered collecting a list of those things people are outraged at. It’s taken what’s truly outrageous and made it what? Outrageous? I don’t know anymore. But in our attempt to promote our opinions on everything from high cholesterol in MacDonald’s food to Abortion, we’ve labeled anything, or anybody, we don’t like as outrageous or insane or catastrophic or whatever.

Get over it. There are some things that are truly outrageous. Really!! I mean that. But when we use the term to describe anything we don’t like someone else doing or believing then we’ve lost the meaning of the word and with it, the emotional energy and personal will to actually do something about it.