Tag: Christianity

Candles in the Dark

 

Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation, when Christians recall the day Joseph and Mary presented the baby Jesus at the temple, offering Him back to God the Father. It is a mystery, like so many others, in which Christ in a sense returns home.

We do not belong to ourselves. Though so many choices are afforded to us to shape our own lives, our lives ultimately belong to our Creator. Our children are gifts for us to steward on His behalf. All of our many gifts are for giving again, including the gift of life itself.

Sunday also was Candlemas, a celebration adopted from the Eastern tradition involving blessing of candles.

Unselfing, Marys and Marthas: Winter of Discontent, or Mind of Winter?

 

“One must have a mind of winter… And have been cold a long time… not to think / Of any misery in the sound of the wind,” the January wind. So says Wallace Stevens in his poem, The Snow Man. Misery and discontent aren’t identical, but a series of small miseries — unrelated to wintry weather — means February snuck up on me this year, almost as if January never happened, so misery must do for my “winter of discontent”. To “the listener, who listens in the snow,” hearing the sound of the wind, the poem promises if he becomes “nothing himself” he’ll “behold[] / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” People “cold a long time” can go numb, of course, and numbness is a kind of “nothing” obliterating misery. But numbness seems insufficient for a “mind of winter”.

For our own survival, we see winter’s cold as hostile. Our success as biological beings depends on our sensing discomfort, in order to mitigate risk before it’s too late. Concern for our own comfort is a form of self-regard that isn’t optional, if we care to live. Nonetheless, necessary self-regard is still self-regard. A mind of winter leaves self-regard behind. And so, it sees wintry beauty — the snowy, frozen world lit with “the distant glitter / Of the January sun” — simply because it is there to see, irrespective of what it might mean to the self. Winter in itself isn’t hostile, just indifferent: self-regard makes the indifference seem hostile. A mind of winter is “unselfed”.

Word of the Year

 

I don’t know if this is a specifically Christian practice or if people who aren’t Christians do something similar, too, but it’s become a Thing in my church community to choose a “word” for the year. This is usually an area where we want to see God grow us, something to pray about and focus on as the months continue. Now, I realize that the way I’ve written this paragraph kind of sounds like I’m being critical about having a prayer word (as some call it, including myself), but I actually love the idea.

This year isn’t the first time I’ve had a prayer word. Last year my word started out as “maturity,” but then about a month in, it changed to “abide” and remained that way for the rest of the year. I had a Scripture passage to go with it (John 15:1-11), which I memorized and reviewed once a week. It was the right word for me for that time, and I did, praise Jesus, see some growth in my abiding in Christ.

Save the Jews, the Christians – Civilization?

 

I caught the tail end of two Wall Street Journal journalists talking about the recent attacks on Jews in New York, and since WSJ is behind a paywall, I cannot find the segment. But what I heard burned into my memory. One said that this is a “mirror of what is going on in European cities, and has been for some time.” They stated the Jews are the canary in the coal mine, a cliche that has been echoed over and over to deaf ears. This has religious implications, but they said the “resurgence of antisemitism is a symptom that society as a whole is breaking down,” and concluded with “when that happens on a large scale, people choose camps, and a peaceful, cohesive society erodes and falls apart and all you are left with are warring camps.”

Is that what we are witnessing, in New York and elsewhere, when moral boundaries are removed? I’m not just speaking of the decline in church attendance, in Jews becoming more secular, but in the overall protections and safety nets that we once relied on. When we had boundaries, we relied on law enforcement, respect for property, differences of opinion, lifestyles, and it went both ways, instead of hurling hate speech and condemning one idea over another. We respected boundaries, which also included protecting children from overly sexual content. Law enforcement is now spat upon, doused with water, and shouted at with vulgarity. Wearing a MAGA hat in public can get you tossed out of a restaurant or pummeled, because of political differences. We now have something called gender fluidity.

Petty crimes such as theft, drug possession, and home invasions, are now considered low priority with no consequences. More states are following lockstep, the predicted outcome of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. Drugged up, more brazen attacks – we’re witnessing an erosion of civilization, not like a drip, drip that eventually carves out a solid rock over decades, but a powerful wave that erodes swiftly and mercilessly.

The Unforgivable Sin

 

I got into one of those Facebook arguments over the weekend. You know, the kind with relative strangers you wish you’d walked away from three comments ago. I don’t usually argue with people over Facebook, but when I do it almost always involves football, probably because, unlike politics or religion, football tends to be a safe topic where people don’t take things too seriously. But when a football player commits an unpardonable sin, lookout.

This particular argument centered around Michael Vick. If you’ve been watching football for the last twenty years you’re probably well aware of the Michael Vick saga, and I have no intention of rehashing it out here. It’s old news you can read about elsewhere. Most football fans I’m aware of (and Vick himself) have moved on, but I’ve just discovered there are people intent on making sure Vick is forever shamed by his past, and they’re beating the hate-drums on social media to make sure you know about it.

What Is Judaism?

 

Dennis Prager has a really interesting article out, called “What Is Judaism?” Mr. Prager has written and taught on the subject (including two years as a member of the Brooklyn College Department of Judaic Studies). This is how he leads:

If you’ve ever wondered what Judaism is, here is a list of its principal beliefs. This is not an official list, but these beliefs have been widely held by religious Jews for thousands of years.

Book Recs for a Recent Catholic

 

I have recently decided I want to be Catholic after a lifetime of protesting (being Protestant, not being an anti-theist) and am looking for some great books on the history of the Catholic church, Catholic philosophy, Catholic apologia, etc. I figured Ricochet would be a good place to ask, given the founder and community here. S o what would you guys recommend?

For anyone wondering what prompted the change, Cupid’s arrow found its mark and I’m engaged to a wonderful Catholic girl and I want to raise our future children in the faith.

A Christian Tolkien Conference

 

Ricochet has many Tolkien fans and many Christians, so I thought you might want to pencil in a new conference. Aptly titled Christ and Tolkien, it will be held Oct. 1-3, 2020, in Deerfield, IL, just north of Chicago.

Tolkien’s works present many Christian themes, though not quite as obvious as those of his dear friend C.S. Lewis. JRR’s defense of the faith helped CS abandon atheism and embrace Christianity. The two went on to found the Inklings, a famous literary discussion group held at the Eagle and Child pub near the University of Oxford. (Full disclosure: I stole the name “Inkling” for my college graphic design business.)

The Christ and Tolkien Conference will discuss and celebrate the author’s works from all traditional Christian points of view, be they Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. It’s a chance for Tolkien fans and scholars to engage more deeply with his writings and each other.

Member Post

 

I’m not sure what the inspiration is for the latest student publication of Harvard Divinity Bulletin. The lead story is called “Spiritual, Sexual and Religious”, by Professor Mark D. Jordan. He has a distinctive and impressive bio: https://hds.harvard.edu/people/mark-d-jordan He gives “quite a detailed”…. history of the gay movement, and his dismay that now it’s all […]

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Gratefulness and Common Grace

 

“[F]or he makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” — Matthew 5:45b

Somehow we survive on this small blue planet, we fragile bipeds vulnerable to the elements, to disease, to time, and to each other. Logically, our lot is sustained misery, ended only by a merciful death. Yet mankind has done far more than survive. Our life experiences are a rich intermingling of joy and angst, satisfaction and boredom, love and suffering. We look back on our early years and we remember carefree, secure innocence. Centuries’ worth accumulated knowledge was ours to study. Next we loved, and married, and cherished children. We are paid well for skills that we are pleased to perform. And all this while we are nourished with good food, warmed with comfortable clothing, and aided when we are ill.

Member Post

 

It was one of those unbelievable news days. It started around 4 am while I was trying to rock the baby back to sleep. I learned that TobyMac’s oldest son had died tragically at his home. Before the sun was up in Alaska the news blanketed the internet, and grief for the family soured the […]

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Kanye and Dylan

 

Kanye and DylanBut I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

—Philippians 1:12-18, New King James Version

Member Post

 

Imtiaz Shams is British ex-Muslim. Genetically Modified Sceptic is an American ex-Christian. Veedu Vidz is a British ex-Muslim comedian. Together they host a forum on what it is like to walk away from the religious faith that one grew up with, one that was taught by ones parents and believed by ones friends and extended […]

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Member Post

 

Richard Dawkins has a new book out, guaranteed to continue the debate going on in the western world, and even the entire world, over the value of religious belief. Some think that religious belief is essential to healthy societies and happy lives. There is also the debate over whether a particular religious claim is, in […]

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Does Kanye West’s latest album Jesus Is King mean he is a Christian now? If so, should Christians embrace him? Jack invites Free Beacon media analyst and freelance Kanye West expert Nic Rowan back onto the show to answer these and other questions.

Trick or Treat: A Conversation with a Young Man

 

I happened to fall into conversation with a young veterans’ organization member, who turned out to also be eligible for the veteran’s organization to which I belong, due to service in Korea. My outfit needs more fresh blood, so I had an ulterior motive to sit and listen, just prompting him for more of his thoughts. It was a treat to hear a well-spoken young man’s perspective on his own life, work, and service. The trick, really the pleasant surprise, was to then find an amazing breadth and depth to this fellow veteran, who I took from the conversation to be in his mid-20s.

That places him on the cusp between Millennials and Gen-Z. Folks, he was none of the negative stereotypes routinely riffed about his age cohort. He started on active duty, then (fairly recently) transitioned to a reserve component. He was highly focused on leveraging the mutually reinforcing training, certifications, and experience of his civilian and military careers. He had mapped out paths of advancement in both, taking advantage of the commonality in the two technical occupations. Oh, and he had not even needed college to get on this path, but already had thought through the evening/weekend/online schooling that would punch his ticket to the top of his chosen field in both the military and civilian life.

He had already been to the Middle East and Asia, so was looking for opportunities to see Europe and especially Africa in Uncle Sam’s service. And then it got interesting. We really do not understand the Middle East because we have forsaken much of our own intellectual and spiritual inheritance, he observed. We have the Arab world largely on our side or under our control, yet we cannot see the lines everyone there sees, of the Ottoman and Persian empires, let alone the one that once was centered in present-day Iraq. Turkey and Syria are two fixed countries in our eyes, yet Turks have a memory of empire that included Syria and more.

Lights on Hilltops: Grace in Dallas

 

Lights on HilltopsThe remarkable courtroom events, following the sentencing of Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Shem Jean, called to mind the similarly remarkable courtroom events in 2015 in South Carolina. These, together, called to mind the famous passage in the Gospels about lighted lamps. Politically aware readers will at least recall President Reagan talking about America as “a shining city on a hill.” In an era of oppressively negative news, we were reminded at the beginning of October 2019 that an individual can make a significant positive difference.

Christians were challenged by the faithful witness of a young man this past week. Brandt Jean is the brother of the man murdered in Dallas. Botham Jean had graduated with an accounting degree from Harding, a private Christian college, and was working for the accounting firm PwC.* He was the first to speak in the victim impact statement phase, which comes immediately after the sentence (the time to be served) is pronounced. The sentencing phase follows the jury’s finding of guilt for one or more specified crimes.

The jury had given Amber Guyger 10 years. This is the top of the range for what she would have got if convicted of the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide with a firearm (mandatory 3rd-degree felony sentence, 2-10 years). This is also less than half what the prosecutor demanded for the murder conviction. The prosecutor had been playing to the identity left, crucial for election in very low turnout local elections. The prosecutor asked the jury to sentence Guyger to at least 28 years, one for each year of the age Botham Jean would be if Guyger had not been shot him in his apartment.

Member Post

 

Dostoevsky paid attention to the dramatic conventions of hagiography: A biblical parable would teach people more than any Cartesian meditation. The sayings of the Desert Fathers are part and parcel of Dostoevsky’s literary device. This is how Father Zosima is introduced in the book: as an elder surrounded by disciples, weak and strong, who are […]

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A Dark Echo of Christian Martrydom

 

Throughout millennia, suffering and sacrifice have always been respected. For example, Simeon the Stylite lived on ever increasingly high pillars alone in the desert to devote himself to G-d. Hindus have a long tradition of torturing their body to advance the strength of their soul. Buddhists have similar traditions of starving themselves to death. (though that’s controversial in Buddhism.)* Shia Islam seems to focus on flagellation and hitting yourself on the head with a sword (Grisly imagery contained in this link.

In animistic traditions, the Cheyenne and Crow tribe practiced a ritual known as the sundance where they pierce their skin and attach themselves to a tall pole. The list goes on; sacrificing your bodily health to attain spiritual prowess is a pretty normal thing.