Materialist Myth

We have accepted, unquestioningly, the dogma of materialism that myths and fairy tales are lies. In another time, a thoughtful man described them as lies breathed through silver. Yet, we all indulge in, fully engage with, and enjoy these lies. We create them, but they are not true. Our truth is four walls. On every side we are surrounded by the physical. The open sky bids us rise to explore the utmost height, yet there is a point when with outstretched arm it decrees us go no further. The floor below, our immediate contact with our limits, grounds us and pulls us downward– or upon finding the edge beside an unknown depth it strikes fear that we may be lost in the abyss of darkness. The hard material truth, if one may rightfully see his surroundings, is that all of us are in prison. There is nothing beyond the limits of the material, and we cannot go any further. There is no light on the other side, no hope for escape. The four walls, the roof, and the floor testify we are inside a great expansive prison. It is the greatest jail anyone has ever devised and no one has ever escaped, still yet, no one has ever come to visit. If a wall were suddenly to break down or the whole prison itself were destroyed by the decay of time, we would break down with it. So that just at the point where it were possible to leave, we would lose all life within us. No strength would remain to cross that great boundary. I0015827A

Myths and fairy tales are the result of man dreaming of a place beyond the prison. They are windows summoned by the magic of words that allow us a glimpse into the possibilities beyond our prison. The light truly shines through the window baptizing us into the new world, whilst in this one we appear still, as one dead, we are revived into another land. And while on our new journey, through the course of the story we find ourselves vanquished by our foe or traveled so far that we have come to the end, we are resurrected back into this world having become so much the better and grateful for the experience. And once awakened again to our surroundings, we see as with eyes afresh our own world colored with new light, the light from the window.  It is here that we regain the perpetual wonder we once held as a child. We are reborn. lightbeam

But, there are those of us who travel to and fro walking up and down the earth with the laws of nature in their mouths and jail keys in there hands who take upon themselves the duty to make us see the walls of our prison and remind us there are no windows to go through and no light to shine in. The stories are wrong. But, is it ever wrong for the prisoner to think of life outside of his prison? Who, indeed, is telling the lie?

Dialoguing with a Gay Activist Who Hates the “Hate the sin but love the sinner” distinction

Peter Kreeft recalls a conversation he once had:

 My teacher was an articulate homosexual activist who was arguing, at Boston College, that “Catholic” and “gay” are as compatible as ham and eggs. I respected the clarity and intelligence of his mind and the openness and apparent goodwill of his heart, so I hoped that our conversation might open and clarify both our minds and teach us something new. (This almost never happens when these two sides argue about this subject.)

I was not disappointed.

I shall try and reconstruct our dialogue with a minimum of additions and polishings, as I like to believe Plato did to Socrates in his early dialogues. For purposes of anonymity, I shall call my dialogue partner “Art.”

PETER: Art, I’m really curious about one point of your argument, one part I just don’t understand. And I believe in listening before arguing, as you said you do. So I’m not trying to argue now—that’s not the point of my question—but first of all to listen and to understand. OK?

ART: Of course. What’s the point you don’t understand?

PETER: Well, to explain that, I have to ask you to listen too, to where I’m coming from.

ART: And where’s that?

PETER: Just the teachings of the Bible and the Church, all of them. I know you don’t believe all of them, only some. But I do. So from my point of view, what you do, and what you justify doing, is a sin. That’s the label you reject, right?

ART: Right. So what don’t you understand?

PETER: Please don’t take this as a personal insult, or even an argument, but I know of no other way of phrasing it than with biblical language, which you will probably find offensive. My question is this: Why are you guys the only class of sinners who not only deny that your sin is sin but insist on identifying yourself with it? We’re all sinners, in one way or another, and I’m not assuming your sins are worse than mine, but at least I think I’m more than my sins, whatever they are. I love the sinner but hate the sin. But you don’t do you?

ART: No, I don’t. What I hate is that hypocritical distinction.

PETER: Why?

ART: Because when you attack homosexuality, you attack homosexuals. It’s that simple.

PETER: But alcoholics don’t say that the Church attacks alcoholics when she attacks alcoholism. And cowards don’t say that they are their cowardice. And murderers don’t say the church is hypocritical for condemning their sin but no them, the sinners. Adulterers don’t deny the distinction between the adulterer and the adultery. The only group of sinners I’ve ever heard of who do this is you. And it seems to me you all do that, you always say that. All gays say that. Don’t they?

ART: Yes, we do. And I forgive you for being to insensitive that you don’t realize that you’ve done right now what you defend the Church for doing: insulting and rejecting me, and not just what I do.

PETER: Wait a minute here! You’re saying that when I make that distinction between what you are and what you do, when I accept what you are as distinct from what you do, I’m rejecting what you are? How can I be rejecting what you are in accepting what you are?

ART: That’s exactly what you’re doing. In fact, you’re trying to kill me.

PETER: What? That’s crazy. Now you’re being paranoid.

ART: No, listen: In trying to separate what I do from what I am, you’re trying to separate my body from my soul, my sex life from my identity. That’s what you’re doing by insisting on that distinction. Your distinction between what you call the “sinner” and the “sin” is really death to me; it’s the separation of body and soul, deed and identity. I’m holding the two together; you’re trying to pull them apart, and that’s death.

PETER: That’s sophistical. That’s an argument that just doesn’t fit the facts. Look at the facts instead of the argument. This is what the church believes about you—what I believe about you: you can be a saint! You have dignity. The Church thinks more highly of you than you think of yourself. She loves your being more than you do; that’s why she hates your sins against your being. We believe your self is greater than your deeds, whatever they are. But you don’t.

ART: The Church and the Bible will tell me I’m an abomination to God.

PETER: No! Not in your person, only in your sins, just like the rest of us, like all of us. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 1. He’s condemning hypocritical condemnation of pagan homosexuals by straight Jews just as much as he’s condemning pagan homosexuality.

ART: The Church is my enemy.

PETER: The Church is your friend. Because the Church tells us two things about you, not just one, and she will never change either one, she never can change either one, because both are matters of unchangeable natural law, based on eternal law, based on the very nature of God. She can’t ever say that what you do is good for the same reason that she can’t ever say that what you are is bad. She defends your being just as absolutely as she attacks your lifestyle; she hates your cancer because she loves your body. It’s the same authority for both. The authority you hate when it condemns what you do is your only reliable ally in defending what you are. You want the Church to change her teaching on what you do, and you’re trying to put social pressure on her to do that, but if she did that, then she could change her teaching on what you are, too, for the same reason, under social pressures. I’m sure you know that the old social pressures to hate homosexuals are far from dead. You know what happened in Hitler’s Germany. You know how changeable and fickle mankind is—and how dangerous. When the last bastion of absolute moral law is compromised, when even the Church bends to the winds of social pressure, what shelters will you have then?

ART: I’m not worried about the Left; I’m worried about the Right.

PETER: Today, maybe, but what about tomorrow? Today the fashion is the be Leftist, but just a short time ago the fashion was from the Right, and tomorrow it may swing to the Right again, like a pendulum. You can’t rely on fashionable opinions to protect you. That’s building sandcastles. The tides always change and knock them down.

ART: I’ll take my chances, thank you. I don’t know what will happen in the future, I grant you that. But I know what’s happening now, and I can’t take that. We just can’t take your “love the sinner, hate the sin” distinction. That much we know.

PETER: You still haven’t explained to me why. I began by asking that question, and I really want an answer. I want to know what’s going on in your mind.

ART: OK, I think I can explain it to you. You say I shouldn’t feel threatened by that distinction, right?

PETER: Right.

ART: You say the Church tells me she loves me, even though she hates what I do, right?

PETER: Right.

ART: Well, suppose the shoe was on the other foot. Suppose you were in the minority. Suppose what you wanted to do was to have churches and sacraments and Bibles and prayers, and those in power said to you: “We hate that. We hate what you do. We will do all in our power to stop you from doing what you do. But we love you. We love what you are. We love Christians, we just hate Christianity. We love worshippers; we just hate worship. And we’re going to put every possible pressure on you to feel ashamed about worshipping and make you repent of your sin of worshiping. But we love you. We affirm your being. We just reject your doing.” Tell me, how would that make you feel? Would you accept their
distinction?

PETER: You know, I never thought of it that way. Thank you. You really did make me see things in a new way. You’re right. I would not be comfortable with that distinction. I would not be able to accept it. In fact, I would say pretty much what you just said: that you’re trying to kill my identity.

ART: See? Now you understand how we feel.

PETER: Yes, I think I do. Thank you very much for showing me that. But do you realize what you’ve just said? What you’ve just showed me?

ART: What do you mean?

PETER: You’ve said to me that sodomy is your religion.

Originally posted at The Gospel Coalition

The “Dear Atheist” Letters

Dear Atheist,

A traveler from a strange land passed my way. As he described his home to me, his visage reflected great despair. He spoke of four great walls no longer connected, and all around them, a vast desert in every direction stretched to express no evidence of life for the discerning eye. Inside the walls, the form of a man can be observed laying half in the ground and half out. The bones darkened by the persistent sand provide a vestige of the cruelty the people inflicted upon their king. A hand outstretched remains anchored by the ground held upright as if still beckoning for humanity to enter. The traveler told of a people who abandoned their king even though he provided great things for them. Near the fallen form, a monument stands echoing his words to all. “Come all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The people rose up against him, and invited other great, eloquent men to enter the kingdom. The traveler relates, “The king remained faithful while the magistrates rode slowly on their horses toward the horizon. And yet from the horizon, came others riding swiftly on their horses. And as yet, we are still not free.”

I fear that as humanity trades a reasonable God for men of reason, no real freedom will be gained.

Sincerely,
Theist

We Shave the Best For Last

“I tried to shave my dog’s neck today.”

“How did that turn out?”

“I discovered it’s a two man job.”

“Hmm… well my dog was sedated when her neck was shaved.”

“What is that all about? Can you just go out and buy sedatives? If so, I’d definitely get some.”

“Oh, no. My dog was having her vocal chords removed.”

“Ok, this is just getting weirder.”

“Well, In Montana, if three people complain about your dog barking, the city will take it away.”

“Ah, I see.”

“But I didn’t go through with it. I stopped the doctor at the last second. He was holding the knife in his hands when I called.”

“*Laugh* So, it was like Abraham and Isaac. ‘No, my son. Stop.’ I bet your dog was relieved.”

“*Laugh*”

“What?”

“I was just picturing Isaac waking up from sedation. ‘Father, I understand the knife and all, but why is my neck shaved?’”

The Wooden Box

I grabbed a cup of water and put it under the faucet. The sound of the water pouring into the cup drew my mind away from the present. I drifted where I always went. I needed it. My mind bent on how I could get it next. I heard the sound of pounding in the distance, but the sound of the cup filling to the top drew me back to reality. Quickly, I turned the faucet off and poured some of it back out. Why did I need water in the first place? Couldn’t I just survive on what I really wanted? Ah… there was that pounding again. It came from the living room.

“He always wants out but he’s not going to get out. Ever. However, a little rest on the couch would be nice.”

The pounding got louder as I entered the living room.

“I’ll just spend a little time in here. It won’t bother me too much. Resting my legs feels good anyway. Now, if I could just get more of that stuff I need.”

I felt an excitement in my stomach just thinking about it.

“I need more of it. I did the last of it months ago. Ah… if only it lasted longer.”

The pounding really got loud now. It came from the large wooden box sitting beside the couch. I slammed my fist on the top of it and yelled, “Shut up!” Sometimes he can be so annoying. At least he wasn’t trying to talk to me. After all, he put me in charge. He should accept how things worked out and just be quiet. On the top of the wooden box a small window controlled the only visual communication between me and him. His breathing was rapid and his eyes danced wildly back and forth as they pleaded with mine. I ignored him and sipped my water.

“Why is this water never enough?”, I thought. “It would be if I had what I really needed. I just can’t seem to find it. It’s not available anymore.”

My eyes wandered around the room. Dust and dishes were scattered throughout the floor. My clothes were strewn on the back of the couch and the only chair I had. Memories of children running through the house went through my head more like ghosts than real thoughts. I really should get a maid. Cleaning is just not a priority. I guess months of fulfilling my needs takes it toll on a house. The wooden box made it seem like the room was furnished more than it was.

“He could clean the house though.”, I considered. “Oh, he would just love that.”

I laughed a little. I sipped more of my water and peered out of the windows. It’s so dark nowadays. I can’t remember the last time the sun peaked over the hills. Darkness prevailed outside the house rendering the windows useless. I stopped looking out of them months ago. There were no neighbors anyway. My street used to bustle with laughter and children’s games. That was before I found what I needed. The pounding started again and this time he spoke.

“Please let me out, “ he said, “I’m sorry I tried to stop you.”

I stood up and kicked the box. “You wanted this Jerry. Just shut up! I’m in control now, and no one can tell us apart anymore.”

“Help me… Help me!”, He cried.

He sobbed quietly as I stood up to leave the room. Jerry used to be my friend. I guess in the end, it was me that turned on him. He always did what I said. Now he can’t do anything.

Dave walked down the hospital corridor. The sun shined through the windows of each room as he passed. Today would have been an excellent day to go fishing, but he had urgent business that could not wait. A Bible could be clearly seen under his arm as he stepped into hospital room 124. A man lay on the bed in front of him. Dave stepped aside to let the nurse finish her check of the patient’s chart. She placed it back at the foot of the bed. The name on the chart was Jerry.

“Jerry, Jerry, it’s Pastor Dave. Can you hear me?”

Jerry’s skin was pale and thin. It looked as though it was draped over his bones like a worn out curtain. Although he was continually moving, Jerry was clearly bed ridden. The sound of the previous question seemed to be sucked into nothingness as the beeping monitors that were hooked to Jerry’s body persisted through an otherwise quiet room. His eyes danced wildly back and forth and his mouth formed inaudible words. He looked like he was crying. Dave spoke again.

“Jerry, Jerry, it’s Pastor Dave. Can you hear me? I’ve come to help you.”

Silence.

“Jerry, I’ve come to tell you about Jesus.”

Jerry’s eyes stopped for just a moment and made their way over to Dave’s. His head shook as he leaned toward Dave. He didn’t have much strength left. Jerry opened his mouth to speak. At first there was a deep gargling sound and then an ever so quiet voice, almost like a baby’s voice, resounding in the small room.

“Help me… Help me.”

At this, he collapsed back on the bed and his eyes resumed their awful dance once again.

“Jerry? Jerry!” Dave called out, but it was no use. He sat in the room for what seemed like an eternity hoping to see more moments of lucidity. The beeping of the machines were relentless. After a while, a nurse walked in and Dave felt it was time to leave.

That night, Dave slipped into bed with his wife. He had not repeated the account of his visit to anyone, and his heart was heavy as his mind drifted back to Jerry. He could still hear his cry.

“Help me… Help me!”

Sleep came slowly to his heavy heart, but his body soon gave way to the familiar rhythms of restful breathing. After all, God gives his beloved ones sleep.

That same night, Jerry slipped into the darkness once more and never returned.