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You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Man Walks into a Bar in Heaven-

How sufficient is the grace of God? For those who don't know, the grace of God is that bit of forgiveness he has for where your Do's are not greater than your Don't's. In other words, it is His forgiving your sins not because you do enough good stuff to erase the bad stuff. It is simply because the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient as a sacrifice to pay for those sins. All of them. Forever.

How sufficient is the grace of God? I had an image in my mind of walking into a bar in Heaven. (The bar is symbolic; it's something that shouldn't be in Heaven according to traditional perspectives. Just run with this.) I see sitting at a table Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Billy Graham, and any Pope of your choice. (It is sad that I know the first names of two human monsters and not one name associated with a Pope.)

They are laughing and having some really good beer. It has to be good. This is Heaven. They invite me over to join them. What should I think? What should I do? Hitler and Stalin were rather nasty guys. They were responsible for a lot of people dying in rather unpleasant ways. Some of the Popes (sorry to all of you Pope fans) were not a lot better.

That's the question. (Billy Graham is there just to give some people a righteous dude they would expect to be there. By the way, he admitted to being a sinner.) Is the grace of God sufficient to pay for the sins of someone like Hitler? Most people, even people who don't give much credence to the idea of sin, would consider Hitler a really sinful sinner. His is a high-water mark of sin. Hard to beat, unless you are Genghis Khan or someone like that.

I say, yes. Sin is sin. A little or a lot, it demanded the death of Jesus Christ. Now for those who don't know, Jesus was without sin. The Son of God and all of that. He offered Himself as a substitute for each and every sinner. When it comes down to the whole sacrifice-for-sin thing, He did it for me. Me. My sin, as paltry as my sin may be on the Hitler scale, demanded the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. And, He did it willingly.

How does this grace thing work? It is so simple that huge volumes of volumes have been written on the matter. You just believe. You believe enough to know that you rightly will stand before God as your judge. What will you plead? Guilty, of course. Then you simply state that you rely on the blood of Christ, and nothing else.

That's what I intend. I have nothing more to offer. Nothing else is sufficient. Nothing more is necessary. The blood of Christ, His voluntary sacrifice, is sufficient. The grace of God is sufficient. I depend upon it.

Who will be there in Heaven? Other than me, I don't really know. If they are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, however, I will certainly be glad to sit down and have a beer with them.

Will there be beer there? Of course. Beer, and really good sandwiches.

It's Heaven, don't you know?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Satire and the Sacred-

I am a Christian. My Christian background, however, encompasses Atheism and Agnosticism. I had a conversion experience and as a consequence I consciously sought to submit the wholeness of my being to the Christian way of thinking and doing.

Unfortunately, like so many things in this world, there is and is not one singular Christianity. Being the spiritual adventurer I was in my youth I sought a broad range of experiences within the Christian community. I have fellowshipped with a lot of believers from a lot of backgrounds. I attended a mission in my early Christian experience and received training. I attended a Christian college for a time. I have seen a lot of Christianity.

Because I do not espouse any one particular narrow view of Christianity I am possibly more open to sacrilegious humor than a lot of my brothers and sisters. I believe both God and the Church are strong enough to stand up to a bit of ridicule and a few bad jokes. I also believe that within satire can be found valuable information.

The satirist is a very perceptive creature. Humorists are, in general. They lock onto inconsistencies and weaknesses in positions and arguments and shine a bright light on them. They point and laugh. Granted, this may be painful if they are pointing and laughing at something you hold sacred. On the other hand, anything you hold to be precious and valuable should be important enough to examine carefully.

If something is so precious as to be deemed holy it should be examined carefully and often. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Institutions and orders provide structure for living out ideals, and can be very good. Idealization beyond the point of critical examination, however, puts these institutions at risk of falling out of order. Without the light of satire, along with other sources of illumination, the flaws can go unattended and the structure will eventually collapse.

Human heroes have flaws, and recognizing those flaws does not show disrespect if they are genuine and factual flaws. If your hero has to be swathed in band-aids to keep up the hero image, perhaps your hero ought to be downgraded to a highly respected regular person. There is nothing wrong with that. A human hero shouldn't really be anything more.

This sanctification beyond examination can happen in politics. It often does. Sometimes it is a leader who deifies himself beyond the realm of examination or accountability. There are a few of those in the world today. I must note that they are not fond of satirists. They don't like lights shining where flaws might be exposed.

Certain political orders are equally uninterested in comic examination. Some political parties are also not fond of the light of satire. A lot of individual leaders and aspirants to leadership don't particularly like being  the butt of jokes. Yet the light of satire and the barb of the lampoon can provide insight and guide a real leader toward better leadership.

I recall that in the jail where I worked there was a fellow worker who could imitate me. I regret that I never had the opportunity to see that. I think it would be interesting. I doubt that I would have been offended, and suspect I would have found it funny. More importantly, it would have been enlightening. Sadly, it is an experience I have not had.

If you cannot see the humor in someone seeking to roast your sacred cow, perhaps you need to adjust your perspective. If someone or something is worthy of sanctification, it is worthy of careful and consistent examination. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Don't waste a resource.

Besides, it might really be a good joke. Laugh often. Laugh well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where are you, Robin Hood?

When I think about the pirates who raped our nation and ruined our economy, I get angry. When I think of the politicians who then gave the pirates money and got into bed with them, I get angry. When I see a protracted war in which our government is wringing the life out of our soldiers and then not taking any kind of real care of them, I get angry.

This is not a good kind of angry. I can't do much with it. Since I can't do much with it, there is a festering in my soul. I could get sick as a consequence. So, sometimes I write stories to cleanse my inner self. Unfortunately, a lot of my characters have been killing and dying, lately. Who wants to read that all of the time? It just isn't wholesome.

So, I got to thinking. How about a character who robs banks but never uses a gun and writes the threatening notes in such fine and non-threatening prose that the teller doesn't feel frightened and just gives up the money? And then this character gives the money to a homeless shelter, or a housing project for the poor, or any one of a multitude of fine charitable venues?

Of course, he only targets banks associated with the big corporations that raped the people, and so is simply "redistributing" the bail-out money the government stole from the people to give to the rich. Kind of a Robin Hood guy. Such a fine Robin Hood that really high profile lawyers take his case and get him off time after time. Yeah. And the judges go along, because this is RIGHT and GOOD.

Then more Robin Hoods crop up, and eventually the billions of dollars of the PEOPLE'S money gets moved to better places than the coffers of pirates.

What a ridiculous fantasy. I can't write that! Nobody would believe it.

Then I though I might write an opinion piece. This piece. And then it would go viral, and at least one guy or gal with enough intestinal fortitude would take it and run with it, and the billions of stolen dollars would find their ways to places where they are needed, and not just coveted. And others would copy this criminal and eventually the billions of stolen dollars would return to the people and...

Another ridiculous fantasy. Imagine my work going viral! Who do I think I am? Lady Gaga? Justin Bieber? At least they give something of substance to the world. I am just venting my overtaxed spleen onto the Internet so I don't get some kind of sick.

Still, I have to ask; Robin Hood, where are you? Wouldn't it be interesting? Imagine!