On frustrating days (or rather, on good enough days with some particularly frustrating moments), this view right outside my door is my mental safe space…
My much-needed reminder that the momentary afflictions and annoyances are passing by like the fading sun and the gentle waves.
There’s a psalm that comes to mind–or should–when I start getting distracted by what’s not going the way I want:
“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”
Psalms 27:13-14 NASB
I’m preaching to myself here, and watching the last amber hues fade behind the gray clouds at the horizon. Tomorrow will be another day, with its own troubles as well as a few left over from today.
With the trouble, there is always a supply of goodness and grace. It’s up to me to choose what to focus on.
I had the privilege of watching Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the opening scene puts Zachary Quinto’s fantastic Spock into a deadly situation, freezing a volcano in order to save a planet from certain doom. Things go wrong, as they always must, and Spock is trapped. He chooses to stay and do the job, but he cannot be rescued.
He calls back to the Enterprise and explains his logic. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Chris Pine’s Kirk has a differing view about that.
But in that moment, we see the heroism of Spock’s selfless and practical decision. One man can die to save a population from destruction. If you’ve got to go, that’s not a bad achievement to take from your death.
Now imagine the scene from another angle. Kirk lines up a few “red shirts” and says, “I am going to choose one of you for a suicide mission. You’ll save the planet, but you’ll die in the process.” And then he covers his eyes and points, or plays eenie-meenie-miney-moe, or whatever Kirkly method he chooses, and he selects his crewman. “Lieutenant Jones, it’s you.”
Jones goes to the transporter crying, screaming, fighting until he is restrained. And then he gets beamed down to the planet, ordered to ensure the detonation of a device that will kill him in the process of saving many others. Instead, he scrambles to deactivate the device, like a time bomb. Spock’s voice echoes in Jones’ ears. “It is the logical decision, Lieutenant. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of you.” And Jones fails to stop the device, it goes off, and the day is saved at the cost of Lieutenant Jones’ unwilling sacrifice.
That doesn’t play so well, does it?
Sacrifice is heroic when individuals are free to take that burden upon themselves. The man who jumps on a grenade to save his friends, the medic who pulls his comrades to safety at great risk under heavy fire, the fireman who races into the burning building to save the missing child knowing the structure may collapse at any moment… we see these as heroes and rightly so.
It’s not so moving when someone chooses to sacrifice others against their will. The leader who sends his soldiers into pointless battle for an impossible objective, the criminal who makes his fortune by deception, the deadbeat who takes care of himself while neglecting the basic needs of his children… no one views the sacrifice imposed on the victims as a heroic or praiseworthy situation.
This is what comes to mind for me when I think about “reproductive rights” and abortion in the West.
I thought of this as I was attending a Chinese class. In China, the population lives under the “One Child Policy,” the rule that only the first child receives benefits from the Communist government. I discussed this with my Chinese teacher, along with Spock’s logic. And she confirmed that Chinese society has pretty much accepted this population control as a sacrifice made for the good of the nation. The nation trumps the individual, hands down.
Not so much here. We’re very much about the individual, and their freedom and right to self-determination. Don’t impose your beliefs or values on someone else, and don’t act like there’s some universal values all should esteem. We each have the right to choose!
Yet in the case of abortion, we praise “freedom of choice” when the human beings who make the greatest sacrifice have this burden thrust upon them unwillingly. The fetus does not choose, it is chosen–or rather, unchosen. We are Kirk, sending a red shirt to their death.
I know, I’m a man, so there’s a sense that I’m automatically disqualified from speaking about a woman’s right. But I’m also a human being (as are the victims of abortion). I am also aware of the basic fundamentals of biology which reaffirm that we’re talking about ending the development of human beings during these protected procedures. We may claim that a fetus is not a “person” yet, but it is a human being at a particular stage in development.
I won’t go into the graphic details of how that development is terminated, because it is disturbing. If you so desire, google Gosnell or read about the other similar cases coming to light. Then google or wiki up some abortion procedures. Then ask yourself how it is that what Gosnell did is illegal, but when he did it to a fetus inside a womb, it’s all good.
This is a complex issue, no doubt. I don’t want women in alleys with coat-hangers, to borrow from the Planned Paranoia debate playbook. I’m not keen on abstinence-only education because it seems to me like having information is a general plus. An informed decision about contraceptives might very well prevent an informed (or uninformed) decision about abortion, so I don’t know why many of us aren’t all for that.
I also don’t much like how the Pro-Life movement comes across. Opponents rightly ask, “If you’re all for saving these unborn children and bringing them into the world, who is going to take care of them?” The implication, borne out in reality, is that as much as Pro-Lifers love charity and adoption, there’s not enough of either going on to cover the needs of all the unborn children we might have saved if Roe v. Wade was overturned. Government may be the worst at welfare programs, but if they’re the only player in the game, people take what they can get.
And there are more nuances to consider, no doubt.
I simply want to express how tiresome it is to hear the praises of “choice” in this debate. It’s like generals and politicians exercising choice to send waves of young men and women into combat.
Not quite, though.
The soldier got to raise his or her right hand and volunteer.
What if Abraham Lincoln was really a vampire hunter?
Oh, they’ve done that, have they?
One of my favorite comic series growing up was “What If?” comics by Marvel.
They’d take key story lines from their most popular characters’ series, and then change one decision, one action, one coincidence. The rest of the book would tell you what would happen if, say, the popular jock got bit by the radioactive spider instead of nerdy Peter Parker… or if Wolverine’s girlfriend(s) never died… or if Victor Von Doom was part of the Fantastic Four instead of being the villain.
Sci-fi shows like Star Trek often use time travel to create a “What if?” of their own. There are series of novels exploring what-ifs. What if World War II was interrupted by an alien invasion, and the various powers of the world had to come together to fight back?
If all of that is too geek-chic for your tastes, a perfect example is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey explores the question, “What if I was never born?”
Maybe it’s all the Chick-Fil-A and Jim Henson Company pics on Facebook…
But I have been thinking about a “What If?” for a while now.
What if it is scientifically proven that homosexuality is a genetic trait?
Now, I know many of those who might read this are probably convinced that it is genetic, or at least, not a choice.
I also know many people who are convinced it is a choice – at least on some important level.
Individuals being the strange and unique creatures that they are, I doubt that there will ever be conclusive universal proof one way or another. Our internal motivations are a whole mix of genetics, environment, outside influences, and past experiences.
But my point is, even though there’s no “conclusive” evidence on the subject yet, the consensus is forming quickly that in many cases, sexual orientation isn’t something we up and choose.
What does the church do with that?
I think we have a few options.
1) Go full ostrich. This, I fear, is our default position. “Science is a conspiracy of well-meaning but misguided atheists who were trained in liberal colleges to reject God and accept whatever the Leftists tell them.”
But you’re reading this on a computer or perhaps a cellular phone, accessing my published rants across streams of information being transmitted over fiber optic cable or simply through the air from your 4G network… all brought to you by the advances of, yes, science.
“That science is ok. The science that appears to disagree with the Bible is bad.”
It should go without saying that ignoring reality is a poor plan. But I’ll use a biblical example to make a point about healthy faith instead. Look at Abraham: he knew what God said about him having a child was nigh impossible. He considered his aged body and that of his wife. But he also knew that God promised, so he trusted what God said. (See Romans 4:17-21 or so… or read in Genesis from chapters 12 through 22 for the full story.)
Abraham didn’t ignore reality or “faith” it all away. Neither should we.
2) Abandon our position. We could always edit our Bibles, stop preaching about homosexuality, and give up political causes concerning “defending” traditional marriage. I’m sure some would appreciate this greatly. If we’re not vilified for “hate speech,” we’re mocked for backwards, ignorant, Bronze-Age religious standards. Forty years from now, the church’s crusade against homosexuality today may look like how we now view those who railed against interracial marriage in the sixties.
That said, our calling is not to adjust ourselves to whatever the majority believes. We’re not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by God so that we can show His love to the world.
3) Examine our position. There are several theological arguments concerning translation and context for verses that, on the surface, condemn homosexuality. It can’t hurt to double-check our sources and see if maybe we’ve missed something along the way. We may claim that God’s Word is perfect, but we also proclaim that we are not. As we learn more about the world around us, it makes sense to consider how that might affect what we have always “known.”
Religion is notoriously difficult (as in impossible) to prove. Much as we’d all desire it, God hasn’t shown up on CNN and Fox to announce His presence and put all the debate to rest.
For the Christian, we’ll say, “The Word of God and the incarnation of Christ is all the proof people need.”
But it’s not.
It’s more than enough for some, and rational arguments can be made. But God isn’t known for cooperating in scientific experiments or providing empirical proof, and that is what some people genuinely expect.
If we’re convinced we know it all, to the extent that we don’t ever need to question or reconsider any subject, then we’ve missed some of the mystery and majesty of the God we claim to serve. Check the “Love chapter” in 1st Corinthians 13. We only know in part. We haven’t achieved perfection, and we don’t know God the way He knows us. So if you have been led to believe that “the perfect” in that chapter is the Bible, well… look around. We’re not there yet.
4) Adjust our priorities. Maybe this issue could stop being the focus of so much political or cultural effort. We don’t picket against fat people, even though gluttony is a sin. (For many of us, myself included, the hypocrisy would be too obvious.) We don’t picket against nonbelievers, be they atheists or adherents of some other religion. We don’t hold rallies against arrogance or greed (two sins that probably deserve a lot more hellfire-n-brimstone preaching in the West).
Perhaps we could stop caring about whether someone is gay, and start caring about that someone.
“But they have to know what the Bible says about their sin!”
First, it’s not a secret. Second, I know a lot of proud people, and selfish people, and angry people. I know rude people and promiscuous people. I know people who steal and people who lie and people who just don’t care about anyone else. That doesn’t mean I rage against them. I’m supposed to love them regardless, and I try to do so.
Third, and most important, the Lord knows I still struggle with a bunch of my own sins, and I do know what the Bible says.
I find I benefit more by learning about the grace and mercy of a holy God that reaches out to me in spite of my sin. That inspires me to live better.
I assume the same is true of others. It’s that whole Golden Rule thing.
Hey, I thought of another “What if?”
What if we cared more about people than about what those people do?
That would be a story worth telling.
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.