Click here for Part 1 of my list-letter to Lisa responding to her great memoir of her journey searching for relationships with both men and God.
11. Internet Porn Idolatry… and its coming Spawn of Virtual Reality Sex Addiction: Men who expect real-life women to behave as their porn star goddesses do, that is, if they’re still interested in flesh and blood women at all.… As noted in Kathy Shaidle’s must-read e-book culture critique Confessions of a Failed Slut, a compelling exploration of the last four decades’ sexual confusions:
That porn could warp young men’s sexual expectations was a commonplace talking point during the feminist ‘porn wars’ of the Eighties. The notion was roundly dismissed, but now it looks like the ‘anti-s’ were onto something.
In the previous part I already highlighted how some New Testament-centric theologies provided rather inadequate answers to questions of love, marriage, and sex. In the Evangelical Christian youth culture of my teen years it was abstinence until marriage and each lustful thought was morally equivalent to actually cheating on your future spouse. Jesus supposedly knew every bad thought that popped into our heads and each one was responsible for pounding those nails into his innocent flesh.
Just as I showed in point 3 how some Christians snip out a verse from Paul like some kind of biblical bandage to justify their demands for a wifely hooker performing on demand, the end of the sex discussion for those not yet married was Matthew 5:27-30:
27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Is it any wonder that sex and violence seem so joined at the hip when it’s ingrained in so many Christians that lustful thoughts should be banished with thoughts of self-mutilation?
None of the commenters responding to my posts even bothered to acknowledge the alternative solution to the Pauline Christian approach to sex that I’d put up in the beginning:
Just as Christians and secularists would feel better physically by adopting a food diet closer to Kosher, so too the ideals and approach toward a Kosher sexuality in marriage is also the attitude to pursue.
And part of that comes in recognizing what junk food and porn sex have in common: they’re both the products of an emotional, feelings-based pagan culture that we indulge in because of our inability to develop self-control through finding a higher pleasure than the escape of orgasm and the endorphin rush of the tasty food.
This great video of John Piper that Walter Hudson shared in his article “10 Barriers to Healthy Relationships Explored in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon” is worth considering again:
From Sunday at PJ Lifestyle, Susan L.M. Goldberg responded to my opening in this series with “Religion, Politics & Screaming at the Internet” and concluded thoughtfully:
Why aren’t these women loving these men the way they ought to be loving themselves, with respect and honor?
Perhaps that question is the answer to the many you pose about righteousness in America’s religious and political spheres. When we succumb to idols of any kind we become altruistic in our worship, disrespecting ourselves as much as those with whom we interact. Walter and I do agree on the concept that faith is, first and foremost, a relationship with God that is as mutually satisfying as a marriage. When we lose that context to religious, political, or pop culture opinion, we are forced to become ascetics, because no matter how hard you believe, nor how ardently you defend, you will never win the full favor, attention, or love of the idol you worship. It is a thing, an idea, a person so far removed from you that you are forced to be nothing more than its conquered slave. That is the way Ryan the Preacher treated Lisa, and she responded the way any slave would: “…all I wanted was to be wanted.”
An excerpt from page 23:
Dear Lisa and Susan,
I think among the many accomplishments of Finding Mr. Righteous is its portrayal of Chris the Atheist. The passage from page 23 above highlights a number of intertwined phenomena – a sadomasochistic sexual nature, atheist theology, an inability to control emotions, substance abuse, idolizing women’s bodies, and so often the critical piece at root, the lack of a father figure and the corresponding failure to grow up in a nuclear family. In another passage from the book Chris’s destructive tendencies are made more explicit as he discusses the self-inflicted scars on his arms.
Reading these passages reminded me of my own secular dating time during my undergraduate years – a period I don’t like to dredge out from the memory banks all that often because it’s just still too shameful and embarrassing. The experience from this passage isn’t that uncommon and it shouldn’t necessarily be understood as exclusively a men’s issue. (I certainly don’t believe that men are just innately violent.) It goes the other way too. I dated a number of secular, progressive, and feminist women in college who in some ways resembled Chris. Gender isn’t the issue — beliefs, ideology, and the experiences underlying them are what make people hurt one another.
Some of the women I dated would shift the foreplay into one disturbing realm or another, either incorporating pain and degradation into how they treated me or requesting I act that way toward them. Never was it just “for fun” or “to be kinky” or to “spice things up”– always behind these outward expressions some inner emotional wounds ached, unhealed by a spiritual practice.
Or rather, as it turns out, the sex and the pain was their substitute for a religion. Throughout the story of Chris we see one attempt after another to find something to distract from the unresolved demons inside him. The twin cocktail of sex and violence at the same time, heated up by alcohol and Dionysian emotion, is among the most effective throughout history for annihilating the pain of being an individual. There’s a name for this practice beyond just “atheism” and in my research I think Camille Paglia defines it best in her many books of essays, criticism, and literary analysis, summarized in the lead essay in Vamps and Tramps: A Pagan Theory of Sexuality. From page 45:
“Men who kill the women they love have reverted to Pagan cult. She whom a man cannot live without had become a goddess, an avatar of his half-divinized, half-demonized mother, a magic fountain of cosmic creativity.”
So the position I take: Chris was just being a normal, secular teenage boy, the way mother nature created him. This is just how nature operates…
David Swindle has entered the ongoing discussion on altruism, religion and politics here at PJLifestyle. In doing so, he’s issued a number of great questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Jumping back in, I’d like to address them one by one, beginning with:
Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry?
No. I’ve had a hard, sad reminder of that through some of the commentary I’ve received on a number of articles in the past few weeks. There are some wonderful, insightful people out there who I’d love to have dinner with some day. And then there’s the passionate base who has time to issue verbose rants: Contradict popular line and you can “F-off”. You know this segment of the population; they are the reason stereotypes exist. But, they also prove the point that there are people out there who worship Conservatism above all else. Ironically, they’re as abusively passionate as those “liberals” they are taught to hate.
Vince Vitale, a philosopher and professor at Oxford University makes the surprising and bold claim in a new video that God is alive and well at the highest levels of academia.
Vitale excoriates the so-called “new atheists” who are “not engaged in current philosophical scholarship,” attributing their brand of atheism to the “old scholarship” at the academic level. Vitale said, “More recently, in the last fifty years or so, what we’ve had is a remarkable resurgence of professional philosophers who have thought long and hard about the evidence and have come to the conclusion that God exists. God is not dead. He is very much alive.”
He cites Quentin Smith, a contemporary philosopher who has published twelve books and over a hundred articles. Smith, an atheist, discussed in a paper in Philo in 2000 an assertion by non-theist philosopher Richard Gale:
If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith…”
Quentin Smith goes even further than Gale, saying that the non-theists would lose: “I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.”
In the paper Smith goes on the blast his fellow atheist philosophers for losing so much ground to the theists:
This philosophical failure (ignoring theism and thereby allowing themselves to become unjustified naturalists) has led to a cultural failure since theists, witnessing this failure, have increasingly become motivated to assume or argue for supernaturalism in their academic work, to an extent that academia has now lost its mainstream secularization.
Smith concludes that, “God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
If there’s one thing the rise of gay marriage has taught us, it’s how dramatically public opinion can shift in a short period of time. A poll of Minnesotans taken shortly after that state became the twelfth to legalize gay unions found a radical 18-point shift in opinion among respondents aged 50 to 64 in just a few months. Sixty-eight percent opposed gay marriage in February of 2013. By June, that dropped to 50%.
Recall that President Obama, radical leftist that he is, only “evolved” on the marriage issue less than two years ago. Such observations suggest that radical social ideas can rapidly become mainstream given the right circumstances.
So when actor Chris O’Dowd predicts that religion will one day be widely considered as offensive and unacceptable as racism, I don’t immediately write him off. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult”…
O’Dowd has told Britain’s GQ magazine: “For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird s**t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!’
While we may be a long way off from such a world, with the vast majority of Americans still claiming a religious affiliation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a radical shift toward the dystopia O’Dowd predicts.
As the world mourned the loss of Soviet evangelist Pete Seeger last week, I encountered stories of real Soviets who found God, not in the hammer and sickle of the USSR, but in the smuggled bootleg lyrics of the Beatles.
How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is a fascinating narrative detailing Soviet Baby Boomers’ covert love affair with the Fab Four. Interviewing a variety of Russian Beatlemaniacs, including many post-Communist music scene movers and shakers, over the course of nearly two decades, British filmmaker Leslie Woodhead discovered that The Beatles were much more than a band in the U.S.S.R. For many Soviet teens, The Beatles were a glimpse at independence, freedom, and even God.
The idea that a rock and roll band could provoke the understanding of the intertwining of God and freedom, let alone inspire a search for the divine, is one that is largely lost on an American audience. After all, as Soviet teens risked Kremlin hellfire to listen to Beatles tracks, their American counterparts in the Bible Belt were throwing their records on bonfires, forced by a religious hierarchy that saw John Lennon and his band as a threat to Christ. Rock music then became the stuff of hippies, the class that scoffed at religious institutions and, like The Beatles, sought divine encounters and self-empowerment through eastern religions.
Arguably, the advocates of Beatles burnings did more to harm Christ’s reputation and following than John Lennon ever could. After all, as he explained, his ironic quip about Jesus was more of a warning than a declaration:
“I’m not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better. I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I’m sorry I said it, really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. From what I’ve read, or observed, Christianity just seems to be shrinking, to be losing contact.”
Ironically, it’s a warning that post-Soviet leaders like Vladimir Putin have heeded with their own political purposes in mind.
A group called American Atheists is sponsoring a digital billboard near MetLife Stadium targeted at Super Bowl attendees. Six times each hour through Super Bowl Sunday the billboard will proclaim, “A ‘Hail Mary’ Only Works in Football. Enjoy the Game!”
“Prayer is superstition, plain and simple,” says American Atheists President David Silverman.
It trivializes the dedication of the players and takes away from their achievements. A third of football fans pray in hopes of helping their team. These are adults we’re talking about—people with children, people with careers, people who vote. It’s 2014; it’s time to stop believing that prayer works. Give credit where credit is due and celebrate what this is really about—coming together to cheer on hard-working athletes doing what they do best.
On Fox News’ The Five on Friday, Greg Gutfeld seemed to agree. ”If prayer actually works in a game no one would ever lose,” Gutfeld said. He added, “I don’t believe God designed the world on who’s the best pray-er.”
On the surface, Gutfeld and the atheists have a point. Several years ago when my son was playing football for a Christian school, the teams would huddle together before the games for a short prayer. As the team’s captain, Ryan was often called upon to lead the prayer, along with the captain of the opposing team. He admitted at one point that it didn’t seem right for both teams to pray to win and he thought it was especially awkward to pray for a win in the presence of the other team. They were, after all, asking God to bestow his favor upon one Christian team and not the other. How would God ever choose? Would he pick the team with the “best” Christians? The most fervent pray-ers? Or does God not bother with such trivial things as the outcomes of football games?
In the end, my son decided that he would pray for all the players to do their best and that God would protect them. He also prayed that he and the other boys would demonstrate Christ-like attitudes on the field and that they would honor God in the way they played the game. He would leave the outcome up to God and then play to win.
So does God care who wins the Super Bowl or the curling competition at the Winter Olympics or your family’s Monopoly game? Two of God’s attributes, his omniscience and his sovereignty, as described in the Bible, help to explain God’s view of matters that may seem trivial upon first glance.
Many are beginning to recognize that there is more to the so-called “culture war” issues than mere disagreements over abortion and gay marriage. It’s becoming increasingly clear that something more basic is afoot. In many cases our most treasured American rights — freedom of speech and freedom of religion — have been diminished as the czars of political correctness desire to create a nation where tolerance is redefined to mean tolerance only of culturally acceptable viewpoints. Those of us on the outside of this new cultural orthodoxy find ourselves not only marginalized from the public square of ideas, but increasingly, on the wrong side of the law. We’re warned to keep our religion in our churches as many attempt to make a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion, the former allowing only for private expressions of faith.
Liberals — I like to call them illiberal liberals — are often the most vocal perpetrators of intolerance against unpopular viewpoints, but a fair number of those who profess to be of the libertarian persuasion also have a penchant for trying to silence those with whom they disagree on certain issues. The justification for this squelching of speech is usually some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones…and your words are mean, so you have forfeited your right to speak in public.” The libertarian version of this is (paradoxically), “You’re embarrassing us and making our side unelectable. Knock it off.”
It’s not uncommon in our modern political discourse for ridicule to replace dialogue and open hostility to replace genuine debate, to the detriment of our country and our humanity. Those who demand silence from those with whom they disagree dishonor the principles of liberty upon which our republic was founded. Those who use the courts or who pass laws to force Americans to violate their religious principles trample on the graves of those who fought to defend our liberty through the ages.
Comedian Doug Stanhope engaged in a remarkable act of charity, raising over $100,000 for an atheist family in Oklahoma whose home fell to a tornado. The Raw Story reports:
“I didn’t do it because I felt sympathy because she got all her sh*t destroyed by a tornado. I did it simply to be a prick to her Okie Christian neighbors,” Stanhope said in a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday. “It’s funny how hate can make you do real nice things every now and then.”
After a tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma in May, CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked resident Rebecca Vitsmun if she thanked the Lord for surviving. She replied that she was an atheist.
“If you didn’t think that took balls you’ve never been to Oklahoma,” Stanhope remarked. “Saying ‘I’m an atheist’ in Oklahoma is like screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security. It took some nuts.”
“If you watch the footage, all the other victims are on the news thanking Jesus for only killing their neighbors and not them, while a crawler is on the screen telling me where I can text money to help them out,” Stanhope said.
“F*ck them. I don’t want Jesus getting credit for my $50. I’ll help that other girl out. She ain’t got no Jeebus, she gonna need money.”
Cutting through Stanhope’s coarse rhetoric, his giving was certainly motivated by sympathy. He may not have been particularly moved by Vitsmun’s physical loss, but he was clearly moved by her irreligious expression. He sought to affirm her values with a gift of money, an act fundamentally no different from any charity.
Stanhope’s perception of Christianity proves noteworthy. Three specifics manifest. First, he compares professing atheism in Oklahoma to “screaming ‘Jihad’ at airport security.” He then portrays Christian gratitude as somehow malevolent, “thanking Jesus for only killing [others].” Finally, he states that he does not want Jesus getting credit for his $50 donation. Let’s take these in turn.
Jews and Christians have this crazy tendency to make themselves lighting rods for criticism and attack when they make their beliefs public. People really take offense to dangerous values like “Don’t murder” and “Don’t steal.” From militant atheists clamping down on anything related to Christmas and Hanukkah to leftists developing Kwanzaa as an alternative to the Judeo-Christian holidays to the seemingly endless lawsuits surrounding displays of the Ten Commandments, the Left never tires of making a reality of Jesus’ warning that the world would hate His followers.
These days, the Satanists have decided to take a different approach – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In Oklahoma, where the legislature has erected a Ten Commandments monument, a group of Satanists (based in New York, naturally) have expressed their desire to put up their own monument next to it.
It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.
“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”
Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000.
I don’t see why Oklahoma officials wouldn’t approve an interactive display for children on the, um, values of Satanism, would you? Greaves – whose name sounds like a Satanist’s name if anyone’s does – believes that the monument would help spread the word about the Prince of Darkness.
You don’t walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that’s when you’re going to see us.
As expected, the Oklahoma ACLU has jumped into the fray. Its director, Brady Henderson, weighed in:
…if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple’s proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint.
What values would the monument promote? What would the slogan be: “The Devil Made Me Do It”? What do you think? Is the controversy all a bunch of nothing, or do the Satanists have a beef? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments below. All I know is that some stories are too bizarre not to be made up. This is one of them.
Louis C.K. may not be the first person you think of when considering the topic of theology. Nevertheless, his work contains at least one observation about the human condition which reflects a truth about God found in Romans 11:33-36. That passage reads:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
For who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Unpacking those verses in a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor illustrated our relationship to God as the relationship between a young child and her parent. He recalled the experience of driving around town with his nine-year-old daughter in the backseat. Whether correcting his navigation or critiquing his road etiquette, our pastor’s little girl believes she knows how to drive better than him.
The tale reminded me of a stand-up comedy bit by Louis C.K. where he details a dispute with his three-year-old daughter over the name of a popular cookie:
So I give her a Fig Newton. … I go, “Here, honey. Have a Fig Netwon.”
She goes, “There not called Fig Netwons. They’re called pig newtons.”
“No, honey, they’re called Fig Newtons.”
She goes, “No, you’ don’t know. You don’t know. They’re called pig newtons.”
And I feel this rage building inside. Because, it’s not that she’s wrong. She’s three. She’s entitled to be wrong. But it’s the [expletive] arrogance of this kid, no humility, no decent sense of self-doubt. She’s not going, “Dad, I think those are pig newtons. Are you sure that you have it right?…”
… I’m like, “Really, I don’t know? I don’t know? Dude, I’m not even using my memory right now. I’m reading the [expletive] box!… You’re three and I’m forty-one! What are the odds that you’re right and I’m wrong? What are the sheer odds of that?”
These stories make us laugh because we see them from an adult perspective. We come at them with the benefit of an adult’s knowledge and experience. Yet, in many ways, we prove no less arrogant as adults when we question the ways of our father, God.
“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” the Apostle Paul wrote. Like young children, we all like to believe we have life’s answers, or at least the means to discern them.
Yahoo needs to get something straight. In its report, it calls these new atheist gatherings “mega-churches.” But they’re not “mega” and they’re not churches.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.
Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia — with more to come — after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.
They sing songs, they hear a sermon, they meet and greet. But it isn’t a church. It’s a club.
The word “church” has a specific meaning — it’s the body of believers in the global context and a Christian place of worship in this specific context. Just as a mosque is an Islamic place of worship.
Notice which word the atheists are attempting to steal and render meaningless. One, not the other.
“Mega-churches” are typically churches with thousands of members, some have tens of thousands. None of the clubs in Yahoo’s piece have anything close to that scale of membership. They’re all in the hundreds at most.
So they’re not mega, and they’re not churches.
The anti-churches are being set up both to mimic the authentic church, and to provide something that churches provide members.
“There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?”
Sunday Assembly — whose motto is Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More — taps into that universe of people who left their faith but now miss the community church provided, said Phil Zuckerman, a professor of secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont.
As a Christian, this makes me sad. We’re wired to need and want community. But if you don’t believe in what the church is teaching, the few rituals that survive in the mega-church setting make no sense. Why take on the symbols of belief? Why go out of your way to mock those who do believe? Calling these clubs “churches” is an act of intolerance and aggression against believers.
Last week, I took exception to the assertion by my PJM colleague Rhonda Robinson that “Christians Should Agree with Jews’ Disinterest in Heaven and Hell.” I pointed out that the blessed hope of eternal life in heaven alongside our glorious Lord fulfills the purpose of our lives. We exist to bring Him glory, and will do so either as examples of his undeserved grace or convicts under his perfect justice. That is the Gospel. That is the Good News. That is Christianity. So how could we Christians ever allow ourselves to become disinterested in it?
Robinson wrapped up her consideration of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus asking “Could We Restore America If Jews and Christians Accepted a Hyphenated Jesus?” She concluded:
The author has gone to great lengths to point out that Jesus was in fact an observant Jew, one whose life of walking in righteousness (whether you believe him to be the son of God or not) is worth emulating. Jesus of Nazareth will forever bind us together.
We can spend a lot of time arguing about differences, using that hyphen to divide us. Or we can choose to embrace it, to forgive the hurts of the past and face the future united. As Americans we face real enemies, both cultural and physical.
Isn’t it time we stopped trying so hard to simply make a point, and give our lives as Jesus did, to make a difference?
I’m not even sure what that means. Clearly, the Gospel purpose of Christ’s death cannot be what Robinson here references. Aside from atoning for the sin of mankind so that believers could be credited with His righteous life and avoid the eternal judgment of Holy God, what difference did Christ’s death make worth talking about? Why would Christians want to unite in spiritual congress with those who deny the foundational tenant of Christianity? Even if such ecumenical union could somehow restore America (whatever that means), why would we sideline the truth of salvation for a temporal end?
I remember the first time it happened.
I’m not sure how old I was. Probably no older that 15; the movie in my head shows me the bedroom I shared with my father and a bright warm day outside. I was putting on a sock.
Very suddenly, the entire Universe changed. Very suddenly, I knew the Universe made sense. Oh, I didn’t understand it, I just knew it made sense. It was like when your grandfather shows you his special pocket watch, the one with a hinged back so that instead of seeing the face and the hands that apparently move by magic, you see the gears and springs and see that the hands are moving because of a complicated mechanism inside.
Here’s how Brad Warner, my favorite living Zen writer, described it in his blog not long ago:
In fact, this personal and private something was, I now saw, the personality of the entire universe from the beginningless beginning of time right on through eternity. I saw that this thing I thought was located so deeply inside of me that no one could ever even think of touching it was actually spread throughout all the universe. It wasn’t just inside me. It was inside Tau Ceti and Alpha Centuri and the Great Megallenic Cloud. It was there when the Big Bang happened. It was the Big Bang.
I saw that it was the very same intimate, personal, private something – the “me” aspect – of every person that ever lived, will live or could live – including you, dear reader. It was the personal private something of the sky and the sun and the moon and every ant or rock or piece of bird poop anywhere at any time throughout space. Nothing had ever happened or could ever happen without it knowing every intimate detail, bad or good, happy or sad, painful or pleasant.
If that’s not God, then I don’t know what is.
And perhaps I don’t.
Because it didn’t change me into a better person. It did not grant me moral perfection or freedom from the effects of my bad deeds. It didn’t give me magic powers. It didn’t give me extrasensory perception or vast insight into all things. It didn’t even let me know what color brontosauruses were. And that’s something I’d really like to know.
It didn’t leave me with anything to prove to others that it had visited me, like, y’know, when a guy in a sci-fi movie isn’t sure he really traveled back in time until he reaches into his pocket and discovers he still has the autograph he had Abraham Lincoln sign or whatever. Nope. I got nothing but a funny story I can tell. And not even a cool enough story to get me on one of those shows Oprah Winfrey produces!
(I know how he feels. Putting on a sock? At least Brad was walking across a bridge in Japan.)
I also told my friend it was a little like going through life with a paper grocery bag over your head. Then one day somebody lifts the grocery bag for a couple seconds and you see there’s whole world out there.
Well, Brad’s written a whole book about it now.
In January 2012, Tim Tebow was the darling of the marketing world — he was marketing gold. Then quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tebow had led the team to several come-from-behind wins and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of an overtime game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game. The game drew a stunning 49% more viewers than the year-earlier match-up.
Ad Age reported at the time, “The game on CBS averaged a 25.9 household rating/43 share, according to Nielsen, the highest-rated first-round NFL playoff game in 24 years.”
They said that Tebow ranked among the top 85 celebrities in the world in the Trendsetter attribute, “on par with George Clooney, Rihanna, and Justin Timberlake.” According to Ad Age, “In terms of influence, Mr. Tebow is now in the top 40 of 3,000 celebs in the DBI, on par Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg.”
Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, said that Tebow was then likely at the $10 million a year level in marketing potential. “As a marketer, you want somebody like that.”
Now you’d think that any team with half a brain, or even a modicum of greed, would have seen the potential — a decade of Tebwomania with the accompanying marketing bonanza. Jerseys, posters, shoes, ticket sales, TV viewers — dollar signs. They would have immediately put a team of the best coaches, trainers, and former quarterbacks on Team Tebow to do whatever it takes to transform his Heisman Trophy college skills into NFL-worthy abilities. But the media had to have its say.
When we talk about “taking back the culture,” people get apprehensive and worry that we are trying to overthrow our republican form of government and form a theocracy. The reality is something a lot less ambitious. Those of us who grew up in post-1960’s America don’t always fully grasp how much we have lost since that turbulent decade because we’ve always lived in a world where radical atheists have enjoyed influence and a degree of social acceptance. We forget that it wasn’t always this way and that the scrubbing of religion — Christianity in particular — from American public life is a relatively new phenomenon.
In a recent blog post, Eric Metaxas shared the little-known story of astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the surface of the moon:
The background to the story is that Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his pastor to help him. And so the pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon.
I am just old enough to remember our family gathered around the black and white TV, my dad adjusting the antennae, as we watched man’s first steps on the moon. An unprecedented 125 million Americans tuned in to watch the fearsome event on TV — it wasn’t a given that the men would survive outside the lunar module or that they would make it back to Earth. William Safire had prepared a speech for President Nixon to deliver in the event of a disaster and protocols were established for contacting the wives of the astronauts in case the unthinkable happened.
Even after they returned to earth, the astronauts remained in quarantine for 21 days in compliance with the recently passed Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law.
It was a perilous mission, one for which President Nixon called Americans to pray:
Apollo 11 is on its way to the moon. It carries three brave astronauts; it also carries the hopes and prayers of hundreds of millions of people…That moment when man first sets foot on a body other than earth will stand through the centuries as one supreme in human experience…I call upon all of our people…to join in prayer for the successful conclusion of Apollo 11‘s mission.
This PJTV discussion between me and Bill Whittle seems to have inspired a bit of online debate — plus some hate mail for me! What’s interesting is how many people heard me say that no, a conservative couldn’t be an atheist. As opposed to what I did say, which was yes, he could. Easy to get those two confused. And to those who asked whether I’ve ever read Ayn Rand, the answer is also yes, virtually all her major works and many of her minor ones as well. I find her economic ideas — most of which can be found in Frederic Bastiat — very sound. Her moral and aesthetic ideas are absurd. Even the people who believe in them don’t really believe in them.
Anyway, here’s the vid. Decide for yourself. All hate mail should be addressed to Bill. I mean, just look at him!
The atheist movement has always contended that reason and logic are on its side. Faith, atheists argue, is the sole domain of those who believe in God. The truth is the opposite. It is the belief that everything created itself that is irrational; not the belief in a Creator. It is belief that Bach, the Eiffel Tower, and the iPhone are the culminations of literally nothing that requires far more faith than belief in a Designer. Reason and logic are on our side, not theirs.
Image illustration courtesy shutterstock / Vitaly Korovin
PJ Lifestyle features each new video from Prager University and encourages dialogue and debate about their ideas. Check out some of the previous weeks’ discussions about religion, philosophy, and ideas:
A continued debate yesterday on PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle’s “6 Reasons Why Rational Thinkers Believe in God” article:
1. Belief in God Is Logical. God’s Fingerprints Cover the Universe. It Is Irrational to Believe That the Universe Was Created Out of Nothingness.
Dear [Insert Name of Your Secularist Friend or Family Member Who Does Not Understand Why You No Longer Share Their Hatred of Traditional Religion Anymore],
It seems like our arguments on Facebook and over email have been increasing lately with all the horrific news stories. And again you continue to misunderstand why I approach the stories of the day from Kermit Gosnell to the Boston Bombers with a good and evil, Bible-based perspective.
One of the best places online you can go to better understand my approach to these issues is Prager University. Every month they release two five-minute courses designed to educate people in a quick, entertaining way about history, philosophy, religion, and politics. I discovered Prager University’s videos when I noticed that they decided to start featuring every new one at PJ Lifestyle, a publication that I enjoy reading which shares the same goals of reaching out and engaging with the culture at large instead of just preaching to the choir.
I’ve collected six of Prager University’s videos on God and religion, starting with their newest one above that they just released yesterday featuring Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft answering the question “God or Atheism — Which is More Rational?” I hope if you want to understand better how it is that I’ve come to reject your ideology and returned to faith in the God of the Bible you would consider these videos along with these six points I’ve written in relation to them.
After reading about a newly published scientific book titled The Mystery of the Shroud, which attempts to prove that the Shroud of Turin actually dates back to the time of Jesus, I planned on writing what you are about to read.
Then, an hour before my scheduled writing time, I “just happened” to notice a Facebook post that read:
Christmas was the promise — Easter is the proof.
That phrase truly resonated with me because of the word “proof.”
But do believers really have proof that Jesus was resurrected from the dead?
After twenty years of reading about and studying the Shroud of Turin (and even viewing it in 2010), I have all the “proof” I need. Although let me state emphatically that my faith — and the faith of most people who are celebrating “Resurrection Sunday” today — does not depend on any physical proof whatsoever.
For we know that Jesus is alive and His Spirit lives in us; that is all the proof we need.
Still, physical proof of Christ’s resurrection would be useful, especially when one tries to convince loved ones to believe in what more than a billion people around the world believe today.
So what if this new Shroud of Turin scientific study really does prove conclusively that the Shroud cloth dates back to the time of Jesus? Does that mean mankind finally has the proof it needs to believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead after dying on the cross?
We are certainly getting close to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” and here are some reasons why this is happening now.
Last week on PJ Lifestyle I read with great interest a piece by P. David Hornik titled “What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us.” With “great interest” refers to my long-time fascination with near-death experiences (NDEs), which began in 1994 after a friend gifted me the book Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie.
The book, according to my friend, was a “must read.” As proof, she claimed it was still on the New York Times best seller list after an entire year. (For the record, Embraced By The Light was #1 on the New York Times list in September 1993 and in the top ten for 78 weeks. Subsequently, it became the fifth bestselling book of the 1990s.)
Embraced By The Light, published in 1992, was Eadie’s personal account of her near-death experience after an operation gone awry in 1973.
Then, for more than a decade, Eadie was hesitant to write or speak about her NDE out of fear that people (including family members) would think she was totally nuts, or would not believe her story.
What makes Eadie’s NDE so controversial and intriguing is the title of the book itself. Because, immediately upon reaching heaven, Betty was “embraced by the light,” and that light was Jesus Christ and he made himself known to her.
Betty is then taken on an unforgettable tour of heaven which she describes in great detail. Throughout the book, Jesus teaches Betty His message of eternal and unconditional love. But despite her pleas to stay in heaven, Jesus sends her back to earth because it was “not yet her time.” The book concludes with Jesus’ final message to Betty, “Above all else, love one another.”
Like millions of other readers around the world (the book was published in 130 countries, translated into 38 languages, and to this date has sold over 20 million copies), I was totally captivated by Embraced. This captivation stemmed from my belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. But Betty’s NDE account, the first one I had ever read, only served as sweet confirmation that the “benign deity” (the phrase used by Hornik in his piece) not only exists, but that we will meet Him face to face “when it is our time.”
Here’s a video of Eadie on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s, when Embraced was a best-selling book:
About five years ago, after my husband and I first heard Paul Wilbur perform at a messianic temple in Ft. Lauderdale, we became instant fans. Since then, we have played his CDs in our cars repeatedly.
Wilbur’s songs appeal to traditional Jews and Christians alike. He has performed in Israel on numerous occasions, and his love for that nation, coupled with his own Jewish heritage and love of Christ, is the hallmark of his music ministry, making him a unique performer.
As a result, Wilbur’s popularity as a singer, songwriter and praise/worship leader has grown tenfold around the world since we first heard him perform in a small venue.
His music resonates with me, and not just because we are both Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, but in the extraordinary way his songs fill any room (or car) with passion and love.
Now, as so often happens when I’m inspired to write something with a spiritual theme for PJ Lifestyle, a deeper dimension of the topic is revealed while I am doing “research.” (A quick Google search.)
Such was the case with Paul Wilbur. I had already decided to write about him because I thought PJ Lifestyle Sunday readers would appreciate knowing about him and hearing some of his music.
That was when I discovered, just this past December, Paul Wilbur made history as the first singer to perform at a religious concert event in Cuba with the full permission and “blessing” of the communist Cuban government.
Watch him here as he speaks about this historic trip.
His Cuban concerts were truly amazing events for this struggling nation and its oppressed people.
Perhaps, just the fact that Wilbur’s two “praise and worship” performances were even allowed to proceed, is a signal that some potentially major political, social and or spiritual changes are about to be instituted by the Cuban government.
Which begs the questions, “Is God at work in Cuba and if so, is HE using Paul Wilbur as a catalyst?”
Only time will tell, but in the meantime, check out Paul Wilbur Ministries and discover what a tour de force he has become around the world.
And, if you are ever presented with the opportunity to see him perform live, do not hesitate. Trust me when I tell you your faith walk could be impacted, even if you have little faith or none at all.
Finally, I will close with a video of Paul Wilbur performing a song that ranks high among my favorites.
Please do watch until the very end, for this song builds and soars and I predict your spirits will be uplifted right along with it.