Monday, February 24, 2014

Are Prolife Christians Really Prolife?

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Last week, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued a moratorium on capital punishment saying. There are too many doubts and too many flaws raised by its application.  Inslee concluded that the death penalty was inconsistently applied. He further stated that Equal justice under the law is the states primary responsibility. as such, in death penalty cases, I'm not convinced that equal justice is being served.

Inslee's moratorium on capital punishment follows the lead of many other governors throughout the country. In 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued a similar moratorium for the same reasons as highlighted by Jay Inslee as did Oregon governor John Kitzhaber in 2011. The most noted of this rash of issued moratoriums rests with Illinois governor, George Ryan in 2000.

I think it only fair to inform the reader of my personal views on this subject so that my salient point is not lost. I am a Pro-life Christian. That is a term that generally evokes scorn in most people who regard themselves as enlightened and progressive. That is fine, I understand completely. In fact that I appreciate their scorn is partly the reason, I am writing this particular commentary. Let me explain:

No one likes a hypocrite. When someone takes an absolute position on an issue or a behavior, we have an expectation of sincerity and consistency. Well forgive if there is a show of (seeming) remorse on the part of the one caught in the lie, but only to a point. For the most part, well always tend to be just a bit skeptical around a proven liar or hypocrite for the remainder of their lives. When that person is someone in a position of power, the situation becomes somewhat muddled. We may hate the fact they lied to us or were hypocritical on one issue, but there are so many others we agree with them on that we regard it as a wash. This cognitive dissidence is challenging to surmount to an ideologue, hence our current state of political leadership.

Of the four governors I mentioned above, three of them belong to the Democratic Party. Of those three, all are morally against the death penalty for a host of reasons. Of course they cited what I regard as genuine procedural and Constitutional reasons as well, but for the most part, the impetus for the moratorium is ideological. The last governor I mentioned on the list is a member of the Republican Party. George Ryans rationale for the moratorium in Illinois, while he was governor, is not too dissimilar than that of the three Democrats. Here is the difference and what it is that troubles me so. Those who hold anti-death penalty views disproportionately tend to be members of the Democratic Party. This makes Governor George Ryan a rarity within his own political party. To me, this is a shame, but I'll circle back to just why I think that it a bit.

The three aforementioned Democratic Governors who have stated very publicly a host of moral and Constitutional reason for suspending the death penalty in their respective states all hold to the view that there is absolutely no problem with abortion. (Cue the groans from the reading audience. Abortion?? Again?? Give me a break!) Ah so you say, but wait. I do have an interesting point to make here and one which you may not be expecting.

Governor George Ryan stands apart from his colleagues not only in the Republican Party but from his Democratic colleagues who have issued moratoriums on capital punishment as well. What is this issue which separates them? George Ryan is truly pro-life; the others are hypocrites. Why do I say that? Well, the record speaks for itself. George Ryan not only issued a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois, but he also holds that abortion is murder. In other words, he holds genuine pro-life views. Pro-life is pro-life period. The aforementioned Democratic governors are all pro-abortion; ergo they are not truly pro-life, but rather anti-death penalty. Their stand on abortion nullifies Their moral base for rejecting the death penalty.

I feel it necessary at this juncture to clarify specific parameters concerning killing before we go further. The act of war is a commentary all its own and I have long contemplated how I would like to write on the subject. War is sometimes inevitable, and in war, people die. I am not going to address that in this commentary. Suffice to say, I would very much like to see us as the human race progress beyond the need for war, but as long as ego and pride reign in the human heart, such will remain an impossibility. 

Likewise killing because you are defending yourself or others from imminent danger is one thing about which I have absolutely no qualms. There is cause and effect in our world, and if one attacks another with deadly intent, one had best be prepared to pay the ultimate price. That too is a separate issue which I have given much thought and may write about in a future commentary. However in the case of state-mandated, institutional killing, be it an execution, or an abortion, there is never the imminent threat to anyone save for the individual about to be exterminated.

I will now digress for a moment for an editorial comment. Please don't get sidetracked because I didn't use the politically correct buzzwords of anti-choice or pro-choice; these are manifest misnomers since from a medical standpoint a pregnant woman is carrying a separate, distinct being within her. Unless and until that being can be consulted as to their wishes respecting their lives, there is no choice argument to be made here. We are talking about abortion. If you are for it, embrace the terminology.

Abortion, even to those who believe in it, is uncomfortable for a host of reasons. On a basic, visceral level, we all know we are killing life which if left to its own devices would grow into a living, breathing human being. None goes into a hospital to have a sebaceous cyst or a tumor removed with the belief that if left to its own devices, these growths would manifest a living, breathing human being. A quick biopsy of the tissue would show that the DNA is an exact match for the host. A biopsy of a fetus within its mother's womb would show a completely separate DNA structure; a completely different, distinct being which just is not finished growing yet. This isn't ideological; it is a medical and scientific fact. Again a level of cognitive dissidence is employed to proceed upon the false premise one is not embracing a culture of death.

However, what of my friends on the other side of the political and ideological aisle; what of my Christian brothers and sisters who have absolutely no problem strapping a human being to a chair, a post, a medical gurney and taking their life? Are these people not engaging in the same level of cognitive dissidence they accuse the other side of possessing? Here is where the argument gets interesting, but sadly completely misses the central point of a pro-life stance.

Pro-life means precisely that: Profile. If one is to take a position that killing a living, breathing human being is wrong, especially when it is institutional killing, then we are forced to define what exactly defines a living, breathing human being.  Clearly, those who hold to more Progressive Liberal views have decided to themselves that the unborn are not living, breathing human beings and as such, are not entitled to those same rights and privileges. By contrast, those who hold to Conservative Christian views have decided that those who have committed certain crimes against their fellow man have forfeited their right to life. Thus at both ends of the spectrum, we have (seemingly) good people espousing a culture of institutionalized death and rationalize this point by stripping a human being of their humanity.

The cost to the state in appeals and housing of an inmate on death row is astronomical. When the typical length of time on death row is fifteen years, the dollars add up rather quickly. In the end, the execution is carried out with very little in actual return for the dollars spent. For an inmate securely locked away on death row, how is a society made any safer by then killing them? As a point of practical reality, it is not. As a point of law, I am not qualified to answer. I realize that a sentence must be carried out as imposed by a court of law, but we as a people have to begin looking at whether or not the imposition of certain types of sentences are not only wasteful from a fiscal standpoint but harmful to society as a whole. Let me explain:

When we glorify the institutional killing of another human being, what message do we send to our youth? I can only speak to my personal experience on this subject, but I have been against the death penalty for as long as I can remember. I would say that the most formative teachings I had on the subject were watching the documentary series, The World At War from the 1970s. Watching the bulldozers push piles of bodies into open pit graves while Lawrence Olivier somberly intoned the brutality of the Nazis made me physically ill. I was perhaps ten years old at the time. Asking my father, who had been in Germany right after Berlin fell why these people were killed. He explained that the Nazi government executed them. The word execution was negatively burned into my brain. A country could execute its populous and call it something good.

However, surely this wasn't something I as a citizen of the United States would have to worry about; our country wouldn't execute its own citizens so impersonally, would it? Well in the mid-1970s, executions had been suspended by the Supreme Court in 1972 via the decision Furman v. Georgia whereupon the Supreme Court found the death penalty being imposed unconstitutionally, violating the Eighth Amendment grounds of cruel and unusual punishment. (As a point of irony, this same court ruled that a woman's privacy rights implied under the 1st, 4th, 9th, and 14th Amendments granted her the ability to abort her unborn child just 12 months later. More on that later.) Then I saw a made for television movie called, The Execution of Private Slovik starring Martin Sheen.  I was just eleven years old at the time, and I haven't been able to watch the movie since such was the impact it had on me.

This from Wikipedia:

The Execution of Private Slovik is a nonfiction book by William Bradford Huie, published in 1954, and an American made-for-television movie that aired on NBC on March 13, 1974. The film was written for the screen by Richard Levinson, William Link and by Lamont Johnson who was the director, the film stars Martin Sheen.

The book and the film tell the story of Private Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War.

In 1949, a Pentagon source revealed to Huie the existence of a European graveyard of unnamed American soldiers. Huies probe identified the grave and name of the only American soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War. The story of neer-do-well Eddie Slovik is an example of Huies masterful reporting and his tendency to anger the mighty. Eisenhower, who authorized the execution, tried to stop the book.

I am well aware that an example was being made of Slovik; desertion was not to be tolerated. Many American men and boys were killed in battle and did not necessarily want to be placed in harm's way any more than did Eddie Slovik. I realize now that the movie was also a great propaganda statement to keep the U.S. Supreme Court from lifting its ban by showing the humanity of those facing the ultimate punishment. What struck me was the institutionalized method of the execution. It was handled in much the same clinical manner as a tooth extraction. It'll hurt for a bit, but then it'll all be over. This incident also takes us back to equal justice under the law proviso. There were 49 death sentences for desertion handed down by the military courts during World War II, but only one execution was carried out.

Thus for good or for ill, the institutionalized killing of human beings by the state has always struck me as a grave evil which colors any of the good that may have come before or after. When we as a people place so low a premium on life, we can find ourselves rationalizing just about anything. Good people who march and protest against abortion, have absolutely no qualms about state-sponsored execution. Good people who march and protest against capital punishment, have absolutely no qualms about state-sponsored abortion. It could be said that the only ones who are against these rationalizations are those whose lives are about to be extinguished.

On the one hand, the argument is that individual humans have engaged in acts which have resulted in their state-sponsored deaths; they are responsible for their own actions. On the other hand, those facing extermination are not regarded as human beings at all despite all the evidence to the contrary. In both instances, it has become a matter of practicality to merely kill. Eddie Slovik was a troubled man with a life-long pattern of behavioral problems. He was initially classified as 4-F by the army as a result of his prior criminal record, but a workforce shortage resulted in a reclassification to 1-A. He was well aware of why he was the only one of the 49 men convicted of desertion to face death and said so. His last words in front of the firing squad were, "They're not shooting me for deserting the United States Army...thousands of guys have done that. They're shooting me for bread I stole when I was twelve years old."

As Christians, why are we so willing to allow state-sponsored executions? On the surface, this question almost seems laughable. Consider this case out of Florida. On November 4th, 1980, twenty-seven-year-old Larry Eugene Mann kidnapped ten-year-old Elisa Nelson as she was riding her bicycle to school after a dentist appointment. Without going into the details, suffice to say that Mann killed Elisa Nelson in a nearby orange grove. He murdered her, as she tried to fight him off. Due to the appeals process, it took 32 years for the State of Florida to execute Elisa's killer. Larry Mann was finally put to death on April 30th, 2013.

The case is horrific, and there is no way that I am going to attempt to dismiss Manns acts as anything other than depraved. To sate his own sexual lusts, he killed an innocent little girl and deprived her a life. Elisa would be forty-two years old today and most likely would be married with children of her own children that will never be born because of Larry Mann. When one contemplates the experiences, the joys, the sorrows, the successes, the defeats, the breadth of experiences lost due to a life taken so soon, there can be nothing other than sorrow. Larry Mann was evil. That is not in question. What is in question is our primary role as Christians. Mann was already behind bars and hadn't killed anyone in all of those 32 years of incarceration. Is it an affront for Mann to continue to draw breath while his tiny victim cannot? Mann would have never tasted freedom for the remainder of his life with or without the death penalty, and as a society, we would have taken the higher road by imposing equal justice under the law and leaving Manns eventual disposition to God Almighty.

However, killing is easy. Since Cain killed Abel, we've all become aware of just how fragile life is. Abels death wasn't the last through unnatural means outlined in the Bible; there are records of tens of thousands of murders--perhaps hundreds of thousands. I am going to point out some uncomfortable truths here which will not sit well with my fellow Christians. Because it is uncomfortable, doesn't make it any less true. Here is a passage from the book of Ezekiel:

Now the glory of God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.

As I listened, He said to the others, Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men, and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.

- Ezekiel 9:3-6

Here is an uncomfortable question for my fellow Christians: How is what the God of Israel who commanded the six soldiers to mark some and kill others any different from what Larry Mann did? Is it the opinion of these Christians that since the command came from God, any 10-year-old girls who were slaughtered by the Hebrew soldiers were more or less guilty than Elisa Nelson? As a point of fact, both were 10-year-old girls minding their own business, and both were murdered by the hands of men they did not know, nor cause offense. They were killed merely for what they were: 10-year-old girls. In one case, it was a matter of opportunity, in the other it was because she had the misfortune to have been born into a family which did not hold to the beliefs of the Hebrews, ergo, no mark upon her body by a stranger was allowed. For this, she was murdered and perhaps more.

I am not attempting to be melodramatic, but I am trying to illustrate just why it is that good Christians can be aghast at certain types of wanton murder, but then look away when other types of killing are committed. Of course, the rationalization of the murders committed in the Old Testament is that these were a people who deserved to die because they did not believe in the God of the Hebrews; they were, therefore, evil people and their deaths were on their own heads. I will state very clearly here and now that my understanding of scripture clearly shows that this thinking is absolutely in error. Let me explain:

I have often used this passage of scripture before because it is powerful. In it, we see Christ, who is God Almighty, dealing with a situation which under the Law (read the Old Testament Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai from an angel   [Acts 7:38, Galatians 3:19-20] ) was a capital offense:

At dawn, he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say? They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

However, Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

No one, sir, she said.

Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin.

- John 8:2-11

To be true to His earlier words and commands as outlined in the Law He supposedly wrote, should Christ not have aided in the stoning of the adulterous woman? Why did He allow her to live? Moreover, why did he countermand His own Law? Are we not taught that the God of the Old Testament and Christ are, one and the same? If so, why do they have such starkly different views on the pro-life question? Without any real debate, it is clear the Old Testament God has no problem killing those who displease him. Christs take is entirely different. The Old Testament Gods tactic is more along the lines of weeding out those who don't fit in, while Christ is interested more in total reconciliation.

When the Manson family killed Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and the others with her in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969; when they murdered the LaBiancas the next night, events were set into motion which eventually placed five people on death row in California. Charles Manson, Charles Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten all faced death in Californias notorious gas chamber for their parts in the grisly murders. Manson was 37 years old at the time of conviction. The other four were barely in their 20s. It was made clear at trial that these were kids who had been sucked into Manson's strange visions of a war and a subsequent utopian society in which they would be an integral part. This brainwashing by Manson didn't deter Deputy District Attorney Vincent Bugliosi from getting a conviction with a death penalty as punishment. It was only as a result of the Supreme Court suspension of the death penalty in 1972 and a subsequent moratorium in the State of California that same year which reduced their sentences to life with the possibility of parole.

Consider the lives of the Manson Family players who faced death. I am cognizant that this will be an extremely unpopular opinion, but what these people did with the extra time they were given is a point of fact and one of which a Christian should remain well aware.

           Susan Atkins became a Christian in 1974 and wrote a book about her life. Her faith cleared the fog of Charles Manson's indoctrination from her mind, and she was able to see clearly what she had done to Sharon Tate and her baby. She died of brain cancer while still in prison in 2009.

            Charles Tex Watson also became a Christian and has spoken much about his life and conversion. He has started a prison ministry called Abounding Love. He still resides in the California penal system.

            Patricia Krenwinkel has kept a perfectly clean prison record and has earned a Bachelors degree in Human Services. She works in such programs as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous and teaches illiterate prisoners to read. She does not shy away from her crimes.

           Leslie Van Houten likewise has kept a clean record in prison, earned a college degree and does what she can to help others in her sphere to not make the same mistakes she has.

           Charles Manson remains unrepentant of his actions, insists that he is factually innocent since he was not the one who killed and is still waiting for the war he prophesied back in the summer of 1969. Update: Charles Manson died in prison on November 19th, 2017 of a heart attack brought on by numerous medical issues attributed to old age. Manson was 83 years old.

My whole point in listing these people and what became of them is just this: How many lives have these people touched in a positive way since their execution dates were nullified? Do the people who live with them see Christ in their lives or not? While Manson has remained the twisted, bitter man he was back in 1969, his followers with only a couple of exceptions have grown up and realized the horror of what they did. In imposing the death penalty on people, are we removing the possibility of any future good they could contribute to our society? The answer is an obvious Yes, but I have to wonder just how much thought is actually given to such an answer.

Consider Saul of Tarsus in the 1st Century AD. He was a young man then, perhaps in his mid to late 20s. He was raised as the son of a Pharisee (A Jewish religious sect prominent in that age) and entered into the same teaching when he became of age. By all accounts, Saul was a zealot and a determined ideologue. To him, the Christian faith was an abomination and an extreme offense before God Most High. To him, followers of the Christ were beyond recanting; they deserved to die and with the same prejudice that had been outlined in Ezekiel 9:3-6. Saul either participated or at the very least observed as the Disciple Stephen was stoned to death as described in Acts Chapter 7. To Saul, Stephens death was a job well done.

Shortly after that, Saul and a contingent of men headed for the distant Syrian city of Damascus to kill the small, but growing Christian community which resided there. As is well known amongst the Christians of today, Saul was interrupted on his journey by the Spirit of God. This confrontation was so profound that Saul abandoned his mission and reevaluated his entire purpose in life. It didn't happen right away as he states in Galatians 1:17, he went to Arabia and spent three years there. Saul later abandoned his Hebrew name for that of Paul as he focused his ministry on the pagans in the Hellenized world. His Latin name would be far more embracing to them, and so he did what he could to meet them where they were.

The point of my relating Pauls experience is simple. Paul regarded himself as the foremost of sinners (1st Timothy 1:15) and was well aware of the pain and terror hed brought to others. Paul was either directly or indirectly responsible for many horrendous murders which included men, women, and children. He did these acts because he had convinced himself it was for God. However, for all his training, Paul really didn't know God at all. He had allowed his own hatred and bigotry to rule him, and for that, innocent people died.

Suppose Paul had been caught by members of the early Christians and executed for the murders hed committed? What if the Pharisees who tried to kill him after his conversion had succeeded?  Paul wrote thirteen of the twenty-six book which makes up the New Testament. Many theologians today regard Paul as the actual author of Christianity, so profound were his works. Paul brought an understanding and a perspective on Christ to the Apostles which they had not previously been made aware while they walked with Christ in the flesh. This was by design. Those Apostles had not yet had to exercise a level of faith with Christ that those who would follow were forced to; Paul brought them an aspect of Christ which was Spiritual. Peter realized this as did the other Apostles and they all recognized that God in His wisdom gave them a messenger from the most unlikely of places. Every Christian today has a faith-based more on the way Paul experienced Christ than how the other Apostles experienced Christ. In many respects, Paul is our model.

Suffice to say none of that would have taken place had Paul been executed for his crimes in the beginning. I am uncertain what the New Testament would look like or if there would even be a New Testament had Paul died at the time of his conversion. The oldest of the written works of the New Testament is thought to be Pauls letters to the Church at Thessalonica, written circa 52 AD. The Romans eventually executed Paul, but not until approximately 68 AD. There was much study, time and planning into making the Apostle Paul into what he became as opposed to the young, brash Pharisee he had been.

Equal justice under the law is sacrosanct; it is a hallmark of our Constitution. The laws which govern one are to govern all. When we lose that, we have lost our foundation. The mere fact that so many prosecutors play fast and loose with the law is beyond troubling to me. There are examples after example, and I don't wish to belabor it here, but I will ask one to consider the case of Carla Fay Tucker.

Tucker killed a woman named Deborah Thornton during a botched burglary in 1983 when she was 23 years old. Tucker had a difficult life as a child; a product of divorce addicted to drugs. She dropped out of school and drifted into prostitution when she was just 14 years of age when she and her mother began to follow various musical rock bands around the country. Her story is a tragic one that should have never happened. She was convicted of the murder of Thornton and sentenced to death. While in prison, she was freed of her addiction to drugs and began to build her life. Prison gave her the first real structure shed ever had. She became a Christian and devoted the remainder of her days to doing what she could to further the cause of Christ.

No one who came to know Carla Fay Tucker behind bars thought she deserved to die. The person she was when she committed the murder no longer existed. Here we have the Pauline parallel. A notable list of people including Pope John Paul II and Deborah Thornton's own brother petitioned for her sentence to be commuted. The Warden of Huntsville prison in Texas testified that she was a model prisoner and that after 14 years on death row, she had been reformed.  Despite these statements of fact, the Texas board turned her down.

Governor George W. Bush could have commuted her sentence and was asked to do so by many of the same people who had petitioned for her release, but he was planning on running For the United States Presidency. He deferred to the Texas Board which had earlier denied her request and thus, allowed a fellow Christian to die though it had been in his power to alter that outcome.

Contrast with Gary Ridgeway who for perhaps as long as twenty years (figures are still hazy) engaged in a killing spree against women with a body count he confessed to being between seventy-one to maybe as much as one hundred. (He either isn't sure, or he is keeping the information as leverage) Both the state of Texas and the State of Washington have the death penalty on their books. Because of the politics of the death penalty and because prosecutors and investigators wanted more information from Ridgeway, the death penalty in his case was taken off the table. He'll die in prison from old age. Is Gary Ridgeway any less a threat to society as was Carla Fay Tucker or Larry Mann? Equal justice? Hmm.

Now consider the case of Cameron Todd Willingham who was executed February 2004, for murdering his three young children by arson at the family home in Corsicana, Texas. Nationally known fire investigator Gerald Hurst reviewed the case documents, including the trial transcriptions and an hour-long videotape of the aftermath of the fire scene and said in December 2004 that "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire." In 2010, the Innocence Project filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, seeking a judgment of "official oppression."

This from Wikipedia:

Willingham's case gained renewed attention in 2009 when an investigative report by David Grann in The New Yorker, drawing upon arson investigation experts and advances in fire science since the 1992 investigation, suggested that the evidence for arson was unconvincing and, had this information been available at the time of trial, would have provided grounds for Willingham's acquittal.

According to an August 2009 investigative report by an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the original claims of arson were doubtful. The Corsicana Fire Department disputes the findings, stating that the report overlooked several key points in the record. The case has been further complicated by allegations that Texas Governor Rick Perry impeded the investigation by replacing three of the nine commission members in an attempt to change the commission's findings; Perry denies the allegations.

When our system of justice becomes a mechanism for expedience; when the law is used to aid the careers of those in authority, we no longer have a system of justice. When we execute an innocent person, we cannot go back later and apologize to the harmed party and return their life. Since it became manifest to George Ryan that there were far too many errors being committed by the State of Illinois, a moratorium on executions was the only lawful remedy. I am stunned that more good people in this country don't understand this very basic concept. It seems that people tend to think, Well he may not have committed THAT murder, but I'm sure he did something else just as bad, or else they wouldn't have convicted him.  

Purely on Constitutional grounds, what is applied to one should be applied to all. Thus I agree with Jay Inslee's argument and the reasons he has given for issuing a moratorium on the death penalty in Washington State. Inslee should now take that a step further and recognize that the most innocent citizens of his state are similarly being slaughtered as a matter of expediency and convenience, but I doubt he will. In much the same way That George W. Bush allowed Carla Fay Tucker to die because not to do so would have hurt his political fortunes, Governor Jay Inslee will not stop the slaughter of innocent children. Abortion is a sacrament amongst certain Progressive Liberals and to touch it is political suicide to any with a (D) next to their name. Capital punishment is a similar sacrament amongst certain Conservative Christians and to touch it is political suicide to any with an (R) next to their name. These two warring political and spiritual factions are actually far more alike than they are willing to admit. They have each staked out ground which they believe to be honorable and just, but in truth, it is anything but.

I have laid down examples of what could have become of Carla Fay Tucker had she been allowed to live. We have seen what those who terrorized Los Angeles in the summer of 1969 did with their lives behind bars. I have not yet raised the issue of what those whose lives have been extinguished through abortion before ever having being given a chance; theirs is a blank page. These were people who may have become street thugs, or they may have discovered the cure for AIDS. There may have been just another homeless person strung out on drugs amongst them, or there could have been another Stephen Hawking. The point is, we don't know. They don't have a face to us, so they are disposable and we treat them that way; an inconvenience which is worth more to us dead than alive.

In 1857, the United States Supreme Court voted in a 7-2 decision that Dred Scott, a black slave who had been taken by his owners to the free states in the north, could not sue for his freedom. The majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney denied Scott's request and in doing so, ruled that an Act of Congress, in this case, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30' north to be unconstitutional for the second time in its history. Let me repeat that in case it was missed: The United States Supreme Court said that prohibiting slavery was unconstitutional. The worth of some humans did not rise to the level of others, but it was those humans who need not fear the ruling which made the rule. Do you get it?

What the Court essentially did was decide that by the mere fact of birthright, Dred Scott was not a fellow human being, but a savage. He did not and never would enjoy equality with Caucasians. The Court looked upon Dred Scott and other people of color as little more than animals. Today we look back on that period in our history with a profound sense of shame, but for a large segment of society, they regarded the Courts decision as just.

I suspect that one hundred years from now, we will look back on the holocaust of abortion in much the same way we look upon slavery. Despite what those who support abortion wish us to believe, the majority of the abortions are performed for matters of convenience; someone forgetting to take their birth control, or just too lazy or aroused to bother. It really doesn't matter the cause; it is irresponsibility on the part of the principles, and an innocent is forced to shoulder the responsibility rather than the actual guilty parties. (Sound familiar?)

The United States exists in and propagates a culture of death. We kill the unborn, we kill those who have committed horrible acts, and we now allow people to kill themselves in certain states. We do this because to kill is one of the easiest things to do. Killing takes no intelligence, and it takes little skill. Killing is the best solution when being responsible is just too gosh darn hard.

I wish that is wasn't so. I wish our leaders were men and women of character, but the Bible spoke of the last days when the love of one towards another would grow cold. We're here now, folks. When a pastor can stand before a pulpit and invoke an imprecatory prayer (Psalm 109:6-9 for the intrigued) upon another person; when we can laugh and sing and engage in revelry when a human being is roasted to death in an electric chair, their neck is separated by a fall from a noose, or drugs are sent coursing through their veins until it stops their heart, then we are a people who need to pause and take stock of just who we really are. When a United States President can call a child a punishment; when he can sanction the penetration of the skull of an infant at 9 months gestation in order to vacuum out the brain; when we as a people do not give a second thought to a baby burning in a saline bath which can take as long as three days to kill them, we have opted for a culture of death. Now several states have enacted laws allowing for infanticide. 

Update: As of the date of this edited commentary, the United States House of Representatives led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D - San Francisco) have voted down a bill 14 times that would mandate babies born alive through botched abortions would be given medical care so that they could live. Let me repeat that so it registers: Fourteen times they have voted for infanticide. ( ) It is this culture of death we are passing on to our children and grandchildren.

We shake our heads and bemoan the lack of humanity and compassion in our youth today. How can a child take a firearm to school and shoot his classmates? How can a group of middle-school girls gang up on another girl, rape her with a foreign object and then set her on fire to burn alive? Kids are quick studies, and they have learned well the culture of death from their authority figures; they've learned to devalue life from us.

The secular world remains in the dark on matters of the Spirit. It is up to us who profess Christ to be His Light to this darkened world. We cannot accomplish this task if we remain in the dark ourselves. If you are a Christian, if you claim to follow Christ, then learn what it is He taught. Seek to emulate Him and Him alone. Drop the culture of death and legalistic dogma. It has no place in the Body of Christ. Being Pro-life means just that: Pro-life--all of it. If one who claims Christ cannot do that, then one should just put aside the pretense and retreat into the legalistic dogma which is manifestly their first and only true love.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Do Atheists Have A Point?

Why God is so often indiscernible to man.

All contents copyright © 2014 by M.L. Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Along with approximately two million fellow world citizens, I too bought and read Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion” … and in hardback no less.  My reasoning was simple enough: I wanted to know what it was he had to say about Christians and their faith. I confess that I also appreciate Dawkins caustic and aggressive writing style. I marvel at his attempts to intimidate his readers by employing the most varied and obscure words to convey a point when a simpler, pedestrian approach would be far more embracing. I can almost detect the dark thrill of enjoyment he must feel in his choice of word, as though he’s reveling in the chance to wield his choice more as a club to crush his audience rather than to illuminate. There were certain passages I had to reread because I had found myself laughing at his word choice and sentence structure. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, just a personal observation. In my writing style, this is most certainly my area of lack.

“The God Delusion” was released just about a year before another book also critical of Christianity and the faith called “God Is Not Great” by the late Christopher Hitchens. I bought this one too, but only in paperback. (Budgetary concerns, you know.) Hitchen’s style has always struck me as more open than Dawkins’. Hitchen’s impressed me as someone, who while pretty much convinced of his opinion respecting God, didn’t appear to carry with him the animus towards Christians I detect in Dawkins’ work. Both held to the belief that the concept of a supreme creator was a construct of man as a tool to control others, but Hitchens seemed a bit more at ease with the notion. I will confess that without anyone delving too deeply into history and scripture, such would certainly seem to be a valid conclusion. Let me explain.

Dawkins starts off “The God Delusion” attacking basic tenets of Christianity, however he does this from more of a Catholic perspective than anything else. Raised in the Anglican Church in England, it would make sense that his earliest influences would be anti-catholic. I regard this more as a subconscious bias rather than one which is overt. Dawkins regards himself as above any particular religious bias, seeing them all as equally silly. Yet despite his assertions to the contrary, it is easy to see a partiality towards his formative Anglican faith. Dawkins seems to take a special delight in pointing out the errors of the Catholic Church above all others. This was always a point of amusement for me because from a doctrinal and liturgical standpoint, there is very little which separates the Anglican Church from that of the Catholic Church. What’s that you say? There’s little difference between the Protestants and the Catholics? You’re a lunatic! Wars have been fought, people murdered in horrific ways as a result of the differences! Yes, that is true, but the differences were not so much rooted in perceptions of God as much as they were in seeking national autonomy. In short, asserting sovereignty.

The Protestant Reformation succeeded in dispensing with Papal authority, but when one examines the liturgy and doctrine of both faiths, one will find very few actual differences in how one is to view God. The God of the Old Testament remains a distant, aloof God; Christ is the supreme sacrifice who became sin in our place and died on the cross as a result. Confession of sins is necessary to be saved. Salvation is not guaranteed and depending upon circumstances (usually disagreeing with the established church, be it Protestant or Catholic), salvation can be absolutely denied to an individual. Certain peoples about the earth are regarded as little more than savages and do not possess a soul by which to save. I can go on and on, but this is the formative “Christian” teachings to which both Dawkins and Hitchens were exposed.

Regular readers of my commentaries will already know that I regard the Protestant Reformation as more a push for national autonomy than a “religious” reformation. Doing away with Papal authority was a necessary component of the Reformation for it gave each ruling monarch within the Holy Roman Empire control over their own lands and people. The domino effect was very much in play here as we first watched England (and parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland), then Germany, the Netherlands, and pockets throughout France, Switzerland, Poland, Prussia and Hungary resist the Pope and instead embrace Calvinism, Anglicanism or Lutheranism. With each split, The Vatican lost more and more power and influence while Europe gained its independence.

One can debate the wisdom of allowing such diverse religious thought throughout Europe, but it is a fact of history. The Vatican fought back against this tide as much as possible, but the reality of the “new normal” soon took hold. This left these individual countries with their new religious doctrines which (as I had earlier pointed out) were not too dissimilar from that of Catholicism.

From this base, both Dawkins and Hitchens learned about the nature of God Almighty. Most people in the Western world have also learned from this same flawed base. While I have yet to write an in-depth commentary on Catholicism or the Protestant Reformation, I did outline some of the problems associated with Calvinism. (That commentary can be found here:

In this commentary, I addressed some doctrinal points of view which are held by Hyper-Calvinists. These are beliefs which have trickled down throughout many Protestant religions to include the Southern Baptists, Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity. (Groups I was closely associated with while I was growing up.) Some more “progressive” churches such as the Christian Missionary Alliance do not hold to all of the doctrines of Calvinism, but the flavor is most assuredly retained and is evident in a typical church service. As I pointed out already, these “Reformed Faiths” transferred most everything they know over from Roman Catholicism. Little except that which created a political impediment to national autonomy, was thrown out.

Everyone who is introduced to a faith movement, be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Buddhism, etc. has to make a decision as to whether to believe what they’re being told or not. When we are children raised in a faith-centered household, much of the early decisions are made for us; we follow our parents lead. This is a natural part of growth as children are born as blank slates which need to be filled in. Soon enough, however, certain people begin to consider the amassed information and begin to make judgments. Is what they’ve been taught reasonable? Does what they’ve been taught translate into the practicality of everyday life? With kids, this isn’t limited to just matters of God, but to everything.

When we learn certain things in school (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, etc), there is an almost immediate pay off which only reinforces what we have learned. We can suddenly read books, write letters and add up all the money we’ve spent on video games. But when it comes to religion, there is an almost immediate disconnect. Where is the payoff for what we’ve learned about God? One can pray to Jesus, but it is quite unlikely Jesus is going to reply in a manner easily understood. For some, this is regarded as a challenge and they will seek a deeper meaning into this enigmatic God. For others, there is a reaction almost akin to indifference; they simply ignore the situation altogether and go on about their lives. They neither think much about God, nor care to make Him a cause, good or bad. In my experience, this is where most people wind up. Then there are those who are at the opposite end from the first group. They believe that just as we learn about math and can then add 1 + 1 and see without error that it will equal 2, a prayerful petition to God Almighty or Jesus Christ should result in as clear a reply as one human being talking to another. When this doesn’t manifest, a feeling akin to betrayal occurs.

Reading “The God Delusion,” Dawkins struck me as this type of person; one feeling betrayed by not only God, but the parents and “adults” in his life who evidently had lied to him. When one is ruled by the tangible, the intangible is going to seem terribly foreign. Science demands a certain order; the evidence must be clear in order to make an assessment. When dealing with matters of faith, this order falls apart. I see this conflict of the tangible verses the intangible in Dawkins when I read such passages as this:

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Were Dawkins referring only to people, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with his point of view. As human beings, we are supposed to mature and make our own way in this life. Baring any mental or physical impediments, there should be little to stand in the way of that goal. Even in a marriage, you shouldn’t rely on your partner to provide for your happiness, but join with you in it. But Dawkins isn’t talking about one person to another here; he is talking about a person of faith deriving their meaning from their God. His disdain is clear by labeling such as “infantile.”

Jesus Christ was clear in His assertion that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14:6) His desire that we join with Him as part of this life is not an infantile act. An infant has very basic needs and meaning and point are not among them. Where then, does Dawkins arrive at the conclusion that such is infantile? This goes back to his usage of language as a club. I won’t belabor his methodology here; it evidently works for him as his books sales can attest.

Still it is of interest to note that without God, Dawkins would be an obscure scientific author and enjoy none of the popularity his later works excoriating God Almighty have given him. Despite his obvious scorn towards God, Dawkins has much to thank this unseen, figurative entity for. He has become a “rock star” of a sort for trotting about the Western World explaining how abysmally stupid anyone who believes in God truly is. To his fans, this is as manna from heaven. Many of them might hold vague, discordant feelings towards God for a host of reasons, but they don’t possess the sharpened, erudite tongue of Dawkins by which to express these feelings. Thus just as a Roman gladiator would enter the Coliseum arena in full armor with weapons at the ready to cut down his unarmed “opponent,” Dawkins’ fans will cheer him as he sets upon a hapless victim nowhere near as verbally skilled in the arena of blazing lights and high definition television cameras in yet another studio. This is high theater at its finest and Clinton Richard Dawkins knows it and knows how to exploit it.

But of what use is any of these theatrics? Is Richard Dawkins convincing any people of faith that God is some sort of a cosmic joke at best and non-existent at worst? According to statistics, that would not seem to be the case. While the disenchantment over organized religion has grown in the United States, such disenchantment has not seen a like growth in the ranks of Atheists. Those calling themselves atheist or Agnostic (those who don’t know) are growing in numbers, but not at as fast a rate as in the 1990s and certainly not apace of “defections” from organized religion.  

Findings for these statistics can be found through American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008) here:  

Dawkins and Hitchens both may have given people pause, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully if I am writing my commentaries correctly, I am giving people pause as well. We should all endeavor to challenge ourselves and learn more. Stagnation is not a good thing. Retreat isn’t a good thing either and this is what I find Richard Dawkins really doing.

We all have hurdles in life which we face. These hurdles are sometimes so huge and insurmountable, we don’t even recognize them; we don’t know they exist. Consider that our United States Declaration of Independence asserts that:

 “We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness;”

Following this ideal, citizens of the United States have an opportunity to do or become just about anything which is possible. However because people are varied in both talent and physicality, some goals are going to be far out of reach for some rather than others. This isn’t a situation which presents inequality; it is a situation which points out our diversity. Were we all able to do the exact same things, where would the variety and diversity come from? To be an NBA player, it is thought one must have height as well as skill. Several stars in the NBA overcame the height requirement and surmounted the obstacle before them to become stars of the NBA.

Tyrone Curtis “Muggsy” Bogues stands just five feet, three inches tall. Yet he played Professional Basketball with the Charlotte Hornets, the Washington Bullets, the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. He also served as head coach for the now-defunct WNBA team Charlotte Sting. How many men standing just five feet, three inches would ever imagine they could surmount the obvious obstacle of height to play with the NBA? What it took for Bogues was the ability to look beyond that which was visible or apparent. Bogues was able to do this successfully enough to enter a career which utilizing all logic and reason, should have been closed to him.

How does Richard Dawkins’ wrestling match with God compare with the story of Tyrone Bogues? It is simple. Richard Dawkins was unable to surmount the unthinkable and so he merely explained how it couldn’t be done. Since the natural human reaction to seemingly insurmountable obstacles is to beg off, Dawkins became a vanguard; a voice for those suffering the same dearth of ability. It is for this reason he enjoys the accolades from his fans while drawing the ire of (some) of his critics. The irony here is that many people of faith Dawkins has targeted suffer from the exact same struggles with faith as does he. However, these are people who despite appearances, have chosen to remain faithful and trust God rather than shake an angry fist at Him. Faith is a difficult prospect and one which is NOT for the faint-hearted. There is a reason for this which will be utterly lost on the Richard Dawkins of the world … for now.

Faith is a component not quantifiable by science. Science is the study of our present, temporal realm. Science must have the tangible to study and view. If it cannot be observed and measured, it does not exist. While I completely appreciate this perspective, it remains an indisputable fact that there is much within our world which cannot be measured or seen, yet we acknowledge its existence.

Without delving into the theoretical and quantum world of physics (which still have many of their basis in tangible scientific fact.), I’ll start with something which is rather obvious. It is the concept of love. What exactly is love? Many experts in the field of neurology insist love is nothing more than a biochemical response to certain stimuli. Chemicals such as testosterone, oestrogen, pheromones, dopamine, norepinehrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin are released which will have an effect on brain chemistry resulting in attraction. We are further told that this is an evolutionary result of the bodies need to procreate. Ergo, science has distilled love down to chemical reactions based upon a need to bond in order to protect and propagate the species.

I am not going to go into the reasons I disagree with this in any great detail as such is not germane to this commentary, but I will state that to be equal under evolutionary tenets, other animals should experience the same roiling emotions as do humans when love is a factor. Anyone who has been in love understands exactly what I am talking about. There are amorous feelings—lust, for example, and then there is love which transcends a need for procreation. I rarely see this evidence in the animal kingdom and not at all to the degree seen between humans.

Within the homosexual community today is a component of love which would tend to belie the notion that love is an evolutionary response to protect and propagate the species. The obvious is that as a purely biological fact, same sexes cannot procreate. Love has absolutely nothing to do with that biological function. Thus it would seem that as a point of evolutionary assertion, homosexuality would be an abnormality which should have self corrected within the human organism by now.

Love is difficult to quantify, it is difficult to pin down. Love has built and destroyed empires; love has resulted in the most beautiful works of art and literature in the world and has led to some of the most horrific acts imaginable. Love exists, but no one is agreed upon as to just what it truly is; mere biological responses due to stimuli, or something deeper which transcends the flesh?

Christ talked much about love. Central to Christ’s ministry was to point out the difference between the rule under God Almighty and the rule which existed under his spiritual Ambassadors. The latter ruled through the letter of the Law; they implemented in terms of on or off, yes or no, binary ones or zeros. Christ introduced shades of gray into the equation. Thus under Christ, love was able to burst forth and breathe. Mankind was no longer limited to the strictures of the Law, but was free to truly love. However this biochemical freedom required self-restraint as one matured in Christ.

Paul illustrates this point to the Corinthian Church:

“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.”
- 1st Corinthians 10:23
When the strictures of the Law was removed, there was no longer anything which stood between man, his actions and God. But man’s actions could still have a deleterious effect upon their lives while they remained in the body, and blunt their effectiveness as the face of God to others. Love allowed Christ to extend this level of freedom and intimacy to all, whereas the Law prohibited such behavior, punishing transgressors with death. Consider how the spiritual Ambassadors of the Most High God administrated over humans beings:

“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
“If a man sleeps with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
“If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads.”
“If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
“If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.”
- Leviticus 20:10-14

Contrast the above with how Christ dealt with a similar situation:

"...but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
- John 8: 1- 10

Jesus approached the situation entirely different from that of the Angelic Administrators of the Law because the Law was absent love. A concept and emotion which few today can adequately explain, which cannot be measured or seen, yet it has the power to change lives and worlds.

There is no doubt some will take issue with my analogies, but I regard them as rather apt: love is unseen, unquantifiable and lacks a logical explanation as to its existence. It is also an undeniable truth of the human condition. It is not attached to physical needs of the species nor is it a component of mere sexual release; it is deeper, it is unique.

Of all the things which Christ said we CAN’T take with us from this earth upon the death of our flesh, love is not among them. Love is what He earnestly encourages us to cultivate. It is the ONE thing we are supposed to build and nurture. What we build in love will be waiting for us upon our transition to the spirit. Can I scientifically prove this? No … no more than science can prove to me or anyone else exactly what love truly is.

Faith falls into this same category because it is a component of love. When we exercise faith, we are placing our trust and our belief in Christ unreservedly.  In much the way a child will completely trust their parents, Christ desires us to trust Him. This bond of trust between the parent and child is a component from birth and is broken only by the parent, not the child. A child will follow the parent because the parent is their sole focus in the new world. Only a betrayal which results in pain to the child threatens to break the bond. Even at that, it takes quite a bit to completely sever this bond between parent and child. Any who have witnessed the pain of an elderly parent or friend over an aloof or cruel parent knows that this is a heartbreak which lasts a lifetime.

The reactions I have seen from some of my friends who claim to be atheists has been almost the same reaction I have seen from friends who have suffered through bad relationships or even outright rejection by their parents; it is a deep hurt—a feeling of betrayal. This is perfectly understandable and I do not wish to diminish or marginalize those feelings here; they are very much real. Something which cannot be measured or quantified can burn like an acid in the consciousness of anyone.

When we do not understand God, we feel as a child who is rejected by our parents. When circumstances in our lives create pain, we feel as a child being treated cruelly by our parents. When we find ourselves sinking in confusion and our lives are swirling out of control; when we cry out to God to help us and give us guidance, but he is silent to our understanding, we feel as a child who has been ignored and pushed aside by our parents. We do not feel loved and that void must be filled.

I have had these conversations with these so-called atheists too many times to count. The stories are all essentially the same with the embrace of atheism being something of a protective response to the seeming neglect they’ve suffered. No one likes to feel worthless to the one who is supposed to love them. Thus when one believes they’ve been slighted but cannot confront the object of their hurt due to limitations, one simply removes them from their lives. Atheism is more a reaction to the inability to see and understand God than a logical conclusion to the (lack of) tangible evidence of God.

Love is powerful, yet it is a mystery. Faith is powerful and remains elusive to most. A Christian is told that both are necessary to really understand God. It is interesting that neither was a necessary component to be Godly during the time of the Law; obedience was all which was required. Love is a mature emotion necessitating a mature response. Obedience via threats requires no thought at all. Obedience as a component of love requires faith. Putting both together—love and faith, we find powerful forces which cannot be measured, quantified or even fully explained. However, it remains without a doubt that our society has been built upon these mysterious invisible forces.


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
-1st Corinthians 13:4-8
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Mark 12:29-31
“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet he hates his brother, he is a liar.”
- 1st John 4:19
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
- Lao Tzu
“Where there is love, there is life.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
“A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.”
- Thomas Carlyle
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”                                                                                            - Hebrews 11:1
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
“That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”
- Albert Einstein
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”
- Voltaire
“Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

Human beings are more than the sum total of their corporeal parts. This may seem axiomatic to some, but too many are being inculcated with the notion that they are little more than a combination of complex proteins and amino acids which have coalesced into our present biological form. Our minds—our consciousness is just the combination of inherited traits passed down through DNA coupled with learned experiences. When we die, all of this is lost forever; we return to the nothingness we cannot remember before we were born. To a hurting people this may seem like adequate succor, but it is an unfortunate retreat—a surrender.

Atheists struggle to bridge the gap between the temporal and the spiritual in as much as those who claim to hold to the spiritual do not fully recognize the import of the temporal. From a Christian perspective, this temporal life has specific purpose no matter how blind we may personally be to that purpose. When academia arrogantly eschews any idea of there being a world beyond that which they can see, touch, hear, smell or taste, they have already limited themselves and their ability to learn. In the most honest definition of the term “academic,” these people must beg off; they are no longer interested in learning, nor are they interested in teaching. They have now relegated themselves to the role of indoctrinator.

To eschew the spiritual because it is beyond one’s comprehension is as arrogant and small-minded a position to take as those who eschew the temporal world because it is of Satan. Neither position holds the truth for it works only to puff up a false sense of righteousness which is simply not helpful. Consider for one moment as an Atheist that you are more than the sum total of your corporeal parts and that when you pass from your body, that consciousness you so easily dismiss will continue on elsewhere, perfectly aware and perfectly sentient.

As a Christian, consider that you are more than the sum total of the spirit. That God placed us on this earth to learn certain lessons in humility and empathy which can be gleaned nowhere else. What makes up the whole human being is an amalgam of the two. God had to become man to interface with us and redeem us back to Himself. It took His Spirit and His flesh to accomplish the job. Christians do themselves a tremendous disservice and pass that disservice onto others when they denigrate the human condition to the extent they do. Atheists do themselves a disservice and pass that disservice on to others when they denigrate the spiritual to the extent they do. My point is thus made to the best of my ability. Just because one does not understand an idea or concept, does not necessarily mean it is not true. Endeavor to learn to what you do not understand, not kill it.

Christopher Hitchens died after a valiant battle with cancer in December, 2011. I was saddened by his passing as I enjoyed reading his work on a regular basis and felt the world was made just a bit more dim with his light no longer in it.  I didn’t agree with his political ideology and suffice to say I didn’t agree with his view of God. Hitchens struggled with Christ’s teaching because he couldn’t understand a man speaking and teaching as Christ did unless He was God … which Hitchens soundly rejected. Still Hitchens did not dissuade Christians from praying for him as he lay dying. Mick Brown writing for the April 9, 2011 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald said, “Hitchens's attitude to people praying for him could be described as a mixture of polite gratitude for their consideration and a determined refusal to let it sway his opinions.”

Hitchens knows the truth about this temporal realm now. He doesn’t know everything, of course as he is not God, but he knows enough. I do not hold to the belief that Christopher Hitchens is roasting in Hell and I imagine that when he opened his eyes in eternity, he had a hearty good laugh over being proved so wrong.

Richard Dawkins will also experience that same sudden awareness someday—as will we all. None of us will long survive in the flesh; some will live many years, while others will be here only fleetingly. Our duration on this earth is not the point; what we do with the opportunity is. Circumstances in this realm are such that a good number of people conceived, are taken before they ever have the opportunity to take a breath. That their existence is so very brief is not evidence that God is an ogre, rather their lives provide those of us blessed with a time of substance here the opportunity to be of service to others; to be the face of our unseen Creator.

The flesh will never understand the spirit because they are two dissimilar constructs. That the tangible cannot take a measure of the intangible does not invalidate either. That seemingly insurmountable hurdles face us all does not mean we are not to make the attempt. This is how we grow and it is the gift which God has given to us all. One may never truly understand this concept in the temporal, but one will most assuredly come to believe upon stepping over.

After Hitchens hearty laugh, I imagine him being filled with tremendous gratitude that God turned out not to be the monster he’d imagined for so long after all.