“We are endowed by our forefathers with inalienable rights.”
Assassinating a national ruler is not comedy…except in postmodern America.
Based on an attempt to kill the North Korean head of state, The Interview is scheduled to open in October. It has this so-called hilarious premise: “Desperate to legitimize their careers, celebrity journalists land an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which prompts the CIA to recruit the very unqualified pair as assassins” (IMDB.com synopsis).
Try the shoe on the other foot. What would Americans say if a Russian director made a movie about assassinating President Barack Obama? “Unforgivable!” “Outrageous!” “Wrong!” “Shameful!”
Because storytellers shape our future, they need a compass. If America cannot recover her compass, expect increasingly dark stories and a similar future.
“After your dreams have all died…what are you?” That’s the final question in “New Low” from Middle Class Rut. The video will make you sad and then make you laugh with its dark comedy.
Songs like “New Low” are why blues songs can move us so deeply. They tell us the truth about life’s problems. Good art shows the truth as the artist understands it.
Sadly, the good news is not part of most blues songs. The good news is Jesus’ message that God loves you perfectly and has the power to transform your life. If you’re not on speaking terms with Jesus, tell him you would like to believe. Ask him to show up in your life.
Here are two shortcuts to finding God. Find a Bible, and start reading in the Gospel of John. Visit a church this Sunday. You are always welcome at Holy Cross in Ojai, California.
How far can church leaders and institutions wander from their beginnings? Harvard University has slid from training godly pastors to raising “leaders” who label Moses and Jesus as psychotic.
Fifteen years after the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving, American churches were increasing while the preachers were aging. To solve this problem, they started New College. Later they named it after a popular minister, John Harvard. For the first 70 years, every Harvard president was a pastor, and then the shift began.
Where is Harvard now? In 2012, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences published an article by three Harvard scholars. They “analyzed the religious figures Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and St. Paul…. [T]heir experiences may have been manifestations of primary or mood disorder-associated psychotic disorders….”
Moses’ “flight from Egypt occurred before the onset of audio hallucinations and visual hallucinations…before the onset of psychosis…. The period over which Moses had these experiences was in excess of 40 years…. It should be noted that the religious writings attributed to Moses’ authorship, the Pentateuch, could suggest the presence of an exaggerated urge to write….hypergraphia….
“Although schizophrenia is associated with an increased risk of suicide, [Jesus] would not be a typical case…. Suicide-by-proxy is described as ‘any incident in which a suicidal individual causes his or her death to be carried out by another person.’ There is a potential parallel of Jesus’ beliefs and behavior leading up to his death to that of one who premeditates a form of suicide-by-proxy.”
Summarizing their study of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and St. Paul, “the term ‘psychotic’ refers to a constellation of symptoms that may vary to some extent across diagnostic categories, but it generally refers to delusions, any prominent hallucinations, disorganized speech, or disorganized or catatonic behavior. A delusion is a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary….”
The Harvard scholars then compare Abraham, Moses, Jesus and St. Paul to “David Koresh, of the Branch Dravidians, and Marshall Applewhite, of the Heaven’s Gate cult.”
The scholars’ reassurance/nonapology at the end of the article may lack a persuasive edge to the newly labeled psychotic Jews and Christians who read the Bible from an orthodox frame of reference:
“No disrespect is intended toward anyone’s beliefs or these venerable figures.”
As a kid, my church had a service on Ash Wednesday—but never with ashes. The music was melancholy, and for me the sermon was always too long.
My first ashes were at Holy Cross in Ojai where I serve. I approached them the first time with curiosity. They affected me more than I anticipated. They branded mortality on my face. They made me feel the filth of sin. When I crossed the street to the grocery store, people looked twice at me as they noticed the ashen cross on my forehead.
This cross has become the perfect symbol as I talk with people about Ash Wednesday…and point them toward Easter:
• The ashes are dust, which screams our MORTALITY.
• The ashes are black, which points to our MISTAKES, our sin.
• The ashes form a cross, the ultimate sign of God’s MERCY.
On Ash Wednesday this year, I walked next door to the hospital and visited a woman in intensive care. I talked with her about the ashen cross on my forehead—my mortality, my mistakes and Christ’s mercy.
My friend startled me when she asked, “Can I have ashes?”
“I don’t think they will let me bring ashes into intensive care,” I said. My bowl was next door, back at the church.
“Can I have some of yours?” she asked.
I walked into the bathroom, my eyes welling with tears. I looked in the mirror and wiped some ash from my forehead.
As I leaned over her bed, I smudged her forehead with a black cross and told her, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.”
This traveling month I’ve heard words that tasted delicious:
In Ohio, “I’m having another baby!”
In California, “You are courageous!”
In Maryland, “You are such a good friend!”
In West Virginia, “Thank you for coming so far!”
I’ve experienced things that brightened the rest of my day:
In California, I watched the Sierra Nevada Mountains for miles and miles as I drove through the Central Valley.
In Maryland, I met my friend’s teenage son whom I had never seen.
In Indiana, I ate at an Amish restaurant where I tasted raisin pie for the first time in many years.
In Kentucky, I saw astonishing ice “waterfalls” in the gorges where the highway is carved.
I’ve also heard words that felt like stubbing my toe:
“Your luggage didn’t come on your flight.”
“That’s all we had. There’s no more.”
“There’s no outlet.”
“You can’t pay that way.”
But on the road there is one question that sucks the air right out of me:
“Table for one?”