Monthly Archives: August 2015

Idols

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen – a great speaker and profound Christian writer – said  of paganism that it created idols out of man’s burning desire to see the gods face to face, to “force” them into this broken world of ours and hold them accountable.

That desire is something abuse victims can understand, on a visceral level. We have experienced the ugliness of the world, firsthand. Some of us use drugs or alcohol to numb the pain abuse has caused. Others use food or sex to fill the aching void left by an absence of love.

But these are meager substitutes for God.

Christians know that man’s desire to see God in the flesh was fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. We view sin as the result of human action, but believe the penalty for sin was paid by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus said that the righteous will ask at the Final Judgment:

Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” (Matt. 25: 37-39).

And He will reply “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me” (Matt. 25: 40).

This then is the crux:  We glorify God by serving others, for God is already here.

That this is a broken world is no indication we have been abandoned to it. Rather, we see Him in the eyes of every child left home alone by a working mother with no other recourse. We see His image in the face of an injured laborer, as well as that of an abused woman.

We see Him through anguish and tears. We see Him despite fear, embarrassment or shame.

We need no idols. Our God is here, among us, in this fallen world. No stench of sin is great enough to keep Him away. He extends His hand of mercy, as no lesser god could.

Original version posted 3/8/12

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Blood on Our Hands

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139: 13).

Prenatal ultrasound is widely accepted as a safe and inexpensive means of evaluating the health of an unborn child. 3D and 4D ultrasound – though the risk they may pose is still somewhat uncertain – can provide images so clear, at 26-30 weeks of gestation, that a family resemblance may be seen before birth and a baby’s smile captured in the womb.

Occasionally, the findings on ultrasound are inconclusive. With fetal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), it has been possible since the 1990s for physicians to diagnose head, neck, chest, abdominal, and urinary tract abnormalities in the fetus with a greater degree of resolution than on ultrasound.

Gradually, mankind is pulling back the curtain on mysteries that have existed since the dawn of time. Sometimes – with God’s help – the achievements are miraculous. All we can see though is the physical dimension – the part we can poke or prod, measure and weigh.

God sees through to the heart in a way no MRI or ultrasound can. He is, after all, our Maker.

By contrast, nowhere is evil more evident than in the way the world treats its children. Continue reading

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Good Woman Transforms Outlaw, Part 2 – Influence

If we want healthy relationships:

  • We have to guard against fantasies about a man’s “noble” nature that run counter to objective evidence.
  • We have to avoid mistaking surliness on a man’s part for emotional depth and complexity.

Simple, right?  As if relationships were ever simple…

Influence

This brings us to the crux of the matter, and perhaps the most compelling reason misguided thinking about relationships holds women in thrall.

By changing a man, we are demonstrating our power as women. The “civilizing influence” of the female gender is made manifest. Heady stuff, indeed.

By changing – or at least trying to change – a man, we get to exercise power without stepping outside the female stereotype. This is “Beauty and the Beast” with Beauty in charge.

Women may cling to a belief in their ability to change a man in the face of all reason – in the face of violence, itself. Why should that be? There must be powerful forces at work.

Here is what, I think, is going on:

  • First, abuse tends to be self-replicating. Having observed (and frequently been subjected to) abuse since childhood, the victims of domestic violence are likely to view abuse as the norm. Poor self-esteem makes them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous men.
  • Second, the flawed thinking which stems from abuse miscasts the failure to change a man as a woman’s failure. Women may be reluctant to concede defeat, when doing so would undermine their already fragile self-worth and deprive them of their tenuous – if illusory – sense of control.

Continue reading

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Good Woman Transforms Outlaw, Part 1 – Intuition and Interpretation

I can help him become a better man. Deep down, he wants to be different. I know it. I can just tell when I look into his eyes.

The things he says and does that hurt me he only does out of fear of losing me. He doesn’t really mean them. He’s a little boy inside. Just wait till he feels secure in our relationship.

You’ll see. He’ll change. I can change him [1].

Why are women so susceptible to this misguided view of relationships? It seems almost a cinematic cliche out of the 40’s and 50’s. Think The Virginian (1943) with Joel McCrea, Angel and the Badman (1947) with John Wayne, Westward the Women (1951) with Robert Taylor, or Shane (1953) with Alan Ladd [2].

Good woman transforms outlaw into law abiding citizen. Women civilize men. The West is won.

What is it about this scenario that appeals so strongly to us? Is it something about the way women are socialized? Can an excess of compassion blind us to reality?

I suspect that there is something else at work, something not nearly so selfless. The appeal rests, I believe, on three bases: intuition, interpretation, and influence.

Intuition

To begin with, there is an attraction by women to the idea of an intuitive capacity on their part, some “special” ability to perceive what others (especially men) cannot.

Traditionally, women have been seen as emotional or intuitive; men, as logical or factual. These days we attribute this to right-brained and left-brained thinking, respectively. It is the principle that “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” [3].

While there is some anatomic basis for this distinction (women, for instance, have a wider corpus callosum uniting the two hemispheres of the brain), there is no reason we can’t be both intuitive and rational.

Women, in other words, are entirely capable of logic. But we’re flattered by the idea that a distinction exists. We want there to be a distinction. Yin and yang. Opposites attract. Intuition is, in some sense, “proof” of our femininity. Continue reading

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Time and the Value of Women

“Sales in Poznan”, Author MOs810 (CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported)

‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ ” (Eccl. 1: 2).

Clearly, women in Western culture are valued for their youth. We see this all around us.

Ads for every conceivable product from liquor to cable television feature young women (with two ton steel vehicles actually termed “sexy” to increase sales).

Then there are the countless products marketed to women for the ever present “problem” of aging (creams which claim rejuvenating power, hair dyes, Botox injections, and breast implants, to name just a few).  As if living were insufficient.

Starlets in flimsy clothing populate our magazines. Girls as young as 14 model for us, in the place of adult women. Meanwhile, women in their 60s seek plastic surgery – even in vitro fertilization – to prolong their saleability.

Each moment lived, a woman’s value decreases or so it can seem.

A Flight from Death

Perhaps the urge to remain young, or at least appear young, is a flight from death. If anything, however, it highlights the inexorability of time. The race is rigged. Everyone loses in the end.

Christians know that this jaded view is incorrect, incomplete since it fails to take God into account. Some 3000 years ago, when King Solomon composed the Book of Ecclesiastes (from which the quote above is taken), he deliberately wrote from that skewed perspective to drive home his point about the need for God in our lives.

Human nature has not improved much, in the intervening centuries. We remain susceptible to the adversary’s lies.

True Value

But if youth is valuable, maturity is no less so. Our value in God’s eyes does not diminish with age. It was never linked to time, in the first place. Our true value derives from the fact that we have all, male and female, been created by God and that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our Salvation. Continue reading

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