Saturday, March 26, 2011

Exodus of Free Speech?

I'm on a job now where I have an hour and a half commute, which means a lot of radio time.  When top 40 isn't doing it for me, old time rock n' roll is sounding, well, old, and NPR off on some oddball topic not piquing my interest, I often turn to Christian talk radio.  Today was one of those days.  And today, it seemed their news and talk programs all centered around the decision Apple made to pull the Exodus International app.

I don't have this app, so I can't vouch one way or another for it.  Referred to in slang as the "gay cure app," supposedly (according to Christian sources) this app presents Biblical guidance on methods for overcoming homosexual urges.  According to, that included calling homosexuality a "sin that will make your heart sick."

After receiving a ~150000 person petition, Apple pulled the app, because according to Apple it "[violated] our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."

I think that was the wrong move.  Here's why:

The Christian talk guys made the excellent point that the apps available which specifically target the GLBT group are offensive to large groups, namely Christians and Muslims, both of which are larger than the GLBT populous.  So by this act, Apple is setting a huge double standard.

Also, this was not some mandatory app which everybody had to have.  This was something to download by choice.  In that sense, it was like someone selecting a book to read in the self-help section; the specifically Christian self-help section, mind you.

More importantly, you don't solve a problem by hiding it.  That problem not being GLBT persons, but rather the antiquated Biblical and Koranic views of homosexuality, which has proven itself to be 100% natural at some frequency.  Apps like these can serve as discussion points which can help reveal the deeper truth.

So Apple's decision to pull the app was disappointing to me, but not the impetus for this post.  That comes from the Christian response.

The Christian talking heads were expressing outrage at the groups who protested Apple and calling this an attack on free speech.

No.  No, my friend.  These groups have every right to protest, just as you do about the opening of adult novelty stores, gay marriage, and abortion clinics.  That's what we call a free country.

More importantly, this is not an attack of Free Speech.  Free Speech is the law of the Constitution of the U.S.A. in the Bill of Rights.  Apple did not attack Free Speech.  Apple made a business decision.  Guess what?  As a private (public) company, they can make any decision they want to make.  Just like Christians see no problem with the Boy Scouts of America excluding homosexuals because they are a private organization*, they should have no problem with Apple making their own decisions of an equal, if opposite, magnitude. Hypocrites.

No offense to the ladies out there, but come on Christians:  man up.  How do you expect us to think that you have the Absolute Truth when you go around wielding your own set of double standards.  State your "Truth," play by the same laws and standards, and let the chips fall where they may.

Oh, and by the way, with Apple making these kinds of decisions, Christians/Muslims should be praising God/Allah that they still have Bible/Koran apps available.  Talk about offensive material... slavery, oppression, and genocide, oh my!

* Boy Scouts of America actually does receive some public funding from the government, or at least it did before this new fad of funding cuts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm an Insensitive Jerk

I am an insensitive jerk, but not really.  It's complicated.  In my mind, sometimes I am.  You would never catch me face-to-face being insensitive to someone, unless it's by accident.  I have more couth than that.  Yet still, my internal dialog is not so nice at times.

For example, I was walking through the Denver airport recently and I got stuck behind people walking slow, and a little further on I stuck behind people standing, not walking, standing on the airport's moving walkway.  I got frustrated.

I got frustrated, and I thought about this study which linked slow walking to early mortality.  With this thought, a certain shallow satisfaction entertained itself, splashing in the muddy gutters of my brain.  These slow moving people will die sooner.  They deserve it.  Yeah, they deserve it.

Just then, the white-suited moral manager of my thoughts stood up, startled by the splatter of mud on his once-clean uniform, and yelled "Stop! What the hell is wrong with you?  These are people, real people, each with their own lives and their own loves, and everything that entails.  How can you possibly gain pleasure at the thought of their early demise?  And for what?  For causing you a little inconvenience?"

I sat down in a seat by my gate.  With a view of an automated walkway, I continued to watch people get scooted along at 1-2 miles per hour by the moving plates beneath their stationary feet.  I sat.  I sat and I thought about the bitterness which had crept into my head.

A curse of my hobby, it didn't take long for me to draw a parallel with Christianity:  This repulsive impulse I had was the same one that certain Christians have when they take a smug delight at the thought of God sending other people to Hell for all eternity.  I was gleefully condemning, just as they do.

It was the same, but different; and the differences were enormous.  My ugly condemnation was a combination of emotion merged with scientific correlation.  There was no right or wrong in the study.  There was no absolute truth.  There was just a statistically significant tendency which called to my more-base, egocentric nature.  More significantly, my better mind prevailed, acknowledging the dark thought for exactly what it was.

By contrast, the condemnation of a believer combines emotion with the Word of the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the Universe.  With God, there is right, and there is wrong, and there is absolute truth.  To God, any and all wrongdoers are worthy of eternal condemnation.  If God is condemning someone, then it must be right, because God can do no wrong.  So a believer should feel justified in his or her condemnation of others. 

What if a believer has second thoughts about that condemnation, like I had?  That is a tough position to keep.  Are you really going to keep believing, but say that God's condemnation is wrong?  Besides, Biblically speaking, you should not have any emotions about the condemned, just like God had forbid Aaron from mourning for his two sons after God had burned them to death.

Getting back to the point of this rambling message, I don't really feel I'm that different than people of faith.  I'd love to say that I only resemble them in their good ways, but that would be a lie.  Inside me, from time to time, splashing around in those muddy gutters of my mind, are many traits in common with the most heinous of Christian adherents.

But there's a difference; a difference which means everything.  My higher authority is myself, and my justification comes from what I have learned and continue to learn.  Most importantly, I can question myself without guilt, because I know that I don't know everything.

The same can't be said for those who believe God's Word, and because of that, I think it's only natural that these ugly facets of personality often manifest themselves in believers, and even get amplified, when they correspond with God's recorded condemnations.

How about you?  When you were a believer, did you struggle with these impulses?  Do you still hear the echos of past condemnation ringing in your head?  Do you feel more free to do the right thing instead of the written thing now?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why Bother?

I have a job where I travel for work.  When I am on the road, I'm typically working 12-13 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Working those kind of hours, it's hard to even take care of essentials, let alone keep connections with friends and family and maintain a blog or two.  (Don't feel too bad for me, because I still draw a paycheck when I'm not on the road; sitting at home doing practically nothing!)

Some of Christian relations of mine have asked me (paraphrased):  "So why do you bother doing The Wise Fool blog?  Why does it matter to try to prove you are right?  Are you so angry and embittered towards God that you feel you have to attack Him?"  They just don't understand that I view it as an act of charity and benevolence to my fellow man as I donate my time to help educate others, and I am as likely to be angry with God as I am likely to be angry at Santa Claus.  Getting angry at something that you know doesn't exist is pretty foolish.

But there are other reasons for the blog too; reasons strong enough to compel me to post this Friday despite having an especially hectic and demanding week.  Reasons like this:

This is an actual bumper sticker on a Christian's car.  This is a Christian with no doubts about Christianity.  How can I tell?  "Gun toting" implies a willingness to be gun using, specifically to kill other humans.  You don't go around advertising that you are willing to purposefully break commandments of God unless you think you are perfectly right with God.

If Christians can read my blog and not give up Christianity, so be it.  My biggest aspiration is to at least plant a seed of doubt in as many Christians as possible.  I believe that if you have doubts, you are a lot less likely to do something extremely stupid for your faith.  If everyone doubted their religion just a little bit, I think the world would be a much better place.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

God and Country

One of the great things about my job is that I get to travel, which also can be one of the worst things about it too.  ;-)  But every now and then I actually get the chance to explore the local terrain, like I did today.  I had an awesome hike in Pinnacles National Monument in California, and I am really kicking myself for forgetting my camera in the hotel.  :-(

The landscape was colorful, like imagine making part of a mountain from different colors of Play-Doh.  That vibrant and colorful.  At least some of it was, while the rest was just really cool.  And the air, the air smelled like a mix of lavender, jasmine, and honey.  Incredible!

So I started thinking on my hike about how people of faith react to beautiful landscapes, like this one from northern Argentina in the province of Jujuy, which I have also had the pleasure of visiting.  The look at land like this and reflect about how wonderful God is and how perfect and beautiful His works are.  In is also a means of God showing us how much He cares for us.  He has created this earth full of beauty just for our enjoyment!  And I have to say that when I've been in such amazing places, my soul aches with the intense beauty.  I feel alive!  I feel more spiritual than I have ever felt sitting in a pew.  Not surprisingly, some people of faith have felt the same way, and have organized nature churches and worship hikes where God is revered alongside His spectacular creation.

But it's not all that beautiful.  All of this supposed creation is not spiritually moving, such as this patch of Earth to the north and east of Jacksonville, Florida.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of the earth is rather bland, and some parts are downright ugly.  If we are honest in our faith, then we must likewise consider that God made the entire Earth and all of its boring and dreary places too.  And considering that these other places far surpass those few places of surpassing beauty, we would have to instead draw the conclusion that either God purposefully made a mostly boring, often ugly place for us to live or God gave no particular consideration to the aesthetic design of the Earth.  Both ideas have interesting implications.

If you think that God purposefully made the Earth with this landscape, he generally does not care if we enjoy it, and may even not want us to enjoy it, based on how few areas are truly beautiful.  That does not speak of a loving God.

If you think that God gave no consideration to the Earth's aesthetics, well, then, you are one step closer to atheism than you realize.  Such a lack of attention to detail strongly suggests the lack of a designer at all.

So what do you think?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Prayer Echos

Prayer was always a bit of a mystery to me, but especially so when I was growing up.  So when I was young, I never understood exactly how it was supposed to work.  It seems that nobody tells children the technical details about prayer is supposed to work, and that's probably a good thing for indoctrination.

Of course, when you're young, your prayers are pretty simple:  thank you God, protect my family, oh, and please get me a shiny new bicycle, the big wheel just isn't cutting it any more.  God, please help me find my wallet which I have lost for the twentieth time.  Etc.  So I would say these things and somehow know that God heard them.

Yet I wasn't insulated from the world of prayer around me, in that I heard what older people were saying.  God spoke to them.  God spoke to them!  They prayed, and they heard from God.

Why wasn't I hearing from God?  Why wasn't God speaking to me?  All those times I had prayed before, all I had ever heard was my own voice echoing in my head.

At that time, I was too young to really think about why that may be.  I was somewhat content knowing that God heard my words even if I didn't hear back from him, and somewhat distracted by the joys of being a little boy, but the question didn't go away.

In my teen years the question jumped right back in my face with a vengeance as I began to take a more adult and robust entry into the faith.  I kept trying to have a dialog with God, but it never really worked.  I would ask questions to God, and sometimes I would get responses, but those responses were little more than my own anxious mind filling in the blanks to answer my own question.

I was tempted to believe that it was God answering, but I just couldn't accept that as being the case, given that the answer always came in the same tone of inner dialog as when I would ask myself if I wanted one or two scoops of ice cream.  I expected more from God.  Something I could recognize as only His response.  Something which might just leave me trembling.  Yet all I heard were empty echos, and the sound of my own inner voice.

How about you?  What was your prayer life like when you were young, and later as an adult believer?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I am a Hammer

I am a hammer. All of my friends are hammers too, and we live in a community of hammers. In fact, I think that within my whole family lineage, every one of them has been a hammer, at least as far as you can trace back.

Being a hammer is great! Simply put, we are the right tool for the job. Nobody else can nail things down or build things up like us hammers.

Sure, there are all sorts of other tools, but they are mostly impractical for anything you would want to do on the job. That's why we know that we are the right tools.

I mean, seriously, think about it. Take the second most popular tool, the drills, for example. Sure, they can make things holey, but that's about it. And if you drill too many holes, everything could come falling down on you. (I think we've all heard the story of how a handful of wayward drills brought a couple of buildings crashing to the ground.) If you ask me, drills are just disasters waiting to happen. Unlike us hammers. We build things up.

Besides that, those drills are just trying to cash in on our popularity. They have no respect that we were here first. I mean, just look at their instruction manual. Those parts about working safely and wearing proper gloves and eye protection are almost copied word for word from our manual. It's pitiful, really.

Then there's that other group of loathsome tools, the vise grip. Ha! How aptly named they are, because they sure do have a grip on vises, and yet for some reason they think that they are the only ones with a grip on reality. They think they can do anything they set their minds to: turn a screw, hold pieces together; I mean, you name it, they will try it. Why, I even saw one of them try to drive a nail one time. Well, just because they are made from the same steel that we are, doesn't make them able to hammer. That is most definitely not right according to the manual.

Anything that vise grips do is temporary. Anything! Not like us hammers. When we build things up, those things will last forever. But do you know what's really whack? (Pardon the hammer pun.) The vise grips know that their work is temporary, and they don't care! They are even so bold as to say that all work is temporary, regardless of the tools used.

Silly, silly vise grips. They just can't see that hammers are the right tools because we build things which actually do last. They will not fall apart if we move on to work somewhere else, which is more than you can say about vise grips. But, what can you do? You have to be chosen to be forged into a hammer, so naturally there are going to be a lot of, well, non-hammers out there.

Yes, being a hammer is truly the best tool you can be. Who wouldn't want to build up? And integrated with building up is nailing down. We can nail down the walls, so square and true, that they can withstand any storm. That is security. That is safety. Hammers are the way to do it right.

Our community is so uplifting too, you would love it. We all meet once a week, or sometimes more often, to read from the manual to help ensure that we all do good on the job. We also discuss challenging work requests, considering how we need to get those tasks done as hammers. As hammers, how do we flatten this warped plank? As hammers, how should we assemble this railing? Mostly, the solutions involve nailing things down. If they can't be liberated, then they are secure, and security is good according to the manual.

Now, to be honest, there are differences in some of the hammers. Some think that we should all have red paint, and other think that blue is the best color. Some think that a wooden handle is best, while others think that fiberglass is the way to go. And, I must admit, that some hammers have been involved in prying out nails. I have even heard (although it's hard to believe) that some hammers are used primarily in demolition. But that's not what hammers are really about. True hammers follow the manual. True hammers build up. And, I think it can be said irrefutably, that the hammer manual and the hammers have truly made this job everything it is today, in all the ways in which it is most successful.

Yet the best thing, the very best thing about being a hammer is what is revealed in the manual. Someday this job is going to end. Everybody knows it. And then what? Hmm?

Well, according to the manual, there is more in store for us hammers. What is in store for us is not exactly clear, but we know that it's good.

There are large sections in the manual describing what the next job will be like; all hammers will get a coating of a super enamel paint which will never chip and the finest hardwood shaft which will never splinter, there will be a bigger, cleaner tool box with a durable but comfortable handle, and the next job will be so big that it will never end. We will just keep building up, and up, and up; just doing what hammers do best. It would be so wonderful!

Yet there are smaller inserts within the manual which suggest something different; an entirely different kind of job known as design. It's a job of concepts; a job of thoughts realized in their ideal form. In design, there is no need to hammer. No need to hammer! Can you imagine such a job?!? Everything just comes into being, pure, and true. No longer will we have to worry about the splitting headaches from pounding our heads against a wall. Everything will just be!

Most of the hammers nowadays subscribe to their destiny for design, and I tend to lean in that direction too. Although, I suppose it really doesn't matter which type of job comes next. Either outcome would be great. But, there is something really appealing about design. I mean, the next job is supposed to last a really, really long time. There's got to be more to that job than just hammering.