An Unlikely Lineage

Genealogies form some of the hardest passages of the Bible to appreciate.  For a long time, I saw them as boring lists of hard-to-pronounce names that I would have to struggle through when my family took turns reading Scripture aloud.  Then, during my pastor’s sermon series on Genesis, I began to realize the meaning and value of these recitations.  Just like the rest of God’s Word, genealogies point to Christ and the Gospel.  In particular, God’s grace and providence shine forth in Jesus’ unlikely lineage as described in Matthew 1:1-17.

Many names stand out in Matthew 1, and Jesus’ genealogy is indisputably full of faithful, godly, and kingly men.  Nevertheless, it is also a list of sinners and people with surprising backgrounds.  Abraham lied out of fear (Genesis 12:10-19; Genesis 20:1-2), and his sons Isaac and Jacob showed favoritism toward their children and tried to override or control God’s plans (Genesis 30:37-43).  Judah committed incest with his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar, and their son Perez was the ancestor of Boaz.  Boaz’s mother Rahab was a Canaanite and former prostitute, yet her faith led her to help and then join with God’s people.  Boaz’s wife Ruth was a Moabite; however, she faithfully stayed with her widowed mother-in-law Naomi and made Israel her home.  David committed adultery and murdered Uriah, yet his son by Uriah’s wife became part of the lineage of Christ.  The books of Kings and Chronicles detail the lives of Solomon and his descendants, the best of whom were imperfect and the worst of whom committed abominable deeds.

While focusing on the worst aspects of these Biblical characters’ lives paints a dark and disheartening picture of sin, I see in it hope and grace.  Christ came to save sinners just like these people.  Their stories of brokenness remind us why they and we need redemption, why Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are necessary.  This lineage also reminds us of the mightiness of God, who chooses to use sin-broken men and women to accomplish his purposes, and who can use what is meant for evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20).  Studying Christ’s genealogy reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, where Paul writes, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”

Christians are part of a mighty throng of people, full of faith, sin, strengths, and weaknesses, who needed their divine descendant and his redemptive work just as much as the rest of the world needs him.  Deeper comprehension of the reality and weightiness of sin is not something we should shy away from, for the more we realize the darkness of the world, the more we grow in our appreciation of what the LORD has done.  Only once we acknowledge the darkness in which we walk, will we recognize our need for the Light.  As we read of Jesus’ birth, let us not pass over his lineage and its redemptive message.  As we burn candles and light Christmas trees, may these be reminders of the Messiah who declared himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12), and let us also remember Zechariah’s words: “The dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79) and “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (1:68-69).


Works Cited

The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769; King James Bible Online, 2008. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/.

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Timeless Political Satire

Just as a well made whisky does not deteriorate with age, so also good satire holds its bite over many years and decades, never losing its potency. One such modern satire that has aged well is the TV show Yes Minister. Although released originally in the 1980s, it has just as much relevance today as when it was first released.

JimHacker_Smiling
Jim Hacker

The show follows a newly elected official named Jim Hacker, and revolves around the various situations that he must maneuver through. He must constantly try to toe the party line, win over minorities to his cause, keep his constituents happy, and simultaneously maintain some sort of moral integrity. One of the major points of the show is the expansiveness and rigidity of government bureaucracy, and this is represented in Sir Humphrey Appleby, who is permanently stationed at his post within the government and is a career civil servant through and through. Appleby is the foil to Hacker, and the two see the world through very different lenses: Appleby sees the long term picture that gives the government the most stability—an interest he has since he is unelected and relies on the bureaucracy for his job; Hacker, conversely, flutters from one event to another trying to keep everyone happy with him so that he can be reelected, gain influence, etc. Through these two opposed characters, the show writers demonstrate, among other things, that nobody in government has the good of the citizenry in mind—there are only two sides: the politician and the bureaucrat, each seeking to simultaneously both win over the populace and keep them in the dark so that their own ends will be met. The show sees very little good in government, and as a result it can be very bleak and cynical at times—Hacker is often willing to back down on principles when he sees it will cost him politically, and Appleby is more than happy to manipulate to his own ends. Never is there a ray of hope or decent integrity put on display, and while this may make for difficult watching after a while, I do not think it is without merit.

HumphryAppleby_YesMinister
Humphrey Appleby

The show deals with a very real ideology that is present today, and (possibly unintentionally) shows the futility of it. In the United States, as in many countries around the globe, government is seen as the primary vehicle for good and change—the sword to be wielded to solve all the world’s problems. However, when government is made supreme, there is no value structure left, but only the arbitrary one put in place by a bureaucrat: people become numbers, and the purpose of all of life becomes power and meeting the “bottom line.” Yes Minister may be bleak, but it accurately portrays what men always become when they have no principle beliefs or morally absolute value structure to rest upon.

Re-watching Yes Minister never gets old, principally because it contains a kernel of truth: without a moral baseline, everyone only looks out for themselves. Satire is not always done well, but when it is, it is timeless, and Yes Minister will be watched for many years to come as a brutal commentary on government without God.

Her Majesty Slays Dragon

[ElizaM 2:15 p.m.] YOUR MOM SENT ME THE ARTICLE

[GwenR 2:30p.m.] What article?

[ElizaM 2:31 p.m.] THE ONE THAT SAYS YOU KILLED A DRAGON

[GwenR 2:35 p.m.] ...did you read said article?

[ElizaM 2:36 p.m.] NO I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT

[GwenR 2:40 p.m.] ...I don’t have time for *you.*

[ElizaM 2:41 p.m.] WHY READ BORING NEWS WHEN YOU CAN JUST TELL ME
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] YOU KILLED A DRAGON????
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] WHAT
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] HOW?!!?
[ElizaM 2:46 p.m.] I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE BUT IT IS ON THE OFFICIAL NEWS???
[ElizaM 2:47 p.m.] ARE DRAGONS BACK????!!??
[ElizaM 2:59 p.m.] HEEEYLPPP

[GwenR 3:37 p.m.] You’re saying girls can’t kill dragons?

[ElizaM 3:38 p.m.] I AM SAYING NO SUCH THING I AM SAYING THAT DRAGONS DO NOT EXIST

[GwenR 3:56: p.m.] Yes, they do. And I killed one.

[ElizaM 3:57 p.m.] CALL ME NOW

[GwenR 4:37 p.m.] Can’t. In council meeting. Texting under table. Don’t think anyone’s noticed. Kind of don’t care if they do.

[ElizaM 4:38 p.m.] Look at you slacking off on your royal duties EXPLAIN DRAGON

[GwenR 4:45 p.m.]“Ridding the land of the pestilence scourge of dragonkind” is still listed as one of the sovereign’s duties, you know. Which I just did.

[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] AGAIN DRAGONS NO EXIST YOU NO KILL DRAGON

[GwenR 4:55 p.m.] Lower case letters and punctuation exist. And I did too kill a dragon.
[GwenR 4:56 p.m.] Technically.

[ElizaM 4:57 p.m.] AH HA! The the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and do it now.
[ElizaM 4:58 p.m.] Punctuation. Different shaped letters. Happy?

[GwenR 5:05 p.m.] Fine, fine, okay, so one of the administrative royal duties that I don’t bore you with because you have the attention span of a newt is going around to any heads of estates whose private roads the Crown uses and formally asking permission of said heads to use said roads. 
[GwenR 5:06 p.m.] This permission does not pass from monarch to monarch, so I’ve had to go around and re-ask every.single.person. It has been a pain.
[GwenR 5:08 p.m.] But I guess a necessary one because, if you remember, Rowling’s Rebellion of 1624 had to do with King Geoffrey IV...wait, I should probably go back to his dad King Edward IIV…

[ElizaM 5:09 p.m.] I WILL MURDER YOU WITH YOUR VINTAGE QUILL PEN, NERD.

[GwenR 5:15 p.m.] Sheesh, just trying to give you some context. Anyway, so there’s this nobleman, let’s call him Stinky, up in the backwoods of some region known as Spring Hills that was all “Of course, of course, use my roads. Except this one. Thankkksss.” And I was like, “Whatever.” But then it turned out that we actually kind of needed that one for complicated economic nerd reasons I will not borrrrrrre you with.
[GwenR 5:17 p.m.] So I was like, “Hey, can we use that road too, pretty please?” Sent a nice official email and everything. And he was like “Nah, for Reasons.”
[GwenR 5:19] So then I actually gave Stinky a call. He seemed fairly cordial, maybe a little...vacant, and I was like, “What Reasons?” Then he paused, took a gulp (I could hear it over the phone), smacked his lips (which I could also hear), and said, very deliberately: “Wellllll...that road is in the north of our property...and there’s a dragon in the north.”

[ElizaM 5:20 p.m.] Wuuuuuttt

[GwenR 5:22 p.m.] Eeeeexactly. And I was like, “I beg your pardon?” I was honestly so confused.
[GwenR 5:23 p.m.] And then he spins this yarn about some dragon living up in the northern hills and it being dangerous to go out there and how a hunter got eaten...

[ElizM 5:23 p.m.] *coocoo* *coocoo*

[GwenR 5:25 p.m.] Yeah. At the time I was just like, “Okay, so...good talk,” and just hung up. But then the PM may or may not have kind of yelled at me, and so I called Stinky back and was like, “Yo, I’m coming to slay the dragon.”

[ElizaM 5:27 p.m.] The PM yelled at you? OFF WITH HIS HEAD. Also LOLZ "slay"

[GwenR 5:30 p.m.] I mean, not really and I kind of deserved it. I just let some backwater nobleman talk my ear off about some mythical dragon marauding his property. It was not one of my finer moments. 

[ElizaM 5:31 p.m.] Okay wait SO THERE WAS ACTUALLY A DRAGON???

[GwenR 5:33 p.m.] I’m getting there, I’m getting there. So we show up at this backwater estate in Spring Hills, Stinky comes out to greet us, and let me tell you “vacant” didn’t even begin to describe him.

[ElizaM 5:34 p.m.] GET TO DRAGON PART

[GwenR 5:36 p.m.] I’m just trying to give you some context. Anyway, our whole first hour at Stinky's really is a funny story, but it is kind of long, so I’ll spare you for now. So we get in the cars and drive up and down the north road, and surprise, surprise, no dragon. Although General R noticed something kind of funny looking on one section, so we get out and they start investigating around, and they find this hidden hatch in the side of a hill. They open it and……..

[ElizaM 5:48 p.m.] AND?

[GwenR 5:50 p.m.] This lizard pops out.

[ElizaM 5:51 p.m.] Lizard.

[GwenR 5:53 p.m.] Yeah, but I promise, it had enough excess skin that it kind of looked like wings! But it popped out all of a sudden and I freaked out and stomped on it and killed it.

[ElizaM 5:55 p.m.] You stomped on a lizard and killed it.

[GwenR 5:57 p.m.] A lizard that kind of looked like it had wings, yes.

[EizaM 5:58 p.m.] I do not understand.

[GwenR 6:02 p.m.] So, if there was a dragon in the north, I stepped on it. Thereby slaying it. All hail me.

[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] I can’t even with you right now.
[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] That got picked up by the news?
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] Your MOTHER sent it to me.
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] I was not aware she had a sense of humor.

[GwenR 6:06 p.m.] It’s a human interest story about the monarchy! Royal slays first dragon in 1,000 years! Mom was proud!

[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] So what about the hatch?

[GwenR 6:10 p.m.] Oh, that’s where Stinky hid his stash of illegally traded moonshine among other...things. Which is why he thought it was a good idea to tell the Queen that she couldn’t use his road because of a dragon, and stuck to his story with a straight face the whole way through. Like I know I'm new at this and this is a piddly kingdom but still, guy, have some class.

[ElizaM 6:11 p.m.] "Piddly"...NERD...but honestly being queen kind of sounds lame a lot of the time (love you, so proud!), but this is actually kind of funny.

[GwenR 6:15 p.m.] Okay, but that first hour at Stinky’s is actually really funny. I’m out of my meeting now, call you? 

[ElizaM 6:16 p.m.] YAS PLEASE

Waking

Thomas was a gullible boy, as his mom had always said. Something about the time Thomas had traded his brand-new scooter for a beat-up wooden sword a friend was peddling. It was a great sword, mind you, perfect for playfighting and re-enacting.

But unfortunately, being gullible wasn’t something that could always be helped.

Thomas was also easily frightened–his overactive imagination could come up with numerous worst-case scenarios in any given situation–sometimes, sitting in church, he would imagine what he might do if someone came in the front door with a gun and tried to take everyone hostage. Thomas’s plan involved surreptitiously rolling out the side door and sprinting to a house next door to phone the police. Another contingency plan involved hiding behind a row of chairs until the coast was clear for escape. Brave Thomas planned to rush the intruder, but Real Thomas wasn’t sure that was the best idea. It was good to have a plan, though.

Thomas was all about plans.

As he slowly woke up on Saturday morning, he rolled over in bed and rubbed his eyes. The covers were all twisted around his body. Normally, an alarm would go off, but since it was Saturday, he had gotten to sleep in. It was still dark, although a bit of light was glowing around the window blinds, so it must have been about 6:30. Thomas’s eyes fluttered shut, and he dozed.

He gradually became aware of his vision again–the sleeping image became a real one, and his brain began processing the image of his room. He had been dozing with his eyes open. His eyes widened as he saw a shape curled up on the desk at the foot of his bed. What could that be?

It’s a snake!, Thomas thought, and a big one. How had it gotten in his room? It didn’t make sense – maybe through an air vent. He remembered listening to a mystery novel involving a poisonous speckled snake that murdered a person by slithering through an air vent and dispatching its sleeping prey.

It could definitely happen. Thomas could make out the silhouette of the snake’s rings lying in lazy rolls on the surface of the desk, its vaguely triangular head raised and alert. What was it doing?

Just resting, probably. But if Thomas moved, it might strike without warning. So Thomas had to think. He didn’t have a contingency plan for this. He could pull his quilt over his body, like a matador, then make a mad dash for the door. But if the snake moved for Thomas’s ankles, he’d still be dead.

Those snakes could be vicious – he shuddered to think about what a bite might do to him–cause him to lose all nervous response and shake uncontrollably.

Just then, Thomas remembered – he had left his hoodie on the desk. That’s all it was, at least probably. Summoning his courage, he reached over to the blinds and opened them. Sure enough–just his hoodie.

He jumped out of bed and swiped the hoodie off the desk–he had been meaning to hang it up anyway. No more snakes were going to get him. In case this happens again, he thought, I need a better plan.

The End.

Druthers

Rainy days have so much potential, but all too often we focus on what we can’t do instead of what we can.  In the picture book Druthers by author and illustrator Matt Phelan, a little girl named Penelope is bored because it’s raining.  Druthers coverSo her daddy asks her what her “druthers” are, and…if I told you anymore, I’d give the whole story away, so I’ll leave it up to you to see where it goes.  Druthers has a sweet story and lovely watercolor illustrations which are full of expression and detail.  Phelan is a talented artist, and I really enjoy how his paintings meld with the simple narration.  Druthers has a clever premise, and I like how Phelan uses the book to define and expand on the term “druthers” while also telling a story about a little girl, her daddy, and a rainy day.

If you’re interested in more books by Matt Phelan, I have reviewed his graphic novels Bluffton and Snow White on our sister site Flint and Bone Comic Reviews.

How the globalization of the market brings greater richness and innovation: an example

The Internet and flight have increasingly shrunk the boundaries of countries. While one hundred years ago travelling abroad would have been a major ordeal, today it is much easier. Similarly, the Internet has allowed virtually instantaneous global communication and commerce to become the daily norm. Whereas in the past, expertise was limited to countries or geographic regions—and only the people with ‘trade routes’ to those areas could benefit—, nowadays ideas flow pretty freely across countries around the globe, and I would argue we are better for it.

A quick example:

This is not meant to be an exhaustive, or even thorough, study, but merely some observations from about 10 years of following a specific industry. As anyone who has known me personally can attest, I have had a keen interest in the sporting cutlery market—especially pocket knives—for quite some time. As such, I have followed trends, sometimes closely, sometimes not, but it has interested me to see the way the market has changed over the past decade.

A couple key factors that I value when looking at an industry are richness and innovation.

Richness:

‘Richness’ can be a tricky term whenever talking about a specific market. There are two main factors that I would consider to contribute to this:

a. Diversity in Cultural Heritage—This part is pretty self-explanatory, and is relevant to the following point as well. Part of what makes knives such an interesting market to me is the variety of history. Culture plays a huge part in some designs—the Nepalese have the ‘kukri,’ the Philippines has the ‘Balisong,’ the Japanese the ‘tanto,’ and the Scots the ‘Sgian-dubh.’ Each knife bears a distinct heritage that is fascinating in and of itself.

b. Unique Design—The history and culture cannot be mentioned without it necessarily cascading into the point of design. Every knife is built differently: different blade shapes, lengths, grinds, materials, finishes, garnishings, etc., all of which stem from the creator’s cultural influences.

Whenever looking at the modern knife market, there is a definite richness brought by the diversity of cultural backgrounds represented. Whether looking at the aerospace grade precision of some Japanese and American manufacturers, the material innovation present in Europe and the U.S., and the design influences from all over the globe, the complexity and growth of the industry can be directly linked to the widespread diversity represented by the men and women who make it up and the cultures they represent.

1. Asheville Steel Phoenix, 2. Wander Tactical Hurricane, 3. Mcusta Tactility, 4. Svord Peasant knife
Production Innovation:

Each continent really brings its own influences and contributions to the table, but one that I would like to specifically mention given recent events is China. Not so many years ago, China was known as the center of the ‘budget’ knife world—the place where the cheap and low-end blades came from. However, this trend has been gradually changing. Bringing sophisticated machining skills and design chops, at a fraction of the price that American and European makers are capable of, many new Chinese companies have been pushing the envelope in what consumers can expect in terms of quality for the price. Without a global economy, it would be easy for innovation and cost cutting measures to be localized, but with the widespread availability of products, the best man can now offer his products to the world and challenge the status quo.

Conclusion:

Global markets enhance the offerings available to consumers, and this is always a good thing. While ten years ago I never would have thought that Chinese companies would be giving American/European/Japanese producers a run for there money, that is certainly happening in the present. Better products, at more affordable prices, with an even greater breadth and representation for different cultures, give consumers an ever better option for their needs.

A New House

I am that teacher that still always keeps a jar full of sweets in her desk drawer, in defiance of those nonsensical nutritional standards. The candy’s not simply there for the taking, of course – I get the children to do little jobs for me, like erase the whiteboard or tidy up the bookshelf, and then and only then do I reward them with a piece. After all, when the school board interviewed me, I told them that I wanted my students to own their classroom, to be invested in it, and to think of it as our joint little house. So, in this way, I keep the little nuggets busy, and my domicile remains orderly and inviting.

And, of course, when the students are done with their tasks, they know to stretch out their chubby little hands for a Starburst or a Tootsie Roll. If a child has been especially good that day, or is in particular in need of fattening up, I may even hand out a whole fun-sized bag of M&Ms. I tell them to eat their candy right away, right there in front of me, or else Mr. Jones may see it and confiscate it. I enjoy watching it disappear into their delectable little red mouths.

I do try to be fair and even in my bestowals, and not play favorites with my students any more than can be helped, per the wisdom passed down from my sister. It doesn’t do to keep just one morsel close to you; you never know what the other little dishes may get up to when the time comes. I grew careless of this at my last position, resulting in a few close-to-awkward questions. A tattle-tale mentioned that Ms. Haag was always giving candy to Katie, that she was my favorite. This was, of course, a tad nearer to the mark than I cared it to be, although I was able to play the part of a grieving teacher to great success. But, just in case, I decided to seek out a new schoolhouse; I simple couldn’t stay there, after such a traumatic experience as my favorite student disappearing.

It was quite easy to be hired somewhere else. I’m a sweet old woman, with a few old-fashioned values that are none the worse for wear and a great helping of empathy for my students. I tell the school board nothing but the truth. I let them know that I make it my business to be very aware of students’ home lives, and that I take it into account in everything I do.

To this end, I always call my students’ parents quite early in the year. One can tell quite a lot by that first phone call, which is ostentatiously merely meant to touch base with parents and thus start the year off on a good note. By now, I know exactly what to look for. A father immediately offering to come down to the school and “wup” their child – I just have to say the word – is bad; a mother gabbing on and on about how I needn’t fear, they always devote time to help their child with homework and projects, is much worse. On the other hand, a parent answering the phone with merely a resigned “What’ve they done now?” is very, very promising. It’s even better when the contact isn’t the student’s real parent, but a guardian of some sort. In Mason’s case, it was his stepmother. Within the first minute of our conversation, the woman flat-out let me know that while that child was at school, he was my responsibility to deal with, and mine alone. Exactly what I wanted to hear, really.

So, I’ll make sure Mason is included whenever I hand out my bits of candy. Like my other dear, delicious students, he’ll become rather fond of me and feel quite safe in my company. By the middle of the school year, it will be so very, very easy to bring him inside my nice, ginger-colored house, with my warm, glowing oven. Children may not wander alone into wild woods so often as they used to, but, in these modern cities, children disappear all the time. While many things have changed since the old days, I think my new house suits me just as well.

Recipe: Adventure

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 or more people
  • An idea
  • Equipment & preparation to taste

Serves:

  • At least 2, and produces lots of leftover stories

Directions:

  1. Recruit fellow adventurers. Find a person or persons to accompany you—adventures can be done quite well solo, but having a friend decreases chances of failure and increases chances of fun.
  2. Find a golden fleece. This step is fairly open-ended—you need to establish a good goal, preferably one that is at least slightly challenging, yet still achievable. This goal could be as simple as, “make a chocolate eclair cake” or as complex as “climb Mount Everest.”
  3. Gather equipment. For an adventure to be successful, there usually needs to be at least a small preparation time—spontaneous adventures are a wonderful idea but can occasionally lead to low-quality output, which is why we are providing the full recipe here. Prepare for your adventure by gathering all the required equipment—if cooking, then the ingredients; if mountain climbing, then the proper equipment for that.
  4. Train/practice for the adventure.  This is an optional step—if the adventure is baking, then proceed to the next step. If the adventure is climbing Mount Everest, a period of training will be necessary. Establish a routine that will prepare you and your party for the strenuousness of the climb up Everest. This has the added benefit of increasing your overall skill in addition to increasing your chances of survival on the climb. Note: this step may produce enjoyable mini-adventures as an added bonus.
  5. Begin the adventure. It’s important to have completed the preceding steps in order to make the adventure less stressful and more enjoyable. Even so, the unforeseen often happens, and even the best-laid plans can fall apart. Commit yourself to having fun, and the adventure is sure to be a success. Be sure to take lots of selfies so that you can make all your followers on social media jealous when they see them.
  6. When you are finished, store the leftovers in picture albums and stories.  It can also be helpful to self-assess after an adventure and recall what went well and what could have gone better. This will aid in preparations for the next time you decide to 

ahem

cook up an adventure.

A Halloween Scene

Who needs the orange Jack-o-lanterns, plastic spider-webs, and cheap décor that students are taping to their windows and doors in my dorm?  A free and more convincing Halloween scene can be found in the autumn scene outdoors.

My college campus is ready for Halloween.  Dry leaves rustle in the trees and on the ground.  Bad luck cracks zigzag the sidewalks.  Scrawny black cats alternately hover for scraps and dash away in alarm, crossing paths with dozens of doomed students daily.  At night, the new dorm that is under construction exudes the presence of a haunted house.  The glassless windows gape deep black in the dusk, and sheets of plastic fly loose from the plywood frame, rustling, whispering, and flapping in the wind as I walk by at night.  Bony trees finger the sky, the final tatters of leaves barely clinging on.  Dark grey clouds smother the fat half-moon and splash the sky with dark and light blotches like a predator’s pelt.  Spiders encroach on classrooms and dorm rooms, prowling on the floor or skittering across notebooks and desks.

The real Halloween scene is all around me, not confined to dangling Kleenex-like ghosts or strings of plastic eyeball lights.


Combined and described, these scenes create one creepy and doubtful compilation.  Yet, I have actually observed all these animals, objects, sights, and sounds over the course of my month back at college.  When I realized how all these observations reminded me of Halloween, I decided to describe them and spin them all together into one unified scene.  In spite of the picture I have been able to paint with these moments of reality, I am the first to admit that my campus is in fact quite pretty and welcoming, and the spiders are really the only part of the Halloween scene that has given me the creeps.

When Intellectual Safety Kills

People like safety. They like the comfortableness of it, the self-validating nature of it, the superiority of it in a world that is anything but safe. However, in most cases the illusion of safety is more highly prized than the reality of it. We surround ourselves with other likeminded individuals who hold similar mores, political ideologies, theologies, and worldviews, giving ourselves the impression of ‘safety’ through mutual validation.

However, like with most idols, this kind of ‘safety’ dehumanizes people. The opposing party, group, movement, culture, race, or denomination, becomes condensed into, and defined by, a stereotype. Keeping those we disagree with at arms length is ‘safe’, it is ‘comfortable’, and it permits the continuing illusion of  doctrinal and cultural superiority. This ‘safety’ also destroys meaningful dialogue because a genuine challenge to an established stance is seen as combative and a personal attack. When we identify ourselves with a specific group -and by identify I do NOT mean casually associate -any attack made on that group becomes a personal attack. Whether it be liberal vs conservative, Protestant vs Roman Catholic, pro-abortion vs pro-life: the list could go on and on -when you say I am ‘X’, any attack on ‘X’ becomes an attack on you. This is especially true in Christian circles which often demonize each other, as well as take worldly definitions with which to define themselves (conservative, liberal, etc…). We forget that when Joshua asked the angel of the Lord, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”, the angel did not respond to the question, but simply stated, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come”(Josh. 5:13-14). God was not bound by the human definitions that Joshua used (Israel vs. Canaanite), but rather is only defined by himself -God is on his own side.  Similarly with Jesus, the ultimate divider in his ministry was not between Jew or Gentile, clean or unclean, but between those who believed and those who did not. Christ alone is the ultimate one by whom we as Christians should identify, and any earthly categorization should be secondary to this -a very distant second. Jesus went to those whom the Jews despised and hated, explicitly because he was doing the will of his Father and that mattered more than any cultural, political, or misguided religious categorizations of his day.

Christ went to the outcast, the disenfranchised, and the poor of his time, bearing the good news of himself. He gave no heed to whether they were like him, or whether it was culturally acceptable, but only looked to his Father’s mission. We are called to be like Him first and foremost. We are not first Americans, or conservatives, or Reformed, or pro-life, or black/white/Hispanic/Asian, legal/illegal, rich/poor/middle-class, but rather Christians. Putting aside these human classifications does not mean we turn a blind eye to evil (Jesus certainly didn’t), but it does mean we are free in Christ to genuinely engage with all men, women, and children everywhere: in safety and without fear.