Category Archives: History

For History’s Sake, Write Your Life

We’ve all heard the refrain that history is written by the victors, and as such, the entire story can never be told.

In a society where the loudest people get all the attention, and biases in news agencies grow more obvious and prevalent, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those not in the literal midst of important events to know what’s true and what’s false.

I don’t recommend we ignore important events, but I do recommend we do our research, and see if we can find people who were there to get their perspective of what happened. And not only one person, but more than one, and from all sides. The truth will eventually be found.

Discernment is key. And honesty.

Yesterday’s devotional focused on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) who “wrote books that shed a true light on what was happening behind the Iron Curtain.”

Without him and others like him who wrote and spoke fearlessly and honestly about what happened in their country, it’s likely the truth of that time would never have been revealed.

We must do the same.

With all the furor over so-called offensive statues with regard to the Civil War, and calls to rename everything because some people find it offensive is not only silly, but dangerous. As ugly as our history is at times (and no country can claim otherwise), destroying it is equally as ugly. If we’re not honest and open about our history, we can never learn and grow from it.

And where does it end? Will we now destroy the writings of people who lived during that time, because what they wrote offends some people?

Who ultimately gets to decide what’s offensive anyway?

Plenty of people find our founding documents offensive, including the Constitution, simply because it was written by people who did what many consider terrible things. Who wrote them is unimportant compared to the document itself. Should we ignore the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he cheated on his wife?

But I get off topic.

We live in interesting times, sometimes dangerous times. If we don’t chronicle them, and do so with complete honesty, our children will never know what we accomplished — both good and bad — and they will in effect never learn from either. History will then be guaranteed to repeat itself.

It might anyway, but that’s another entry.

I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people, and parties.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Science in Morality

When thinking of the natural world — science if you will — we rarely tie morality into it. They should be mutually exclusive, because science is the study of the natural world, whereas morality is considered a construct invented by man (or God depending on your beliefs) in order to create civil society.

I watched a video where a philosopher contorted herself into a mental pretzel while trying to describe how some "early fetuses" have no moral status when other "early fetuses" do, and as such abortion is not a moral issue.

Aside: This post isn't about abortion, per se, but about how biological knowledge can and should, in many circumstances, define our morality.

Nowhere in the video did the philosopher or the two men interviewing her bring up the biology of said fetuses and how one — scientifically speaking — has moral status, and therefore a right to be born, when another doesn't. You can find the video here:

https://youtu.be/r5SQnQjryzI

This in turn reminded me of another conversation (paraphrased, because it happened a while ago) when someone argued that biology and laws have no bearing on each other, especially when it comes to human rights.

I said (again paraphrased), "Biology has everything to do with it. For instance, we don't give monkeys or dogs the same rights as humans. Why? Because they're not biologically human."

Humans have known that almost instinctively for thousands of years, even though they had no idea what a cell looked like, let alone a DNA strand that more definitively proves the differences between all species, whether animal, plant, or other.

I'll even wager most of our morals depend on our understanding of the natural world. They should be, and always remain, intrinsically linked.

A few months ago, I read portions of Leviticus. Many find it dry and boring, because it contains laws about holiness, ritual cleanliness, family life, and a slew of others.

What I found most interesting is many of the laws, especially with regard to sanitation, we use and take for granted today. The difference is, we do those things not for religious or moral reasons, but because we understand the science of how diseases spread.

If we choose to ignore biology, and try to make a "moral" stance based on how we think our biology should be instead of what it is, we do so at our own peril.

That society is trying to erase what it means to be human, man, woman, boy and girl, became abundantly clear with the reaction to the release of the so-called "Google memo." You can find the text of the memo below. I encourage you to read it, and not depend on my opinion of it (or anyone else for that matter, including the writer of the linked article):

http://gizmodo.com/exclusive-heres-the-full-10-page-anti-diversity-screed-1797564320

Mr. James Damore (who wrote the memo) made a valid point — which many scientists have proven time and again — that men and women are different. Men — on average — react one way to a particular situation, and women — on average — react another way. One isn't necessarily better or worse than the other. It should show, however, that men and women complement each other. Where one is weak, the other is strong, and vice-versa. When we work together as partners with different roles to play — other than having and raising children — we can accomplish great things.

In short, trying to make women and men, and boys and girls the same, we both ignore and destroy what makes each beautiful, unique, and strong. Morally, we should acknowledge, encourage, and embrace our biological differences, because if we don't, we will, in the end, destroy each other and ourselves.

Saying It Right

Everyone needs a method of expression. Some express through painting, dancing, singing, music, mathematics or simply through speaking to others.

I am good at math, and liked to draw and paint when I was younger. I even liked to dance and sing, but I never tried to be good enough to do it in front of others.

Speaking, now there's a talent that I never had. I always say that God didn't connect my mouth to my brain. Growing up, when I had a thought, I could never express it how it formed in my mind. If anything it came out the opposite of how I intended.

For instance, my grandmother gave me a silver and turquoise ring when I was about eight or nine. Maybe ten. I noticed the price in black marker on the inside said "$10." For a turquoise ring. I thought, "Wow, I expected it to be worth more than that, because it's so beautiful. Grandma got a real good deal on it."

What came out of my mouth: "Wow, this ring was cheap."

Grandma was not impressed, and in fact felt (rightly) insulted. She said, "Well if you think it's cheap, you can give it back."

I was shocked that she got angry, and couldn't understand how I hurt her feelings. After she calmed down, we talked about it, and I was able to explain better what I meant. I also realized how my words hurt her feelings.

There are countless other instances, and even today I find myself eating my feet.

Another instance was in 1st or 2nd grade. All the students took turns reading part of a book out loud. When it came to my turn, I stumbled over the words to the point a boy sitting next to me said, "Don't you know how to read?"

Apparently the teacher noticed as well. She recorded me and called my mom to replay it. She was concerned enough that she believed I needed to be placed in a class for the learning disabled.

My mom put the kibosh on that by saying, "Can my daughter read, and comprehend what she's reading?"

"Yes," the teacher said.

"So she can't read out loud. That's not a learning disability."

My mom didn't tell me any of that until years later, and for a long time, I wondered if something was wrong with me when it came to reading out loud. After a while, I realized it was because my brain was reading faster than my mouth could keep up with. Hence the stumbling. Even today I have to concentrate on making sure my eyes and brain read at the same speed as my mouth. I don't always succeed, and I admit it's frustrating.

I hope no one asks me to do a reading of one of my books if ever I get published.

Writing, on the other hand, for some reason that came easy, even at an early age. Now as I look back, I'm grateful God didn't give me the ability to speak well. It forced me to find another way to express myself, and writing became (and still is) my outlet. Most everything I write, especially when writing from my heart and soul, comes out on paper how my brain envisioned it. That's not to say it doesn't need editing for spelling, grammar, and concision (I tend to ramble), but the meat and bones are there. The best part is I'm rarely misunderstood. Not as often as when I talk anyway.

"The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say." –Anais Nin

Kill Language – Kill Freedom

I love watching my son grow up. What parent doesn’t, right? The best part for me is how he develops, especially when it comes to language. When he was still a toddler, I was astounded at how quickly he picked up concepts, and how they all tied to language. For instance, I showed him an apple, and said “This is an apple.” He understood right away what I meant. He also didn’t get confused when I taught him colors. I pointed to a red apple to show him “red,” and he easily grasped the difference between “red” and “apple.” I understood then that language is built into our brains and develops naturally as we grow up.

Language keeps us connected to each other, and helps us learn about the world. Without language, we couldn’t build anything (consider the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9). Imagine trying to build a house with others without the ability to communicate what needs to be done.

Even math and music are considered languages, and while some believe they can do without math, most everyone needs music.

Mess with language, and we mess with the free exchange of ideas. People no longer understand their world or each other, and we no longer grow as a species.

George Orwell understood this better than most, I think. He expressed his concerns in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language.”

He dug deeper into and expressed it more in his book, “1984,” most specifically with the language he labeled as “Newspeak.”

According to a website dedicated to Orwell:

“The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought.”

To expand the idea (on the same webpage):

“Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in The Times were written in it, but could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech.”

I ran into this article earlier today:

http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/20/college-writing-center-declares-american-grammar-a-racist-unjust-language-structure/

Which in turn led me to University of Washington / Tacoma’s University Writing Program and their Writing Center:

Under “Our Beliefs” of their “Statement on Antiracist and Social Justice Work in the Writing Center” it states:

“The writing center works from several important beliefs that are crucial to helping writers write and succeed in a racist society. The racist conditions of our society are not simply a matter of bias or prejudice that some people hold. In fact, most racism, for instance, is not accomplished through intent. Racism is the normal condition of things. Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society. For example, linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent “standard” of English. Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”

I’m sure you can see the correlation between Newspeak and what the writing center is espousing.

What led me on this journey (thanks to LK Hunsaker) is this article:

According to the article, some publishers are hiring so-called sensitivity readers “who, for a nominal fee, will scan the book for racist, sexist or otherwise offensive content. These readers give feedback based on self-ascribed areas of expertise such as ‘dealing with terminal illness,’ ‘racial dynamics in Muslim communities within families’ or ‘transgender issues.'”

These statements are of special concern:

“Sensitivity readers have emerged in a climate – fueled in part by social media – in which writers are under increased scrutiny for their portrayals of people from marginalized groups, especially when the author is not a part of that group.”

And:

“It feels like I’m supplying the seeds and the gems and the jewels from our culture, and it creates cultural thievery,” Clayton [a sensitivity reader] said. “Why am I going to give you all of those little things that make my culture so interesting so you can go and use it and you don’t understand it?”

Also known as “cultural appropriation.”

As an aside, for me personally, I don’t care who writes about my culture, as long as they do so accurately. Not every person in a particular culture wants to write about their culture, so why limit themselves, and in the end possibly dooming their culture’s future to oblivion because no one dared, or was allowed to, write about it?

As another aside, the article included this:

“Despite the efforts of groups like We Need Diverse Books, ‘it’s more likely that a publishing house will publish a book about an African-American girl by a white woman versus one written by a black woman like me,’ Clayton says.”

I’m calling bullshit on that. During my own search of agents, I had to cross out quite a few because they are actively seeking so-called marginalized writers such as Ms. Clayton. For which I am not a member.

Most agents care only about the story and the quality of writing. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the writer’s race, gender, etc.

Even those seeking minorities still need a salable story, so although a person’s minority status may get them to the front of the line, he/she still has to deliver. Seems to me, Ms. Clayton is holding herself back, and using her race and gender as an excuse not to try, let alone succeed. Too harsh? Offensive even? Good.

Now back to the original subject.

All of this is political correctness not only run amok, but an attempt to control thought. When you control how language is used – eliminating certain words, or changing the definition of words in order to change peoples’ perception – you can control how a person thinks. When you control how someone thinks, that person loses their freedom to think otherwise. They can no longer think critically, because, in a sense, their words are chosen for them. The number of words – and ideas – they can use are curtailed if not outright eliminated.

If I offend you, or if you offend me, all the better. To quote (where it originated I don’t know): “The solution to offensive free speech is more free speech, not less.”

Writers especially need to protect all words and language – our tools of trade. We can’t allow any type of censorship, because once it grabs hold, we may lose everything.

Truth is most often found in offensive speech, because it forces us to think and respond. Human beings are experts at lying to ourselves, and lying to each other. By attempting to control words and speech, the truth gets lost and liars rule at the expense of everyone else.

The Not So Big Blue Marble

earthriseThe single worst event to happen to our culture is showing the first picture of Earth from space.

I know what you’re thinking: “Huh? How can a single, awe-inspiring picture from space damage our culture? That picture shows the epitome of human determination, creativity, and risk-taking. It heralded countless technological advances that we now take for granted.”

All true, but as with everything, there is a down side.

When we see pictures of Earth taken by satellites and astronauts, on Google Earth and the map apps on our phones, our perspective of the size of our world has altered, irrevocably.

It’s not the vast, massive world that could never be tamed or disrespected. We instead see it as that little blue marble floating in a sea of sparkling black.

As such, we have elevated our own size, increasing our arrogance with the belief that because we can see any part of our planet with a click of the mouse, we can control it.

Yet we can’t predict the weather with more than a 30% accuracy from one day to the next. We’ll never stop a volcano from erupting, a tornado or hurricane, an earthquake or tsunami. Or as Tennessee sadly shows, we can’t stop all wildfires. We either have to get out of the way (if we have time) or pray that nature will intervene on itself.

We’ve lost our humility, and in some ways we think of ourselves as greater than or equal to God.

And part of that arrogance and self-delusion came from seeing a picture of our planet from space – making it appear thousands of times smaller than it really is.

Are My Teeth Strong Enough?

Recently I was offered a volunteer editing job for an organization based out of Asia helping to start new churches and orphanages.

I’ve edited one newsletter so far, which took all of fifteen minutes to do. It was quite well-written, especially for someone who’s English isn’t his native language.

I was also asked how many I could edit a year, and I told them one every two weeks would be doable.

Thinking all requests would be easy like the last one.

I may have bitten off more than I could chew.

A few nights ago I received the following email (in part):

“I have a very rough story (it’s a bit difficult story). You will need to work on it to be developed into a story. What I have in the attachment is a basic story and very rough outline. Will you be able to develop it into a story? The audience will be our friends in the US. If you need to do any research on alcoholism, winter or the plight of slums, you can always do a Google search. If you need any specific information, do let me know.

But you do have full freedom to do this story. You will have to rework it completely. You have that freedom.

So how do I describe the sounds, the smells and the overall sense of a place I’ve never been? I found hundreds, if not thousands of photos of the slums, so describing the look will be easy.

To create an immersion of the place for readers will be difficult, and more than a little daunting. And not only the five senses, but the spiritual sense of the place, the despair, the anger, and sorrow. How can I capture that in such a way without being over-dramatic, but to someone who has been there can say, “She got it right.”

I’ve never sat down and consciously prayed before I wrote anything. I just wrote. In this case, however, I will have to pray quite hard before a single word is typed, because I don’t think I can write this on my own — and have it be believable, and honest.

I’m writing, after all, about real people in real circumstances. To over-dramatize or change their life story to fit my idea of what it should be is the height of disrespect, both to the people who live it, and the readers who want to know the truth of what happened, and is happening.

God and Science: Irreconcilable Differences?

On a Facebook group called “Conservatives and Liberals in Search of Understanding,” one conversation discusses how science and the arts have fallen prey to political agendas.

One person brought up how people approach science like a religion, and how science and religion are incompatible.

But are they? Do we have to approach God on only a spiritual, or at least emotional level, ignoring our intellect? Do we have to study science leaving our emotions at the door?

During the discussion, I stated by comparing religion – or at least faith – to science is apples and oranges. Since their end-goals are so different, comparing the two is counter-productive.

The more I think about it, however, the more I see how they’re not only compatible, but are intrinsically linked – assuming we are willing to see the connections. That’s key. It seems to me some scientists (and science enthusiasts) are unwilling to see God in the natural world, and enough religious people fail to acknowledge that the pursuit of science can help us see and understand God more clearly.

Recently my son and I watched a fabulous 6-part documentary called “Egypt” produced by the BBC. The episodes focused on three men who were key in discovering the rich history of ancient Egypt; from Tutankhamun’s tomb to the life of Ramases and finally translating hieroglyphs via the Rosetta Stone.

The last two episodes focused on how the British and France raced to be the first to translate the hieroglyphs, most specifically Thomas Young of England and Jean-Francois Champollion. During the show, a monk from the Catholic Church expressed concern that Champollion’s studies would lead to proof that the earth was older than 6000 years old.

My first thought was why? Why, if God is the creator of everything, would we – especially as Christians – be afraid of evidence that challenges, not the Bible, but our notions of it and God? It may seem like I’m parsing a bit, but hang with me. It’ll all make sense by the end.

I soon realized the Catholic Church at that time wasn’t concerned about people’s faith being challenged or weakened. When people are shown that their church is incorrect in their doctrines – especially when it comes to science – the Church wanted to shut it out, or silence it, because when people question their church, the church loses power.

Galileo Galilei believed and was able to prove mathematically that the Earth and other planets in the Solar System rotated around the Sun at a time when most everyone else believed we were the center of the universe. His views were controversial to say the least. He, too, challenged the Church that wielded even more power than during Champollion’s time. He was eventually tried by the Inquisition and was convicted of heresy where he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Even so, hundreds of years later, most people have accepted his and other scientific discoveries that the Earth and the universe is much older than 6000 years, and we are indeed not the center of the universe.

Yet Christians, in accepting this, don’t find any disconnect to these discoveries and their faith and the authority of the Bible. How does that work?

A few things.

Some have accused Christians of abandoning their reason and intellect in favor of their faith in God and the authority of the Bible.

Galileo felt this way when the Church tried to silence him. One of my favorite quotes expresses his frustration quite succinctly:

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

Nor do I, and nor does the Bible:

“Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.” – Proverbs 10:15

“Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” – Proverbs 14:15

“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” – Romans 1:19-20

There are many more, but I don’t want to inundate you too much. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with doing your own research.

God has countless times (well, not literally, but certainly more than I have personally counted), encouraged if not outright demanded that we use our intellect as well as our hearts to learn and grow toward him. As the passage in Romans said, if we want us to know him better, look at and study his creation. All of his qualities can be found there.

Sure we get things wrong; it’s part of being human, but anything we discover doesn’t change who God is. It can change our perception of him and certainly challenge our faith. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, such challenges and uncertainties in our notions can lead us to greater understanding and greater faith.

Some have claimed that theories such as the Big Bang and Evolution disprove the Bible. If we try to read the Bible as a scientific paper on the origin of the universe, of course we’ll find discrepancies. Doing so, however, makes as much sense as reading a toddler’s first book on colors to discover how fast light travels and bends around gravity wells. We have to consider the audience when reading the Bible. It was originally written for a nomadic people who had no formal education and had no concept of galaxies, or that every life form is made up of millions of individual cells, and it all starts with a single DNA strand.

One such argument is that the Earth and heavens were created in a single day. Our understanding of space and how light travels alone tosses that idea out. So does that mean the Bible is wrong? No. The Bible also says that to God, “… a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.” (Psalm 90:4) He is eternal, so a day to him could very well last millions, if not billions or trillions of years when measuring time how we perceive it. Again, we have to remember to consider the original audience.

So to anyone who uses scientific discovery to “prove” God does not exist, I can only tell them to look deeper, because they haven’t looked deep enough. Besides, God will only go where he’s invited. If someone refuses to see God, there’s nothing anyone can do to prove otherwise. They have to first acknowledge the possibility. I like to use Christopher Columbus as an example. He didn’t know the Earth was round before he set sail; he believed it and then set out to prove it. Many didn’t believe he was right until he showed them otherwise. The flip-side of that is there are still many who believe the e

arth is flat, and no amount of proof will convince them. They simply refuse to see. Proving God’s existence works the same way. He will remain invisible until people are willing to acknowledge his existence.

Which is the very heart of scientific search and discovery: To present a hypothesis – no matter how outlandish it seems at first – research and experiment until we are able to prove one way or another if it’s true or false.

Do we get things wrong at times? Absolutely, and we will continue to stumble our way through, taking many a wrong turn here and there. But that doesn’t change anything. The Sun will shine and galaxies will continue forming and imploding long after our bodies turn to dust. And God remains who he is regardless of how we view him.

Science can no more disprove God than these words disprove my existence.

And scientific search and discovery is one way we can find him.

 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. – Jeremiah 29:13