Letters from the Lunar Outpost

It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.
- Mark Twain, American Humorist and Writer (1835-1910)

jesus

Happy Pig Says, "Hi!"“In Shaanxi Province, Chinese police have discovered 22 tons of pork that was sold as certified halal (Islam-approved) beef. Muslims are forbidden from eating pork. This case, once again, demonstrates the lack of seriousness of the halal industry in Asia.”

source: Bare Naked Islam

I’ll admit that my first instinct was to laugh and that I actually did just that. I would also bet money that this was not some sort of mistake or careless oversight and that somewhere, some Chinese bureaucrat is getting a good laugh himself off the prank he pulled.

I’ll share a story though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it – I don’t know how it was that I could have been thirty years old and not know the recipe off-hand and failed to scrutinize the box a little better, but I remember vividly how I once unsuspectingly fed my Muslim wife a Marie Callender’s chicken carbonara dinner and saw first-hand how, after a few bites, she realized that the little bits along with the chicken and pasta were bacon and how she then proceeded to get sick from it. I felt horrible.

Those were just a couple bits of bacon, but 22 tons of mislabeled pig meat sold as halal???

Imagining all that pork being eaten by Muslims calls to mind an old joke:

Q: What’s a Jewish dillema?

A: Free ham.

If you find the story funny then laugh just as I did, but I would also hope that after laughing, we might ask ourselves if our prejudices might lead us to believe it would have been a little less funny had the pork been labeled Kosher and sold to a bunch of Jews in Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, we live in a little sliver of history where it’s the Muslims infected with the crazy virus and all the headlines in the news speak of Muslims blowing up bombs and trying to maim and kill as many innocents as they can, but as Christians, we should remind ourselves that after the first four centuries of enduring persecution and Constantine’s subsequent conversion, for most of the fifteen hundred years that followed, it was the Christians who were slaughtering the natives, burning the witches and starting the wars.

It’s a little hard for Christians to get high and mighty about Muslim terrorists when you look at the big picture of all the history that preceeded the times we live in.

So hey, if it’s funny, laugh, but I also think it is our duty as Christians to have respect for people of other faiths. I have the unique perspective of being married to a Muslim, and through our relationship and knowing quite a few Muslims personally, it’s given me a far better perspective on the typical Muslim in America than all those headlines of terror attacks might lead you to imagine.

I have a Muslim sister-in-law who is so gentle and peace-loving that she’s more like the way I envision Jesus than any Christian I’ve ever met.

I know a wonderful guy we call Easy Azizi and having a conversation with him is as interesting as any philosopher I’ve ever read.

The next time you look at a hijab-wearing woman as someone akin to an alien from another planet, allow me to introduce my mother-in-law who raised a son who served in the U.S. Army as mediator between our forces and the Afghan tribes.

Not only are Muslims as a whole not our enemy, but even if you were led to believe that they are, didn’t Jesus teach us to love our enemies?

Muslim people as a whole are not our enemies, and while it disgusts me that many in the media and the Obama administration try to sanitize the news and refuse to call Muslim terror for what it is, even if we are sane enough to call it for what it is, it still doesn’t change the fact that there are so many more examples of Muslims that we can be proud to call our fellow Americans.

Aren’t we, as Christians, supposed to believe that it’s not for us to judge? Aren’t we supposed to be aware that we are all sinners and that the only one who is worthy of judging anyone is God Himself?

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When people seek to share the message of Christ, most of their appeals are made in an attempt to speak to people’s hearts. From my experience however, most non-believers take great pride in thinking of themselves as guided by reason. A more effective way of reaching these people then, would be to make the case for Christianity not from an emotional standpoint, but from a logical standpoint.

That’s where you enter the realm of Christian apologetics. While I think it’s somewhat of an unfortunate label in that lends itself to being misconstrued, just realize that when we speak of Christian apologetics, it’s not a method of making apologies and saying you’re sorry for being a Christian, the word “apologetics” in this case is derived directly from the Greek, apologia: a rebuttal or verbal defense.

In having just finished C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, I want to tell you that it lays out the strongest, most rational case for Christianity I’ve ever encountered.

Again, we’re left with a title that’s a little bit subject to misinterpretation. We’re not speaking of “mere Christianity” here the way you might say a person acts like nothing more than a “mere child”, instead, Lewis borrows the phrase from the 17th century writer Richard Baxter, who wrote of “mere Christianity” as being the essentials of Christianity, the core beliefs shared by Catholics and Protestants alike. Lewis goes on to define it as “an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere’ Christianity, which omits the disputed points.” And doesn’t it make perfect sense to start the non-believer from the point where all the denominations agree, instead of getting lost in the points of contention?

At the age of 30 as a non-believer attending Oxford, Lewis says he finally gave in and admitted that “God was God”, describing himself as “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” It is from that perspective as a former non-believer that Lewis uses his great talents as a writer to document his own evolution from the non-believer to the true believer. In doing so, he makes a compelling case for Christianity.

At 229 pages, Mere Christianity has more thought-provoking passages per page than just about anything I’ve ever read. Allow me to share just seven samples in hopes it may inspire you to pickup a copy of the book yourself:

Atheism

On being an atheist:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

Satan

On the devil:

Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil – hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.”

Free Will

On free will:

When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of the cleverer and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all.

Jesus Was a Great Teacher

On the oft-repeated “respect” the non-believer gives in saying Jesus was a great teacher:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Jesus Died for Our Sins

On why we need Jesus to properly repent of our sins:

Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

. . .

You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

Victorian Woman

On propriety, or decency:

The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest,’ proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.

Angel and Devil from Animal House

On morality:

There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was ‘the sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it’. And I am afraid that is the sort of idea that the word Morality raises in a good many people’s minds: something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.

. . .

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

I’ve done my share of travelling in both directions. I need ask myself of myself more often, towards which state am turning today?

We’re just scratching the surface here, but imagine an entire book of kernels of wisdom like the seven shared here, and for every kernel, even more to ponder as he expands on every thought. Mere Christianity is full of inspiration and full of ammunition should you enter in a discussion of God with the typical atheist who prides themselves on their logical thinking.

Mere Christianity at amazon.com

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On Easter Sunday, I wondered what would Jesus tweet about Google showing Him no love with their doodles for thirteen years running. @RosieChihuahua was kind enough to share this in reply:

Thanks for the share, Rosie. Wow, very well done, Igniter Media.

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So a few people on the Internet couldn’t help but notice that after 16 years of existence, Google chose today as the day they would honor Cesar Chavez’ birthday . . .

Cesar Chavez Honored by Google on Easter Sunday

Today also happens to be Easter Sunday, the day that marks the Resurrection of Christ for the Christian faithful around the world, but hey, I don’t know why people are freaking out over Google’s choice of a leftist labor leader over the chosen Savior of two billion people. After all, Google has chosen to ignore Easter for thirteen straight years now. The last time Google recognized Easter was in their third year of existence back in 2000.

So I’m trying to figure out my reply to Google’s ongoing snub of the two billion faithful and I’m remembering how I was told that if you want to be a Christian, you should strive to be Christ-like in everything you do. Whenever you come to a decision point, you should ask yourself, WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? In this case, I asked myself, how would Jesus respond?

Unfortunately, I can’t really imagine what an Internet Jesus would tweet about this, so I decided to do the next best thing and take a positive course of action.

There, fixed it for you, Google!

Google Crown of Thorns

I’m also fixing the default search engine on all the browsers in the house as well.

Happy Easter, all.

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Just because I happen to be getting treatment in a place where there is no Internet, doesn’t mean my blog should have to suffer. Yes indeed, it’s yet another ghost post!

By the time this goes live, I’ll be knee-deep in it, but as I write this, I’m one day removed from a Salvation Army rehab program where I’ve been told there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on the “faith-based” part of it.

Will you be my higher power?I actually like the idea of that. I always thought it was kind of chickenshit the way Alcoholics Anonymous left it all gooey and nebulous with the “higher power” stuff. I mean, I understood it – the goal of A.A. being to help as many people get sober as possible, you don’t want to alienate anyone, but while I always ended up at the mainstream “higher power”-type meetings, I always thought it was cool that some of the members at the meetings also went to meetings where they made a straight-up declaration that JESUS was their higher power. I just like that kind of faith and certainty in people. I don’t have it myself, but I respect it.

Adam and EveThe problem for me has always been that I just can’t really say with any honesty that I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died for our sins and that he was resurrected and will one day return triumphant. I have an even harder time with the Old Testament and imagining the true beginning of humanity starting with an Adam and Eve, that Noah and family and two animals of every kind really sailed The Great Flood, or that God saw humanity building a Tower of Babel to the heavens and responded by scattering humanity and confounding their speech . . . I have a vivid imagination, I pride myself on having an open mind, but we’re only eleven chapters into Genesis and there’s way more there than my mind could ever seriously entertain as being fact.

I think I’ve finally found a way to make all that skepticism irrelevant. I have to look at things in a different way. I have to look at the world around me and ask myself which team do I want to be on.

AthiestI have a lot of atheist friends (and no, they’re not all scientists and engineers and mathematicians, just most of them) and if there’s one commonality among most of the atheists you’ll meet, they all seem to take a great pride in their intellect and their rationality, which leads them to wonder why someone would even try to waste their time talking about God when there’s no proof that God exists. I think they feel a little sorry for those people who cling to their superstitions and their faith in God. What I don’t understand is how so many smart people can fail to see the flip side of it and realize that it takes just as much faith for them to believe in the absence of God as it does for the believer to believe that there is a God, because if you put all the proof of God in one side of a scale and all the proof of the absence of God in the other side of the scale, what you’ll end up with is two empty scales.

Lot of great minds and wonderful people on Team Atheist, but just too much smug certainty and cynicism over there. I wouldn’t want to play for Team Atheist.

BuddhaHow picking Team Budda? Ahhh . . . I’m trying to get skinny and I’d have a hard time looking up to that fat, slovenly Buddha.

GnosticismHow about Team Gnostic? When I was fasting in the hospital for ten days, I had the doctors demanding that I eat or they were going to strap me down and put IVs in me. What did I do? I pulled out the religion card. “I’m doing it for religious reasons, the fasting brings me closer to God.” (Actually it was just a perfect opportunity to shed pounds.) “What religion are you?” “I’m Gnostic.” The blank stares told me it was the perfect answer. Only the true Biblical scholar has a real handle on that offshoot of Christianity, I certainly don’t know enough about Gnosticism to play on Team Gnostic, although I did find it convenient to pose as a Team Gnostic player on a couple occasions.

Hanukkah MenorahWhat about going with Team Heeb? I love the Jewish people, no people have been so persecuted only to rise above and become the most prosperous people on the planet. They even seem to understate their remarkable accomplishments for such a little tribe, I guess it’s in response to people saying things like, “The Jews own all of Hollywood, man,” as if it’s a bad thing that they kicked ass and pretty much took over the entire industry. There’s nothing to be embarrassed by that! Be proud of your people and your incredible accomplishments! I don’t know though, I probably wouldn’t be able to wear a yarmulke with a straight face, so Team Heeb is out for me.

AllahHow about playing for Team Allah? They’ve got 1.5 billion on their side and I’ll tell you what, my sister-in-law is the real deal, she does her prayers five times a day and the peace and tranquility and love for humanity that just exudes from her makes knowing her and being around her about the closet thing I’ll ever get to meeting Gandhi. She is that full of peace and kindness. She could be a world ambassador to reclaim “The Religion of Peace” from the bad press the radical jihadists have given the religion. On her faith and how it manifests itself in her life, I’d put Team Allah as my second choice, but for me I have to chose . . .

JesusTeam Jesus. I’ll tell you why I’m picking Team Jesus – it has everything to do with the teammates I’ll have and the teachings he laid out in The Bible. I’m basing it mainly on people I know, who I really look up to and say, I would like to be that caliber of a person. Don’t be distracted by the majority of Christians-in-name-only and those who are simply Christian by default through their parents, ignore the Christians who maybe go to church on the big holidays or once a week on Sundays. I’m talking about the real deal, talk the talk and walk the walk type-of-Christians and they are truly the best people I know. They are people who you can see their faith working through them every day and in every decision they make. That’s the team I want to play on.

Forget all the details or debating whether the stories of the Bible are literal or only serve as allegories, forget all that, I’m just looking at the team I’d like to be on the most and I’m picking Team Jesus. There, I said it, and now I think I’m much more prepared for it when they unleash the faith-based quotient of the program. I’m just a rookie here on Team Jesus, I’m never going to go into it blindly, but I’ve got an open mind and I’m ready to listen.

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Currently Listening To:

Team of Rivals
by
Doris Kearns Goodwin