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January 31, 2007

The Hero’s Call

Beliefnet has an interview with Tim Kring, creator of NBC's Heroes -- which, for my money, is still the most intriguing show on television right now. The commentary doesn't add a lot to the intrigue, but it does suggest that the story's ongoing tension between humanistic progress and divine calling may extend beyond the script. It's as though Kring himself is asking the same questions as his heroes: "Are we given abilities for a purpose, or is it merely an evolutionary luck of the draw?"

Is the message here that we all have to be our own heroes?

The ordinariness of the characters’ lives is what I think people are relating to. There is a transparency between the viewer and the show in terms of the types of characters that you’re watching. You feel like that could be me, or that’s like somebody I went to high school with. You feel that this could happen to you, and maybe this is happening to you.

Of course these characters are experiencing this in some form of supernatural ability. But I think it does tap into that sort of wish fulfillment that your life can turn on a dime, or that you’re meant for something special. I think most people feel that their lives are meant for more than what they’re living at this time.

But, of course, powerful skills alone do not a hero make. In an article for BreakPoint Online, Alex Wainer offers the example of one of the show's characters -- the appropriately named Hiro -- as one who recognizes that he has been given a chance to serve his fellow man and perhaps save the world.

Continue reading "The Hero’s Call" »

’Wiping Out Christians’

Chuck Colson gives a sobering account in today's BreakPoint commentary of what our fellow Christians are facing in Burma:

Recently, reports have surfaced that, in one Chin Christian area, “300 [Buddhist] monks” were sent “to forcibly convert the populace.” In another area, another monk, working on behalf of the regime, burned down a Christian church.

This is all part of a pattern of persecution, which includes “ethnic cleansing” of Christian minority groups, the destruction of villages, forced conversions, and even rape and murder. It’s part of the regime’s attempt “to create a uniform society in which the race and language is Burmese and the only accepted religion is Buddhism.”

Christians in the West cannot sit idly by and let the Burmese junta get away with this. We must act and defend our brethren.

Click here to find out how you can help to do just that.

Another Dose of Wilberforce: Lazy Minds Repent!

In Jesus' summary of the Law, he tells us we are to love the Lord God with all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind (Luke 10:27; Mark 12:23). What does it mean to love God with all our mind? At the very least it must mean a rigorous mental pursuit of God through the Scriptures. This is a fundamental part of developing a biblical worldview. William Wilberforce took to task the Christians of his day for not pursuing God with a strenuous exertion of the mind. Perhaps, we too, could use his words as an encouragement to press on to know God more (Hosea 6:3).

How criminal, then, must this voluntary ignorance of Christianity and the Word of God appear in the sight of God. When God of His goodness has granted us such abundant means of instruction, how great must be the guilt, and how awful must be the punishment, of voluntary ignorance!

And why are we to expect knowledge without inquiry and success without endeavor? Bountiful as is the hand of Providence, it does not bestow its gifts to seduce us into laziness. It bestows gifts to arouse us to exertion. No one expects to attain to the heights of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory without vigourous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance.

Yet we expect to be Christians without labor, study, or inquiry! This is the more preposterous because Christianity, a revelation from God and not an invention of man, shows us new relations with their correspondent duties. It contains also doctrines, motives, and precepts peculiar to itself. We cannot reasonably expect to become proficient accidentally, as one might learn insensibly the maxims of worldly policy or a scheme of mere morals.

What could you do differently today to love God with all your mind?

To read more of Wilberforce's own ideas, check out his classic work, Real Christianity.

Religion Anyone? Finding God in Unusual Places

It never fails that God would make Himself known in the most unusual places. This is nothing new. But it is unusual that you'd find an article on the topic. I came across this article on redemption in prison today.

The issue of faith-based rehabilitation programs has been the topic of much debate over the past months. As many know, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative is only 13 days away from its appeal hearing for the faith-based program it runs in Newton, Iowa, which was sued by the Americans United for Seperation of Church and State. Their case will come before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, MO.

Faith-based groups seem to be getting a lot of flack, lately... but when you look deep down you see that what unites them all is the results they produce. This article had something to say about it too.

So where is the line that will allow faith-based groups to provide the goods and services they long to offer, while not outraging the public who cry "FOUL!" everytime a faith-based group offers a helping hand?

Faith and science together: Some thoughts on origins, part 1

Commenter Sarah Edwards writes, in response to my post about having been a “confused creationist”:

Gina, I'd be interested to hear more here of your experiences with this issue. What you talk about in the old blog entry you linked to sounded awfully familiar. Personally, I'm at the stage that when people ask about origins, I just say that however the world began, I'm pretty sure God had something to do with it. However, this completely sidesteps the whole issue of interpreting those verses in Genesis...

I remember that state of mind very well, Sarah. I grew up with the mindset (absorbed mostly from church and from Christian school) that Christianity and science could not ever possibly hope to come together on this issue; therefore, scientists must be either mistaken or fraudulent on issues such as carbon dating and so forth.

It was when I came to work for BreakPoint that I first encountered something called “Intelligent Design.”

Continue reading "Faith and science together: Some thoughts on origins, part 1" »

January 30, 2007

Love Goes Behind Enemy Lines: Some Reflections on ’Blood Diamond’

This past weekend I went to see the movie Blood Diamond. Honestly, I’m not sure whether or not to recommend the film to you. It was horribly violent, but the violence was of the kind that is regrettably true to life. As I watched the horror of evil men training up child soldiers to be killing machines, it vividly brought home to me the horrors that children, particularly in Uganda and other parts of Africa, are facing even as I write. It is the kind of evil that I want to shut out, but which I know I am called to be aware of so that I might do my part to fight against it.

I was reminded, however, that Hotel Rwanda handled an equally violent subject just as powerfully, but with much more finesse. The word “obscene” actually comes from Greek theater. There were certain things that were left ob scena, or literally off stage. If you take the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex, for example, we only hear of Jocasta hanging herself, we don’t see it on stage. Similarly, in the film Hotel Rwanda, we see a van as it strains to move across a bumpy terrain shrouded in fog. Only after some moments do we realize (though we don’t actually see) the reason the van is moving so laboriously is that it is rolling over dead bodies. This scene made a vivid impact on me, without branding my brain with direct pictures of mangled bodies. Let's just say Blood Diamond was not as deft in its treatment of violence.

I did see in the film, however, a stunning (though unwitting) reflection of the Gospel story. When Solomon Vande is ripped from his son, Dia, there is nothing that will stand in the way of a father’s love. Solomon risks life and limb to track his son and rescue him from the Revolutionary United Front forces. These forces, and Solomon’s personal enemy, Captain Poison, have brainwashed Dia, who is now one of the many “baby killers,” or ruthless child soldiers. (Spoiler Warning.) After a near-death brush with the R.U.F. the night before, Solomon shrugs off caution and walks right into the heart of the enemy camp to find and rescue his child. Seeing Dia, he puts his hand on his shoulder and calls his name. Surprisingly though, Dia not only repels his father’s attempted rescue, he turns his dad over to his leaders. Later, when the bad guys lie dead and the prized pink diamond is finally back in Solomon’s hands, the camera turns to show us Dia, pointing a gun directly at his father, who has risked it all to rescue him.

Continue reading "Love Goes Behind Enemy Lines: Some Reflections on ’Blood Diamond’" »

Calling all ’House’ viewers

If you saw tonight's episode, I'd love to hear your answers to this question: After one of the most honest discussions on abortion that I've ever heard on TV -- in which both House and the rape victim he was treating agreed that it was murder, and she refused to be put off by his assertion that murder is sometimes okay -- why did she choose to abort in the end?

I've got a few vague ideas on the subject myself, but I'd like to hear yours first. And if you have any other thoughts on an incredibly thought-provoking episode -- such as House's militant Darwinian rationalism vs. the girl's insistence that something has to matter, or the rather withering look at psychiatry and how it can't solve everything -- I'd be interested in hearing those too.

(And if anyone happened to catch the girl's name, you might share that with me as well. After a full day of work and a night class, I wasn't exactly watching on all cylinders, if you know what I mean.)

’Shriekingly bad’

That's the description of the film version of Children of Men in the subheading of Mark Steyn's spot-on review. I only wish I'd thought of it first.

(Watch out for bad language -- which arguably helps support Steyn's point about just how inappropriate that language was in this particular film. Also watch out for evil screen-eating pop-up ad.)

The Meaning of Barbaro

Earlier this week, famed race horse Barbaro was "put down," a rather nice euphemism, after a long and widely publicized battle to help him recover from a leg injury sustained nearly a year ago. The publicity was due partly to the fact that Barbaro captured hearts even before the debilitating injury. Many people who don't consider themselves racing fans were following his ascent to glory and watching the fateful race. Many cried when the injury occurred. After all, we all know what happens to injured race horses. They go to that great paddock in the sky, quickly and unceremoniously.

Still the question remains. Why were we so involved in the story of this one horse? Is it because, as the New York Times suggests, we've never met a mean horse? Maybe, as Meghan O'Rourke states in Slate, its because we're at war and we need something uncomplicated to focus on. Or perhaps, as a Washington Post sports columnist puts it, it's because Barbaro never lied to us. (Huh?)

Then again, maybe it's just refreshing to see people fighting for life--even the life of a horse--in a culture where even human life is too often viewed as disposable and irrelevant. Indeed, part of what was so shocking and heartening about Barbaro's story was the extraordinary (at least, by comparison) lengths to which his owners went to try to make him healthy and whole again. We saw an animal essentially sentenced to die when he stumbled at the Preakness, pardoned and lavished with grace over a period of months. Grace he wouldn't have gotten at other hands, grace we didn't expect to see him receive, grace which bound our hearts up in hope that he would beat the odds.

In the end, it became clear that his injury was simply too devastating and his owners decided it was more humane to "put him down." But not before getting us all to rally around life, even the life of a horse.

Speaking of Wilberforce . . .

Our Fearless Leader here at BreakPoint, Chuck Colson, will be speaking on "The Wilberforce Model in Politics" for Faith and Law later this week. The organization doesn't seem to have a website, at least not one I can find, but you can e-mail info@faithandlaw.org for more information.

Folsom Prison Blues Remixed

Scott Henson makes a unique comparison between Johnny Cash's prison tunes, such as "Folsom Prison Blues," and modern thug melodies, like "Cocaine Blues."

Johnny Cash never went to prison himself, but early in his career he realized that prison was a brilliant metaphor for a set of human experiences in a raw, extreme form that are universal, that all of us endure at one time or another. Commenters at YouTube compared Cash's near-glamorization of prisoners and their crimes to modern "thug life" attitudes routinely expressed by rappers. There are songs where that is justified -- for example, Cocaine Blues.

And yet, Henson points out, there is an obvious difference between Cash's lyrics and most modern rap -- sympathy for prisoners, remorse, and need for redemption.

So you think Christians can dance?

Turns out, it is possible for Christians to be portrayed in the media as thoughtful, faithful individuals. What a concept!

The New York Times ran a story on dancing at Christian colleges in this Sunday's magazine. Focused on one college's first-ever sanctioned dance, the article says that "by dressing up nicely, but not suggestively, and dancing exuberantly, but not too closely, these students and professors would say with their bodies not only that Christians may dance but also that they should." Scandalous stuff once upon a time, but not anymore.

Why this reversal of policy? For one thing, Christian colleges are trying to be more welcoming of minority and international students, for many of whom dance is a form of cultural expression and an accepted form of worship. For another, formal dances and swing are no longer considered evil. Like their long-accepted cousin, square dancing, these dances are now seen as quaint and harmless means of social interaction. And, in perhaps a bit of a stretch, dancing is seen as a way to bridge cultural divides and build relationships for witnessing...so now, you can take your missionary date to a missionary dance, I'm guessing.

This is a great article, not only for its realistic and very normal portrayal of Christians, but also for the unpacking of theology around the issue of dance, from David and Miriam to the Gnostics and Puritans. Kudos to the Times for such a thoughtful piece on faith.

A Dose of Wilberforce

I'm reading from Real Christianity by William Wilberforce (original title was a mouthful: A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity). I can't encourage you enough to get this book and read it devotionally. This is just one of many gems to be found here. If this doesn't challenge you to lay everything again at the feet of your Lord, I'm not sure what will. He says:

I understand the essential and practical characteristic of true Christians to be this: Relying on promises to repentant sinners of the acceptance through the Redeemer, they have renounced and disowned all other masters and have devoted themselves sincerely and unreservedly to God. This is the very symbol that baptism daily represents to us. It is now their determined purpose to yield themselves completely to the reasonable service of their rightful Sovereign. "They are not their own" (1 Cor. 6:19).

For true Christians, bodily and mental faculties, their naturally acquired abilities, their substance, their authority, their time, and their influence are not instruments of their own gratification; these belong and are consecrated to the honor of God and are employed in His service. This the master principle to which every other must be subordinate. Whatever may be previously have been the ruling passion; whatever their leading pursuit was before; whether sensual; or intellectual; whether of science, of taste, of fancy, or feeling—it is now of minor importance in comparison. In point of fact the passion exists only at the pleasure of its true and legitimate Master, and its owner places it entirely under His direction and control.

This is the true prerogative of Christianity, "to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). They feel its power and are resolved "to live no longer to themselves, but to him that really died for them" (2 Cor. 5:15). They know indeed of their infirmities. They know that the way in which they have entered is narrow and difficult. But they know the encouraging assurance that "they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Is. 40:31). And the great ruling principle of their future lives is to "do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). This is the seminal principle that contains within it the basic elements of all true virtue.

May the Holy Spirit convict us of the places in our lives where these words are not true and renew in us the abandon to take everything--our thoughts, our talents, our resources, our time, our affections, our hopes, our future--captive under Christ. Only then can we expect to truly live out a biblical worldview.

January 29, 2007

A Life-and-Death Appraisal

Peter Singer weighs in on the disabled little girl whose parents have determined to keep her "little" for the rest of her life. Predictably, Singer has no qualms about such developmental tampering, as long as it aids the quality of life -- for somebody. Apart from his justification of this family's actions, however, he uses the opportunity to question the inherent worth of human life.

Here’s where things get philosophically interesting. We are always ready to find dignity in human beings, including those whose mental age will never exceed that of an infant, but we don’t attribute dignity to dogs or cats, though they clearly operate at a more advanced mental level than human infants. Just making that comparison provokes outrage in some quarters. But why should dignity always go together with species membership, no matter what the characteristics of the individual may be?

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families.

Those last sentences capture the point quite well: "She is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her." Whatever Singer might conclude about this particular, and bizarre, ethical discussion, his underlying presumption is that the life of a little girl holds no value apart from that given to her by family or society at large. Then again, if God is not the Author and Sustainer of all life, by what other standard can we judge?

A comment on comments

I think it may be time for a gentle reminder of a certain line in our comment policy:

Obscenities and spam -- including bashing, solicitations, repetitive comments, and comments that are irrelevant to the post under which they are written -- will not be published.

Some comments lately, although not quite at the level of outright bashing of bloggers or other commenters here, are coming dangerously close. We welcome all kinds of opinions at The Point, as long as they're stated in a civil and respectful manner without slurs at anyone's level of maturity or knowledge, or any other type of personal remark. Please bear this in mind, and thanks to the majority of you commenters who have managed to do this.

Re: 22 (Unnecessary) Years

A few days ago, I mentioned Willie O. Williams who was exonerated after serving 22 years in prison. If you're curious to know how he's been enjoying his newfound freedom, here's an update:

Williams said he has awakened in the middle of the night several times, wondering where he was. Missing out on two decades of progress, Williams said he has been careful not to touch anything he might not know how to use. He is fascinated by society's obsession with cell phones, and plans to get one.

He hasn't attempted to use a computer yet, but he said he is looking forward to getting online.

Re: The first mom to run for president

. . . was not Ellen McCormack either. Thanks to Catherina for setting me straight on this one. Now I'm curious: Can anyone find someone even earlier than that? I may have to start offering prizes here . . . :-)

January 28, 2007

The first mom to run for president

. . . was NOT Hillary Clinton. Who knew? (H/T NRO)

January 26, 2007

Re: Whose Friends? Whose Fringe?

I have no desire to be too hard on young-Earth creationists. While I don't agree with them, I understand how one might arrive at that position. My point . . . and I do have one is that is their position cannot be called a "fringe" one.


Re: Whose Friends? Whose Fringe?

It's a minor point perhaps, but Roberto, don't be too hard on confused creationists. I've been there, and it's a difficult place to be. Let's face it, a lot of perfectly intelligent people who don't have scientific minds (like yours truly) and who've been the recipient of bad teaching from both evolutionists and creationists just don't know what to think, and falsely believe they have to make a choice between God and science.

Take it from one who's been on the receiving end of the eye rolls: A little patient guidance does a lot more good.

And the winner is . . .

Each year PFM honors a man or woman who models the life and legacy of William Wilberforce -- a person who applies biblical truth to right wrongs, overcome adversity, uphold human dignity and work towards redeeming, in some way, a piece of what has gone wrong with the world. It is fitting that on the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's achievement in abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire, Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission, who has devoted his time and energy to fighing modern-day slavery and human oppression, is honored as this year's recipient. Click on today's BreakPoint commentary to read more about Gary, IJM, and what you can do to "loose the chains of injustice."

(Don't forget you can get a free e-mail subscription to the daily commentaries by clicking here.)

Whose Friends? Whose Fringe?

In preparation for a visit by Catherine the Great to the Crimea, her minister Grigori Potemkin -- so the story goes -- erected a series of fake villages, often little more than facades, along the road she would travel. The goal was to impress Catherine with the value of her new possessions.

I thought about Grigori Alexsandrovich while I watched Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi last night on HBO. Actually, I thought about the criticisms of the film I had read.

Her critics didn't accuse Pelosi, the youngest daughter of the Speaker of the House, of animus towards her subject, American Evangelicals. They couldn't, especially after she told the New York Times that

I believe in the culture war . . . And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war I'll take their side [conservative Evangelicals]. Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I'll take Jesus.

Instead, the criticism centered around Pelosi's choice of Evangelicals. As one critic, who called the film a "fascinating and entertaining piece," put it, "a lot of people [in the movie] are clearly the fringe people of the evangelical community."

Fringe, as in a "marginal or peripheral part"? That depends in your definition of "marginal" and "peripheral." I recognized every one of the folks in Pelosi's films and that recognition wasn't rooted in some distant or long-repressed memory. On the contrary, the aesthetics being labeled "fringe" will be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) convention, browsed in a Christian bookstore, or gone through the mail here at BreakPoint.

As you may know, Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), plays Virgil to Pelosi's Dante in the film. As you may also know, at one point, Haggard tells Pelosi, "You know, all the surveys say that evangelicals have the best sex life of any other group." After Pelosi replies, "No way," Haggard asks some church members for confirmation which they, albeit sheepishly, provide.

While, in light of what subsequently happened, Haggard's prominence in the film is, well, unfortunate, it's not a cheap shot. Haggard volunteered this ultimately ironic tidbit and, besides, he's hardly the only Evangelical who has used this factoid as part of their case for Evangelical faith. Punto y aparte.

Continue reading "Whose Friends? Whose Fringe?" »

The Corrections Quagmire

It's nice to see an editorial like this in the New York Times. It's what Prison Fellowship has been saying for years: that mandatory sentencing has pushed the nation's prison system into a quagmire and we must be proactive to dig it out. The editorial explains:

After a tenfold increase in the nation’s prison population — and a corrections price tag that exceeds $60 billion a year — the states have often been forced to choose between building new prisons or new schools. Worse still, the country has created a growing felon caste, now more than 16 million strong, of felons and ex-felons, who are often driven back to prison by policies that make it impossible for them to find jobs, housing or education.

Congress could begin to address this problem by passing the Second Chance Act, which would offer support services for people who are leaving prison. But it would take more than one new law to undo 30 years of damage.

Here are a few more practical suggestions.

Another good use for that $100

If this doesn't shatter your heart, you don't have one (H/T Catherina):

Srey was rescued from the life of a sex slave by Somaly Mam, a former prostitute who runs shelters for the victims of Cambodia's sex trade. Somaly has rescued 53 children, so far. Many of them have profound psychological trauma. Some clearly are mentally ill. ...

"A lot of them, when they arrive, have psychological problems ... very big problems. ... And they never have love by the people, by their parents," Somaly said.

One girl at Somaly's shelter appears especially disturbed. She was rescued after being imprisoned for two years in a cage, where she was repeatedly raped.

She needs psychiatric care, but there is none available. Somaly says she does her best to give this girl love and support, but that it's not easy with so many other needy children around.

Somaly herself suffered terrible ordeals when she worked the streets, including seeing her best friend murdered. She is determined to build something positive out of so much despair.

A little Googling turned up evidence of the terrible price Somaly and her family have had to pay for helping these desperate girls. It also turned up the website for Somaly's organization, complete with instructions on how to donate to this vital work.

Anne Frank and the Holocaust

I just saw a news article stating that some letters written by Anne Frank's father, Otto, have surfaced and will be released next month. Evidently, they show him seeking ways to escape to the US or Cuba. I'll look forward to learning more once the letters are published.

On a related topic, 41% of Britons believe that an event like the Holocaust could happen in Britain today due to the "depth of intolerance and prejudice." Jewish groups are warning that anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world, including in the US. Do you think a Jewish Holocaust could happen here? Do you think Christians or Muslims could face a similar fate? Why or why not?

January 25, 2007

More thoughts on sexuality in the media

1. Rehab covers a multitude of sins. I was bemused to see this morning that Grey's Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington had to go to rehab -- not for drinking or drugs, but for using a derogatory word for homosexuals (first during a fight on the set, then in discussing the fight at the Golden Globe Awards, for those who have lives above fluff pieces from Hollywood). Now, I can see checking into rehab if, as in Mel Gibson's case, your words reveal a serious drinking problem, but rehab simply and solely for naughty words? Not to be alarmist, but are we perhaps looking at the beginnings of a push for mandatory counseling for hate speech -- and if so, what happens when the definition of "hate speech" broadens, as it very likely will?

And another thought: Could it be that going to rehab -- especially because it looks good to the world and, again, has been made almost mandatory -- is starting to take the place of genuine remorse and repentance?

(Incidentally, for those of you who read Diane's report on the new Dakota Fanning film, scroll down a little on the page I just linked to for more on that.)

2. Archie lives? I was intrigued last night during Friday Night Lights by a disagreement between the town football coach and his wife when she wanted to go to work for a local politician who happened to be a lesbian. Although the husband registered mild discomfort, the wife went ahead and signed up anyway because she liked the woman's education plan. But it's the first part of that sentence that really surprised me. Coach Taylor has thus far been portrayed as a decent, likeable man and has become a great favorite with the show's audience. In this media climate (see item #1), I'm stunned to think that such a character would be allowed to dissent from the Hollywood party line on this issue. Is he being forced into one what might call the Archie Bunker role, or is he actually going to show that civil people can disagree about homosexuality? It should be fascinating to see where the show goes with this -- particularly as faith often plays at least some sort of a role in the storylines -- and what audience and critical reaction will be (so far, better than I expected).

Fascinating, that is, for those of us with no lives. :-)

Re: The $100 Challenge

8. Invest in the life of an ex-offender re-entering society. Use the funds to begin a mentoring program through your church or small-group. Or become involved in a local aftercare program, such as this one, for pre-release inmates. The money will be spent helping ex-offenders get back on their feet and will provide them with a loving mentor to walk with them along the way who will provide biblical counsel.

9. Donate the funds to charitable organizations, such as this one, which seek to provide assistance to widows and their families. There are many other organizations out there which seek to meet the needs of believing and non-believing women alike.

Thought for the Day

"Nothing enters the mind without having an effect for good or evil. There are many things we need not see or know, and are better off not seeing or knowing." -- Dallas Willard

Each reader obviously must decide how best to apply this. For me, one application relates to what TV shows and movies I choose to watch. For instance, I can't imagine the "value" of seeing the new Dakota Fanning film which contains child rape scenes. I agree with Paul Petersen (former child star on The Donna Reed Show) that NOTHING justifies putting this child actor in such a situation. What were her parents thinking? (Other than how much $$$$ they'll make by exploiting their daughter!)

RE: $100 Worldview Ideas

Use the $100 to buy baby clothes, disposable diapers, and a car seat, then donate them to your local Choose Life organization, which offers such items to women who choose to keep their babies rather than have abortions. It's one thing to talk about being pro-life, another to provide the practical assistance that many women and babies need.

Why Not?

Today's BreakPoint commentary, about the 43-year-old college professor who had two surprise pregnancies--numbers 5 and 6--evoked two memories from 20 years ago. First, I'm reminded of how strongly I felt my privacy was violated when I sat in my obstetricians's office for the first time, married and newly pregnant, while a nurse asked one unnecessary question after another--such as "Was this pregnancy planned?" Well, what business was that of anyone but my husband and me? It became clear that many of these questions were being asked, not because they had anything to do with my care, but because someone--the government, reseachers, whoever--liked to keep track of these things. I resented having my marital privacy pried into (and my time wasted--these questions were asked more than once by various other people involved in my care).

Second, the commentary reminded me of a newspaper column written more than 20 years by an Idaho columnist whose name I no longer remember. She was pro-abortion and, I believe, making some comment on Roe v. Wade, and of how pro-life counselors urge young, unmarried women to consider adoption. She herself was an adoptive mother, and her question was: Why is it considered socially unacceptable, even shocking, for married couples to offer babies for adoption? After all, she noted, married couples (like unmarried teens) are sometimes too poor to add another baby to their families, and there are plenty of couples who would love to adopt these infants. Like her.

I'm sure (and hoping) bloggers will weigh in on the theological implications of doing this (J&K--looking forward to hearing your thoughts!). The Idaho columnist's point was that since married couples offering their babies for adoption is not socially acceptable, some couples--already feeling overwhelmed by four or five kids--quietly abort rather than shock the neighbors with their "heartless" decision to give away their baby. As an adoptive mom, she thought that was a pity.

Re: The $100 Challenge

Catherine's question is spreading around the Internet and generating some thoughtful responses. Click here, here, and here to see some of them, and don't forget to share your own responses with us if you haven't already!


In her new book, Unprotected, Dr. Miriam Grossman shares her experiences as a psychiatrist at UCLA who's witnessed a generation of students dealing with the fallout from unrestrained sexual behavior. Dr. Grossman will lecture on this subject today at 11 at the Family Research Council. I plan to watch the lecture online and I encourage you to do so as well.

(Speaking of FRC, the Washington Post has a report on the Blogs for Life conference I mentioned the other day.)

January 24, 2007

That’s Why They Call It Sloth

George Carlin once asked, "What does a dog do on its day off?" To which he replied, "It doesn't sleep -- that's its job."

I thought of Carlin when I read this story:

Scientists in the eastern German city of Jena said Wednesday they have finally given up after three years of failed attempts to entice a sloth into budging as part of an experiment in animal movement.

The sloth, named Mats, was remanded to a zoo after consistently refusing to climb up and then back down a pole . . . Neither pounds of cucumbers nor plates of homemade spaghetti were appetizing enough to make Mats move . . .

Mats' new home is the zoo in the northwestern city of Duisburg where, according to all reports, he is very comfortable.

My first reaction to the story was "what do you expect? He's a sloth." Then I wondered, are you sure he's alive? I mean, how could you tell?


Choosing motherhood

Monday was the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, so this week, many people around the country are focusing on issues of choice and life. Which makes yesterday's appearance by Elizabeth Vargas on the Oprah Winfrey show particularly relevant. Vargas, you'll remember, was named co-anchor of ABC's evening news program a little more than a year ago. In January 2006, her co-anchor Bob Woodruff was seriously injured in Iraq, and soon after, Vargas stepped down from her post, citing her second pregnancy. The assumption was that the brass at ABC decided it wasn't time for a woman to solo anchor the evening news, but Vargas told Winfrey the real reasons for her departure yesterday. As quoted in a Washington Post article:

I was finding it more and more difficult to do that job the way I wanted to do it, which is 100 percent...and still be a great mother.

Vargas said her husband's assertion that their three-year-old son was paying a heavy price for mom's long hours at work, combined with the news that she was expecting another child, are why she eased back on a fantastic career. Vargas's choice to put her family ahead of her career makes her a superstar in my book.

22 (Unnecessary) Years


On Tuesday evening, Willie O. “Pete” Williams, 44, walked free after serving 22 years—22 unnecessary years, that is. As in 192 similar cases, Williams was exonerated through the efforts of The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic dedicated to investigating postconviction DNA evidence for prisoners with compelling claims of innocence.

Williams was convicted of aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, and rape in 1985 and sentenced to 45 years. He served almost half of that in a Georgia prison, proclaiming his innocence the whole time. In July 2005, Williams contacted the Innocence Project to see if they could help him. Eighteen months later, he is now "catching up" with his family, including his younger brother, who was only 13 when Willie went to prison. His sister Tracy said that she trusted God to bring justice: “We prayed and relied on God and knew that God would put somebody in our path.”

When Williams walked out of jail after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, he said he was looking forward to a steak and potato dinner and “just living the rest of my life.”

Bruce Harvey, a volunteer attorney on the case, says that while the case means liberty for Williams, it highlights a fearful aspect in our trial procedures:

It’s redemption for him, and a continuing indictment of a system that relies almost entirely, in these kinds of cases, on evidence that we now know is the least reliable type of evidence available: eyewitness identification.

Not to throw eye-witness identification out the window--especially since we are given a template for it in Numbers 35--but maybe our courts could try harder to look beyond appearances, especially when 22 years are at stake.

Re-entry solutions update

If you read my earlier post on the creative ways one community group was helping ex-prisoners make the transition to post-prison life and were disappointed that you couldn't read the source article, you're in luck. Our friends at the Chronicle of Philanthropy have given us a link to an online version of the story. A big thanks to them, and hopefully this will spur some of you readers to think of ways you can help returning prisoners in your communities.

15 Minutes

My friend Rod Dreher finally got around to watching "American Idol" and he didn't like what he saw:

I watched some schlub in the tryouts talking about how great she was, and how her husband didn't support her trying out because, in her view, he was jealous of her desire to soar. She talks for a bit about how much of her own self-worth and dignity and dreams and yadda yadda are riding on this tryout.

Sure enough, she stood in front of the panel of judges, and she's horrible. Excruciatingly bad. And boy, did they let her know. I'd heard that this Simon person is especially cruel, but it shocked me how harsh he was with that young woman. She begged for another opportunity to sing, but after the second one, they sent her away with a fusillade of insulting remarks. Offstage, she sobbed, which you knew was coming. She graspingly tried to salvage her dignity by saying that she was "sick," and that that had affected her voice. But she was, of course, completely untalented. She didn't realize that. She does now, most likely.

I did something I never would have done 10 years ago: I turned off the TV. The schlubby young woman was a fool, but it was unbearable watching her torn down like that. To be honest, it reminded me of when I used to be a critic, and would gleefully trash untalented filmmakers, actors and the like. Had a blast doing that. Never once thought about the real people with real hopes and real dreams, however tawdry and delusional, that I was bashing.

Peter Suderman, whose movie reviews appear, among other other places, at National Review Online, had a slightly different take on the issue:

The answer is more complicated than Rod seems to make it. I might agree with him that there's little need to lay into someone as deluded as the AI contestant. But when a filmmaker makes a product designed to waste your time, money, and thoughts -- when a filmmaker, either by intention or incompetence, makes a sucker of you, the paying audience, then I think there's a good argument that he or she deserves to be the target of scorn, if not ridicule.

As someone who subscribes to the philosophy that "Mean People Create A Partial Vacuum With Their Mouths," I'm inclined to agree with Rod and Suderman about the cruelty displayed towards the deluded contestant. (Save for a few episodes a few seasons ago, I don't watch American Idol.)

But only up to a point.

Continue reading "15 Minutes" »

January 23, 2007

Re: The $100 Challenge

6.) Purchase 20 $5 gift certificates to McDonald's. Keep 10 and pass out 10 to family and friends. Pass on your 10 to homeless folks in your area and encourage your family and friends to do the same. I purchased a few a while back and gave one to a little girl I tutor. Last week at "Tutoring Tuesdays," she informed me that she had given one of the coupons to a homeless woman she saw standing outside of . . . McDonald's.

Dungy and Da Bears

Roberto, I share your admiration of Tony Dungy. I've been a fan of his since he was coaching the Bucs and a member of my church in Tampa. The other morning I woke up to hear him on my alarm radio on Family Life Today. He was speaking about what he has learned from his sons. You can listen here.

Athletes in Action is also offering a great resource and something I thought was a super idea. There is a DVD of Tony, the keynote speaker at last year's Super Bowl Breakfast. He and others share about how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ changed their lives. I think it would be a fantastic idea to order the video (only $5.25!) and show it at Super Bowl halftime or before the game to a group of friends. I'm sure whatever he says will be better than the wardrobe malfunctions that the regular halftime show has to offer.

The $100 Challenge

100dollarI ran across this idea at Al Hsu's blog and love it. Basically the challenge is to set aside $100 and come up with a way to use it creatively and productively for the Kingdom. Like the parable of the stewards who were given different amounts of talents, the idea is to take this $100 and see how fruitfully you can invest it (not bury it) for the kingdom. At BreakPoint we talk a lot about bringing a biblical worldview to bear on every aspect of life. If you set aside $100 and thought creatively about it, how could you invest it to see a biblical worldview spread? Here are a few of my first ideas:

1.) Purchase 16 bibles for the Angel Tree children our church reached out to this Christmas and deliver them with a Valentine's note that tells about God's love on Feb. 14th.

2.) Write a check for a partial scholarship for a college-bound high school student to attend the Jubilee 2007 conference in Pittsburgh this February where they will hear from Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission and find out about how to navigate the waters of college as a Christian.

3.) Invite about 30-40 folks to see the upcoming film, Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce. Afterward, invite folks over for cake and punch and a discussion about how Christians today can collaborate together like the people of the Clapham Community to foster God-honoring change in our society.

4.) Give seed money to my friend who is launching a video testimony project on the internet.

5.) Invest $100 in a CD or bond to be put aside to help one of the prisoner parents of our Angel Tree children when they get out of prison with a new outfit for job interviews and other small necessities.

If you've got a blog, I encourage you to post this challenge on your own site. Let's see it spread!!! If you've got a small group or Sunday School class, propose this idea as a group challenge. And I'd love to hear some of your ideas here... I think it could help others think creatively and out of the box. What about the rest of the contributors here at The Point, what are some of your ideas? Do share...

Many Firsts

By now you probably know that the Indianapolis Colts will play Da Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. You probably also know that both teams are coached by African-Americans: Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, respectively. Either of them would have been the first African-American to lead his team to the Super Bowl. (Is it okay for me to say that I think that this is really cool?)

If you're a football fan you may also know that Dungy and Smith are close friends. But, if all you have to go on is the mainstream press, you'd assume that this friendship is rooted in the shared experiences as black men in football.

But as Daniel Pulliam at Get Religion pointed out, their friendship is rooted in more than race or football. "Master" Pulliam quotes the Baptist Press:

Super Bowl XLI will feature two teams making their first super game appearance in two-plus decades, two Midwestern teams separated by only a couple hundred miles, but most importantly two coaches who are strong believers in Jesus Christ.

Head coaches Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and close friend and fellow Christian Lovie Smith of Chicago gave credit to God following their respective teams’ victories in the conference championships Jan. 21.

“The Lord set this up in a way that no one would believe it,” Dungy said following the Colts’ win over New England. “The Lord tested us a lot this year, but He set this up to get all the glory.”

Continue reading "Many Firsts" »

’Elvis lives’ says cosmologist

In an online interview, Marcus Chown, cosmology consultant for New Scientist was asked what he thought about creationism and intelligent design. His answer:

“Well, it’s not a science. We live in a world where we have antibiotics, pure running water and technology that makes our lives, on the whole, better. To throw all that out of the window is very scary. It isn’t simply that they want to establish creationism as a science, but they want to remove the alternatives. To go back to a medieval superstitious time is very worrying.”

Yes. That would be worrying -- if that effigy of ID bore any semblance of reality. However, in contrast to the strawman Chown has constructed, ID’s aim, as stated by the Discovery Institute, is “to empirically detect whether the ‘apparent design’ in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause).” That’s worlds apart from the Dark Age shamanism Chown predicts ID would foist on civilization.

But speaking of worlds -- what kind of science does Mr. Chown plump for? One which leads to the “unavoidable conclusion” that there are an infinite number of universes in which “Elvis didn’t die...but is still alive.” (I’m not making this stuff up. Check out the link for yourself.)

Really now. And how do we know that? Because “At the start of the 20th century, we simply thought our galaxy was the Milky Way but it keeps getting bigger and bigger -- we had no idea it was one among tens of billions of galaxies.”

Sooo -- our expanding knowledge of the visible universe is proof of, or least evidence that there are an infinite number of universes? Seems so.

I think going back to medieval supertitionism is the least of our worries.

It’s not about looks

I saw this letter yesterday in NRO, in which Professor Lee Silver of Princeton University presents "open-minded readers" with electron micrographs, one of a normal embryo, the other of "a bunch of embryonic stem cells" as part of an effort to convince us that a human embryo is not actually a human being. "Which one is which?" he asks.

I have no idea--which is totally irrelevant. The fact that neither I nor anyone else can tell the embryonic human from the clump of cells is meaningless for the reasons given by those who responded to his letter.

Professor Silver's reasoning--that one has to look human plus be kind of big in order to be human--reminds me of a murder trial I followed while living in Connecticut some years ago. The defendant was being tried for murdering his wife by (those of you who are eating might want to finish this later) putting her through a wood chipper. What was left of her did not look particularly human. Nor did her remains amount to much.The jury quite sensibly found these facts irrelevant and convicted him of murder.

Humanity is not about looks, and it's not about size. Thanks to those incredible pictures of unborn human beings only slightly older than the one Professor Silver offers, most of us know that now. But some people still need reminding.

January 22, 2007

For too many, life is cheap

At today's Blogs for Life conference in Washington, D.C., I saw a couple of men standing at the back of the room before the event got underway, looking at Sunday's comics section in the paper. Suddenly remembering what I'd seen in those comics yesterday, I walked over.

"Is that what I think it is?" I asked them.

It was.

"It's not too clear what he's saying," one of the men said, "but it seems like an insult to my sister."

"That's how it seemed to me too," I replied to the man I now knew was Bobby Schindler, thinking of all the similar jabs he and his family have endured over the years, just a long string of insults added to one terrible, irrevocable injury. Maybe I'm being oversensitive to what Berke Breathed probably didn't mean as a direct slap in the face to Terri's memory. But had any of my readers been standing there with Terri's brother looking at this, I venture to think many of you might have felt the sting I felt.

And I'd always liked Breathed. I wonder if he ever considered how Terri's family would feel about having their position so exaggerated and distorted (yes, I know this was mainly a reference to President Bush, but the president's position was based on the Schindler family's position). I wonder if he even cared, or if he just thought they deserved a cheap shot for having dared to try to save her life. I wonder if he ever even wondered why they bothered if her state was truly what Mr. Breathed thought it was.

I wonder when life -- and our "certainty" about its value -- became so cheap that a struggle to save it could be dismissed as lightly as this.

(I had hoped to blog more about the conference today and tomorrow, but due to other unavoidable commitments, it will have to wait till later in the week.)

The Sweeter World We Abandon

George Will's Newsweek column about his son with Down syndrome is a must-read. As is Anthony Esolen's piece "Davey's Song," in the current issue of Touchstone (hard copy only), about his son, Davey, who is autistic.

The pieces are quite different, to be sure. Will focuses on the matter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommending universal genetic counseling and diagnostic testing for all pre-born babies, in order to identify children with Down syndrome:

The ACOG guidelines are formally neutral concerning what decisions parents should make on the basis of the information offered. But what is antiseptically called "screening" for Down syndrome is, much more often than not, a search-and-destroy mission: At least 85 percent of pregnancies in which Down syndrome is diagnosed are ended by abortions.

Medicine now has astonishing and multiplying abilities to treat problems of unborn children in utero, but it has no ability to do anything about Down syndrome (the result of an extra 21st chromosome). So diagnosing Down syndrome can have only the purpose of enabling—and, in a clinically neutral way, of encouraging—parents to choose to reject people like Jon as unworthy of life. And as more is learned about genetic components of other abnormalities, search-and-destroy missions will multiply.

Esolen focuses much more on his son's amazing abilities and sweet spirit, though not without admitting the attendant difficulties:

[I]t is disconcerting to know that, unless the Lord who made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak should will the miracle, it is not likely that Davey will ever really know what his father or his mother loved deeply, or feared, or longed for. That particular bond of understanding which parents take for granted, we will miss.

Yet, as if by compensation, I have never met anyone, child or adult, who so warmly loves people, even a grownup who is too important and busy to recognize the love.

Continue reading "The Sweeter World We Abandon" »

Pictures Worth 1,000 Words

Inthewomb_2Today's BreakPoint, "A Visual Apologetic for Life," highlights a new DVD and accompanying book from National Geographic, called In the Womb. New medical technology has enabled us to have a glimpse into human development in the womb that 34 years ago, when Roe v. Wade, was being argued, was unimaginable:

Now, 3-D and 4-D scans—scans that literally piece together images to show a baby in motion in the womb—have brought the miracle of life into new focus. In the Womb author, Peter Tallack, calls this new technology the medical equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope. And the images it zooms in on during the odyssey of pregnancy may change the minds of women contemplating abortion and ordinary men and women who have not reflected deeply on abortion’s horrors.

Read or listen to the full BreakPoint here, and consider purchasing a copy of In the Womb for your local crisis pregnancy center.

The Strangeness of Normalcy: Meditations on 34 Years Since Roe v. Wade.

Last week I had a disturbing dream. If you are anything like me, it is infrequent that you awake and remember dreams, and even more infrequent that the dreams are vivid and have something of a storyline. So when they do, you pay attention.

In my dream a mother had left her young infant propped up in a standing position (though the infant itself was too young to balance standing) on a pew. She then walked away. Standing several yards from the baby, I was not quick enough to catch the baby before it tumbled to the floor, hitting hard. I looked around for the mother. She was no where to be found.

I picked up the baby. I don’t remember it crying, but I do remember it bleeding, profusely from the back of its head. As I looked down to see the blood pooling on the ground, I was hysterical. I couldn’t find the mother anywhere.

Then somehow, as dreams go, I was all of the sudden in a hospital with the baby, frantically searching up and down the hallways for a doctor or someone to help. Doctors and nurses loitered and moved around the hospital completely unmoved by my frantic requests for help. Though I would speak loudly, and with tears thrust the child right in front of them they’d stare with blank and glassy eyes or simply calmly go about their business. No one helped. The infant continued to bleed in my arms. And I knew the child would soon bleed to death.

Obviously, I awoke from the dream quite disturbed. Somehow, today on the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I can’t help but think that dream is symbolic of the public malaise on the issue of abortion. As I frantically searched for help and saw a helpless infant bleeding to death before my eyes, the real eeriness of the dream was in the absolute non-responsiveness of the crowd, the normalcy with which they continued to carry on their business.

One Man’s Simple Faith

"Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision..."  Acts 26:19

One day, late in the third century, during a lull between periods of intense persecution, a young Egyptian Christian made a decision that changed the course of Church history.

He had everything anyone could want: Roman citizenship, good standing in a safe and orthodox church, and all the wealth he would ever need, a legacy from his deceased parents.  Life was good for young Anthony. And then he read in the Scriptures that Jesus taught the rich young ruler to give away all his wealth and follow him.

The vision inspired by that story pierced his soul. Anthony did not hesitate.  He liquidated all his assets and gave his wealth to the poor. Taking only the clothes on his back, he fled to the desert and took up residency there alone for the next twenty years, seeking the Lord in prayer and wrestling with temptation, demons, and want. His powerful ascetic lifestyle and devotion to the Lord soon became widely known, and many young men began taking up hermitage in the desert following his example. Thus began the movement of men into lives of devotion to the Lord - monos, or "monks", as they were called - which resulted in the rise of the monastic movement of the 4th-9th centuries and beyond.

Half a century after Anthony's death Athanasius, Bishop of Milan, wrote his story and published it widely.  It inspired Martin of Tours, as well as Basil of Caesarea, two of the fathers of Christian monasticism. Martin's model, conjoined with the example of Anthony, inspired and guided the Celtic Christians whose monasteries became centers of culture, learning, and missions for nearly 500 years.  Later monastic movements made advances in agriculture and the arts, improved scholarship and general education, and laid the foundation for the modern universities.

Anthony is remembered on January 17, a faithful follower of Christ whose example inspired generations and led to a movement of Christian asceticism, mercy ministry, evangelism, and learning that sustained and enriched the Church for over a thousand years, and continues to bless her even to this day. One man's simple faith began an avalanche of good works. Do not despise heavenly visions or the day of small beginnings.

January 19, 2007

Other people’s job

Our own Anne Morse has a thought-provoking op-ed in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer about the way "elite America" has come to think about the military:

Our chattering class is fond of pointing out that the U.S. military draws disproportionately from middle- and working-class families. But suggest they help right the imbalance by encouraging their own offspring to serve, and they are aghast. "I want you to know we support you," one upscale mother recently told a military recruiter, "but military service isn't for our kind of people."

Fighting wars, it seems, is a job for somebody else's kid -- the gardener's son or the grocer's daughter. The result is a dangerous disconnect between those who serve in the all-volunteer military and the civilian elites who expect to command it, argue Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer, who wrote "AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country."

The authors are themselves part of elite America who unexpectedly (and unwillingly) joined the military tribe when relatives dragged them into it. Princeton graduate and Democratic activist Roth-Douquet served in President Clinton's White House before marrying Marine officer Greg Douquet. Schaeffer, whose son John joined the Marines in 1999, is a New York novelist. Douquet and Schaeffer admit that, until the military marched into their lives, what they knew about America's armed forces could have fit on a dog tag.

"It was striking to us how enormous our previous ignorance had been, and how entirely comfortable we had been with that ignorance," the authors write.

Read more.

Learning from Rembrandt

Crucifixion On Monday, I stopped by the National Gallery of Art with a friend to see one of their special exhibits going on through March. In celebration of 400 years since Rembrandt van Rijn's birth, the gallery is hosting a special collection of his drawings and etchings. The warm red, gold, and brown hues that we've grown accustomed to seeing in Rembrandt's paintings melt away here, leaving us the master in more elemental tones of black and white and copper. Walking through the exhibit is like taking a meditative walk through Scripture. As an artist, Rembrandt framed moments of profound significance: Jesus rousing a dead Lazarus, the father embracing his prodigal son, Joseph telling his dreams to his unbelieving brothers, Abraham and Isaac on a journey up Mt. Sinai. I'm inspired by Rembrandt's work to be still in front of the Word of God and concentrate on one particular moment, and let God open that moment in all its glory and heartache up to me.

I asked my friend as we left the gallery, if, by some miracle, he were allowed to take home just one of the drawings or etchings he'd seen, which one it would be. We both agreed we would take home the print of the crucifixion. There were actually four different renderings of this piece, with each version growing progressively darker in composition. In the first few you could clearly see the characters at the foot of the cross, their faces and their preoccupations. But by the final print almost all of the characters, save that of Jesus crucified, were immersed in total darkness, leaving the viewer alone to contemplate, as Jesus told Mary and Martha, "the one thing needful."

The progression itself reminds me of something true in our lives. As the darkness grows, so often does our ability, and in fact the necessity, to focus on the one face, the one person, that we so desperately need. Perhaps through pain our senses become more finely attuned. Lewis would say pain is God's megaphone.

A friend of mine has been walking through the valley lately. She asked me the other day to help her find those oft-repeated passages in the Bible that repeat the refrain, "How Long, O Lord." As I searched, I discovered something quite interesting. The question is asked not only by God's people, but by God Himself, who asks how long will He endure with these stiff-necked people or how long will we continue in our sin. Ah--the patience of God.

Certainly, if pain is a megaphone--it shouts both ways. In our pain, we cry out for God. But in Christ's pain--as so starkly brought into focus for me in Rembrandt's work---in His pain he shouts to us of His unrelenting, ferocious love, of His patience with us, and of His active work on our behalf not to leave us alone in the darkness. Oh God, give us ears to hear and eyes to see.