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Book Review: Essential Guide

Posted by Gary Labels:

Yes! Last night I finished Philip Comfort's Essential Guide to Bible Versions. He covers a lot of ground and intends to show how we got the Bible in English today. His starting point is the history of OT manuscripts, then NT manuscripts. Next his focus lingers on the theory of Bible translation and how different scholars approach it. Next, early translations prior to English. After this comes history of pre-KJV English translations, the KJV itself, from KJV to today's, today's translations, and finally a discussion of the 27 verses in the KJV that don't appear in more recent translations.

Overall impressions: Comfort is a well-learned and able textual critic. His job is to look at manuscripts and compare them to find what is most likely the original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic wording of the Bible (his focus is the Greek New Testament). In this capacity, he is superb. I express a few doubts on his abilities as a translator, but that's not his primary job anyway. He knows the letter and the spirit (and the Spirit) of the text.

This book is a compact reference suitable for a somewhat general audience. I would expect college graduates to be able to gain from it, though it is not written for a fully general audience. The book has an excellent glossary which teaches the reader technical terms used in his field. This is why I hesitate to recommend it for the general audience.

In short: it's very good for preachers, elders, and translators as a reference. Some who are not in biblical studies may gain from it also, but it's not for a completely general audience. Comfort attempts to introduce the technical field to the nontechnical folk, but it is still technical in nature. I'm glad it's on my shelf, though.

Prayer Request Update

Posted by Gary

M seems to be doing alright. She's still living, which is a relief. Seems cheered for the moment. Will update again before long.

My best friend's sister, Jessica, seems to be stable and they may be able to perform surgery on her and heal her. We'll know for sure tomorrow. The journal of her status can be found here.

Yep. Things seem to be calming down. Wednesday night I got no sleep and didn't eat until about 6 pm so I could fast, as I promised. But after that point I had some dinner and wound down. I think I got 6-7 hrs of sleep, but it didn't feel very restful. So I napped in the afternoon and now I'm better emotionally and physically.

I've had several spiritual ups and downs. Thank God for His grace. For SOOO many things. Jesus has given us grace upon grace -- the Word is full of grace and truth.

Urgent prayer request

Posted by Gary

At one in the morning last night, a friend of mine called me and asked me to give her a reason not to take her life. Please pray for her. We'll call her M to keep her anonymous.

It's now almost 9 in the morning. I spent the night tossing and turning and I feel sick to my stomach.

I already promised my best friend yesterday that I'd spend today in prayer and fasting for his sister, Jessica, who is in a coma and may die in the next two days.

And my mother is having a gastric sleeve operation on the 9th.

And I will know whether I've been accepted to Abilene Christian University for the fall on the 7th. I still don't have any scholarships, and it's $27,000 a year.

Psalm 80. Kyrie, Eleson. Lord, have mercy.

Woman in Creation: Genesis 2 compared to Hesiod's Theogony

Posted by Gary Labels: , , , ,

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable ends with a section pleading for the use of more humanizing terminology, terms of endearment to replace objectifying language. What's most effective, though, is language that ties an oppressed group (be it women, blacks, or whatever) to the image of God. God-language works better than mere terms of endearment.

"You are women. In Creation, noble; in redemption, gracious; in use, most blessed." ~Esther Sowerman, 1617.

I intend to expand on that particular quote.

Hesiod's Theogony
In the Greek creation myth, Prometheus stole Zeus' sacred fire and gave it to mortal men (males) on the earth. Zeus punished Prometheus, then turned to devise a scheme to punish men. He consulted his daughter Athena and together they crafted the perfect plague to send among mankind. Something that men could never get rid of; a source of constant misery. You guessed it. Women are a plague, in classic Greek thought. "No helpmeets in wretched poverty, but only in wealth."

Women are very ironically compared to bee drones (the males!) which do no work and are only useful for reproductive purposes, whereas the workers (females!) are the men that women leech from. And even if you find a "good" wife, you never know what kind of children she will bear you. If you get mischievous children, then you have to deal with that for life. But if you don't marry, you won't get children to care for you in your old age. This myth has examples of both the disease epithet as well as parasite. The moral of the story: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

The Bible
In Genesis 2, woman is given a few unique characteristics that tell a very different story.

She is the only being crafted from flesh. She does not have the connection to the earth that man and the other creatures have. Does this make women impractical as a general rule? No. That's not something the Bible proscribes about women. What this does mean is that women are unique and set apart by God from the rest of creation. (As a bonus, she is softer and more graceful than any other creature!)

One cannot, from Genesis 2, classify creation as males of all species vs. females of all species. Genesis makes it clear that the categories are man (male humans), woman (female humans), and animals (of both sexes). What holds true for the males and females of other species does not apply to humanity. Therefore, the pattern for human interaction cannot be drawn from the way other creatures such as lion, wasps, ants, bees, praying mantises, and spiders tend to act. We are different.

However, positive comparisons to animals are allowable, such as Mary Jane calling Spiderman "Tiger," That appeals to strength, grace, and/or passion. Song of Solomon 4:1 is excellent, also: "your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead." To put that in straightforward English: "I love the way your hair flows off the curves of your breasts." Again, some comparisons are positive.

She brings man joy, and is made for that purpose. Adam's response to seeing her in the flesh should set a pattern for man's general attitude toward women. Admittedly, if I had never heard of woman before and then God made a woman and I saw her naked right away, I'd be pretty thrilled, too. The first thing the man does is very much what I would do: make a pun. "I will call her isshah (woman), for she was taken out of ish (man)."

She is truly a playmate, not a plaything. Playboy magazine calls women playmates, but treats them as playthings. This is not the way it should be. A mate is a friend and companion to enjoy, not an object to exploit. What we find in Genesis 2 is innocent, harmonic paradise and not some coercive, threatening show of dominance. A wise woman wrote this today: "Really loving someone is doing what is best for them, no matter the cost to you. That's a very conscious decision, and it shows that you truly love that person."

She produces good fruit. Genesis shows man having two intimate feminine relationships: one with the earth, and the other with woman. Through his relationship with the earth, he and she (Mother Earth) produce a tomato. This is analogous to men working outside the home as provider. Now, the other relationship: he and she (woman) produce something far more valuable than a tomato. Without woman this would be impossible, and it is inextricably tied to her identity as woman. This is analogous to men working inside the home as father and husband.

I will point out that nowhere is woman given any particular duty or task to perform. She is not explicitly told to help work the ground the way man does, but she is a helper who is like him. Determining the meaning of "helper" in this context is tricky; I might give it a separate post sometime later. What I get from the text is that it makes no evaluative statement about women working outside the home, but does speak highly of woman as a homemaker. (For women working "outside the home," see Proverbs 31.)

Her reproductive abilities play a vital role in not just creation, but redemption. Here I have to go outside Genesis 2. In Genesis 3:15, woman's reproductive abilities will produce the means for destroying the snake. The Christian interpretation of this passage as referring to the birth of Jesus actually goes back very far. The Greek translation of the Old Testament says without any doubt that *he* will crush the snake's head. So, this is a passage about redemption, and woman plays a role in it. This was fulfilled in Luke 1-2.

The Faith of the Centurion

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

This passage is one people seem to use often in defense of the idea of a pro-military Jesus. As one example, we've got this reply to my first student opinion article. But enough of that. Let's look at what the text of Luke 7:1-10 (NIV) says:

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Pretty surprising that Jesus would say that to a Roman centurion. He never seems to praise Jewish freedom fighting guerrilla groups. In fact, the New Testament almost never mentions any of those groups. But Jesus says a good thing about a Roman soldier. And Luke specifically writes favorably about the Romans.

In chapter 7 Jesus helps a Roman soldier with a sick slave. Immediately after that incident Jesus raises a widow's son. In short, Jesus is exemplifying what it means to live by Leviticus 19:32-34 (NIV),
Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD. When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Thus, we see a very inclusive concern for others in Jesus' actions. The centurion also serves as an ironic contrast in faith with John the Baptist later in the chapter. Luke uses the lowly for ironic contrasts often enough, such as in Luke 18. That chapter has a widow seeking justice and an apathetic judge. Justice happens because of a poor helpless old woman. The Pharisee and tax collector is yet another such contrast. The following episodes about the little children and the rich ruler both have their own contrasts, but they're less obvious.

Note that nowhere is the centurion said to become a disciple. Jesus heals those who turn to him, and that's that. In Luke 5:12-26 we have two episodes of healings that did not necessarily lead to discipleship. The man possessed by Legion in Mark 5 was not allowed to be a disciple, but was told to go back and be with his family (5:18-20).

Healing/miracle stories do not concern themselves with whether a healed person ends up living "happily ever after." The focus is on what Jesus said and did. As far as what happened to the person healed, the only things reported are (usually) the fact that healing did happen and that people were amazed in response. Therefore, we can't really say at all that this centurion became a disciple. Besides, a Roman centurion can't just quit his job and convert to Judaism and follow a Rabbi around. Going AWOL (or just displaying cowardice at all) was punishable by death.

And lastly, let me add this. People are willing to use this as a prooftext for saying Jesus approves of soldier-disciples, but nobody seems to notice the same logic could use this passage to approve of slavery. This slaveholder was not told to free his newly-healed slave either, as the text has it. So, if this passage proves that Jesus was not non-violent, it also "proves" slavery is perfectly acceptable in God's eyes.

I don't like slippery slopes, but I dislike double standards even more. People are inconsistent and use whichever interpretive style fits the point they want the text to make. Ugh.

And God Said...

Posted by Gary

Dr. Joel Hoffman has released his new book, And God Said! The blog for the book has a drawing to win a free copy! Woohoo! Go leave a comment to enter. Add the blog to your blog roll for a second entry, and make a blog post with the same link as "leave a comment" to double your chances yet again (4 entries)!

I think I may have been first. We all know that some of the first will be last. But maybe this time, one of the first will still be first. We'll see! :)

Also check out his other blog, God Didn't Say That.

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: An Overview (Part II)

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

It's simply too much to try and define all eight categories of hate speech within one post. As heavy as it is on the heart, let's continue.

5. Disease. A disease is a threat that must be eradicated. This image of a disease or cancer is most commonly a political metaphor to justify extermination. Although infrequently used of those who do have a certain disease (AIDS) or are mentally handicapped, often this dehumanizing language is aimed at perfectly healthy human beings whose only "defect" is being unwanted.

The Native Americans didn't have much resistance to European diseases. Smallpox was especially a bane to them. When Europeans started coming into contact with them, the Native Americans contracted European diseases and in some sense looked pretty weak to settlers because of that. So, the settlers deemed them inferior on the assumption that they were always struggling with those diseases and were always carriers of contagion.

6. Inanimate object. This category likewise does double duty. Sometimes this is a step down from the insignificant animal subcategory, making the victims even less significant and therefore even easier to exploit. Sometimes objectifying people makes the cyanide pill of mass extermination a little easier to swallow.

The Nazi and Soviet regimes both used those they oppressed as experiment subjects, both alive and dead. Organs were harvested. The Soviets mixed the bones of the dead in concrete. People consigned to concentration camps and on the way there were called "transit material," that is to say, they were a "shipment of cargo used for industrial purposes." The bodies of gassed Jews were likewise called "pieces" that needed to be incinerated.

7. Waste product. The phrase "scum of the earth" comes to mind. This epithet is quite common, I can most readily remember this in association with the poor. They are "white trash." It is because of our depraved disposition to referring to the poor as "trash" that God emphatically commands protection of the poor in both the Old and New Testaments.

When people tried to immigrate children from Britain to Canada during the Industrial Revolution, some Canadians opposed it. Despite the fact that Britain exploited children for labor in unspeakable ways, Canadians were not willing to help out, because the immigration of these poor children was "a wholesale dumping of moral refuse on [Canada's] shores." One should not abhor the exploited for being physically or emotionally scarred by abuse. Detest the abusers instead.

8. Non-person. This is perhaps the worst category of all. Personhood is a legal and psychological category that (theoretically) transcends humanity itself. This category exists apart from eugenics and is based on an idea of rating the value of a person by measuring how much they can contribute to society.

Corporations are persons before the law and can sue. Ships, if they have had a maiden voyage, are persons before the law also. The rationale is grounded in the immense amount of money and resources that go into the construction and stability of a company or a ship. Some would argue for personhood on behalf of rivers and forests, thus allowing naturalists to advocate on their behalf in court. Some even would give animals varying degrees of personhood. And yet, certain bioethicists consider the elderly and disabled as nonpersons so we can kill them off because they are not cost-effective.

And what about the children? The premise of Brennan's entire book is that the same objectifying language is used today to dehumanize our own children. In a world where some people define ships and corporations as "persons," where people put forth a philosophical theory of robots with personhood (a la Isaac Asimov's Bicentennial Man)... in this sort of "progressive" world, our own children are not persons before the law.

In conclusion, all of these designations reinforce violent behavior and create a hostile environment that encourages others to join in the oppression of the vulnerable. It's a vicious cycle, and if we're going to stop it, we're going to need humanizing language. We will need to expand the appreciation for groups that are currently despised, and restore their human dignity through speech that affirms their value and advocates on their behalf.

I highly encourage you to get this book. The knowledge contained in this book is difficult to bear, but it is a necessary burden. If you are interested in matters of social justice, this is a must-read.

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: An Overview (Part I)

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

William Brennan wrote an excellent and insightful book that draws out 8 main themes used in hate speech. He covers these 8 themes as they've been used in reference to blacks, Native Americans, victims of Soviet and Nazi oppression, women, and children. I highly recommend his book, Dehumanizing the Vulnerable, with a solemn warning. The first two thirds of the book depict the uses and destructive effects of hate speech, and it made me want to break down and cry. Once I felt nauseous. The examples he gives are chilling, and they only scratch the surface.

Brennan does a wonderful job of supplying historical examples of how the different themes were used, but he doesn't always do a thorough job elaborating on the themes themselves. I intend to correct that. I supply one or two examples for each theme, but my focus is simply to help give a clear picture of the themes. This note is meant to expand on the book rather than summarize it. I will do a specific post on women and one on the unborn in the following two weeks, so I'm downplaying reference to that for now. This note will not be joyful, and it is twice as long as my last major note, just to warn you.

1. Barely human. Brennan explains this category very well. He says of this theme: "although they are acknowledged as official members of the human species, it is an ambiguous and questionable status that is subject to constant scrutiny and endless qualifications. The image consistently projected is that of hopelessly flawed human beings whose lives are so insignificant that they can be exploited at will, or so devoid of value that their very existence is placed in severe jeopardy."

Also under this theme is the idea of deficient humans. Defective models. Damaged goods. Today, retarded persons and the handicapped are at serious risk for this categorization. I have had over ten surgeries in my life. I was born with fairly serious heart problems and if I had not had a loving mother, I could have been aborted. But I am human. I am worthy of life.

In Nazi Germany, sick people were ostracized. For my low physical stamina and potentially life-shortening or life-threatening heart problems, I would have been seen as a burden. My eye problems don't help things, either. People would look at me incredulously as if it was terribly inconsiderate for me to continue drawing breath. Nobody would care that my intellectual development more than compensates for my former physical problems. Perhaps for none of these reasons -- perhaps simply because I am lefthanded -- I would be sent to a concentration camp.

2. Not human. This category creates further distance and hostility. Anyone convinced that a group of people are "not human" cannot possibly have any emotional bond with those non-humans. The author notes well that calling someone even barely human still conveys some shred of humanity, and that is a dangerous thing if you wish to inspire hatred and discord.

In 1907 Hitler said, "Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity." By 1923 this spiraled down to an assertion of nonhumanity: "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but not human."

3. Animal. This theme does double duty. At times people may be compared to lower animals in order to make their lives seem insignificant, and thus rationalize their victimization. The other use is to classify someone as a dangerous beast, either to be subdued (blacks; women) or hunted down and destroyed (Native Americans; Jews).

It was said that the Negroe was a beast of burden. Uncle Tom's Cabin affirms this imagery. Negroes were bred like pedigreed animals for strength and stamina, but not brains. This stereotype about blacks persists to this day, and is patently false. Due to the slow maturation rate of humans, it would take considerably longer to selectively breed humans than it takes to breed cattle or household pets.

4. Parasite. Biologically speaking, a parasite is a creature that has a one-way dependency on another creature, and does not in any way compensate its host. I am not satisfied with Brennan's treatment of this category, because he just leaves the "parasite" image at the biological definition. To the contrary, referring to a person as a parasite evokes an image of a malicious creature. Deceitful. Sneaky. It relishes the thought of draining your blood. It's not just innocently trying to survive, it is actively and sadistically contemplating the joy it will experience at causing you to suffer.

The difference between this image and the previous is that the "animal" category labels someone as an unreasoning beast that needs either a firm-handed master or destruction; this category brings to mind a cunning and tricky animal that is inherently evil.

A character fitting this archetype of "tricky parasite/predator," as I understand it, is Tolkien's Shelob, the giant she-spider. Though she often relied on webs to capture prey, she would creep around and stalk particularly tasty morsels for the thrill of surprise and direct combat. Frodo in this clip was one such victim. Spiders uniquely form a middle line between parasite and predator, and Shelob encompasses both the "dangerous beast" and the "tricky parasite" because she mixes brute force with cunning and guile.

Note especially when Sam strikes one of her good eyes in 2:30. She tries to make him lower his guard by exaggerating the handicap and pretending to be more hurt than she actually is.

It would be very easy (though incredibly inaccurate) to try and make a metaphor of that youtube clip. Frodo is the unsuspecting average German, and Shelob is the sneaky Jew. Loyal Sam is Adolf Hitler, and the Light of Galadriel (the glowing thingy) is Nazi teaching. Now, these connections have nothing to do with the clip, but Nazi propaganda could easily lift this clip from its context and use it as an illustration. Especially with the heroic line, "Let him go you filth. You will not touch him again."

Love is a Verb?

Posted by Gary Labels:

No it's not. At least, not always. Love is a noun, and it has specific character qualities.

I'm going to steal this from First Things, since I just "love" it that much.

Insert your own name and the right pronoun. See if this works for you.

______ is patient and kind;
______ does not envy or boast;
______ is not arrogant or rude.
______ does not insist on ___ own way;
______ is not irritable or resentful;
______ does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
______ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is a name, and that name is Jesus, not Gary. I've got a lot of work to do.

On the Necessity of Relationships (Part II)

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

Last time we covered the necessity of social context for our self-image. Now, I'd like us to consider how meaning develops for words. Actually, it's pretty much the same. Words, in a vacuum, have no definition. They must be studied in connection with other words. Basically, the human mind can't grasp words until they're used in a sentence.


On its own, it's hard to figure out what this word means. It's a pretty common English word, and it can mean: angelic being, authority, superhero ability, political influence, control, allure/charm, electricity, etc., etc.

Without context, there's no way to define exactly what "power" means. If I introduced a foreign word into a sentence, like some fancy Greek word you've never heard before, you probably won't be able to figure out what it means even though it's used in a sentence. Words have to be explained using other words, which is why words mean nothing on their own. In linguistics, a word's meaning exists in two parts: content is what a word says, and framing is how you should feel about it. Killing, murdering, assassinating, and executing all have the same content: making someone dead. The framing is how you should feel about it: killing is neutral; murdering/assassinating is terrible; and executing is... tolerable.

Since words only exist in relation to other words, their meanings can be stretched. Let's examine how the trick of content and framing works in reference to abortion arguments. How can anyone make the idea of killing babies for convenience palatable? You can popularize an idea by drawing upon the preexisting tradition of what is considered virtuous (i.e. words that give the idea a positive framing). For America, nothing is more sacred than personal freedom of individual choice. We will die for it, and we will kill for it. Hell, we'll even bomb civilians for it. If you can frame pro-choice arguments in the context of "American freedoms," then it sounds like a good deal. Sounds pretty American.

As an example of pro-choice wording bias: NARAL Pro-Choice America says this about themselves:

For 40 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been the nation's leading advocate for privacy and a woman's right to choose.

All of these words have a particular flavor to them. "Advocate" brings to mind a sense of bravely speaking out on behalf of what's right. We sure love our "privacy." "Right" suggests something that is morally necessary (and, for Americans, something worth dying for). "Choice" is, well, the golden calf of American thought. We live our lives as consumers of ever more stuff. Convenience is what makes us happy. (Well, actually, it makes us empty, but that's for another post.) When something displeases us, we throw it away. When we're unhappy with our marriage, we think s/he's not really "the one," so we get a divorce and try again.

According to Family Guy, the Emperor in Star Wars found out the formula for good Star Wars dialogue: "something, something, something, Dark Side. Something, something, something, complete." Let me give you the formula for good "pro-choice" dialogue. The sentence goes like this:
1. Start with "it is." Make the sentence an affirmation.
2. "HER." Use the third-personal singular possessive pronoun.
3. Follow up with an adjective that further indicates possession. "Own," "personal," or "individual" works great.
4. Finally, top it off with "body" or "choice."

In short, you must make sure you individualize the statement. The classic statement from this recipe is "it's her own body." Here's one I've heard when I objected to a friend's sexual misconduct: "she'll make the choice that's best...(pause for emphasis) for her." I'm sorry, but no. Sin is sin, and friends do not let friends screw around.

The points I hope to make with this post are:
1. Words must always be evaluated very carefully. The meaning of a word is slippery, since it takes its meaning from how it interacts with other words.
2. Words are the ammunition fired in the war to influence people's thoughts. People employ rhetoric of "freedom" and "choice" and other high-sounding words to make killing babies sound like something it's not.

Now, it must be said that pro-choice and pro-life are both high-sounding words, and both sides will label the other as anti-choice and anti-life. Words are the ammunition on both sides. It is because of communication gaps like this that two people can see the same thing and understand it completely differently. Ultimately, we can't just object to abortion because our side may be better at making ourselves look good and making them look bad. We have to base ourselves off of better reasons to believe as we do.

My next post in this series will cover the 8 different themes of hate speech. These same categories have been used to demean blacks, Native Americans, victims of Nazi and Soviet oppression, women, and children (both before and after birth). It's disturbing to think that the same basic way people dehumanized German Jews is the same way people dehumanize the unborn. Biology has always, up until recently, accepted life as beginning at conception. The zygote fits all the qualifications required for a thing to be alive. It also is of the species homo sapiens. Therefore, it is a living human being, as biologically defined. No fancy word games can refute this, but repeatedly telling lies will convince people that they are true.

Top 10 Valentines bloopers

Posted by Gary Labels:

If you head to the right place, you can find some of the hilarious things people unwittingly say when they are learning a new language. Cruel as I am, I thought I'd post some. Keep in mind we all make mistakes, and that's how we learn. (But... it's also how other people laugh at us.)

10. I fell in love with her the first time I sawed her.

9. He had such a worm heart.

8. We were two sheeps passing in the night.

7. We have hated each other for so long. I want to borrow the hatchet.

6. My dentist makes me blush twice a day.

5. I don’t know if he will propose, but I am expecting.

4. I have something exciting to tell you. My girlfriend and I got enraged last night!

3. The groom was wearing a very nice croissant.

2. He lifted the veal off her face and gave her a big kiss.

1. I think she is really glad she got marinated.

Some other innocent mistakes from new English from the pages of InnocentEnglish:

Recipes: Next, chop all the vegetarians into little pieces.

Health: It is dangerous to smoke while you are becoming pregnant.

Sports: It was so exciting to watch! The cheerleaders threw up high into the air.

Politics: The President got off the plane and gave a big kiss to the first ladder.

Grammar: Should I have a coma in the middle of this sentence?

Music: When he was through singing he had a standing ovulation.

Food: Do you like this food? I made it from scratching!

Parents: My bed has three blankets and a large guilt my parents gave me.

Weather: Rain makes old cars lust. So be careful about that. Once a car starts lusting, there’s no way to stop it!

Travel: You can’t sleep with me because it is too crowded. But you can probably sleep with my sister. That’s what most of my friends do when they visit.

Bible Quiz: Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients.Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. He died before he ever reached Canada.

Gao Zhisheng still missing

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

Gao, where are you?

Chinese human rights lawyer and hero of the faith, Gao Zhisheng, was abducted by the Chinese Communist Party exactly a year ago. Where is he now? Is he dead? Is he still enduring the same inhumane torture he was put through last time? The Washington Post explores the issue. (I suggest just signing in with facebook.) Gao's wife, Geng He, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post recently calling the issue to public attention. Thank God.

Since September we had suspected he was dead, but now we believe he is alive, still enduring terrible torture, up to, including, and exceeding toothpick insertion into the genitals.

On the Necessity of Relationships (Part I)

Posted by Gary Labels: , ,

How do you define yourself? What does it mean to be "conservative," or for that matter, to use any description? Descriptions make sense because they have opposites. If you've never experienced cold, then the word "hot" means nothing. If you've never been happy, then "sad" means nothing.

I don't think that personality exists apart from experiencing interaction with the world around us, and most especially with other people. We are communal, social creatures with an inborn need to interact. There is a theory in psychology that says that the self only exists in relation to others. In other words, there is no "Gary" unless Gary has someone to talk to.

I believe this stacks up with human experience. What exactly makes people feel lonely? Is it a survival need? No; loneliness has nothing to do with lacking food, water, or shelter. It is a sense that we lack fulfillment through self-identification. Without other people, we can't identify ourselves.

And we have an inborn need for self-identification. We must retain personality at all costs. If you end up shipwrecked alone on an island with a tennis ball, you'll name it Wilson, too. This may be an act of insanity, but it is a built-in defense mechanism against losing all sense of self. This is why we need other people to encourage and support us.

You help define people simply by relating to them. Every time you encourage someone, you build a positive definition of him/her, and when you put them down, you build a lower definition. I already wrote one note on the power of speech, but it's a point worth repeating.

Personality does not naturally exist in a vacuum and it is not independent of your interactions with others. To quote a Collin Raye song: "without you, baby, I'm not me." Do you know what happens if that built-in mechanism of creating an artificial relationship doesn't kick in? If you were on an island alone, and did not make friends with a tennis ball, then you would lose all sense of self and become an instinctive animal.

Or, perhaps, you'd go through depression. We all feel unfulfilled and lonely sometimes, but depression is not something everyone goes through. With depression, your personality is forced into a vacuum detached from your real life. Even if you have a caring family and friends that love you, somehow you don't take that into account and feel as if you're all alone in the world and nobody loves you.

No personality or privilege can protect from this. You can be a very smart Bible major, very popular, and still feel like a loser. You can be an incredible athlete and still feel unfulfilled. Last Saturday totally threw me for a loop. A friend of mine and comrade in the Lord, Ellie... she took her own life. How should I respond? How should I relate to this event, and how does it define my actions?

Perhaps we don't specifically say "me, me, me" like that, but we do all consider how to relate to the event. My choice? I will remember always to encourage my friends every chance I get. Life is fleeting. Pain is real, and it hurts. Death is scary, and so... inhuman. It is raw. It is real. It is unpleasant. It is also inevitable.

For those of us who are in Christ, it is not the end. I find comfort in this, but it doesn't make me immune to the pain of losing someone. In response to this tragedy, I choose to live every day as if I don't get another chance to say "I love you."

Lastly, I want to dedicate We Live by Superchick to Ellie Hensley. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you. I should have been a better friend.

You see, even though she's gone, she is a part of my definition. When she died, a piece of me died, too. A piece that doesn't just go away. That's why I have to speak to her memory. It's why we all do. Death is not something the human personality can comprehend. It is, simply, not natural.