The Genetic Apocalypse of the Human Race Made Simple

Poly-constrained message

Evolutionary theory holds that all of the diversity of life that we see – from dandelions to whales to hummingbirds to Vladimir Putin – all of this descended from a single ancestral genome. By accident. Somehow, life accidentally appeared from dead matter, and that first single-celled organism reproduced and, blindly and mindlessly, eventually led to increasingly “advanced,” “higher” life forms.

The biological process by which this all supposedly happened is this: random mutations plus natural selection. This is considered to be scientific fact in the sense that it is certain enough that it is no longer seriously questioned in secular academia. The assumption is that, over billions of years, the seemingly impossible has occurred innumerable times.

Materialist evolutionists claim that we know evolution is a fact because we can observe it occurring both in the laboratory and in the field. In saying this, they mean that we can observe mutations and natural selection giving rise to new species and newly adapted life forms.

Correcting a Common Misconception About Creationism
No one denies this. Natural selection and speciation are central to both creationist and evolutionist theory, but both worldviews disagree sharply on the role of natural selection and speciation. I would like to correct a common misunderstanding between the two worldviews. Here is where they disagree:

Creationists believe that mutations and/or natural selection can result in change and speciation within a given category of creature, but that there is a limit to what mutations and natural selection can accomplish. Dogs always produce dogs, and salmon always produce salmon. Mutations cannot create new genetic information of the type that is required to move an organism’s offspring in an “upwardly evolving” direction. For example, land bound reptiles could not have accidentally evolved into fully feathered, flying birds.

Evolutionists also believe that mutations and natural selection can result in change and speciation within a given category of creature, but they ascribe almost magical powers to the kind of change that mutations and natural selection can accomplish. Through gene duplication and other biological processes, they believe mutations can indeed add new genetic information of the type that would be necessary to move life from microbes to marimba players. For example, feathers accidentally evolved from scales via mutation, (or perhaps as some novel epidermal structure.)

100 years ago, microbes-to-mathematician evolution seemed like a viable possibility. Scientists had not yet discovered the astounding complexity of life at the cellular level, or seen the amazing complexity of the human genome. Within my lifetime we were told that humans and chimp DNA was about 99% similar. We were told that about 95% of our DNA served no function; that it was vestigial “junk DNA.” New research may be turning the tide of scientific opinion against these assertions.

In 2015, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, said in response to a question about junk DNA. “We don’t use that term anymore. It was pretty much a case of hubris to imagine that we could dispense with any part of the genome — as if we knew enough to say it wasn’t functional. Most of the DNA that scientists once thought was just taking up space in the genome turns out to be doing stuff.”

The Inevitability of Genetic Deterioration
I don’t really watch football. Instead, I’ve been a lifelong fan of following the creation/evolution “debate”. I’m no scientist, but I like to think I’m a (reasonably) intelligent designer. I’m willing to be convinced that all of life accidentally, mindlessly evolved from a single celled common ancestor, but I would have to at least be shown some natural process that could accomplish such a fantastical feat.

Probably the most important book I’ve read in the past year has been a book by Dr. John Sanford, entitled Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. I highly recommend it to everyone, regardless of your worldview.

You can Google Dr. J C Sanford to learn his credentials. He was a materialist, evolutionary geneticist for most of his career. He holds over 30 patents, and has over 80 scientific publications. However, his research has led him to conclude that naturalistic evolution as currently taught is scientifically indefensible. His book, Genetic Entropy, claims to demonstrate that the human genome is unavoidably deteriorating, and thus cannot possibly be millions of years old.

Sanford refers to the idea that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection as modern evolution’s “Primary Axiom.” The Primary Axiom is universally taught in academia and repeated in mainstream media.

Here is a brief excerpt from the prologue of Sanford’s book:

Late in my career, I did something that would seem unthinkable for a Cornell professor. I began to question the Primary Axiom…The Primary Axiom is actually an extremely vulnerable theory. In fact, it is essentially indefensible…To question the Primary Axiom required me to re-examine virtually everything I thought I knew about genetics. This was the most difficult intellectual endeavor of my life. Deeply entrenched thought patterns only change very slowly (and, I must add, painfully.) What I eventually experienced was a complete overthrow of my previous understanding.

As to the substance of the book, below is a sampling of one of several arguments against the Primary Axiom. As you read this, bear in mind that a mutation can be simply understood as a misspelling or copying error in the genome:

  1. Poly-constrained DNA
    Most DNA sequences are
    poly-functional and so must also be poly-constrained. This means that DNA sequences have meaning on several different levels (poly-functional) and each level of meaning limits possible future change (poly-constrained). For example, imagine a sentence which has a very specific message in its normal form but with an equally coherent message when read backwards. Now let’s suppose that it also has a third message when reading every other letter, and a fourth message when a simple encryption program is used to translate it. Such a message would be poly-functional and poly-constrained. We know that misspellings in a normal sentence will not normally improve the message, but at least this would be possible. However, a poly-constrained message is fascinating, in that it cannot be improved. It can only degenerate (see illustration above). Any misspellings which might possibly improve the normal sentence form will be disruptive to the other levels of information. Any change at all will diminish total information with absolute certainty…” (p 131.)

I would add a reminder that mutations are passed down to an organism’s offspring, accumulating with each generation. Sanford claims that all “higher genomes” are deteriorating, including ours. Mutations must ultimately move “higher” organisms in the wrong direction, “downward,” rather than in the direction needed for microbes-to-man evolution to occur. Far from solving the issue, deep time simply spells extinction.

Genetic entropy, if true, is not happy news for anyone, regardless of one’s worldview. If Sanford’s description of the world is correct, even a non-scientist can see important implications. From a theological perspective, I find it worth pausing to consider how pervasive are the effects of the fall of creation. Conversely, for those of us who hope in a Savior, it is worth considering how pervasive are the effects of the salvation that He has promised.
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Did Jesus Become Sin?

2 Cor 5:21 - "sin" or a "sin offering"?

Part of what defines Evangelicalism is the belief in the authority and reliability of the Bible. As with all subcultures, American evangelical church culture has developed certain beliefs through repetition that may or may not be correct. This post will examine one of those beliefs. I don’t see this issue as critical or disastrous to one’s faith, but I now think it affects how one views the God of the Bible.

The question
The issue in question comes from the singular usage of a phrase that the apostle Paul employs in a letter to the church at Corinth:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor 5:21)

It has become a widespread evangelical belief that part of the mechanics of mans’ salvation is that in order to pay the debt for our sin, Jesus literally somehow “became sin” on the cross, suffering the punishment we deserved, even enduring separation from His Father for a brief time. This is understood to be part of the terrible price that had to be paid in order for Jesus to secure the salvation of sinful humanity. This idea has many respectable and orthodox proponents, foremost among them being Billy Graham, whom I deeply respect. This idea has been central to Reverend Graham’s presentation of the gospel for decades.

I didn’t have a problem with this idea until a few years ago. One morning I was sitting in church, listening to a pastor friend articulate this article of evangelical belief. But he went into a bit more detail, taking the idea to its logical conclusion, and suddenly, I felt that what I was hearing wasn’t true. Here’s what he said:

“…(Jesus) became the adulterer. He became the pedophile. He became the nasty…”

Well…when you put it that way…

I went home and studied the issue for myself. I wondered if there was a better way to understand Paul’s words “made to be sin.” Perhaps this was one of those ideas that gets passed down without having been critically examined. What follows is what I found. You decide for yourself.

I should state that I am not a theological liberal, and that I consider the Judeo-Christian scriptures to be God’s inspired and authoritative revelation to man. My aim is to understand and harmonize what the whole of scripture says, not to get it to say what I think it should say. In interpretation, my aim is to understand a biblical author’s meaning, operating from the underlying assumption that the entirety of scripture is internally consistent.

So…what was Paul’s meaning?
The passage in question illustrates why biblical inerrancy and biblical literalism are not synonymous terms. It is true that in 2 Cor 5:21 the Greek literally says that God made Jesus “to be sin.” However, I now contend that there are strong reasons why we can know that this is not what Paul literally meant, and that it is therefore appallingly incorrect to say, “He became the adulterer. He became the pedophile…” We never see apostolic teaching saying anything like this, 2 Cor 5:21 being the sole exception. The singularity of the phrase is the first red flag.

By contrast, if there is anything we can know with certainty about Jesus from the scriptures, it is that He was and is the sinless, spotless, Lamb of God (1 Pet 2:22; Heb 4:15; 1 Jn 3:5.) At no point did He take on a sin nature, nor is it necessary to believe this was essential in order for His sacrifice to secure our salvation. Furthermore, we know that YHWH doesn’t change, and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8.) We must allow scripture to interpret scripture where the meaning of a passage is uncertain, as this one is.

As with all conundrums in the Bible, an understanding of its Jewish context is always essential to understanding what is being said. In regards to this question, the Jewish Tanakh (old testament) provides the foundation for properly understanding the sacrificial death of the Jewish messiah. This is not speculation. Indeed, one can argue that His sacrificial death was in view from the beginning, and that many old testament Jewish practices prefigure and foreshadow the redemptive, messianic fulfillment of the acts of Jesus.

There is ample reason to believe that the meaning Paul had in mind was, “He made Him who knew no sin to be a sin offering on our behalf…”

1) The sacrifice of Jesus was SUBSTITUTIONARY, as is prefigured in the Mosaic Covenant. There is no logical necessity or scriptural justification for saying that a sacrifice actually becomes guilty or sinful. If the Passover sacrifice was a prophetic picture of the better sacrifice to come in Jesus, (and it was: Heb 10:1; 1 Cor 4:7,) then in it we can see the nature of a sacrifice: substitutionary and spotless. Furthermore, in Lev 6:25‐27 we see the sacrifice remained holy before, during, and after the sacrifice was made. So it was with the spotless Lamb of God. The sins of the people are imputed/attributed to the sacrifice. The sacrifice must be innocent and free of all guilt to be acceptable, not so that it can literally “become sin,” but so that it can be offered in the place of the guilty. It becomes a sin offering.

2) There are many passages that refer to Jesus’ sacrifice as a “sin offering,” and it seems correct to me to say that Paul had this in mind when he used the shorthand Hebraism, “made to be sin.” (Hebraism = A linguistic feature typical of Hebrew occurring especially in another language.) Examples include:

> “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without (reference to) sin…” (Heb 9:28)

> “And He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time…For by one offering He has perfected for all time…” (Heb 10:10-14)

> “For Christ also died for sins once for all, (the) just for (the) unjust, in order that He might bring us to God…” (1 Pet 3:18 NASB. The substitutionary nature of the sacrifice is very clear here.)

> “…sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [referring to the incarnation] and (as an offering) for sin [referring to the atoning sacrifice], He condemned sin in the flesh,..” (Ro 8:3 NASB)

> “Yet it was the will of YHWH to bruise him…when he makes himself an offering for sin.” (Isa 53:10 RSV)

3) Perhaps most convincingly, the Septuagint’s use of the Greek word hamartia, translated as “sin” in 2 Cor5:21, supports the contention that Paul had “sin offering” in mind. When referring to sin offerings in the Tanakh, Jewish translators often used the Greek word hamartia in the Septuagint translation. We know that Paul and the apostles often quoted the Septuagint in their writings, as it was familiar to Greek-speaking Jews, (even though there were technically better translations available.) It seems reasonable in light of the whole of scripture that in this one verse in 2 Cor, Paul was simply employing the Septuagint’s use of hamartia to mean “sin offering.”

4) The wording itself in 2 Cor 5:21 is something of a parallelism, supporting the substitutionary nature of the Messiah’s sacrifice: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (a) that which was sinless became a sin offering; so that (b) that which was unrighteous could become righteousness in Him. In other words, He didn’t actually become sin, and we didn’t actually become righteousness – these things are imputed. We are counted as righteous “in Him.”

5) Finally, some may argue that, while Jesus was indeed a spotless sacrifice, it was necessary for Him to “become sin” in some way in order for Him to fully identify with us and secure our redemption. Similarly, some argue (incorrectly, in my view) that Jesus had to suffer in hell, or die spiritually, or endure separation from the Father in order to fully pay for the sins of the world. But it isn’t so. The scriptures explicitly say it is the blood of Jesus that secures our redemption. And His blood alone was and is sufficient because He is the eternal, incarnate Creator of all flesh, and He remained sinless in the flesh. As Creator, ultimate value resides with Him. It is neither logically nor scripturally possible for a holy God to “become the adulterer/pedophile.” Nor was it necessary:

You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot,…” (1 Pet 1:18.)

In fact, Paul describes precisely the extent to which our loving and holy Creator humbled Himself in order to secure our salvation:

…(Jesus) emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Php 2:7,8.)

But notice that Paul stops there. For the sinless Son of God to unjustly choose to die a humiliating, tortuous, criminal’s death demonstrates mind-bending love and humility. It is not necessary, and I would even say it is wrong, to embellish the story further by adding that Jesus literally became sinful, because the scriptures do not say this.

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all – 1 John 1:5
I think we can all confidently agree that the Bible says that Jesus “became a sin offering” in every full and complete sense. By contrast, we can only say that Jesus “became sin” in some figurative, qualified way, (which is what I believe Paul was doing.) Therefore, should say this at all without qualification?

The incarnation – the act of God becoming human – has many implications. Because human beings were made in God’s image, God could humble Himself to become human without violating His essential character. God could not become a monkey or a manatee, for example. This is a mind-blowing truth, illuminating the possibilities of what God created human beings to be. However, the incarnate Jesus entered into a fallen world where sin and its effects had damned the entire human race to disunity, destruction, and death. His life, death, and resurrection were God’s provision to restore us to life in Him. The scriptures repeatedly describe our life after spiritual rebirth as a process of being “conformed to the likeness of Jesus” (Ro 8:29; Eph 4:22-24; Php 2:1-5; 1Pet 1:14,15.)

Jesus arrived announcing the kingdom of God. He specifically claimed to have come in order that we might have life, and that He might reconcile us to our Heavenly Father. His life perfectly reflected the sinless beauty, glory, mercy, love, and justice of God. He did not “get Himself dirty” in the sense of becoming sin. His love and justice led Him to “get Himself dirty” for us in the sense that he humbled Himself, even to the point of laying down His life on our behalf. There is no greater love than this (Jn 15:13.)

 

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Planned Parenthood, Robert Dear, & Officer Garrett Swasey

Fetus-blg

On the occasion of this 43rd anniversary of the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand, I want to look a bit deeper into a local shooting rampage. It’s a story worth clarifying.

On Jan 16, 2016 the Reporter-Herald in my hometown published an opinion piece entitled, The Sacramento Bee on the surge in the abortion wars.

The first sentence stated: “…anti-abortion activists unleashed a barrage of deceptive videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of trafficking in fetal tissue for profit.” Planned Parenthood’s defense from day one has been that the sting videos were “deceptively edited.” By now we’ve all heard this accusation.

Planned Parenthood even hired a research firm, Fusion GPS, to examine the videos. Not surprisingly, Fusion GPS found that the videos were indeed “manipulated.” Mainstream news media announced this finding without disclosing that Fusion GPS has ties to the Democratic party.

Subsequently, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) commissioned a third party digital security and forensics firm, Coalfire, to analyze the videos. Unlike Fusion GPS, Coalfire had access to the entire body of investigative footage. Coalfire’s findings were that the videos are “authentic and show no evidence of manipulation.” However, this finding has somehow not been reported in the mainstream media, even though the findings were sent to reporters at every major media organization in America.

The Colorado Springs tragedy
Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2015 lone gunman Robert Dear opened fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, killing 3 people, including a police officer, and injuring 9 others. Planned Parenthood and sympathetic news media were quick to blame the “deceptively edited videos” for the attack, and to associate the shooter with the pro-life movement, based on comments he made at the scene. (Police reported that Dear’s rantings included the words, “No more baby parts” – an allusion to the videos.)

Here is where decency and justice demand that a correction be made.

There was indeed at least one pro-lifer present at the shooting, but it wasn’t shooter Robert Dear. Dear doesn’t appear in Colorado Right to Life’s (CRTL) database of over 500,000 names. More to the point, by definition pro-lifers are morally opposed to the killing of innocent people. This is the reason there is an abortion debate. All right-to-life organizations strongly repudiate abortion clinic violence, (regardless of whether it is perpetrated inside or outside of the womb.)

Slain officer, Garrett Swasey, held this view. He arrived on the scene in response to calls from other officers. Since his death, many news reports have mentioned that he was a husband and father of 2 young children. Some have mentioned that Swasey was once a nationally ranked figure skater and ice dancer. Some have mentioned that he was a co-pastor at his church. But I’ve yet to see a report from a secular news source acknowledge that Swasey was a signer of the 2014 Personhood Amendment petition.

The Personhood Movement seeks to recognize unborn human beings as persons deserving of legal protection.

Officer Garrett Swasey was a committed pro-life Evangelical Christian of the sort that Planned Parenthood and the Left routinely demonize as being “anti-woman.” Swasey was not obligated to respond to the other officers’ call for help on Thanksgiving weekend. Nonetheless, he chose to serve and protect Planned Parenthood, an organization whose ideology he sharply disagreed with. As a “right wing pro-life extremist,” he gave his own life with the aim of stopping a shooter from harming other people.

His example should be held up, honored, and remembered. Let us refuse to allow the beliefs and motives of officer Garrett Swasey to be conflated with those of gunman Robert Dear.

Isn’t the Solution for Planned Parenthood Very Simple?

The Sexual Revolution & AbortionThey could stop doing abortions.

Since the most recent video scandal, defenders of Planned Parenthood have been retorting that abortion only accounts for a very small percentage of the services that Planned Parenthood provides. As if abortion is an insignificant part of what Planned Parenthood does.
Okay, then. If abortions are such a small part of what Planned Parenthood does, then why not stop doing them altogether? Why not just stick with actual women’s reproductive health services?

But this will never happen. Why? Why is providing abortions a deal-breaker for Planned Parenthood? Why will Planned Parenthood risk losing over $500 million in taxpayer funding rather than stop doing abortions?

They will not stop because their reasons are ideological.

Gender feminism and the Postgender movement will not accept an ethic that compels a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The key word is unwanted. Apparently, “Progressive” ethics is ultimately about autonomy, self-determination, and “equality,” even if this means demanding a woman’s right to kill her offspring in utero; and it does. These people believe that women cannot be on equal footing with men so long as women are bound by a biologically assigned role that men are not bound by.

The connection between sexual intercourse and pregnancy must be severed, or else women can’t possibly share an “equal status” with men. This is essential to the sexual revolution. It doesn’t matter if a woman freely chooses to have sex resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Her male partner doesn’t have to worry about living with an unwanted pregnancy, so neither should she. It wouldn’t be fair. For radical feminism, legal abortion is basic to ensuring equality with men.

Therefore, those of us who oppose abortion on demand are said to be waging a “war on women.” But we’re not. We’re waging a war on an inhumane utopian fantasy. We accept the natural order of creation and recognize the value, equality, and sanctity of every human life regardless of differing gender roles.

Going backwards?
But maybe gender feminists have a point. Why not use abortion to level the gender playing field?

Because by definition, abortion undermines any meaningful notion of equality. It abuses power, destroying vulnerable individuals in order to advance the status of more powerful individuals. It saws off the limb on which it is sitting.

The only way that abortion can work as an equalizing force is to pretend that a human fetus is not a human being. But it is simply a biological fact that a new human life begins at conception. If we’re going to hold that human life has innate value, then there is no rational way to argue that a human fetus has no value.

If we do not value innocent human life from its beginning point, then we are left with arbitrarily qualifying some other point at which a life is human and has value. Any such arbitrary point opens the door to creepy ethical scenarios. For instance, if we pick viability, does that mean that the dependent elderly and disabled are not fully human? Is it then ethical to terminate them at will and sell their organs for research?

But what about cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother?

These objections cannot be brushed off lightly. In cases involving rape and incest, the girl/woman has had a pregnancy forced on her. It is wildly unjust that anyone should ever be forced into such a situation. At the same time it is unjust that an innocent human life should be ended because it originated through the selfish actions of a male perpetrator. There is no perfect answer. Such is the world in which we live.

A Pro-life position does not advocate no abortion whatsoever. Pro-lifers who say so are misinformed, in my opinion. The life-of-the-mother argument is held up by the Left as an example of so-called Pro-life extremism – an example of why Roe v Wade is necessary. But the truth is that abortion was allowed in cases where the life of the mother was endangered before Roe v Wade. Such decisions have always been made by the mother and her family.

How can the decision to terminate such a pregnancy be considered a Pro-life decision? It is Pro-life because the life of the mother is at stake. What is being weighed in such a case is the fundamental right to life of two separate individuals; the life of the mother vs. the life of the child. But in the vast majority of abortion scenarios, what is being weighed is a woman’s “right to choose” vs. the right to life of a child. The right to life is simply more fundamental – the right upon which all other rights rest. If we fail to uphold innocent human life, certainly secondary rights are expendable as well.

As a compromise, even as an ardent Pro-life person I would support a law or amendment making an exception for rape, incest, and the life of the mother, even though I would not necessarily agree that abortion is justifiable in those situations. Factual numbers around these scenarios are elusive, but in combination these constitute probably well under 5% of abortions, so such a law would still do away with so-called abortions of convenience. Abortion for non-medical reasons is not health care.

Planned Parenthood’s better world

Damning investigative videos about Planned Parenthood are not new. They’ve been trickling out for years now. Several years ago, when Planned Parenthood workers from several different states were secretly recorded, assuring white donors that their donations could indeed be designated to specifically abort black babies, what I heard angered me.

Later, a Live Action hidden camera filmed a 13-year old girl seeking an abortion at an Indiana Planned Parenthood facility. Rather than report the situation to Child Protection Services, as the law requires, the nurse instructed the girl to lie about the age of her 31-year old partner in order to circumvent the law, and then directed the girl to a neighboring state for a secret abortion. Very disturbing.

Then, when a Planned Parenthood worker was caught on hidden camera coaching a sex-trafficking pimp on how to circumvent the law in order to obtain abortions for his underage, non-English-speaking “workers,” I was angry. However, Planned Parenthood could throw these employees under the bus because they weren’t in high-level positions.

But the latest string of videos, released by the Center for Medical Progress, implicates several Planned Parenthood representatives at the highest levels of the organization.

Since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, the abortion issue has divided the American public. We didn’t need videos to know that taking an innocent human life for money is a bad thing. But even now, even in light of the latest revelations, I haven’t heard the Right demanding that Planned Parenthood and their radical sexual politics be driven out of existence. But is it so unreasonable to ask that taxpayer dollars not be used to subsidize them?

If “Progressives” must have abortion-on-demand in order for their vision of equality to work, let them do it without the forcing the humane sector to fund it. If there is going to be an abortion industry, let it stand on its own, like other service industries. Let the industry find it’s own sympathetic benefactors. Let us see if a business that terminates infant human lives for money will somehow have the effect of fostering human flourishing, equality, and a culture of enlightenment.

It fascinates me that while we continue to advance scientifically and technologically as a society, we remain morally and ethically lost. The same science and technology that is used by some to ease human suffering and make the world a better place is used by others for oppression and for harm. Human action continues to be darkened by greed, willful ignorance, and arrogance on a worldwide scale. The research lab cannot tell us right from wrong, or even if such a thing as right and wrong exists.

Planned Parenthood is one modern example of misapplied science and technology in the service of a well-meaning, but tragically mistaken, ideology. However, there is plenty of misapplied science to go around on both sides of the political spectrum. When all is said and done, how we perceive our problems and solutions still comes down to our beliefs. Our beliefs dictate our behavior.

Here’s hoping we can still respectfully talk to those whose beliefs differ from our own about things that matter to us all. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Baby doctor

Found on the sidewalk outside the micro brew pub near my house…

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My Brother’s Heart: A Tribute

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

Hanging with my big brother on my first Christmas.

The world just lost another good man. He died peacefully in his sleep at age 57. No one knows why.

I was lucky to be his little brother. Growing up with Craig was a blast. He was hilarious. When we were kids his mind was always cooking up something interesting or mischievous. He could easily have led me into bad things, but that just wasn’t my brother’s heart. His moral compass was always oriented to creative and reasonably harmless pursuits.

Craig was passionate about everything he got into. He got me interested in drawing when I was just a little kid. I feel a little pensive about this now. He really liked drawing, and I wonder if he would’ve pursued a career in art if it hadn’t been for me. He was well above average in his ability, but I happened to be innocently but extraordinarily gifted. Everyone soon made a big deal about my art and assumed out loud that I would grow up to be an artist. This became part of my identity. I thought he simply lost interest in art. He ended up following my dad into construction work, which didn’t really work out well. I wanted to ask him about all of this someday.

Craig was a collector of things. When we were kids it was Mad magazines and Marvel comics. Beginning in his teen years, it was music. I grew up listening to the music of my older siblings – mostly my brother’s. For better or for worse, I still know all of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics to Elton John’s early recordings. As an adult, Craig amassed a huge, diverse music collection and became an avid concertgoer and music festival attendee. If you ever attended the Cornerstone festival in Illinois, put on by Jesus People USA, my brother was there.

Somewhere along the line, my brother devoted his life to following Jesus, passionately, of course. He was blessed with a great crap detector, but he didn’t use it to be harsh with people. He might privately call out a friend, but he used it as much on himself as on anyone else. Despite being outspoken for the truth, when he recognized that he’d been hurtful or wrongheaded, he was humble enough to ask forgiveness. I loved his heart.

As an adult I got to see his heart up close, when he endured a very painful divorce. I don’t know that I could have, or would have, been able to love and forgive as he did had I been in his situation. The depth of his forgiveness was astounding to me. During this time, after hearing his heart, it struck me that he had the mind of Christ. His example was inspired and inspiring.

Craig’s honest walk with Jesus enabled him to cut through and navigate the Southern Baptist, Evangelical subculture in which we grew up. He understood that the point was not to follow a religion, but to follow a person: Jesus. He understood that following Jesus is not about religious legalism and rule-keeping, but about relationship, while still holding to the fidelity of the Bible.

This could be seen in the testimony of two men who stood to speak during a public sharing time at Craig’s funeral – two different men, from two different backgrounds. You could guess their background by their appearance. One guy came from a Christian fundamentalist background. He described how my brother had helped him break free from religious legalism, and helped him to come into the freedom that the Spirit of Jesus brings, (…“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” – 2 Cor 3:17.) Apparently their conversations often revolved around some of my brother’s “objectionable” Christian music.

The second guy came from an opposite place. He explained that when he came to Jesus, he didn’t so much mind letting go of the drugs and the drinking. But he was a metal head, and it was disheartening for him to entertain the idea of joining a legalistic Christian subculture with lame music. Somebody sent him to my brother, who introduced him to some legit musicians whose music didn’t fit this guy’s stereotype of Christian Music. They became buds. When I shook this guy’s hand afterward, he reminded me that I had met him once, camping with my brother at a Cornerstone festival – home of alternative Christian music.

In our immediate family, my wife and I have a saying: “Life is about relationships.” This idea often helps us choose where we spend our time and energy. This saying derives from the greatest commandment as stated by Jesus: Love God, and love people; all of God’s instruction depends upon these two things (Mat 22:36-40.) I never heard Craig say the words, “life is about relationships,” but at his funeral it was clear that he lived them as well as anyone I know. His life was all about pursuing God and investing in people.

Craig was a great dad, and he poured his life into his two lovely daughters, Jenna and Dana. Here are a couple of comments from their Facebook friends:

He valued the opinion of every person he spoke with, no matter what age you were. He taught me the value of presence. The art of conversation. Looking back, I can’t remember a time that I saw him ever leave first! Whoever he was with or wherever he was, he was fully there. Serving as our Sunday School teacher & one of our college group leaders, he taught so many of us young adults how to appreciate art & seek the truth & beauty of God in things like film, music or just being outdoors…He made all of us feel important; believed in. Like our voices mattered… – EC

Craig sought out God in everything and was excited to talk about it. To my group of friends, he was not just someone’s dad or the Sunday school teacher or the adult supervisor. He was our friend. We invited him to all of our parties, we went to the movies with him, we camped together, we ate meals together, we talked about life, we talked about God and His creation… – MT

There are many ways that people look at death. Some see it as a natural, even a beautiful, thing – a mysterious portal into the next stage of existence. Jesus didn’t see it that way. Jesus wept at death. He spoke of Himself as the resurrection and the life. Paul spoke of death as an enemy that Jesus came to destroy. He described the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits of a great harvest that would follow. The Bible describes a salvation that encompasses our entire beings – body, soul, and spirit. Death is a separation. God promises to restore total unity. I suppose we should expect nothing less from an all loving, all powerful, and all good God.

I loved my big brother’s heart. I admit that I’m frustrated and sad that he is gone. I expected to have a lot more time with him. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Here’s looking forward even more to “the restoration of all things.”

The last picture of my brother and me. Craig Lee Freeman -  January 5, 1958 to July 27, 2015

The last picture of my brother (on right) and me – Dec 2014.
Craig Lee Freeman – January 5, 1958 – July 27, 2015

A Tale of Two Neighbors. (And Many Dandelions.)

garden gnome-scott freemanThis morning as I was out digging dandelions in the sun, I noticed myself unconsciously making choices. It set me to thinking about human action and freedom.

I’m quite fond of the quirky little piece of downtown property where my wife and I live and raised our family. I love my wife’s garden. I love our art studio. I like our fruit trees. I like that our yard is not fenced in. And I really like that there is no Homeowners Association (HOA.) This allows me to do things like dig a pit and cook a turkey in the ground at Thanksgiving. Or to add outdoor art to my property. Our “inner city” neighborhood has a lot of cool, creatively embellished properties, and a lot of urban farming going on. Several neighbors keep chickens and bees in their backyards. These are usually among the best kept properties. I love this.

Of course there is the occasional trashy property as well, and the occasional display of poor taste. This is part of the cost of freedom. I think it is a small price to pay.

This post is a brief tale of two neighbors. It’s a story about the dynamics of living in community. (I’m pretty sure neither of my neighbors reads my blog.)

I will call my neighbor on one side, Harvey. Harvey is a middle-aged, single guy. We’re buds. We’ve talked a lot about life, God, politics, and stuff, in a dude sort of way. I like a lot of Harvey’s views, though he can be a little pugnacious. But underneath his crusty, cigar-smoking exterior, as human beings go, he’s a good man. He volunteers his time and resources to help under-privileged kids. For years he has worked with the deaf community in one capacity or another. He has purchased my art and books on several occasions. He has given us pecans from his farm in another state. I like Harvey.

A few years ago, Harvey adopted an enormous dog. A black lab, or something. I’ll call him Dogzilla. Dogzilla is clueless and friendly. I’d say he’s a little too friendly. He often escapes his pen and comes immediately into our yard, snuffling around and peeing in our garden, where we grow food that we intend to eat. Dogzilla produces enormous poop that doesn’t decompose because Harvey feeds him cheap dog food. Sometimes at night, I’ve noticed Harvey letting Dogzilla out for a potty break, while he enjoys a cigar in our shared alley. Recently, I shoveled all of Dogzilla’s petrified poop back into Harvey’s yard. I haven’t told Harvey about this yet, but if he doesn’t like it, I’m looking forward to the conversation where he explains why he has a problem with me putting his dog’s poop back into his yard.

Harvey pieced together a make-shift pen for Dogzilla. The makeshift pen is quite large and consists of five-foot sections of chain-link fencing, held up with bungee cords and stacks of cinder blocks, with a tarp thrown over part of the fence for shade. With dandelions and goat heads growing all around. It looks like crap. It’s very reminiscent of a third world slum, or a refugee camp. Of course, I have nothing against third world slum dwellers or refugees, but I don’t believe that Harvey and Dogzilla are in a crisis situation. Unless you count the dandelion crisis. But even so, that’s really a first world problem.

So that’s on one side of my house.

Then there is my neighbor on the other side. I’ll call her Betsy. She is an interior designer. Her house and yard look like a greeting card scene. She’s like Martha Stewart without the prison record. Her property has been on the annual Loveland Garden Tour. It’s like a Disney movie over there, with rabbits and birds and butterflies hopping and flitting about. When I step out of my house to go to work in my studio, if I happen to glance over to the right at Betsy’s property, I often break into song.

Betsy is also a great neighbor and a giving person. She is from an old Loveland family, and it’s fun to talk local history with her. My wife and Betsy exchange gardening plants. I have painted several paintings in her sanctuary-like backyard during plein air art competitions. (I have never asked Harvey’s permission to paint in his “yard.”) During winter, she always has her snow removal guys do part of my sidewalk. At Christmastime we exchange Christmas cookies, and hers are amazing, and ridiculously Martha Stewart-like. (Harvey does not give us cookies, but that is probably a good thing.)

That’s the other side of my house.

So, when I went out for my first springtime dandelion digging, guess where I started digging first? I headed directly to Betsy’s side of my yard. I wanted to be sure she didn’t have to wonder if I was going to get rid of the dandelions next to her property. (Her yard is dandelions-free.) She has never complained to me about my sometimes lax grounds keeping. She doesn’t have to. Because she treats her property with care, it makes me want to do the same. Not out of guilt, or shame, or keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, but out of respect and appreciation for the effort and creative care she puts in. I’ve noticed that she likes to entertain guests in her garden, and I would like to not be the jerk who ruins the sanctuary vibe that that she has going on over there. All of this is unspoken. I could completely neglect my property, and the world would keep turning, but the fact that she cares helps me to care.

Isn’t so much of life like this?

All of us struggle every day against entropy and degeneration, in every aspect of life. The physical universe is winding down. Left to itself, our environment gravitates toward disorder and decay. Civil society naturally tends toward confusion and degeneration. Even the genes in our cells are continually mutating, causing our bodies to degenerate and eventually lose function. But we fight against this. By intelligence, creativity, and work, we rebuild, restore, support, and hope. Ultimately, our only hope for salvation is an intelligent, loving, regenerative Life-Source existing outside of creation, commonly referred to as “God.” But whether or not we believe in such a God, most of us still hold onto hope. I find this bittersweet.

For me, every creative act is worth something. While even our hoping and dreaming is imperfect, every hope and dream in the face of futility testifies that we were created for life, love, and goodness. Creative acts affirm life. Caring acts make the universe make sense to our neighbor. Loving acts transcend the futility of our hopeless trajectory, in some small way. To me these things signal that there is something better to come.

I’ll close with some gardening tips from the apostle Paul:
“…whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:7-10.)

dandelion

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I Don’t Get It. I Solved the Abortion Debate But No Guys Signed Up.

We’re coming up on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion-on-demand legal in the America. I think we should all be celebrating because I have arrived at a solution that would solve this contentious debate. But instead, NO GUYS have signed up on my Facebook page. None. Except me, but I only liked my own page to get the ball rolling. One like. The ball is just sitting there.

I even came up with a cool logo. Here it is:

The Male Solution to Accidental Pregnancy: VasectomyIt’s a quadruple entendre:

  • It forms a “V” for vasectomy.
  • It cleverly symbolizes scissors, for the snipping of sperm ducts
  • It forms a peace sign; a symbol of the end of the contentious abortion debate in America.
  • Plus, if you use your imagination, it kind of looks like a rabbit. Because, dudes, if you follow my prescription, you will be free to indiscriminately have sex, like rabbits, yet without proverbially “multiplying like rabbits.”

On my Facebook page, right next to the flying pig, it says:
I BET I CAN’T FIND 50 SEXUALLY ACTIVE, SINGLE, HETEROSEXUAL AMERICAN MALES WHO WILL VOLUNTARILY UNDERGO A VASECTOMY TO PROTECT THEIR PARTNERS.

The name of my page is, The Male Solution for Unplanned Pregnancy: Vasectomy

Here’s an except from my “about” page:
For decades I’ve been baffled as to why girls and women must be the ones who bear the brunt of the consequences for irresponsible sex and accidental pregnancies. Or why they put up with it. Women are always the ones who take the pill. Women are always the ones who get pregnant. Women are always the ones who get abortions. Guys, aren’t you tired of feeling like jerks?

The solution is so simple. If you’re a sexually active single male, GET A FREAKING VASECTOMY, or else give me a good reason why you shouldn’t. Be a man. Get sterilized. The world doesn’t need your genes…

(There is also a short FAQ section where I made up my own frequently asked questions.)

After two years my page has only one like.

I don’t get it. This just makes so much sense. Why isn’t a groundswell movement forming? Let’s say you’re a sensitive, caring, 21st century guy. Obviously if you’re going to have sex with someone, you must at least like them a little. You might even tell them you love them. So what’s the deal? Given the fact that birth control so often fails, why would you risk putting a woman at risk for an unwanted pregnancy when you could so easily and permanently do something about it?

I know, I know. The actual guys that I’ve had this discussion with have a problem with the “permanent” part. Because they might want to have kids someday. Well, that just breaks my heart. Exactly how does that thinking go? If I help to create a new human life when I’m not ready to care for it, then it’s okay for my partner to have that developing life terminated. It’s a woman’s choice after all. (And, I might add, what a horrible, no-win choice it is for her.) But if I am ready to care for and raise the child I helped create, then apparently that new human life is then valuable. Maybe even a miracle! Hmmm. Surely you don’t need me to point out that this is magical and asinine thinking.

My dad once told me, “Son, if you’re not ready to raise a child, you’re not ready to have sex.” Wow. Really?

Well, I’ll admit I’m extrapolating a little bit because what he actually told me was, “If you don’t have time to clear the snow off your windshield, you don’t have time to drive.” But it’s the same idea.

The truth about sex.
(I just want to see in print what I’m about to say, even if I do have to write it myself.)
I’m going to make a radical and controversial statement here. Especially for intelligent, educated people, it may necessitate a paradigm shift. I feel like I’m going out on a limb here, because I’m apparently way outside of the mainstream on this. But…(deep breath)…here goes:

Sexual intercourse often leads to pregnancy.

I’m serious. In fact, if you want to make a baby, the way you do it is to have sex! I know – weird! You engage in the same exact behavior to make a baby as you do when you only want recreational sex! And sex is normally supposed to be just recreational, right? Like in romantic comedies. It’s like a human right for all consenting human beings, right? We know this because in movies, if two people fall in love, it would just be bizarre if they didn’t have sex with each other right away. And unwanted pregnancy is never a concern for cool people in movies. And movies and TV shows are practically a handbook for life and a mirror of reality.

Some of my (usually European) acquaintances use the phrase “fall pregnant,” as in, “A friend of mine recently fell pregnant.” As if pregnancy is caused by a virus, or some mysterious unknown cause. You’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and BAM – a nasty case of pregnancy hits you from out of nowhere. It could happen to you.

Speaking of pregnancy as a disease, in conversation I have had otherwise bright, educated, young liberal men and women refer to the developing fetus as a parasite, and a tumor. (Apparently a tumor with eyes, a brain, and it’s own heartbeat.) This is desperate denial.

The truth about Evangelicals and sex
Here is another widely misunderstood truth that I have never seen correctly articulated in liberal media:

Evangelicals really don’t care who you have sex with.

Yes, really. Obviously, if you don’t claim to be a follower of Jesus, why would we expect you to behave like a follower of Jesus? It’s your life. You are free to have sex with whomever you want. We aren’t, and we’re just fine with that. However a problem arises when you want to make us participants in what we consider to be unethical sexual behavior. For instance when a liberal presidential administration wants to force us, as doctors and nurses to participate in elective abortions. Or force us as closely held corporations to pay for certain birth control methods that we might find unethical. Or use our tax dollars to subsidize the nation’s largest abortion seller, Planned Parenthood. Yet somehow in all of this, we’re the ones imposing our morality on others! More magical thinking!

We wouldn’t dream of forcibly imposing our beliefs on the rest of the culture, even if we could, because forcing external compliance only fosters resentment and resistance. We just ask that social liberals extend the same courtesy to us. It’s called pluralism and religious freedom.

The truth about fundamental human rights.
At this point, pro-legal-abortion people will argue, “You social conservatives say you don’t want to impose your morality on people, and yet you would overturn Roe v Wade and use government to force women to have babies. What happened to ‘limited government’?”

Well, limited government is very different from no government, which would be anarchy. Evangelicals tend to really like America’s Constitution and founding documents, and we want a government in line with them, which would by definition be limited. A primary role of good government would be to guarantee fundamental rights for everyone, while also guaranteeing basic freedoms for everyone. Guess what the most basic right of all is – the foundational human right upon which all others depend?

I think we have to agree that it is the right to life. Because dead people don’t have rights.

Evangelicals love the line from the Declaration of Independence about people being endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; the first being life. We actually believe this. This means there is a transcendent Source from which our rights are derived. Human governments do not create rights. If one powerful group can dehumanize and render expendable a weaker group of people, then the rights of all people are potentially at risk.

Here’s the deal. Abortion-on-demand does violence to the idea of the sanctity of human life, and it does so with governmental approval. Once we begin qualifying when human life is valuable, we put ourselves in the horrifically arrogant position of deciding who deserves to live. As a civilized society we cannot allow that it’s okay to end a life because it is an inconvenience, or because it’s not sentient, or not self-sufficient, or not useful, or not fully functioning, or for any other subjective reason. We know exactly when a new human life begins, and if we don’t value life from that beginning point, then we have started down a nasty slippery slope, and the next thing we know, we’ll wake up one day to find we’ve been sleeping with Nazis.

So the Evangelical “obsession” with abortion is not about us objecting to the way people have sex, or wanting to control women’s bodies, or being anti-birth control, or whatever other crap the Huffington Post dreams up. It’s actually a healthy obsession with wanting to promote a culture of life, rather than a culture of death. It’s a desire to see a rising tide that lifts all boats.

The truth about biological life
I’ve been closely following this debate for decades and I’ve rarely seen anyone on the Left acknowledge the truth about the fundamental question underlying this debate: “When does a new human life begin?” The fact is, before there was abortion-on-demand in America, everyone knew the answer to this question. Here’s the answer:

A new human life begins at conception.

This is observable. It’s the reason doctors can calculate pregnancy due dates, every day. A sperm cell by itself will never become a human being. An ovum by itself will never become a human being. But put them together and – boom – you have a new biological entity with 46 chromosomes that is a developing human being.

But suddenly, after Roe v Wade, the question of when a new life begins became a mystery!
However, regardless of the wishes of Liberalism, the facts of life have not changed. The reproductive act continues to lead to reproduction, and abortion continues to end a developing human life.

I admit, this sort of thinking does dump cold water on the “sexual revolution,” since the shape of reality is that sex leads to pregnancy. Radical feminism and sympathetic sexual liberals must have abortion on demand in order to fulfill their vision of radical “equality”, and they necessarily need the power of government to help them. And yet, the campaign to deny and reshape biological reality in the name of civil rights turns out to be neither compassionate nor humane, and will continue to undermine a culture of life. It is really not the fault of pro-life people that sexual liberals want to create a reality that doesn’t and can’t exist – that is, sex without consequence.

It’s also not our fault that our worldview actually works in the real world, and that of social liberals doesn’t. The Liberal vision of sexual freedom is parasitic, unsustainable, and hurtful. It works great in movies, but sucks for a lot of people in the real world. The Evangelical worldview of sexual freedom within the confines of marriage is self-sustaining, in accord with the real world, and doesn’t hurt anyone. Ironically, it looks dorky in movies. Go figure.

It’s your choice if you want to be single and sexually active. But if you’re a dude, don’t pretend to respect women unless you’re willing to put your money where your sperm ducts are. A vasectomy costs a few hundred bucks – far less than surgery to sterilize a woman. Start a crowd-funding campaign if you can’t afford it. What are your options? Even if you responsibly use birth control, if it fails, your partner will be no less pregnant than if she had been trying to get pregnant. It happens all of the time. Something like 50% of pregnancies in America are unplanned. Now is the time to be logical. Be a man! I can’t think of a better way for you to celebrate Roe v Wade than to get a vasectomy.

Sexual Revolution

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