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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The 2nd in a series of posts from the Blogger Idol meme...to see other week 2 entries, click the icon-->blogger_idol-1.gif

"Freedom" and its root, "free," are old words. They come into English through the Germanic and Scandinavian linguistic influences. In its original sense, "free" meant "dear" and it was applied to members of a household who were related by blood to the head, as opposed to servants and slaves who were not. The idea of freedom, then, has had from its inception the idea of love, of worthiness, and of relationships. We often think of the concept of self-determination and "freedom" in an individual sense as a modern concept. Burkhardt traced this kind of individualism to the Italian Renaissance; in a political sense it has often been traced to the U.S. war for independence. Yet the earliest recorded use of "freedom" as a distinct word in English--dating from the late 9th century--employs this meaning. Individual freedom, then, is also at the very root of the word.

The political freedom that we so value today, particularly in the West, predates not only the American Revolution, but also the enlightenment thought which informed the founding fathers. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first such usage in the 14th century, though not surprisingly the word becomes much more popular in the 18th century, with Swift being the first citation. Shakespeare was not the first to combine the political and individual notions of freedom, but his is among the most memorable (you'll find it in the opening scene of Titus Andronicus). But it was left to Franklin D. Roosevelt to spell out this connection in its most fully realized form:
In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants
--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation
will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of
the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
Roosevelt's speech on "The Four Freedoms" is worth reading not only as a reminders for the dangers the world faced in January of 1941, but also to remind us how far we have to go to achieve the kind of world that Roosevelt thought attainable in his generation. When Roosevelt defines freedom ultimately as "the supremacy of human rights everywhere," I shudder at how far we have yet to go. With all the human rights abuses we witness--from the extremes of the Congo, Uzbeckistan, and yes, Saddam's Iraq to our own willingness in the U.S. to suspend rights to look the other way when abuses occur, and to refuse to look honestly at potentially unjust structures (like the Patriot Act and the death penalty)--I don't know that I have much hope for the freedoms that FDR describes.

And yet freedom is much older than I am. Freedom has a long and illustrious history, and through countless setbacks, freedom has seemed to spread; when freedom has seemed buried, it has always sprouted anew; when tyrants believed they had finally killed freedom, it was gloriously resurrected. As a Christian, I believe that ultimately this movement of freedom is the movement of the Holy Spirit bringing to fruition God's plan for the World. As Paul puts it in Romans 8:18-23: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. " God has made us to be free, and despite indications to the contrary, freedom ultimately will win.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Finished Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline last night. As a brief introduction to Barth's work, it is invaluable. Working through the Nicene Creed, Barth explains what the creed means, and more importantly, why it must mean what is says. Barth takes faith more seriously than anyone else I've read, and though the work is difficult in places, I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Well, I'm a little late on this: blogger_idol-1.gif

But I'm not in it for the judging so much as I thought it might be an interesting idea and a good way to see some other bloggers out there. I spent most of the 1980s thinking I'd be a poet, as in thinking that would be my profession (as opposed to thinking I'd be...well...a poet in the truer sense). So herewith are a handful of poems I wrote in the 80s, arranged in the order of composition. I'm not revising or otherwise commenting.

8508 Mark Lawn Drive

I remember sitting at home
waiting for dinner, after
Mom's friend had let me steer her car
to the end of the street
(where the silent people lived in the haunted house).
I walked into the kitchen
and saw the pot burning:
"Mom," I said,
"I think dinner's ready."

We spent that night next door
at Edna's. She kept me
and my brother
while Mom and Dad worked.
She also kept Preston,
my friend.

We spent our days under the weeping
willow in my backyard, forming
secret clubs and playing with Snoopy
and her puppies.
Later, we went to kindergarten together.
Some days,
I'd walk from Edna's, across my yard,
to Sandra and Robin's house.
I liked Robin 'cause he was a
fireman and I liked Sandra 'cause
she gave me yogurt on
hot days. After yogurt,
I'd always go across the street;
That's where Melanie lived.

She was my first girlfriend--
she had straight brown
hiar and soft skin, like the grass
under the weeping willow.
I used to kiss her on the cheek
a hundred times a day.
When I was six and
could ride a bike,
I would ride in her backyard.

One day, I crushed
my foot between a tree root
and my bike pedal. That day
is the last day I remember seeing her.
She moved away that summer,
and that fall,
I, too, had to learn a new address.


Flight 106

They had become conditioned to the hum,
the common jolts and bumps, the cramped seating,
the age truck had begun its first
circuit, but it must have come as quite a
shock to feelhearsee the explosion rip
their reality into a zealous vendetta.
They must have been saddened for an instant
by their inability to say goodbye. And how
disappointed they must have felt to spend
Christmas at the bottom of a scottish bog.


Understanding

Her voice always sounds as if it's coming
from across a telephone line, he thinks.
Even when sitting across the table from her,
her face as clear as a photograph, even in a whisper

there is a persistent static intent
on obscuring what she has recorded in
her mind to say. He does not think
this bothers him, but sometimes he finds

himself listening for the crackle and hum
rather than the words, and this is
embarrassing to him, though he doesn't show it:
his face is as unexpressive as a microwave

oven. Still, in the morning, next to her, he
cannot help but think her breathing like the respirator
he has seen on daytime T.V. He would like
to wake her but is somehow afraid that

he will damage some process of which he is
unaware, impede some vital function to which
he is blind, prevent her from being fully recharged.
He resigns her inner workings to obscurity and sleeps.

--published in the Summer, 1990 edition of Whiskey Island Magazine.


Thursday, January 15, 2004

At my prompting, Doug, of Mute Troubadour, has written a very interesting post on imitating Christ in our lives. I'm glad I asked, because Doug's writing evinces such a Christ-filled and Christ-focussed life, that I knew his words on the subject would be wise and the result of much prayer and study. The discussion on his tag board is also interesting.

In Hebrews 13, Paul tells the Hebrews to remember the elders who brought them the Word of Christ and "imitate their faith." The greek word used here is often translated "follow." To follow or to imitate faith is an internal action. We cannot do it by assuming a certain pose, or repeating a certain phrase, or even striving to make the same choices that our elders in faith--and ultimately Jesus--made. To imitate the faith of Jesus is to offer ourselves completely to the Father: Not my will, but Thy will be done. As Doug points out, if we create an image of Jesus and try to live like it, we will always fail. Only by realizing that we are the clay and allowing God to mould us can we begin to live lives that imitate/follow the example of our Lord.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I wonder why we don't hear more from the pulpit about Asa. His story begins in 2 Chronicles 14, and he is described as a righteous man who strives to root out idolatry from worship in Judah. On 2 occasions (both recounted in Chapter 16), he is described as not showing complete faith in the Lord--once in battle and once for a medical condition. Perhaps it is because of these failings that I somehow feel closer to figures like Asa than to some of the towering heroes of the faith. How likely I am to put my trust in myself and modern conveniences when life turns difficult! How often I fail to pray over the subjects that truly concern me! Though I try to be righteous, I often fall short--like Asa. And so as I read through his story, I pray to the Lord that I may learn from Asa's mistakes and benefit from his example. Asa's struggles are my struggles: let his successes be my successes, but let me learn from his failings.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Psalm 137 has always been difficult for me: the last verse, with it's image of violent infanticide sends shivers down my spine. I can appreciate the anger that might inspire such lines, but I have never experienced it. And I hope I never do.

The other day, though, my daily reading schedule paired up this psalm with Solomon's prayer dedicating the temple in 2nd Chronicles. The closing verses (linked above) particularly struck me as a parallel. Solomon prays prophetically that if the people are ever--through their sin--banished from the promised land, that the lord will hear them in their repentance. The psalmist in 137 is trying to keep the people from forgetting their true home, just as Solomon is urging God to keep his ears open for such pleading. The ending of 137 is still difficult for me, but for now I can appreciate the struggles and pain represented in the opening verses through Solomon's deeply rooted love for his homeland.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Like most Christians, I occasionally get questions from people that start, "Why did God..." or "Why do you think God..." I've always found my answers a bit unsatisfactory, and I imagine my interlocutors did as well. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and I've come to the conclusion that asking why God did something a certain way is ultimately a meaningless question.

To put it briefly, I believe that God does what God wills. To ask why God wills one thing instead of another is to presuppose that God questions, contemplates alternatives and then selects a path of action. In other words, to create God in our image. I don't think the Bible teaches us about a God who says "well, if I do plan A, then this will occur; plan B will cause this other outcome. Therefore, I'll go with A." That isn't the God I read about in scripture.

I'm not sure people who ask me such questions in the future will be much satisfied with this answer, but I think it is more biblically sound then trying to fathom God's unstated intentions. After all, if God had willed to reveal his intentions to us, he would have done so.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Just a few housecleaning changes today...I've deleted my 2003 booklist and am ready to start growing my 2004 list. I've changed archiving from weekly to monthly. Perhaps later I'll add some actual content!

Friday, January 02, 2004

You are now entering the "galactic habitable zone" (GHZ)...fascinating stuff!

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