The uselessness of doctrine

Perhaps I’m just a rebellious jerk, but I don’t like being told what to do, what to think, or what to believe. Details of denominational distinction disgust me. My gut tells me a simple truth, and I find the heaping upon of doctrine irrelevant to my relationship with God.

I seem to have three types of days.

Type one: I wake up well-rested, find the sun shining on my bed, enjoy my breakfast, and feel the calm presence of God as I get ready for my day.

Type two: I wake up tired but ready to sacrifice, largely open to an unknown future.

Type three: I wake up and feel like I got run over by a truck. You know the rest.

It doesn’t matter in any of these situations whether I was baptized as a baby, as a kid, or as an adult. It doesn’t matter if I was baptized at all. It doesn’t matter if I’ve taken communion recently. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been a good boy and gone to Sunday school. It doesn’t matter if I think we’ll have free will in heaven.

All that matters is that I drag my spirit with all its baggage into the presence of God and lay it before him without holding back. This means I bring my nastiness along with my goodness. This means I bring the grudge I’m holding and the fears I have about the future. It means I bring my endless worrying about my car’s front suspension and my rage at getting a parking ticket.

Laying these before God without holding back means that I release them to him. I no longer cling to the grudge and my self-righteousness; I no longer cling to the belief that I can control my future if I am smart enough and responsible enough; I no longer cling to the belief that my careful driving habits can make my car last for ten years.

Also, it means I have to stop fantasizing about ramming that damn parking services truck.

Did you really think Obama was the answer?

Barack Obama is a human being just like you and me.

Hope and change, abstractions, look so good on campaign buttons. Abstractions have a way of staying abstract.

Did you fall for it?

You’ll be wiser next time. You’ll see the promises for what they are. You’ll laugh and shake your head as you punch a hole beside a name, knowing, as you must, that it’s all the same in red and blue, black and white,

Barack and Bush–

neither is this one the new Christ.


Fear is not real; it’s a lens through which you can come to see the world. Events are real, but not when they are imagined. Most imagined events never come to be; many real events were never imagined.

Fear is nothing more than a mental projection of the future that sees the glass as half-empty. Often it appears to be the result of rational analysis, but it is in fact entirely emotional.

Sudden reactions of fear are easily managed, but a pervasive life-attitude of fear is insidious. Waking up morning after morning with the nagging thought I might not make ends meet today will lead you to a dreadful degeneration of soul; likewise the thoughts I might not be pretty enough today; I might not work hard enough today; I might not be good enough today.

For those of us who claim to be Christians, this twists our noble minds into tired machines with only one output: fear. Hello, we were made for something better: joy.

I never understood the word faith until I had learned the meaning of fear. Faith is not a declaration of willful placement of trust, but an admittance of a lack of will in the matter. Do you get it? A willful placement of trust is actually an act of fear, an attempt to control your world and get things in order. True faith says nothing to God but I present myself.

God, I do not even choose to trust you. When I do this, I do it under my own power, believing in my own will, trying to get my ducks in a row by bringing you back into my life. All I do now is turn around, find you there just like before, and acknowledge that you are.

The eyes he gave me before my birth

My uncle gave me a 35mm camera. From it I learned the finer distinctions of light and shadow and the grainy music of film. I had never taken pictures that looked more beautiful than real life until I learned to balance aperture, exposure, focus, and natural color.

What could be more beautiful than a walk in autumn-sun-dappled woods with a full roll of film? Only a walk in frigid barren woods too cold for snow when the dull colors of the trees defied the wind-chill.

The camera caught it all. Some of my shots came out bad, and you could say I wasted a lot of money; but the gems were worth it. Oh, there were gems.

In a desperate drive to get out of dodge, flying over potholes and tramping through the March mud, I forgot my camera. In the woods I found muted colors: the artist had arranged it all so that even in death, the organisms would sing in symphony.

It was not a camera that I needed, but the eyes he had given me before my birth.

Senate Bill 5 and related tangents

A quick overview:

I can understand the outrage: the bill boils down to a forced pay-cut for public employees.

Maybe it’s just my annoyance with the shenanigans of college professors, but I don’t mind seeing their union broken. Profs have it good even without a union. I work a mildly-technically-demanding job for $11 an hour with no benefits, and I manage to keep up with my apartment, my car repairs, and my taste for good food. Even after the passage of S.B. 5, college profs will remain comfortably above my current station in life.

Profs: deal with it. I can.

But outrage over S.B. 5 points to a deeper problem in our culture. An economy not based on the production of real value must eventually come to a day of reckoning, right? Profs may contribute intangibles to society through their broadening of young minds, their teaching of the arts, their inspiration of students; but intangibles have nil economic value.

Who helps the economy more? The farmhand or the professor of English literature? The electrician or the professor of music history? The architect or the professor of women’s studies? Of course all such disciplines have cultural value that can’t be measured in dollars and cents; but when the dollars and cents are missing from the state piggy bank, something has to give.

Higher education will survive Senate Bill 5. If professors value their contribution to culture over their own economic gain (which they must to remain consistent with what their skills contribute to culture versus to the economy), they will make sacrifices and continue teaching because it’s their passion. If they care about their own wallets more than their intangible contributions to culture, then they should seek jobs that contribute tangible value to the economy–in essence, they should receive what they give and give what they receive.