Monday, November 7, 2011

Theology & Biology: It Comes Together in Us

When I have told people that I degrees in both Biology and Religion, I have received different answers. Most think it unique, which it is. Many give me the response that they see that as difficult to mesh. Indeed, academically it was. There were no courses at Central College that could be taken for both (except Introduction to Logic, a Philosophy and Mathematics course).

Over time though I have seen just how much they both come together. God created nature, we are stewards of nature. We study nature to understand it better and to hopefully improve our caretaking methods as well as to stop or at least limit harmful actions. In addition to this, but most importantly, my studies and contemplations of Christianity, theism in general and Biology is this—they all come together in what it is to be human. In what other part of creation can you see how important it is to be in the image of God while simultaneously being made up of the chemicals, processes, and physics that make our bodies function in amazing and complicated ways? Where else can the curiosity, the inquisitive need to know, and the framework for how we view the world come but through eyes of the human in their studies of God and nature? We understand ourselves by both. That is why in the field of anthropology they consider both civilization/religion/cult of the people as well as the heredity, descent, etc of humanity and of civilizations as a whole. Also consider how one views God and how one views nature are tied. I can see beauty in nature since I see the artistry of the Creator. I can see the process, and I believe it has been a process and continues as one, of the One who designs and continues to mold the Creation. Every one of us is a microcosm of the clay-workings of our Potter.

One final point: when we abuse other humans through various means, we abuse the image of God and become terrible stewards simultaneously. Is not being a good steward also treating other creatures, including our fellow human brother and sister, with respect and dignity? Are we not to respect our brother and sister human because we are all related from common descent both as an image of God and biological nature? Whatever way we view nature, there was a first human couple. I will leave it up to you as to how they arose. Through them God gave the image of Himself and through them we are all related.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Unoriginal Title to a Blog Post

I have a theory about our modern Western society. I believe it is supported by the evidence of personal experience. We cannot think for ourselves anymore as a general populace. This is not a new hypothesis and nor is my first reason. It is the second reason stemming from the first that has a sense of originality. The first reason is our technology does the thinking for us. No longer do we have to calculate in our minds or on paper sums and multiplications. And anyone who does not use spell check is just lazy. In fact, for newer programs spell check is run automatically. Now, we can stare screens for long periods of time without challenging mental faculties as we play mindless games on our phones, video game consoles, and computers. That is not to say that all games are deficient in this aspect, but a fair amount of new ‘apps’ on phones and many games on the latter two do lend to a lack of challenging thinking. But, even the good games encourage the players to play for long periods of time in order to accomplish all the feats necessary for achievement. This can lead to hours upon hours of missing person-to-person contact and becoming socially retarded.

But, here is the second reason, with all this new technology we bombard ourselves with lights, sounds, entertainment, etc and very rarely are able to sit in silence and either just read or think, particularly the latter. Silence is scary to the human mind in Western society. People do not think for themselves any more. They want their entertainment and technology to do the thinking for them. The general populace is being ‘dumbed’ down to the point where thinking is a challenge, imagination is lacking, and creativity is replaced by re-creativity. What happened to people being able to just sit in their silent area without having to turn on the television or listen to music or play the latest ‘app’ game on their phone? We would rather waste our hours with technology either doing our thinking for us or not thinking at all or not even going outside to enjoy the sounds of nature on a nice day.

A product of that is that we tend to do things quickly without thinking about them. We have become rather impulsive in general. And that’s where marketing of products and the general spend-quickly-and-often has caught up to us. We have to have the latest thing and fast. We see things we want and we get them because they’re in front of us. And I see in general that this society of Western civilization is eventually going to proverbially ‘go to Hell in a hand-basket’ if we do not start encouraging our children to think for themselves. Parents should talk and listen to their kids and encourage them to have imagination. Imagination is the fuel for true innovation and revolution. A thinking generation could help solve the problems of the world rather than hinder them by lack of effort to change anything and the jaded nature of generations prior who could not. With technology and advancement aided by and aiding intelligent and creative attempts for solutions to problems, we could start towards helping humanity more in general.

God gave us minds to not be mindless, unthinking drones regurgitating information and gossip. God baptized humanity with the great imagination and self-awareness that is part of Him. We should appreciate such a gift and not waste it. Challenge yourself to think. Take time in silence to sit and ponder or possibly do something that challenges the mind. Just limit your intake of time-wasting on mindless visual and noise stimuli. And when you have done so, use it to better not only yourself, but help others. Nothing could give greater gratitude to God for His gift of mind and imagination than to use it for the good and love of all and yourself.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

God's Mercy: A Revelation Through a Dream

One aspect of the Christian life with which I struggle much is the understanding of God's mercy. And it's not usually a matter of intellectual understanding. I understand theologically how God's mercy is exemplified in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. And now Christ serves as mediator for, among other things, the forgiveness of repentant sinners, myself being one.

Much of my misunderstanding is practical inability to forgive myself or understand why God should or would forgive me. Yes, I understand that God can forgive anything. And I understand that if I don't forgive myself I put my own judgment above His own. But, what is it exactly to be infinitely forgiving? How can that work? I had an interesting dream the other night that spoke to this. This dream is what inspired me to write the blog entry.

In this dream (highly meaningful despite the silliness of where it took place: a grocery store), I was to be put to death by hanging for something I had done. I felt the guilt in my dream, so I knew my death was justified. However, the executioner did not want to execute me. He had no desire in his kindness to see me die. However, instead of letting me off, he still had me hung. When I was dropped from the platform, I landed harmlessly to the floor stunned that I was not dead. I turned and saw the amount of rope. It was infinitely long. I saw no end to the amount of rope. The executioner gave me my punishment, but I was forgiven and was not hanged again.

When, I woke up, I realized that through one means or other-whether dreams have meaning or God gave me a revelation by considering the dream--God helped me to realize His infinite mercy. It's not that our actions do not have consequences, but that He always forgives us. He will not condemn us even by His own rope. If we are to die by being hanged, it will be by our own. If I had been condemned by my own rope, if I had been my own executioner, I would have perished in my dream, justly executed for my crime whatever it may have been. But, with God's infinite rope, given to us through Christ, we are not condemned, but always forgiven.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo -- Not Merely a Drinking Day and Nor Is It Mexican Independence Day!

A little background on Cinco de Mayo in case you don’t know about the holiday. During the American Civil War, the French army during the reign of Napoleon III invaded Mexico with the intent of subduing it and establishing a part of the French empire in Mexico. And to prevent American expansion as well as because Napoleon III despised the United States, his army was also to help supply the Confederate Army. Near Puebla de Los Angeles (not our Los Angeles) on May 5, 1862, the Mexican army met a French army of two-three times its size. The Americans, due to the Monroe Doctrine, supported Central American interests against European outsiders, but at the time could not come to the aid of the economically-ravaged and heavily in debt Juarez-administration in Mexico. But, despite being poorly armed and sloppy-looking as well as out-numbered the Mexican army under Zaragosa took the day. This helped significantly delay supplying the Confederate Army though it did not keep the French from briefly holding Mexico. However, since the Confederate Army was delayed in being supplied, the Union army was able to build to its greatest strength. After the American Civil War was over, Americans came with troops, weapons, and supplies to help the Mexicans expel the French. The Juarez administration, which had to go into hiding during the French-placed regime under Austrian Archduke Maximillan Ferdinand, now was able to come out of hiding. They expelled the French and executed Ferdinand.

However, May 5, 1862, is not Mexican Independence Day. That is September 16, 1810. Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that symbolizes Mexican courage and identity when faced with a hostile and powerful foreign power. It is a minor holiday in Mexico, but it has gained in significance in America. In the 1960s, according to (the History Channel’s website), Chicano activists raised awareness of the day because of the Mexican people’s stand against foreign invaders. It is, as we know, celebrated much today, particularly as a Mexican-American blended holiday.


The Death of Osama Bin Laden -- An American Christian's Response

When I heard U. S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, at first my response was surprise. I was happy that he was finally gone. But, when I reflected upon it soon after, I realized there is something wrong with celebrating a man’s death. Christ called us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I do not think Christ would be happy with us leaving all kinds of celebratory and irreverent remarks on Facebook, Twitter, etc or chanting in celebration about the death of someone. What bin Laden had done in his life, leading others to terrorize people and kill them based on a twisted moral and religious premise, is a terrible thing. No one will dispute that. I would never dispute that. But, Jesus died for him as well.

Rather than celebrate his death, we should mourn that his death was required. He has led many astray with his philosophies and influence. Bin Laden had a life that should be lamented, not a death that should be rejoiced. I am saddened to hear some people talk with joy about his likely condemnation in Hell. God would never take joy in such a thing and nor should we. And we do not know why bin Laden had such hate in his heart where love and joy should have been. I will not say it is equal on scale, rather in content, but who has not harbored hatred or bitterness towards others? There are many around us who would rather trample our neighbor to get to the top rather than help others. Think about the terrorism Americans in the past and in the present have enacted upon other nations before we celebrate our judgment cast. Ask Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos how it has felt that they are oppressed in many ways by a white culture. Look to how we’ve treated others and how we took land and life from others for the sake of our own greed and self-entitlement. Ask the Japanese-Americans how it felt to have their well-being taken away because they were of Japanese descent and placed in internment camps. And do not forget that some of our country’s founders terrorized fellow colonists—pillaging, torturing, killing, tarring, destroying property all because some remained loyal to the King of England rather than put on the cap of revolution.

We should not rejoice in bin Laden’s death. For one thing, it is against the teachings of Christ to rejoice in our enemies’ deaths. And for a second thing, how are we better than the hatred he has perpetuated when we celebrate? How are we better than those who have celebrated the death of Americans? (see below for similar thoughts in WSJ blog article from Abdullah Antepi, Muslim chaplain at Duke University). Rather we should mourn that there is hatred still in the world. That he was a perpetuator of it. We need to mourn the fact that there is “bin Ladenism” in the world and seek its demise (see article in WSJ blog for comments by Rabbi David Wolpe). We should seek God’s love for the world and through love, there can be peace. Because where there is love, hatred cannot exist. And right now, people in this country, and those Christian in this country, hate our enemy through this celebration of his demise. And others that see this will have the mutual feeling whether for or against. And the hate goes on. Let’s stop it by heaping the “burning ashes” of love on our enemies’ heads.