Monday, June 16, 2014

A great injustice

Dear Hannah,

I want you to take a good look at these pictures: really take a moment and study them. The one on the left is a portrait of Jonathan Edwards, quite possibly the greatest theologian who ever lived; a man who spurred an important religious revival and left behind him generations of doctors, lawyers, pastors and statesmen.  The portrait on the right is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, quite possibly the greatest and most dangerous author of the French Enlightenment; a man who spurred the massacres of the French Revolution, and left behind him scores of bastard children.

Ignoring their accomplishments and just looking at the two of them, who  would you rather be like?  Who would you rather be around? The frumpy sourpuss on the left, or the kind-eyed and handsome man on the right?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kill a child, save the planet

Dear Hannah,

I've heard strangers say, perhaps a dozen times, that if the Native Americans had only kept control of the Americas the environment would be in much better shape.  I think this is only half a truth.  It's less that Native Americans were good at taking care of the environment, and more that they were really bad at taking care of their children. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Pharisees

Dear Hannah,

If you've spent any amount of time with Christians, you've heard them toss the term Pharisee around.  This means if you have a brain, you've realized that the term Pharisee is used by Christians as frequently and unfairly as the term Hitler is used by political activists.  In essence, everyone who's doing better than us, who's asking us to take God more seriously, or who's asking us to do things differently than we're currently doing them, is a Pharisee.  We'd do much better to recognize that the people most like the Pharisees -- or, in other words, the people with their same prejudices, their follies, and their theological silliness -- are the ultra-orthodox Jews.  But then I suppose we'd be in danger of being called Hitler.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fabius and Minucius

Dear Hannah,

As I'm thinking about the many different angles I could approach the topic of repentance, none seems more useful to me than an old story about a Roman general named Fabius Maximus.  Now, Fabius was an old and experienced man when Hannibal invaded Italy, and the Romans spent a lot of time deriding him because he refused to engage Hannibal's army.  Fabius knew that Hannibal's army was too experienced and too powerful to be defeated by the Romans -- he knew, almost by instinct, that the best way to beat Hannibal would be to avoid an engagement, and let the invading army starve itself to death, even though it meant letting Hannibal ravage the country.  But the rest of the Romans disagreed, thinking it was too cowardly to hide in the mountains like Fabius wanted, and they decided it would be better to risk an open engagement.

Symbolism and society

Dear Hannah,

I haven’t seen any pictures, but I’ve been told that when my grandpa was a baby he used to wear a fluffy dress.  Now, my grandpa wasn’t a sissy; he actually turned out to be a pretty muscular, rugged, and virile machinist, and he happened to get my grandma pregnant before he was even married to her.  I mention his wearing a dress because nobody was ever concerned back then that making him wear a dress was going to make him effeminate, or make him think he's woman.  Today putting a dress on a boy would is either a moral statement or a big joke.  Yesterday that's how we dressed a good portion of our soon-to-be warriors, machinists, preachers, and lawyers.