Christianity


First: while browsing the web I found this great story about a Marine in Iraq, decorated for bravery in battle. He sounds almost a modern-day Sergeant York.

Second: in case anyone was worried, the crazy patient seems to have had enough conversational encounters with security (since despite him fighting with other patients, they are unable to do more than warn him to behave) that he hasn’t come around our office. The psychiatrist, however, is now accusing my resident of lying about their mutual interactions, and seems ready to file a report against her. Fortunately, the resident has the nursing manager to back up her account of the conversation where they were assured the patient was safe, so she’s going to file a harassment report against him.

And now, the philosophical entry for the day: The other day someone was remarking how upset they were when someone (not me, unfortunately) handed them a Gospel tract out of the blue. The comment was made, “Religion and politics are private, and should not be discussed in general conversation,” and everyone but me agreed.

I won’t address the politics part much. If the theory behind our form of government is that all citizens have a say in how things are run, it seems to me reasonable to hold friendly discussions with other citizens about how the government is going, just as it would be considered reasonable for two stockholders in a company to discuss its progress. Assuming, of course, that the conversation will be polite. Personally, most of the people I’ve met who don’t want to discuss politics say that because they either don’t much care how the country goes, or they don’t have a rationale for their position. That doesn’t make it rude for someone else to offer to discuss it.

As for religion: The idea that religion is a private affair is humanistic and postmodern, based on the assumption that either there is no supernatural reality, or that there is no absolute truth about the supernatural. In either case, there’s no need to talk about it, because what one believes about religion doesn’t matter in the end. This statement also assumes that one’s religious beliefs make no difference outside of private life, which is another humanistic lie. If I believe that I am accountable to God for my actions, this gives me a very strong motivation to avoid lying, stealing, cheating, murdering, or more “minor” forms of bad behavior. I would think that would be relevant to my patients and colleagues.

Then there is the aspect of religion which people really don’t want to talk about: life (and punishment) after death. This is the ultimate faux-pas – to suggest that the decent, civilized person you’re talking to is actually in danger of eternal hellfire. What an insult. One might as well be insulted at the suggestion that one has an aggressive but curable cancer. If my statement about hell is true, my desire to discuss it is even more important and praiseworthy than my desire to treat a cancer.

So we’re down to the real reason why people don’t want to discuss religion: It’s as bad as saying the emperor has no clothes, because the fact of man’s sinfulness is undeniable, and rebellious men don’t want to acknowledge the consequences.

This is one area where Islamic society is more honest than post-modern Western society: They openly acknowledge the centrality of religious belief to all aspects of life. There, it’s not considered strange to discuss one’s belief in God and the holy books. This is why, when post-modernism/humanism in Europe and the US have finished decaying from the inside, Islam and Christianity will meet head-on. Denying the existence of absolute truth is moronic; the ultimate conflict is between two conflicting truth-claims.

Someone asked me the other day if I’m a Mormon. I clearly am not yet doing a good job of communicating. I know I look different from everyone else, and I keep assuming the reason will be obvious. Very disappointed with myself. . .

Today is the birthday of our King. This is the festival of a God who desired and entered into a personal relationship with his creation. This is the holiday of a God who became a man. This is the stuff of myths and legends. The eternal God, the Creator, the Word, humbled himself to become a part of his creation. At the death of the year, the Prince of Life came to his servants. The Virgin Mother gave birth to God.

This is not a nondescript “winter festival;” this is not a generic happy holiday; this is not an occasion to celebrate multiculturalism and diversity. This is the birthday of the King who demands total obedience from everyone; the King who is utterly worthy of worship; the King to whom one day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – to the glory of God the Father.

From John Donne’s Holy Sonnets:

Annunciation

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy dear womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he’will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou’hast light in dark, and shut’st in little room
Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb.

********

As CS Lewis says, this holyday is God’s final version of all the myths that human minds misremembered, or that Satan twisted. For ages, men have talked of the god in human form, the savior who died for his people, the one who opened the way for men to know God. These were all feeble images of the great and blinding truth: God so loved the world, that he gave his Only-Begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that comes into the world.
“He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not;
“But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
“Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:9-14

First, just to tie up loose ends, yesterday I saw one of the posters for the local Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, and recognized Dr. C as one of the co-directors. So that would explain that problem.Yesterday the resident and intern and I were eating in the cafeteria, and the intern was relating how her husband is also an intern, in one of the more lucrative specialties, and how she looks forward to being a housewife after she finishes her training, and maybe volunteering at a clinic, or working part-time as a hospitalist. I, of course, endorsed these aspirations as much as I could, and we all started talking about our families. Pretty soon it came out that there’s five of us, and we were homeschooled.

They both did a double take, and the intern exclaimed, “Wow! At my old church there were a lot of homeschooling families, and they were all really . . . weird.” I kept asking her how they were weird, and she finally said that they didn’t really talk to other people a lot.

Then she said, “I’m surprised. I wouldn’t have guessed you were homeschooled at all, if you hadn’t said so.” The resident agreed. “You’re not weird at all.” I didn’t tell them that I was mortally insulted by that, since they obviously meant it as a compliment. I just said I guessed they didn’t know enough about me, if they didn’t think I was weird.

Then they both wanted to know if I liked being homeschooled, and why my parents did it. So I said, I loved it and it was absolutely wonderful, and I plan to homeschool any of my theoretical children. And went on with how my parents wanted to control what their children were taught, and wanted to base the curriculum on the Bible, and how my father says that children in a group sink to the lowest common denominator.

The resident interrupted: “Don’t tell me what your father says; what do you think?” I tried to say that, after all, my father was the one who made the decision we were discussing, but she went on, “That’s your problem. All you know is what your parents think. Look: do you believe in God because you choose to, or because your parents do?”

My Calvinistic brain immediately commented to self that there’s really no difference, that both my parents and I only believe in God because we were sovereignly elected by God’s will, and called by his irresistible grace, and although I’m perfectly convinced of my beliefs, it was all predestined, so the question was pointless. She being Hindu, my muddled attempts at explaining this didn’t get across. She started babbling about how important it is to interact with people who are different (laughing down my suggestion that I read books about lots of different people), and how one picks and chooses and responds to these challenges and thus becomes “one’s own person” and “grows as an individual.” I told her God and the Bible were the ones it’s really important to interact with, and my spiritual growth and identity center around my relationship with the personal God. She retorted that she wasn’t talking about spirituality, but about individuality.

So by this time I was pretty frustrated with myself for not defending things better; I wasn’t bothered by her arguments, but the intern was, and I couldn’t explain.

Then the resident asked, “Are you allowed to date?”
I said, “Well, I haven’t ever dated; I don’t really want to.”
“You’re not allowed to; isn’t that right?”
“Well, I guess you could put it that way. But I don’t want to, either.”
“How would you know, if you haven’t ever tried it?”
“But I don’t want to try.”

By this time she was rolling her eyes, and I think I definitely qualified for weird.

“So how are you going to get married? Does your dad get to arrange it?”
“Basically, yes. Although I do get to say no.”
“What if you like a guy? Haven’t you ever liked a guy?”
“Well, it’s not my place to say anything to him.” I could tell she wouldn’t believe it if I said because I wasn’t allowed to like a guy, just right off like that, I haven’t.
“But what if a guy wants to go out with you? Can’t you even talk to him?”
“I would tell him to talk with my dad.”

She kept on on that topic, finally saying that she thought she had rules from her parents, but I obviously beat her hands down. Around this time the beepers started going off, so that was the end of the discussion of my love life.

Scene 2: Today the attending and the clerkship director took the team out to lunch, because it’s the end of their month. I felt extremely uncomfortable, having only been with them for three days, but there weren’t any signals for me to stay away. All during lunch the two older men discussed their twelve-year-old daughters, passing around photos of gorgeous girls with tinted hair and skillfull makeup, who looked at least 16. Then they talked about how they are “un-cool” to their daughters, and how when they drive their daughter and her friends around, the girls pick what music is listened to (not dad’s boring 60’s stuff); when the girlfriends come to sleep over, the father is not allowed to greet them, because it’s so un-cool to say “hi, how are you”; when the father takes the girls to movies, he’s not allowed to comment on anything, because he’s so not with it.

So what do you think? Which one is healthier, a family like mine where adolescent rebellion was a wicked thing that other people did, it didn’t happen in our family; where the children are shaped by their parents’ experience and chosen beliefs; or their families, where the only child manipulates her parents, and they meekly accept rejection from their own child, as she sets her standards for what’s acceptable by peers her own age.

I couldn’t say it to my resident and intern, but although they can’t see it, their language is horrifying to me; their jokes are uncomfortable; and I don’t intend to let my clothes or my music be the least bit influenced by what they think. That’s what my parents really gave us: a completely different set of standards from what either the world, or Christians who live in the world, can dream of, and (almost) complete confidence in my own rules and reality. That’s the real beat of a different drummer, no matter what the others like to think.

During lunch I’ve been reading a collection of talks by Jay Adams, The Big Umbrella, which is his metaphor for how psychiatrists and psychologists have collected things which ought to be the domain of either doctors or pastors, and made a new big umbrella of “mental illness” for their own territory. Everything he says rings so true. Let me quote:

“Hasn’t Rogers [famous psychotherapist, more influence currently than Freud et al] at least restored the idea of listening to us? Absolutely not! Rogers, you see, doesn’t listen. Rogers has been widely praised by those who know little about his beliefs as the man who taught us to listen. But such a notion comes from the use of Rogers’ own defective concept of “listening.” If you listen to Rogers carefully, if you listen to the contents of Rogers’ books, you will discover that Rogers says that we must “listen” only for feeling, never for content. WE may not listen to the man’s problem. WE must only become involved with the man. We must never concern ourselves about whether he should do this or that. The merits of the issue are irrelevant. Forget all of that; instead, listen for the intensity of the problem. So what kind of listening does Rogers do? The answer is that he does a kind of listening that is only partial and very unbiblical. Biblical listening means listening not only to emotional responses. . . it also means listening to the whole man. God made us whole people; we cannot separate the emotions from the rest of the man. . .”

Ah. That was what was wrong with my “psychodynamic psychotherapy” resident. (Don’t you love the way quotes suck credibility out of a phrase?) He kept telling us to “go after the affect; make her cry.” But actually evalute whether she was responding correctly, or even well, to various situations? Oh no. No judgment. No advice. No input. Go for the affect. Make her talk about emotions. “Defective concept of listening;” indeed. Not to mention, my patient didn’t want to talk about emotion, she wanted to talk about her problem! So what kind of listening was I actually doing? Just listening for catch words, or expressions on her face, that showed she was closer to tears, and then pushing her closer. “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?” (Ok, so it’s out of context!)

Adams has a stunning approach to people who come in saying they’re worthless, bad, no good: he says they probably know what they’re talking about, and asks what they’ve done wrong that makes them bad and worthless. (Contrary to the reassuring babble of their family/friends, and of any other psychologist they might have seen.) He does this on the assumption that human nature is inherently sinful, and any person, left to themselves, will undoubtedly be engaged in several sinful, destructive behaviors, which quite rightly ought to make them feel guilty. Then he proceeds to talk about God’s forgiveness, and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. In other words, he helps with what the patient himself felt to be needed!

Tearing myself away from wild plans to discover the phone number of my patient, and calling and telling her something really different (don’t worry, I won’t):

“Paul’s words [1 Corinthians 10:13, no temptation taken you] should encourage [the counselee] to hope. He doesn’t have some kind of strange disease. There would be little hope then. When we try to be gentle and kind by euphemistically labeling sinners “sick,” we really do them a cruel disservice. . . He may think that he has some incurable illness and lose all hope. He is stuck with it for life. . . But there is great hope in calling sin “sin.” Every Christian knows that God sent Christ to deal with sin. . “

Yesterday evening we had some friends over, and they brought with them some missionaries to Australia who were staying with them. During the course of the evening, we discussed a horrifying law which was passed in the Australian state of Victoria in 2001, and which resulted in the trial of two Christians pastors for “vilifying Islam.” The two pastors, converts from Islam (one a Pakistani who had previously been in trouble for violating the country’s law against maligning Islam), held a seminar about Islam in 2002 in which they said that the Koran promotes violence and looting, demeans women, and calls for amputation for theft. (This link from JihadWatch has transcripts from the seminar.) All statements easily found in various Koranic verses (see links for references). But the judge refused to allow quotations from the Koran to serve as evidence, saying that to read from the Koran would be vilifying to Islam. Sounds like he already made up his mind before hearing the case. This link quotes a British journalist’s take on other inconsistencies and injustices in the case. The pastors were found guilty and sentenced to four years in jail. The case is currently on appeal, including a request by the Muslim organization that brought the case that the pastors and the organization should publicly recant their statements, but the pastors are unapologetic.

The good news is that this case has shown Australians the danger of “antivilification” laws, increasing the likelihood that a similar law will not be passed in other states (one is currently before the legislature in New South Wales), and raising calls for its repeal. We’ll see how far that gets. Unbelievably, many Australian Christians claim to have been unaware of the potential of this law when it was first passed. (Who else would modern tolerance-mongers want to silence?)

This kind of absurd and oppressive law is not far from America. Already Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR are bringing anti-defamation suits against groups that oppose them. There are plenty of groups, including homosexuals, who would like to limit Christians’ ability to proclaim the Bible’s truth because it’s offensive to their ears. We’ve already heard rhetoric about “hate speech” directed at prominent Christian leaders who speak out against Islam or the homosexual lifestyle. And since the Supreme Court has already ruled the flag-burning and pornography are protected speech, but prayer in school or before a football game is forbidden, it’s not hard to foresee a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment which claims that truthful statements about other religions are too hateful and offensive to be allowed.

Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive religions. Both make absolute truth claims, describing followers of other religions as lost souls destined for hell, and denouncing those who contradict their scriptures. Freedom of religion ought to mean that members of both religions are free to preach whatever they want, short of actually inciting violence against the others. If someone is so thin-skinned as to be offended by a truthful (or even an untruthful) description of his religion, he should stay indoors. But this isn’t about “offensiveness.” It’s about a carefully planned campaign by Muslims to make themselves the dominant religion and culture in the West, as they are in their own world, by slowly removing the ability of anyone to speak out against them. It’s forbidden by sharia law to criticize Mohammed or the Koran. Pretty soon, it will be illegal in the West too.

I understand Muslims wanting to take over the world. It’s the natural result of an absolute religious belief. The Bible promises that Jesus will rule the world. The big difference is, I’m not going to use violence to bring that about. The Truth is strong enough without human force.

The press release about a continuing crisis in Egypt: A 19-year-old Coptic Christian girl was kidnapped in February. The police continue to keep Neveen Morcos hidden away, and refuse to let her family contact her. They claim she converted to Islam. That is absolute nonsense. She was planning to enter a convent when she was kidnapped. There is no way a 19-year-old would voluntarily change her convictions that rapidly and easily.Two priests were allowed to speak with her in March, in a police building. They report that she appeared drugged, gave rote answers to questions, and tried to avoid talking about her family – I would guess she was trying not to draw her captors’ attention to her older sister, who has since been harassed.

Kidnapping Christian girls is a favorite tactic of the Muslims in Egypt, always with the implicit approval of the government, in this case with their overt assistance.

Please, do two things. 1) Pray for Neveen and her family. God can do great things. Girls have been known to escape. 2) After reading the press release, contact the Egyptian embassy in Washington DC, express your outrage at this violation of religious freedom, and ask that Neveen Morcos be returned to her family.

This is the embassy’s website.

Phone number: (202) 895 5400

Fax: (202) 244 5131

Email: embassy@egyptembdc.org

If you have extra energy, look through the US Copts Association’s file of previous press releases, then call your congressmen and tell them that foreign aid to Egypt ought to be linked to the extent to which human rights and religious freedom are genuinely protected there.

***

I guess I should explain, the Copts are the indigenous Christians of Egypt, the ones who were there from the time of the Roman Empire, who have been persecuted and martyred by the Arab Muslims ever since the invasion in 642 AD. Currently, the situation is not as bad as, say, Pakistan, where another Christian was just murdered on the accusation of blaspheming the Koran, but Christians are definitely persecuted, and the police are the enemies, not protectors. Mubarak talks prettily about human rights and democracy, but so far he hasn’t done much of real good. Like I said, Christian girls are a big target. If you never let them talk to their family, they can never say how they never really converted. And of course, converting out of Islam is next to impossible.

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