The Real Anti-Terror

The latest face of terror: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
The latest face of terror: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab

The recent thwarted terror attack highlights two aspects of this war which I think deserve further emphasis.

First, government-run airport security is a joke at best, a catastrophic failure at best. Umar Farouk was on the all-important watch lists and his father had even sent a warning specifically to us regarding the threat his son posed.

The best the government can do is ban knitting needles, body search old ladies, and incarcerate people with unfortunate names and I believe it is completely reasonable that we criticize such paltry, misguided, and obviously insufficient systems as loudly as possible.

People: The real Anti-Terror
Average people: the real Anti-Terror

Second, private citizens foiled this attack without assistance from government-sanctioned law enforcement and despite their government-enforced lack of protective weaponry.

Government = 0
Citizens = 1

Perhaps the moral is, once again, don’t trust the government when you are capable.

Oh, and my bet for what the government will do as a result of the extensive and obligatory review they’ll carry out of the Transportation Security Administration is that they’ll fire a few lower level people and raise the fees charges for airport security. Cynical? Yes. Most likely true? I’m betting on it.

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Manly Men & Womenly Women

A manly man and his womanly wife
A manly man and his womanly wife

I enjoy comfortable clothes as much as or possibly more so than the next guy, but comfortable jeans just weren’t my style for the longest time. I liked dockers and other casual pants much more than I liked jeans for most of my teenage years and into my young adulthood.

Not that I had much fashion sense much of that time. I wore dark socks with leather sandals a few times. And white socks with dark shoes. And stripes with patterns. And numerous other faux pas.

Partly is was for comfort. But mostly it was because I cared both for being comfortable and for being classy. Eventually I learned enough to stop mostly succeeding at the former while mostly failing at the latter.

Apparently that goal of the good look isn’t my unique trait.

Thank heavens for that. I really didn’t need another way to be unique.

The New York Times has an article about how young males are once again discovering the benefits of sharp dressing. Personally, I gain self-confidence from knowing I can hold my own, stylistically, against any comers. While the NY Times article doesn’t so much delve into the why, it explores the cultural icons which are leading the charge and the reactions and possible paths this change will take.

“I think it’s a reaction against the homogeneity of casual wear,” said Gordon Henderson, the design director of Topman. “There’s nowhere to go with that in terms of personality, whereas a suit sets you apart. And now there are suits that are cut for young people. There’s never been that before, so it’s new to them.”

In a twist, neckties are being sold at the very place that did more than any other to usher in casual Friday: Gap. Not to be outdone, American Apparel now sells bow ties.

The NY Times article mentions that this current shift seems primarily found among young men, and is not currently influencing young ladies. A college professor sees this divide in his classrooms:

(T)he younger generation is looking at getting dressed up and making their mark,” Mr. Cohen continued. “It’s a real generation gap here. I teach at three different colleges, and I am amazed how dressed up some of the students are. Girls still come in their hoodies and pajamas, but boys come in their suits.”

In our culture today the man is the boor, the pig, the neanderthal. As a man I resent that perception of incompetence and brutishness. Many women in our culture are quick to disparage (thankfully my wife is not such a woman) and denigrate the men in the culture, reinforcing stereotypes and typecasts which do nothing but discourage those men who do try.

If I’m supposed to be such a boor, why be anything else. After all, it’s what people expect of me.

The Art of Manliness, a blog I heartily recommend to all men, and women, digs deeper into this perceived disparity and the changes which are percolating through the culture.

Asking what manly men can expect from women, the Art of Manliness posted marital rating scales from the 1930’s. The men’s rating scale is not far from what is expected of men today:

  • Doesn’t ogle other women
  • Compliments his wife frequently
  • Takes his wife on regular dates
  • Is neat and clean
  • Does not compare his wife with other women

Any woman would claim to be happy were they married to a man meeting those criteria.

But if you were to expect any kind of reciprocal effort from the wife and woman, you’re immediately labeled a sexist. And to be labeled sexist is to have your life ruined, so deeply has this disparity influenced our culture.

And don’t begin with the “We women have been working hard for you men already, we don’t need to improve” or the “You’ve got so far to catch up to us, we needn’t make any effort.”

Both people in a relationship have personal work, which supports the ability of the individuals to continue in the relationship, and relational work, which supports and builds the relationship itself.

Expectations for men were lowered at the same time expectations for women were shifted into what was previously the men’s responsibility. Not their privilege, their responsibility. Now men are raising their own achievements back to where they’ve been classically, women need to allow men to be men and cease this snark and this constant tearing down.

The Art of Manliness is careful to note that men are not trying to man up in order to be please women or to seek their approval. That is not strength but weakness.

Men are manning up because it is the right and honorable and worthwhile thing to do.

But these days a new double standard has emerged where it’s okay to celebrate men manning up, but telling women they need to recover some of their femininity is offensive. To wit:A woman telling a man to stop looking like a slob and dress up. Awesome!
A man telling a woman to stop looking like a slob and take care of herself. Sexist!
Saying that men should stop hooking up with women. Awesome!
Saying that women should stop sleeping around. Sexist!
Saying that men should get off the couch and go to work. Awesome!
Saying that a woman should be nurturing with kids. Sexist!
Saying that men should take the initiative in relationships. Awesome!
Saying that a woman should let the man lead (ever!). Sexist!

There is more there, and it is a good and though provoking read.

There really are consequences to every idea, and something as culture changing as women’s liberation has some incredible consequences which deserve to be thought through thoroughly.

What Do You Say To A Dying Person?

Abraham Lincon's deathbed
Abraham Lincon's deathbed

Just finished watching “My Sister’s Keeper” with my wife and promised her, if she ever became like the mom, Sara, I’d tell her a thing or two and not let her get away with it.

What I pondered most about the movie, though, was not the selfishness of the mother, the hole she was digging for herself primarily with her own inability to solve the problem she so desperately wanted to solve and the inevitable self-destruction that would escalate severely after her daughter died. It was the scene towards the end when all the family are hanging together around Kate’s bedside and they’re telling her to think about her body killing the cancer cells, think of getting strong and healthy again and picturing a happy, healthy, and long life alive on this earth. The family kept telling her to promise them she’d think about becoming healthy.

Being positive is a positive thing. But is being realistic, or even negative, a negative thing?

Oooh, a conundrum! And elitists the world over like to call Conservative Christians so very black and white in their small minds.

Well, this small mind is fairly crackling over the profundities of that conundrum.

Looking at Sara, the mother, we see an unhealthily positive woman. She was so very certain her daughter would live. She’d been driving her entire life and her family’s life, and anybody else she could get to orbit around her with this singular focus for 14 years. Her steadfast focus was a good thing in the beginning. It is important when beginning a fight to have hope and a high aim driving us. But as the fight wears on, even the wise become careful in their aims.

When Aragorn, after the battle of Pellenor Fields, considers the necessity of a distracting engagement at the very Black Gates of Mordor, he has no false hope of the potential success of this expedition. In a story characterized by great and lofty hope, the scene is singularly grim. Their doom is certain. The hearty heroes knew each of their own lives were secondary to the survival of the race of men free of Sauron’s bile, and then entertained no vain assumptions of their own longevity. In that last desperate moment the driving force was necessity and gritty determination rather hope for success.

Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book out about the perils of positive thinking. Emily Wilson, on AlterNet explains an important difference:

Positive thinking is different, she says, from being cheerful or good-natured — it’s believing that the world is shaped by our wants and desires and that by focusing on the good, the bad ceases to exist.

Focusing on the unattainable, when we know it is unattainable, is unhealthy. Focusing on the realistic future and making the best of it is very healthy. If that future is dire, go to it with a song and a good friend.

But I don’t want to just critique the destructive and desperate mother and her dangerous desires, I want to talk about those awkward relatives in the hospital room trying to make light of these few fleeting and final hours.

I have not expertise in this matter. Only a few close friends of mine have died, but I was not at any of their bedsides. Grandparents have passed on, but, unfortunately, in each case I wasn’t really close to them at the time of death and I was not at any of their bedsides either.

But it seems to me that, were I dying and it was obvious the end was soon, I’d prefer people to be honest about it, not dwelling on that fact, but not avoiding it awkwardly.

Obviously, the religious beliefs of the involved people would have a significant impact on the available subjects. If I were the one dying, I’d appreciate people being hopeful in the Christian sense. Appreciating a life lived for God and speculating on what I’d see after I’d shuffled off this mortal coil. If at the bedside of a dying Christian, I’d want to exude that hope as an encouragement to others in the room.

If I were at the bedside of an unsaved person dying, I’d want to capitalize on those last few moments to ensure they were aware, so far as I was able, of the true nature of life, it’s purpose, and the true God.

In all cases I’d want to make memories and recall old memories. The dying do not need new memories, they are for the living. There will be plenty of time for crying after the dying are gone, they’ve probably already shed their tears and would probably be happy for a pleasant escape. Save the funeral until after they’re gone.

As a Christian I have a powerful hope that carries me through (not above) any struggle. I know the worst that can occur is that I lose this paltry, meager, and short life here on this earth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and good riddance. I want heaven and real, true, immediate fellowship with my God and Savior and all those who have gone before. Matt Kelly still has to teach me how to shave with a straight blade.

So death for me is just a doorway, a passage. Like the passage around Cape Horn it is difficult and often fraught with pain and heartache. And like the passage around Cape Horn it is soon over.

So what would I say to a dying person?

I don’t know. I feel all I have here is a list of do’s and don’ts. Guidelines, more like.

One thing’s for sure, I won’t be talking about how the human mind can will the body to health. Medicine does that, and God does.

So what would you say to a dying person? Or even better, what have you said to a dying person?

The Christ, The Prince of Peace

Christ did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword
Christ did not come to bring peace but to bring a sword

“Glory in the highest” the angels sang, “and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”

From this first joyful proclamation of Jesus’ birth to this day, Jesus’ name has been used by advocates for peace of all kinds regardless of those advocates belief in and surrender to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Pastor Todd preached Sunday on the hard thought that Christ did not come to bring the peace we men expected. In Matthew 10 Jesus proclaims something seemingly directly contrary to the angel’s words:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring peace? After all, the angels could not be lying, could they? I’m so confused!

Elsewhere Jesus seems to confirm the angels and contradict Himself:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

The Jews Jesus was preaching to in Matthew 10 were expecting a Messiah who would wage one final war and end all conflict with Israel as the masters of the universe. They were expecting the Prince of Peace to beat the Romans into submission and enthrone their own county in the seat of eternal power. Forget Pax Romana, they wanted Pax Iudeah.

The Jews were correct, in once sense: the peace Christ brought would be achieved through final conflict.

In John 14 Jesus is speaking specifically to His disciples, and by extension, to those who believe in Him as their Savior and Lord. He reinforces the distinction between His peace and the peace the rest of the world claims by stating He will not give His peace the same way the world gives.

There are two different kinds and times of peace that Christ is bringing to mankind. The instant and constant kind enjoyed only by those who have fought Christ and lost and surrendered and now live in subjection to His will and in His protection. And the future, hoped-for peace which will only come about when all mankind ceases it’s striving with God, the vice-grip of sin is broken from every heart, and the deceiver and tormentor and death are cast, along with all their minions and followers, into the pit of eternal destruction in God’s wrath.

The peace Christ  brought at his birth was the instant and constant peace available to those who put their faith in Him. In that same birth He began the final process up to the final day with the final trumpet shall sound, ushering in that final, lasting, and universal peace.

Wishing and hoping for universal peace on this earth is a hopeless and pointless task. Sin is the dominant force in the majority of people’s hearts, and sin is selfish. Sinners will not even agree together, and even God had not sent His Son to bring even greater conflict, the sinners themselves would find conflict enough among themselves.

Christ’s presence in this world brings even greater reason for conflict. The coming of Christ brought not the peace we men hoped for but the seed to greater conflict due to the presence of truth and those who would not and will not accept it.

Christ brought truth and truth wars against the lies which hold so many captive. Those who remain captive to the lies of the world also war with vehemence against the truth and those who have surrendered to it. The conflict is mutual and inescapable.

Peace on this earth is reserved only to those who surrender to Him and live in allegiance to His will. Peace in eternity is only given to the same.

This is not an exclusive claim because the means of salvation is freely available to all. There is no person alive not permitted to surrender to Christ, and God makes clear throughout the bible His will that no one should perish. This is the goodwill to men, that God, who worked with man despite his sin, provided the way out of the penalty for that sin.