Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bruce Lee and Jesus Christ: Different Teachers with a Similar Lesson

I recently ran across this graphic:
As strange as it may seem, my immediate first thought was a quote by Bruce Lee from the movie "Enter The Dragon"

{Before I go too far, I should make it clear that this is in no way a religious argument. It is, rather, a philosophical comparison. So, when I say the Bible is just a book, it's not meant as a theological position, nor to step on the toes of my Christian friends concerning it being the Word of God.}

 In the scene I'm referencing, Bruce is teaching a student about martial art technique - about how it is more than just the physical mastery of movement. He says: "It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon." (The student looks at his finger and Bruce slaps the top of his head to get his attention) "Don't concentrate on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory."
I think Bruce was saying that martial art, at its core, is more than its technique - more than the sum of its parts. Yes, one must master technique (and in doing so, master one's self), but not because that's all there is. Instead, we master technique because it's a necessary step before going beyond technique - to freedom.

 Likewise, the Christian life is more than reading the Bible and memorizing verses. The Bible is a guide. The book itself cannot save anyone. Only by delving deeply into it - not in a legalistic way, purely for the sake of knowledge - but in a sincere striving to understand what it teaches and incorporate it, as humbly as possible, into our lives.

 When we study the Bible passionately, and with a pure heart, we are mastering technique, if you will. In martial art, as one advances through mastery, it begins to show in every aspect of one's life. The same is true with studying the Bible. As we learn and begin to understand (in our hearts, as opposed to in our heads), we begin to recognize to Whom it points and we begin to bear fruit.

 Let's broaden the context of the comparison beyond a mere soundbite. If we go back a minute or two in the film, we see Bruce instructing the student in the nuances of a relatively simple kick. The student has pretty much mastered the physical movement of the kick, but he executes it mechanically - without any feeling. He's going through the motions and Bruce brings this to his attention.

 "What was that?" He asks. "An exhibition? We need emotional content. Try again."

 The kid gets mad and throws the kick again.

 Bruce scolds him. "I said emotional content. Not anger. Now try again. With meaning."

 He's trying to instill in the student the idea that martial art is meant to be a spiritual quest as much as a physical one. What he's saying, in essence, is to devote your whole self to your effort, for then there will be spiritual growth.

 The kid throws the kick a third time, and Bruce is happy with what he sees. But the lesson isn't over yet.

 "How did that feel?" He asks. "Let me think," the student replies.

 Another slap to the top of the head: "Don't think. Feel." Don't make it all head knowledge. Make it part of you.

 Similarly, in chapter 5 of the book of John, the Jewish leaders are angry with Jesus for, in their view, breaking the rules of the Sabbath. These leaders knew the Scripture and the Law inside and out - but it was pretty much all head knowledge. They hadn't incorporated the true meaning into their hearts. They were going through the motions, and Jesus was about to point that out. The narrative begins to unfold around verse 15 of the fifth chapter of John, and culminates in verse 39, with Jesus telling them: "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me!"
Sound familiar? "It (technique/Scripture) is like a finger pointing (to the moon/to Jesus). Don't concentrate (focus solely) on the finger, or you will miss all that heavenly glory. _________________________________________________

"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering."
~Bruce Lee

 "If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for me, you will find it."
 ~Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:19)

 "Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."
~Bruce Lee

 "You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
~Jesus Christ (John 8:31-32)

 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." {Note: a lamp does us no good if we look directly at it. The usefulness of the lamp is to see the path it's illuminating.}
 ~Psalm 119:105

 "Some seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold."
 ~Jesus Christ (Mark 4:5-8)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peculiar Priorities

I was just surfing Google for ideas on how to exceed expectations on the job. I was instantly rewarded with numerous hits that centered around exceeding your boss’ expectations. What’s peculiar about this is that what I had in mind was exceeding my customers’ expectations.

This reminded me that this is how our culture thinks. It’s not about the customer, it’s about the boss.

Similarly, this is how corporate America operates. It isn’t about what’s good for the customer, or what the customer wants. It’s about what’s good for the shareholders. Someone in the field may have a wonderful idea on how to give the customer better value, but this will never see fruition unless the idea makes the bottom line more profitable for the shareholders.

Don’t get me wrong, the shareholders' interests should be protected, as long as it’s in the long-term best interest of the business. Unfortunately, long-term to American business is the end of the month, or perhaps the quarter.

There is far too much concern for the shareholders’ profit. How can I say this? The shareholders are who makes it possible to continue the business. I disagree. The shareholders simply invested into the business. It’s basically a gamble. You invest in businesses you believe will do well, but if it doesn’t do well, then you, as a gambling shareholder, should accept the consequences of a bad gamble. You should not have your interests protected at all costs.

The fact of the matter is that it’s not the investors who make your business possible, it’s the customers. If the shareholders take a temporary hit to their profits (because a business invested in ways to make the business better, for example), this will be rectified if the change was truly for the benefit of the customer.

To whatever degree is realistic, the customer should drive the business. What I see happening, almost universally, is that the business is driving the customer. This is not new. It goes all the way back to Henry Ford and his famous quote, “You can get any color you want, as long as it’s black.”

In Ford’s case, he was trying to most effectively exploit the new idea of the assembly line. It made sense. As time went on, new colors were added to the available choices. What’s happening now is exactly the opposite: our choices as consumers are diminishing - for the same reason - ease of manufacture. But with new technology expanding so rapidly, our choices should also be expanding.

For example, it used to be that you could order a pair of eyeglasses and change the temple length because different length temples were available; or the same thing with color. While there are some exceptions, by and large, that’s not the case any longer. If you try on a frame, and you love the frame, but the temple length is too long or too short, you have to pick a different frame. That just doesn’t seem right to me.

Rather than the customer being able to order a different length (or a different color, or whatever), which would be an example of the customer driving sales, we see the business deciding what’s available and the customer necessarily adjusting their desires and expectations to meet the availability (the business driving the customer).

Another example would be cable television. Back in the day you had a choice of subscribing to cable or not. If you wanted, you could still use your antenna and get whatever channels were local. I’m not so sure you can do that today.

Also, I always thought that commercials on television were to help the networks pay their costs to bring you the programming, and also make a profit. So, why am I paying a cable company (an exorbitant service fee) to bring me the programming, but I still have to watch commercials?

What it boils down to in my view is that the people who deliver the goods and services simply don’t care about their customers - or at least don’t care enough. What’s comical is that the bigwigs in the Ivory Tower who make the rules for those in the field always make it sound like the customer is the most important thing. This is merely a way to guilt their subordinates into implementing their cockeyed new schemes, because when you look at what they really do, it simply doesn’t ring true.

What a peculiar set of priorities we have.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Revisionist History

It’s been alleged that for the last fifty years or more there’s been a concerted effort among left-leaning academics to re-write the history books and teach our children a much more politically liberal version of our nations history. This is referred to pejoratively as “revisionist history”.

In the past several years there’s been a backlash of sorts by those known unaffectionately as right-wing Christians. These people want a much more conservative (in general) and Christian based (in particular) version of history taught in school. These people are also called revisionists, and also in a negative way.

Those who are more liberal tend to bemoan the perceived encroachment of religion into what they think should be government affairs (schools), while the more conservative make the argument that the faith of the founders is both important and more accurately represented by their version of history. All the while they’re both flinging the poison dart of “revisionist” at each other.

So who’s right? Who’s telling the truth and who’s revising history? And is revising history wrong?

To answer the last question first, I believe that revising history books, in the simplest sense of the term, is necessary. As newfound documents come to light, and new facts displace previously accepted traditions, truth demands a revision. So I have a problem labeling the revising of history wrong - as long as it’s done honestly.

What’s wrong is agendized history - history being taught in a way that specifically forwards a given agenda - and I’m not sure either side has a lock on that.

Of course we all think our agenda is valid because we all see things through the filter of our own world view, and it’s sometimes quite difficult to see things in a truly objective manner - especially if they challenge our chosen agenda/world view.

So it’s not so much the facts that determine who’s telling the truth, because, to a degree, they’re all telling the truth - just not the whole truth. At this point we need to decide whether truth is universal or subjective. I suggest it’s both.

Truth, in its purest form, is absolute and universal. However, our understanding of it is not. Only God can see absolute truth in its entirety. We mortals can only see a small part of it and, in our ignorance, decide that truth is subjective. Therefore, for those who refuse to acknowledge God, the idea that truth is subjective becomes the truth.

It’s the old problem of three blind mice trying to describe an elephant. There’s far more information than any one person can process; we see a small fraction of it and base our opinions on how those facts fit in with our world view.

Probably the best current case in point is the “he said, she said” going on between David Barton and Chris Rodda. I preface what follows by saying, no matter how diligently I strive to be objective, I, too, am not immune to my world view affecting my perception of the truth.

I’ve listened to both parties and this is what I come away with: Barton, for the most part, is saying that America is a Christian nation whose founding fathers were mostly Christian, and that the academics have falsely been teaching otherwise. He does not malign Chris Rodda (which Rodda, herself, acknowledges), but stays focused on the broad strokes of presenting the facts as he sees them (of course getting specific as needed).

Conversely, Chris Rodda seems to have made it her mission to attack Christians, with a particular disdain for David Barton, stating, of course, that he’s attempting to re-write history.

When Barton refutes an anti-religious statement or claim, he usually says something like, “That’s simply not true”, and proceeds to make his case. “Not true” could be a lie or a mistake.

Anyone who disagrees with Rodda is summarily labeled a liar. No benefit of the doubt that they might be mistaken. Just a liar. In fact, she has a web site called, which can only be meant in a purposely offensive way.

Yes, Barton does have a book out about the lies told about Thomas Jefferson, but these charges are aimed at the education system, in general. Rodda attacks Barton as a liar personally.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m absolutely not saying that she’s stupid - she’s obviously intelligent and well read. I’m saying, in my opinion, she has no class. She’s also an elitist, academic snob, implying that anyone without specific credentials can not be taken seriously as an historian.

In one of her videos, Rodda claims that Barton lied about more than half the signers of the Declaration of Independence having been ministers. I won’t get too deeply into this specific argument because, frankly, I’m of the opinion that they both took liberties. Rodda misrepresented what Barton actually said (she lied), and for his part, Barton worded it in a way reminiscent of, “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

However, using that as a starting place, Rodda makes the claim in that video that the word “seminary” simply meant school, and that our modern association of that word with religion allows Barton to trick his listeners into thinking the men studied religion when they didn’t.

We’re talking about specific semantics here, and I’m sure, based on that, she could argue against me. But it’s not possible to believably imply that they did not study religion (which is what any reasonable person would infer from what she says).

The learning institutions in question were ALL religiously affiliated at that time. Rather than making the glib analogy of a student of computer science at a Christian college being called a minister, maybe Rodda should instead understand that, regardless of course of study, at such a school EVERYTHING would be taught, comprehended, acknowledged, and believed through the filter of the Christian world view!

It’s quite likely that the average student at one of the colonial colleges would understand religion much better in his mind, and believe much stronger in his heart than an average student today.

So, were the 29 signers of the Declaration in question ministers? No. But then, Barton never said they were. Using her own standard, Chris Rodda is a liar. Were they “trained for the ministry”? I don’t know. It depends on what your definition of “is” is. Did they attend a religious seminary? Absolutely!

Anyone who’s intellectually honest knows, and the University of Pennsylvania publicly acknowledges: “The four colleges then in existence in the English colonies - Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, and Princeton - were all schools for educating the clergy, rather than preparing their students for lives of business and public service.”

Some would counter that they only studied religion because the only providers of education at that time were religious institutions - they then went on to non-religious careers. That’s partly right. Many went on to secular careers, which is not the same as non-religious. The distinction lies in the fact that the career may have been secular, but again, their religious beliefs were inseparable from who they were. They did not compartmentalize their beliefs separately like we do today.

Also, that counter proves another point of mine, if you’ll forgive the brief digression. School is not meant to be a government affair. The only reason schools came into existence here was because religious entities created them - and the only reason they’re public (influenced by government) is because when they were created, the government served the religiously-led community. (That’s an over-simplification, but essentially correct). I would argue that education is the sole responsibility of churches, not government. The state should stay out of it completely.

Getting back to school/seminary question: because of a similar argument revolving specifically around Thomas Jefferson, I looked up the royal charter which started William and Mary - the college he attended. It says, in part:
“ the end that the Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary of ministers of the gospel, and that the youth may be piously educated in good letters and manners, and that the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the Western Indians, to the glory of Almighty God; to make, found and establish a certain place of universal study, or perpetual college of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences.”

The phrase “seminary of ministers of the gospel” seems pretty clear to me.

Rodda recognizes that William and Mary was religious “when he went there”, but claims he “unreligiousized” and “secularized” it after, when he was governor. Perhaps. Let’s investigate.

Secularists, like Rodda, like to paint a picture of Jefferson as being antagonistic toward religion. To help their case, they usually use the fact that he “secularized” W&M; that he started the University of Virginia as a specifically secular school; and that he wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom to create and maintain a separation of church and state.

Well, W&M was made a university in 1779 and discontinued the grammar and Divinity schools. That’s true. I wonder if we might use a little perspective of the times here, though.

1779 was right in the middle of the Revolution. We were in the process of throwing off the shackles of a repressive king. No small part of that was state religion. William and Mary, in particular, was Anglican - the state religion of the enemy. This may be conjecture, but I think it’s reasonable to suggest that this may have played into secularizing that school.

In addition to disassociating with the Anglican hierarchy, Jefferson (and others) felt, rightly, that any state sponsored religion would be dangerous. So it naturally follows that a new college (or university) would necessarily be secular. It wasn’t that he was irreligious, it was that he knew firsthand what was wrong with state sponsored religion.

Regarding the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, the second sentence begins: “Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;...” (hardly the words of a secularist). It then goes on to proclaim why religion should not be FORCED upon people.

But it also says, “...all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same SHALL IN NO WISE DIMINISH, ENLARGE OR AFFECT THEIR CIVIL CAPACITIES.” (emphasis mine)

It goes on to recognize that because future Assemblies will have “powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.”

So, where are we? Pretty much back at the beginning. The WHOLE truth has yet to be understood, much less put forward, by anybody. Partly because we can’t comprehend it in its pure state, and partly because our personal world view disallows it.

Anyone on either side of any historical issue can easily pick and choose documents, or excerpts of documents, to prove whichever side he wants to prove. So it’s unlikely that these battles will ever be settled - we all are more in love with our agenda than we are with the truth.

I close with Proverbs 18:17 -- “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Puritanism To Secularism

[Note: This was originally going to be just an observation about my Puritan ancestors and free will, but quickly segued into an essay on the First Amendment.]

I’ve been researching my family history and have been quite interested in learning about their cultural mores and the manner in which their faith was manifested in everyday life.

I’m thinking specifically about the Puritan view of the citizens’ obligations to the church. A Puritan’s behavior was, to some degree, prescribed by the church. I’ve been going back and forth with how I feel about that.

On one hand, I sometimes think that was a great system. When we look at today’s culture and how corrupt and selfish and evil it is, and compare it to then, when people did what was right or were punished, it just seems that they had a better system.

On the other hand, it seems to fly directly in the face of God’s obvious desire for us to have and use free will. When one begins to learn about Him, it becomes very obvious very quickly that His system is one where we all have free will. He wants us to come to him and to do what’s right on our own accord.

So, in an ironic way (and this is speculation on my part), in wanting to please God, the Puritans’ society of enforced righteousness (for lack of a better way to word it) actually may have displeased Him.

Before we start going off on how great it is to have a separation of church and state, though, we need to put into perspective how this came into being, and how it subsequently evolved, because there is much misinformation on this subject.

In a way, it was, in fact, the Puritans who had the first version of separation of church and state, but it was completely different than anything we would recognize today. It would be more accurate to describe it as a separation of church and civil authorities - hopefully the distinction will become clear shortly.

Remember, they left a system where the monarch was the head of the church (as it still is to this day in England) and ruled, ostensibly, by divine right.

So, basically, the civil authority was also the church authority, and in that order. Well, the monarch changed several times over a relatively short period resulting in varying degrees of secular and pious sensibilities - not to mention church doctrine.

To the Puritan mind this was completely backward - especially if the king or queen ruled by divine right! The monarch serves God and the priority should be as spiritual leader first, which would result in being the civil or governmental leader.

When they came to the new world, that’s how they set up their system. The citizens had to meet certain religious expectations and obligations, and the pastors were more or less the leaders of the community. The only authority the civil leaders had was that which was purely civil in nature. They were not to step on the toes of the church. (Although the church would use the civil government to punish religious infractions - yet more evidence of who was truly in charge.)

Another difference from the Church of England was that there was no “national” church. It was the local church that had authority - and responsibility - over its own congregation. Of course, most, if not all, of the churches were on the same page, as we would say today, but one could not stop going to one church in favor of another, for example, without going through a formal process.

Having protested the legalism of the Catholic Church, and having separated from the monarch-ruled Church of England, these Protestant Separatists* nevertheless became quite legalistic in their own right, and more or less ruled the state - but it really was quite different in the details from what they’d left behind. That said, they were a far cry from allowing the reign of free will that God arguably intended.

This talk of free will, or the lack of it, gets pretty complex, though, because they insisted that church members be saved Christians and not just go though the motions of going to church because it was mandated, as was the case in England. The people were, however, fairly homogenous in their belief and way of thinking - they were there, in the new world, together, for a reason, after all. So there was a mixture of free will and legalism that most of us today would probably not understand.

The next step in the evolution of the separation of church and state was initiated by Roger Williams in direct response to the situation described above. Williams was critical of the Puritans’ “structure” much like Luther was with the Catholic one.

Roger Williams established the first Baptist church in America, in what became Providence, RI.

Today, because fundamentalist Baptists are often at the forefront of the battle (on the side of allowing prayer in school and other public/government places), many people think they are against a separation of church and state. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Baptists are staunch advocates of it - it’s just that they understand and agree with the original meaning of it (a la Roger Williams), and not what it has been perverted into.

There were a number of differences that Williams had with the Puritan-run Bay Colony, but two that are specific to this issue were: being punished by civil authorities for purely religious transgressions, and the requirement of being spiritually saved in order to have the right to vote.

Williams felt that one man has no way of ascertaining the salvation of another, so the requirement was ridiculous. Being granted or denied the right to vote therefore became arbitrary, and that wasn’t right.

Providence thus became a haven of religious tolerance - perhaps like the world had never seen.

It must be remembered that this was 140 years before the colonies would form into a new nation, so this religious freedom was well established by the time the framing of the new government was to begin.

It was with all this in mind that our founding fathers found it wise (indeed, necessary) to include in the Bill of Rights the First Amendment, specifically prohibiting the establishment of a state religion.

They wanted to be sure that no religion would become the officially sanctioned religion of the government - like was the case in most of Europe - thereby preventing the freedom of worship to others.

It was absolutely not to prohibit the exercise of religion in the public square. Quite the contrary: it was to guarantee that all had the freedom to worship according to their own convictions without fear.

Sadly, the most frequent (erroneous) interpretation of the First Amendment has accomplished precisely what it sought to protect us from.

One definition of religion is: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. That accurately describes the Secular Humanism under which our government operates.

So, in changing the meaning of the First Amendment from the clear idea of protecting religious freedom by not establishing a state religion to the false idea of completely divorcing faith from public life, the courts have, in effect, used the First Amendment to establish in the land Secular Humanism as the state mandated religion!

*Not all Puritans were technically Separatists, but that’s a fairly involved explanation. I was exercising a bit of license with that line.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Rest of the Story

Many of us fondly remember Paul Harvey. He would take a story that was familiar to all and fill in the background that was unknown by most. He called it “The Rest of the Story”.

I’ve been reading history, as I frequently do, and I came across something that was reminiscent of Mr. Harvey. I could almost hear him in my head.

In December of 1773, a group of men who called themselves Patriots disguised themselves as American Indians and dumped three cargoes of tea into Boston Harbor. We’ve all heard that story a hundred times, and we all know the reason they did that was to protest an unfair tax on tea (taxation without representation), right?

Well, that’s true, but it’s only part of the story. It turns out - and this is from a British source (the great Prime Minister, Winston Churchill) - the more important reason this was done was because, in addition to a hated tax, the tea in question had been shipped from the far east (the East India Company) directly to the American colonies without paying the import duties. This, of course, bypassed the middleman merchants who HAD paid the requisite duties and undercut their prices, as the company was selling the tea through its own agents in America.

This, in essence, created an instant monopoly for the East India Company.

But even that is not the whole story. The reason the company was allowed to do this was because it was nearly bankrupt and the government was forced to come to its rescue. In an 18th century version of a government bailout for a company that was “too big to fail”, Parliament passed an Act authorizing the company to do this and thereby sidestep bankruptcy.

So, the government bailing out a company to save it from bankruptcy is not new. But when it happened back then, it started a revolution against the government, created a new nation, and changed the course of history forever.

And that’s ... the rest of the story.

Good day! (with respectful apologies to Mr. Paul Harvey)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Is there any objective merit to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice? Does God smile on us when we give of ourselves at a cost to ourselves?

I’ve always thought that giving - whether money, or time, or whatever - was always more meaningful when there was real sacrifice involved. If you are well-to-do and you give a lot of money to a charity, that’s a good thing. You are helping people with your resources. But did you really feel any sacrifice?

I, in no way, mean to diminish the generosity of wealthy people. I think it’s wonderful. I just think that if it really costs you something to make the gift, perhaps it carries more meaning. But I’m actually going to get even more specific.

Most people are familiar with the idea of sacrifice of one thing for the attainment of something else. Musicians sacrifice time with their friends to become excellent at their music. Businessmen sometimes, unfortunately, sacrifice time with their families to build a financially successful business. Some people sacrifice financial prosperity for the betterment (relationally, etc.) of their families. These are, to varying degrees, noble. But is there any nobility in sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice?

In the Christian life, we often hear about sacrificial giving - it’s usually being contrasted with, and distinguished from tithing - so, I’m familiar with the concept from that perspective, but . . . well, here; let me tell you how I came to this question. Hopefully that will make clear what I’m asking.

My son is reading “In His Steps”, by Charles M. Sheldon. In the book, one of the characters, in a genuine attempt to know, and do, the will of Christ, makes the statement, “I want to do something that will cost me something in the way of sacrifice.”

THAT’S what I’m talking about. She’s trying to please God and she assumes (rightly? That’s the question.) that the very nature of sacrifice is pleasing to Him. She’s not talking about sacrificing one thing for another. She’s really not even talking about sacrificing of herself because there’s a real NEED for what she’d be giving. (There IS an undercurrent of using one’s gifts in service, but that, I believe, is a secondary concern in the statement being made.)

Read again what she said. She wants to sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. So, my question is, is that kind of sacrifice pleasing to God?