Thursday, January 31, 2013

COPIOUS CASH FOR CANCER



Red Deer Advocate, June 18th, 2011. Terry Fox was a hero. He did a cancer run before it was the cool thing to do. And he did it, marathon-style, day after day, even while cancer was killing him. Had he not exerted himself so, maybe he would have lived much longer than he did. But he chose to fight to the death so that others might live. Who will not admire an exit like that?

And who will not admire a person for being the first cause of a great hope?—: that cancer will be beaten. Can cancer be beaten, though? If half a billion dollars has been raised in Terry’s name, how many billions have been raised overall? Where has all that money gone? Where does it go? Why isn’t cancer beaten yet?

Do donors deserve answers to these questions? Who will give some full account of all that donor money? What part of cancer will your next twenty-dollar bill beat? The Bible encourages its adherents to give generously. “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day” (Isaiah 58.10.) But generous giving is not the same as thoughtless giving. To be the good money steward a person should be, something should be known, should it not, about where the money one gives will go and for what purpose? “Every prudent man dealeth with knowledge: but a fool layeth open his folly” (Proverbs 13.16.) So while we should never be misers, neither should we throw money around imprudently. Questions need to be posed to all cancer-fund solicitors, and verifiable answers received from them, before any more millions, or even before one more twenty, is dumped into that bottomless pit called Cancer Research. But do this gently because fundraisers are usually (though without enough premeditation) just trying to do good. And many of them are phoning, or door-knocking, or running because cancer has hit close to home.

I would like to see a rundown of exactly how a half-billion dollars was spent before I give in to the next emotional request for money. That is the firm, prudent stand to take.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MISGUIDED EVANGELICAL WHINERS



Red Deer Advocate, May 26th, 2010. Some groups that profess to be followers of Jesus Christ are ignorant enough of the word the Christian religion is based on that you’ve got to be a little skeptical concerning their understanding of the gospel that they are so zealous to preach. The decision the Stampede Committee came to here was a good one.

Can you imagine the apostle Paul spending a pile of money on parade paraphernalia and then whining to a Roman governor to let him join the festivities at the Coliseum? No? Case closed.

We should rejoice that these particular evangelicals were stopped from mixing their religion with a State fair. And there is no warrant whatsoever for being anxious that evangelism was prevented because: (1) it is contrary to the Bible for Christians to force themselves upon the State to promote their cause; (2) evangelism is not apt to succeed when attempted through disobedience; (3) Christians who remain this ignorant about Church/State boundaries are likely to put a false concept of the gospel out, and, if so, have not been called by God to evangelize in the first place.

We should be glad when the State, whether for the right reason or not, excludes Christians from participating in venues they have no business joining. In the words of Jesus, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22.21.) These Christians shouldn’t whine about wanting to be part of a worldly event. They should do their evangelism (which is probably substandard at best) separately. Christians are called to witness to the world, not take part in worldly fairs. “Be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12.2.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

THREE CHEERS FOR TOTALITARIAN JUSTICE



Edmonton Sun, March 14th, 2009. If your death is to be by the crime of murder and you are that sort of person who believes in justice, then China, not Canada, may be the best place for your grizzly end to come about.

Women involved in that lewd business called modeling tend to become, before long, street-smart, wily, cautious, and cagey. But whether in China or in Canada, you just don’t know what awaits you round the next corner. You just can’t be on your guard every second of every day.

China is notorious for the unjust killing of its own citizens; but it does judge its citizens who are killers. A totalitarian state exerts as much control as it can over its people. Whether against the people or for the people, it wields the sword to maintain order. (Hopefully, this crime was pinned on the right man.)

We should never pretend that modeling is a noble way to make to living. Who will deny that it’s all about the sins of vanity and greed? But neither should we shirk our responsibility to punish those who do harm to vain or greedy people. No matter who gets murdered, we should demand the death penalty for the crime. Totalitarian China is brutal; but there is justice there for the crime of murder. Totalitarianism is an evil kind of regime. But it can sure do the job when avenging a victim! Three cheers for that!

We would not be cheering for full justice if the avenging of this wrong were left up to Canadian permissivism. (I’m not making this word up.) This is what the Canadian form of democratic socialism has spawned: permissivism. The more you permit, the less you punish. The less you punish, the more you permit again, until crime is no more crime. Justice here has gotten so lax that we find ourselves cheering, even for totalitarian justice! Not that we want totalitarianism for ourselves. But there is consolation in the fact that a Canadian is sometimes avenged for being murdered, as in the case (we hope) of Diana O’Brien. ‘Avenge’ is a good old word. The State exists, in part, to avenge evil. It is right and just to pray and vote for full measures of justice: life for life and tooth for tooth. Rulers should be a terror to evil (Romans 13.3.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

SCHOOL SHOOTINGS AND MEDIA MORALS




(Red Deer Advocate, December 15th, 2012.) Those people who enjoy the killing scenes in movies and video games contribute to the culture that spawns the deadliest, most horrific crimes. That is my little thesis here. It’s rather a big one, actually. They support, in some way or other, the darker side of culture when they enjoy the mortal bloodshed and manslaughter that is served up by directors of movies and makers of video games. They spend money on this darkness; and then they promote it by word-of-mouth.

Like me, you’ve probably read about this tragic news both in print and online. When I went online to read about it, I was reminded of something that can never be preached about too much: the connexion between school shootings and media morals.

I scrolled through the news of this massacre rather quickly because I could not bear to read too many details about the young lives that had just ended so coldly, violently, and unjustly. When I got to the bottom of the screen, here is what I saw: an ad featuring a celebrity starring as the warrior, Thor. You can tell just by the sinister atmosphere injected into this ad that the production promises a lot of exciting, remorseless killing. So on the same page with the news of this latest school shooting, there was an ad about free-for-all killing. “What a connexion,” I thought, “and right there for everyone to see!”

Who can meditate for long on the terror these children must have been in while waiting helplessly for their turn to get shot? And yet we need to meditate on this in order to steel our resolve against the trivializing of murder that goes on in video games and movies. We need to do it in order to become advocates against murder as a trivial act that people get pleasure from. I don’t mean that we should push for laws banning needless violence in movies and video games. That would be impracticable and probably unwise. Outlawing certain movies, games, or guns is not the answer. I mean that we should make people aware of what they are watching in the hope that such amusements will be shunned. Is watching pretend killing better than actually doing something? Life can be more meaningful. There are better ways of spending one’s time.

I’m no expert when it comes to movies and live theater. But is it not true, generally, that in movies the actors kill and then move calmly on, while in plays the actors are tormented by the act? You see, we’ve come a long way by ‘pushing the envelope.’ Killing, in media like movies and video games especially, is no more treated like the tragedy it really is. If the pretence on the screen is that there is no grief in killing, that lesson will get played out in the real world by disturbed, confused individuals. Life imitates art, after all.

Hollywood actors (I’ll say generally just to be generous) do not agree that there is a connexion between killing in movies and killing in real life. They are illogical people, and they like it that way. But I will show, anyway, that there is a connexion. No one would deny, probably, that movies have contributed to women trading dresses and skirts for pants. That’s a moral influence: a connexion between movies and real life. Whenever a famous actor dons a certain look, movie-watchers copy. That’s where hip-huggers come from. That’s a moral influence: a connexion between movies and real life. Moviegoers gathered at the drive-in to watch Smoky and the Bandit in the seventies. I was there. Guess what happened? There was a lot of spinning, squealing, and speeding on the way out. Coincidence? No, moral influence. Actors would no doubt agree so far. But they conveniently begin to deny moral influence as soon as the copying runs into graver matters. Ah! moral influence is caused only regarding matters about which they are comfortable admitting the connexion! Their logic stops just before it implicates them in an uncomfortable way. Their logic dare not proceed any farther! They do not want to be tagged as real-life villains contributing to the immoral, or amoral, society in which school shootings take place. Who will blame them? A few of us will. And God does.

Quentin Tarantino was ‘very annoyed’ when Terry Gross posed the question of a connexion to him. She asked him if he loses his taste for movie-violence after a real-life massacre occurs. His answer: ‘not for me.’ He would not watch something like The Wild Bunch on the day in question, though, he says. What a mortified soul he is! What are the causes of school shootings like this? His answer: ‘gun control and mental health.’ Quelle surprise. He forgot to include movies. What does bother him about movies? His answer: when animals are harmed in the making of them. I guess he had to show sympathy somewhere after calling ‘revenge violence’ in films ‘fun’ and ‘cool.’ How does this director justify all the violence in his films? He deceives himself by the lie of exaggeration. His opinion is that real-life slavery-violence was a thousand times worse than what he illustrates in Django Unchained. This leaves him a lot of room, you see; he does not want to be chained by moral restraint! He could have handled a lot more violence than he put in there, he says. I guess we know what to expect from the envelope being pushed a little farther down the line!

Mr. Tarantino says that what he tries to do in his films is make ‘a mystic experience.’ Then he adds, “But it’s make believe.” When your object is to give viewers a mystic experience in films that play up killing but play down contrition or consequence for the act, there’s a very good chance that you’ll meddle with someone’s head in a negative way. A mystic experience is ‘an intimate knowledge of’ and ‘a direct communion with.’ Is it safe to have multitudes in our midst getting intimate knowledge of casual killing on a regular basis? Should our society be creating, encouraging, and perpetuating direct communion with regretless slaughter? Violence in the real world will result through mysticism of that sort.

Many are the contributing factors to school massacres: the side-effects of antidepressant medication, and inferiority complexes, for instance. But media morals, especially those communicated through movies and video games, are partly, and maybe largely, to blame. There is no question about it. The association is a logical one that we have proof of. Regarding some of these school shootings, we’ve seen killers copy, nearly to the letter (as it is written in the envelope that is pushed), the killing sprees in the films they’ve been mystical with. And still the connexion is denied!

“Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 28.3.) I was passing through this area of the Bible just the other day. The word is spoken of Ahaz, king of Judah, who was from the line of David. What applications can we make from this today? Ours is a society that sacrifices its children to the gods of modern culture. Every time you look at a movie that shows a lot of killing you get thrilled by, you are burning incense to these evil gods, and you have Ahaz for your father. Think about it. When is killing in its proper context? Get familiar with the Bible. Look at the life of David, for instance. Yes, his killing of Goliath is sensationally portrayed with affecting words. But the passage does not excite merely. It comes with the lesson that he who fights for God can bring down evil giants. And the larger context shows (most notably in the Psalms) how tormented David was by this lifestyle of war. “They also that seek after my life lay snares for me…For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me” (Psalm 38.12, 17.) Much of David’s life was like this: ‘continually’ means more than a moment or two. And David was a lover of many women. But David the playboy died ignominiously enough, unable to make love to the fair virgin damsel who was slipped into bed with him to warm him up (1 Kings 1.1-4.) When the Bible tells us of heroes but leaves their sorrows, shames, and the ends they come to out of it, the stories are briefly told (like when David’s mighty men are eulogized.) And we have the larger Bible context to inform us that all men stand condemned for their faults and that every one needs the grace of God and the Saviour whom God sent. A violent film that thrills will leave you feeling empty afterwards. That is not the result you get from reading killing scenes in the Bible. If anything, you leave with serious thoughts being suggested to you. This is the case because the Bible is the word of God. But it is also because killing, in the Bible, comes with context. And the reader can feel it. We get more than blood and gore in the Bible; we get knowledge of sin, warnings of judgment to come, and appeals to repent and believe.

Through familiarity with the Bible, you can learn to discern when killing, in media, is appropriately sketched or epitomized. Hopefully, you will learn to discern that, and then be compelled also, to search out the Saviour for the forgiving of your sins. Every person not saved before entering the next world will be made to pass through a fire that has no end. Or, to put it another way, he will not pass ‘through’ the fire, but be immersed in it forever. Get yourself a Bible and read it, won’t you? Ask for the one with the ‘thees’ and the ‘thous’ in it. That one should carry more conviction to your soul.     

Notice, finally, one last lesson from that verse in Chronicles. What was done to heathen peoples of old can be done to us too. The LORD casts off nations that sacrifice their children to the gods, whatever those gods happen to be. Nation, sacrifice your children to gods like movies, movie stars, television, television stars, the internet, and video games, and the LORD’s mercy will withdraw from you. Is it not happening already? It has been happening for some time. The LORD’s arm is getting shorter and shorter. He is withdrawing more than extending at this time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

THE COST OF A CHILDISH CULTURE


Red Deer Advocate, May 15th, 2010. Sadly, when a child is harmed it does not cost the guilty party much. We Canadians are okay with having our children bear the cost of our childish culture. This is certainly the case because attacks like this one are usually shrugged off, and laws that would punish the crime either don’t exist or don’t get enforced. Think about it: more outrage is heard from the public when some Neanderthal sports hero is caught with steroids in his blood than when one of our beloved kids is bloodied by a beast! Our concerns are ill placed in Canada

The original article from two days before this one (same paper) tells the rest of the story. The parents of the child were playing baseball while the child was left to run back and forth from game to game. Someone had to bring her monster dogs to the childish affair. And the unguarded child got mauled.

It is a sin not to grow up. And when that sin becomes the cause of harm to a child, it should be treated as a crime. Both the negligent, immature parents ought to be punished, and much more the senseless woman who had no business owning beasts for dogs. If this incident were recorded in the Bible, it would say something like this: ‘And while the father and mother were playing at being kids, the beast of a foolish woman rushed upon the child and rent the child’s head in sunder.’

What would a just penalty look like? It is risky to go delving into Old Testament Jewry for direction on civil justice. But wise men would be able to pick and choose and to modify according to modern circumstance (Deuteronomy 17.) In them days, an ox that ‘pushed with his horn’ could cost the owner of it as much as his life (Exodus 21.) Oxen were necessary then to own. Who needs to own a Rottweiler? To start with, the owner of it should pay with lost skin from the sting of a lash, and then be made to pay child support perpetually. This would mitigate insecurity issues in the child.

That first article records that the father of the torn child was “torn about whether the dog should be put down.” How sympathetic! His sympathy could not be better placed to excite righteous hatred from those who actually love children. Maybe we should pretend that in the heat of the moment he was too distraught to know what to say to the reporter, and for this reason came across like a detached, unfeeling psychopath instead of a loving, protective parent. Yes, it is tempting to pretend the best, for it would take one as great as Solomon to divine a penalty fit for the parent more in love with the beast than his own child that was mangled by it!