Category: Literature

literature

I’m Christian, unless you’re gay

Archive of the article: http://www.danoah.com/2011/11/im-christian-unless-youre-gay.html (now a dead website)

I’m Christian, unless you’re gay

Today I want to write about something that has bothered me for the better part of a decade. I’ve carved out no fewer than a dozen drafts of this post, all strangely unalike, all ultimately failing to accomplish the job I’ve set out to do. Truth is, I’ve been trying to write it off and on for more than a year now, and the right words have been seemingly impossible to come by.

In the end, and in order to post it, I guess I had to care more about the message than I do about potential backlash. I’m not being facetious when I say that I hope I can get this message across without offending… well… everybody.

What I really hope is that this post will spark and encourage poignant and worthwhile discussion that will lead to some poignant and worthwhile changes in the lives of at least a few people who are hurting.

That being said, I believe some strong words need to be said today.

“God hates fags.” We’ve all seen the signs being waved high in the air by members of the Westboro Baptist church. On TV. In real life. It’s hard not to take notice.

Over the years, I’ve watched seemingly never-ending disgustingness and hatred spill across the media airwaves from those who belong to the organization. For those who don’t know much about that “church,” they have made a seedy name for themselves by doing drastic things like picketing beneath atrocious signs and hosting flagrant anti-gay protests at military funerals.

Almost every person of nearly every religion has no problem loathing and condemning the Westboro Baptist Church and its members, and perhaps with reason. They take freedom of speech far beyond what our founding fathers intended when they fought to give us that right, and they laugh at the rest of the world while they do.

But today I don’t want to talk about those idiots. I want to talk about you. And me.

And my friend who I’ll call Jacob.

Jacob is 27 years old, and guess what… he’s gay. 

Not a lot of people know. He lives in a community where being gay is still very “frowned upon.”

I was talking to him on the phone a few weeks ago, telling him about my failed attempts to write this post. He was trying to hold his emotions in, but he eventually became tearful as we deliberated the very problem that this post attempts to discuss.

Before I go on, I feel I must say something one time. Today’s post is not about homosexuality. It’s not about Christians. It’s not about religion. It’s not about politics. It’s about something else altogether. Something greater. Something simpler.

It’s about love.

It’s about kindness.

It’s about friendship

And love, kindness, and friendship are three things that Jacob hasn’t felt in a long time.

I’m thankful he gave me permission to share our conversation with you. It went something like this.

“Jacob, I honestly don’t know how to write it,” I said. “I know what I want to get across, but I can never find the right words.”

“Dan, you need to write it. Don’t give up. I’m telling you, it needs to be said.”

I paused. “You don’t understand. It’s too heated a subject. It’s something people are very emotional and touchy about. I’d be lynched.”

My friend hesitated. “Dan, you are the only friend I have that knows I’m gay. The only freaking one,” he said.

“What do you mean? I know you’ve told other friends.”

That’s when his voice cracked. He began crying.

“Every single person I’ve told has ditched me. They just disappear. They stop calling. They remove me on Facebook. They’re just gone,” he said. “They can’t handle knowing and being friends with a gay person.”

I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t say anything.

“You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know what it’s like to live here and be gay. You don’t know what it’s like to have freaking nobody. You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”

How do you respond to that?

I wanted to tell him it was all in his head. I knew it wasn’t. I wanted to tell him it would get better and easier. The words would have been hollow and without conviction, and I knew it.

You see, I live in this community too. And I’ve heard the hate. I’ve heard the disgust. I’ve heard the disdain. I’ve heard the gossip. I’ve heard the distrust. I’ve heard the anger. I’ve heard it all, and I’ve heard it tucked and disguised neatly beneath a wrapper of self-righteousness and a blanket of “caring” or “religious” words. I’ve heard it more times than I care to number.

About gay people.

About people who dress differently.

About people who act differently.

About fat people.

About people with drug addictions.

About people who smoke.

About people with addictions to alcohol.

About people with eating disorders.

About people who fall away from their faiths.

About people who aren’t members of the dominant local religion.

About people who have non-traditional piercings.

About people who just look at you or me the wrong way.

I’ve heard it, and I’ve heard it over, and over, and over again.

Hell, in the past (and to some degree in the present) I participated in it. I propagated it. I smugly took part in it. I’ll admit that.

And I did so under the blanketing term “Christian.” I did so believing that my actions were somehow justified because of my beliefs at the time. I did so, actually believing that such appointments were done out of… love.

This isn’t just a Utah phenomenon. I’ve lived outside of this place. I’ve worked outside of this place. It was just as bad in Denver. It was just as bad in California. I see it on blogs. I hear it on television shows and radio programs. I hear it around my own family’s dinner table from time to time. Usually said so passively, so sneakily, and so “righteously.”

From Christians.

From Buddhists.

From Hindus.

From Muslims.

From Jews.

“God hates fags.” “God hates addicts.” “God hates people who shop at Salvation Army.” “God hates people that aren’t just like me.”

People may not be holding up picket signs and marching around in front of television cameras but… come on. Why is it that so many incredible people who have certain struggles, problems, or their own beliefs of what is right and wrong feel so hated? Why do they feel so judged? Why do they feel so… loathed? What undeniable truth must we all eventually admit to ourselves when such is the case?

Now, I’m not religious. I’m also not gay. But I’ll tell you right now that I’ve sought out religion. I’ve looked for what I believe truth to be. For years I studied, trying to find “it”. Every major religion had good selling points. Every major religion, if I rewound far enough, had some pretty incredible base teachings from some pretty incredible individuals.

Check this out, and feel free to correct me if I get this wrong…

According to Christians, Jesus taught a couple of interesting things. First, “love one another.” Second, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (“Her” being a woman who cheated on her man.)

According to Buddhists, Buddha taught a couple of thought-provoking things. First, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Second, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

According to Hindus, a couple of fascinating teachings come to mind. First, “Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all.” (Krishna) Second, “Love means giving selflessly, excluding none and including all.” (Rama)

According to Muslims, Muhammad taught a couple interesting things as well. First, “A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties.” Second, “Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first.”

According to Judaism, their scriptures teach a couple remarkable things. First, “Love your neighbor like yourself.” Second, “Examine the contents, not the bottle.”

The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for all happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said, love everybody except for the gays. Love everybody except for the homeless. Love everybody except for the drug users. Love everybody except for the gang members, or those covered in ink, or the spouse abusers. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody with the exception of the “trailer trash,” those living in poverty, or the illegal immigrants. They didn’t tell us it was okay to love everybody except for our ex-lovers, our lovers’ ex lovers, or our ex-lovers’ lovers. The mandate was pretty damn clear, wasn’t it?

Love others.

Period.

So if this is the founding directive of all the major religions… why is it that sometimes the most “Christlike” people are they who have no religion at all?

Let me repeat that.

Why is it that sometimes the most Christlike people are they who have no religion at all?

I have known a lot of people in my life, and I can tell you this… Some of the ones who understood love better than anyone else were those who the rest of the world had long before measured as lost or gone. Some of the people who were able to look at the dirtiest, the poorest, the gays, the straights, the drug users, those in recovery, the basest of sinners, and those who were just… plain… different…

They were able to look at them all and only see strength. Beauty. Potential. Hope.

And if we boil it down, isn’t that what love actually is?

Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of incredible Christians, too. I know some incredible Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews. I know a lot of amazing people, devout in their various religions, who truly love the people around them.

I also know some atheist, agnostic, or religionless people who are absolutely hateful of believers. They loathe their religious counterparts. They love only those who believe (or don’t believe) the same things they do.

In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.

Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.

No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.

Nothing else.

I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin.

Okay.

But, what does that have to do with love?

I repeat… what does that have to do with love?

Come on. Don’t we understand? Don’t we get it? To put our arm around someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a different lifestyle, someone who is not what we think they should be… doing that has nothing to do with enabling them or accepting what they do as okay by us. It has nothing to do with encouraging them in their practice of what you or I might feel or believe is wrong vs right.

It has everything to do with being a good human being. A good person. A good friend.

That’s all.

To put our arm around somebody who is different. Why is that so hard?

I’m not here to say homosexuality is a sin or isn’t a sin. To be honest, I don’t give a rip. I don’t care. I’m not here to debate whether or not it’s natural or genetic. Again, I… don’t… care. Those debates hold no encumbrance for me.

What I care about is the need so many of us have to shun and loathe others. The need so many of us have to feel better or superior to others. The need some of us have to declare ourselves right and “perfect” all the freaking time and any chance we have.

And for some of us, these are very real needs.

But I will tell you this. All it really is… All any of it really is… is bullying.

Sneaky, hurtful, duplicitous, bullying.

Well, guess what.

There are things we all do or believe that other people consider “sinful.” There are things we all do or believe that other people consider “wrong.” There are things we all do or believe that other people would be disgusted or angered by.

“Yes, but I have the truth!” most people will adamantly declare.

Okay.

Whether you do or not…

I promise you it doesn’t matter what you believe, how strongly you live your beliefs, or how true your beliefs are. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks you are in the wrong. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks your beliefs are senseless or illogical. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks you have it all wrong. In fact, there are a lot of people in this world who do.

We each understand that. We already know that. It’s the world we live in and we’re not naïve. We’re not stupid. We get it.

Yet, we expect and want love anyway. We expect and want understanding. We expect and want tolerance. We expect and want humanity. We expect and want respect for our beliefs, even from those who don’t believe the same things we do. Even from those who think we’re wrong, unwise, or incorrect.

We expect all of that from the people who disagree with us and who disagree with our lifestyles and beliefs because, let’s be honest, nothing we do is actually bad enough to be worthy of disgust, anger, hatred, or cold-shouldering. Right? None of the ways in which we live our lives would warrant such behavior. Right? None of our beliefs are worthy of ugly disdain from others.

Right?

No, we’re all… perfect. Freaking, amazingly, impossibly… perfect.

But the gays… well, shoot.

[sigh]

You know what I think?

Let this sink in for a minute…

I think it doesn’t matter if you or I or anybody else thinks homosexuality is a sin. It doesn’t matter if you or I think anything is a sin. It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is a sin or not. In fact, it doesn’t matter if anything anybody else does is a sin or not.

Because sin is a very personal thing! It always has been and it always will be!

And it has nothing to do with love.

Absolutely nothing.

Disparity and difference have nothing to do with love.

We shouldn’t choose who we will love and who we won’t.

“I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.”

That’s the message we’re sending, you know.

“I’m Christian, unless I’m hotter than you.”

“I’m Christian, unless I’m uglier than you.”

“I’m Christian, unless I found out you cheated on your income taxes.”

“I’m Christian, unless you cut me off in traffic.”

“I’m Christian, unless you fall in love with the person I once fell in love with.”

“I’m Christian, unless you’re that guy who smells like crap on the subway.”

“I’m Christian, unless you’re of a different religion.”

“Oh, but you’re not gay? You’re clean, and well dressed, and you have a job? You look the way I think you should look? You act the way I think you should act? You believe the things I think you should believe? Then I’m definitely a Christian. To you, today, I’m a Christian. You’ve earned it.”

I bet you’ve heard that message coming from others. Maybe you’ve given that message to others.

Either way, I hope we all can agree that we mustn’t live that message. We just shouldn’t.

But many of us do.

And we do it all the time.

For some of us, it might as well be tattooed across our necks and foreheads.

Maybe not in those words, but the message is clear to those who hear and are listening. It’s clear to those who are watching and seeing.

The message has been very clear to my friend Jacob.

“Every single person I’ve told has ditched me. They just disappear. They stop calling. They remove me on Facebook. They’re just gone. They can’t handle knowing and being friends with a gay person.”

“You don’t know what it’s like, man. You don’t know what it’s like to live here and be gay. You don’t know what it’s like to have freaking nobody. You don’t know what it’s like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t want this. And I’m so tired of people hating me for it. I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t.”

Jacob is a dear friend. He’s my brother. He’s a damn good human being. He’s absolutely incredible.

He’s also gay.

But why does that make any difference at all?

It doesn’t. Not to me.

And I wish with everything inside of me that it didn’t make any difference to others. I wish we didn’t all have to find ways that we’re better than others or more holy and saintly than others in order to feel better about our own messy selves. I wish people wouldn’t cluster entire groups of people together and declare the whole lot unworthy of any love and respect.

But that is the point of such thinking and action, isn’t it? I mean, it’s simpler that way. It makes it easier for us to justify our thoughts, words, and prejudices that way.

All these people become clumped together. And in the process, they all somehow become less than human.

They become unworthy of our love.

And what a great thing it is when that happens, right? I mean, it helps us to free ourselves from the very directives that have been passed down for millennia from the greatest teachers and philosophers in history. It makes our rationalization for hatred, bigotry, and abhorrence so easily justifiable; so maskable.

So right.

It gives us the golden chance to look at ourselves and not be disgusted by what the glass reflects back at us.

Then, sadly and ultimately, it pushes us to that point where we no longer have any sort of arm to put around others at all. We no longer have a hand to offer our fellow human beings. We no longer have a need to.

And why would we?

Why the hell should we?

Unless, of course, we actually want to live what we all so often claim that we “believe.”

My dear friends…

This has to stop. We have to put our ugly picket signs down. We have to be the examples that help make it happen in our own lives and in the lives of the people that surround us.

We have to be that voice. We each must be that voice.

We must tell others that we will not accept or listen to such hurtful and hateful sentiments.

We must show love where love right now doesn’t exist.

Will you please join me?

My request today is simple. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Find somebody, anybody, that’s different than you. Somebody that has made you feel ill-will or even [gulp…] hateful. Somebody whose life decisions have made you uncomfortable. Somebody who practices a different religion than you do. Somebody who has been lost to addiction. Somebody with a criminal past. Somebody who dresses “below” you. Somebody with disabilities. Somebody who lives an alternative lifestyle. Somebody without a home.

Somebody that you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on, and always be disgusted by.

Reach your arm out and put it around them.

And then, tell them they’re all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you love them.

If you or I wanna make a change in this world, that’s where we’re gonna be able to do it. That’s where we’ll start.

Every. Single. Time.

Because what you’ll find, and I promise you this, is that the more you put your arm around those that you might naturally look down on, the more you will love yourself. And the more you love yourself, the less need you’ll ever have to find fault or be better than others. And the less we all find fault or have a need to be better than others, the quicker this world becomes a far better place to live.

And don’t we all want to live in a better world? Don’t we all want our kids to grow up in a better, less hateful, more beautiful world?

I know I do.

So let’s be that voice. Let’s offer that arm to others. Because, the honest truth is… there’s gonna come a day when you or I are going to need that same courtesy. There’s going to come a day that we are desperate for that same arm to be put around us. We’ll be desperate for that same friendship. We’ll be desperate for that same love.

Life will make sure of it. For you. For me. For everyone.

It always does because… as it turns out… there’s not a damn person on earth who’s perfect.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. I would love your comments and thoughts today. More than anything, I’d really like to hear people’s individual struggles. I’d like to hear your struggles. I believe that everybody will benefit as we all share that which hurts us and haunts us.

When have you seen or experienced this? What effects has it had in your life or the lives of others that are close to you? Have you ever seen positive results as people become more loving toward those who are different? How have you felt along the way?

There are those who have struggled because they have been on the receiving end of it. And there are those who have struggled as they work to overcome it. I’ve grappled on both sides.

This message is so important to me; among the most important that this faulted blogger has ever written and because of that I have no hesitation asking you to share it. If it’s important to you, too, please share it. If you believe its message needs to be spread, please share it. Use your voice for that which it was meant.

Use your voice to embolden the world. Use your voice to say, “enough is enough.” Use your voice to stand up and declare that there is no other way besides love.

With all my heart. Please.

NOTE: Please use the like button above which will send people to page one instead of to page three. :)

My relationship with the written word

Through my life, I have grown extremely fond of literature in general.

When I was a child, the first thing I ever aspired to be when grown was an author. I was quite the storyteller as a child, not meaning that I fabricated things and claimed them the truth; though I may have done so on occasion. If I wasn’t describing extrasolar worlds and civilisations to friends, I was writing stories on countless pages, some of which I still have to this day, and may one day edit and release onto the internet, if not just scan and post.

Following on from my creative and verbose passion, I grew into the knowledge that I was a horribly terrible speller, and my dreams were a little shot down, though I did know that computers were quite the spellers themselves…

Other than school texts, I read little growing up. I did read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien in year 5 and 6 (or so), and Harry Potter J.K Rowling at about the same time. I read extensively the year I finished high school, but, having had a long break, I turned again to Harry Potter to ignite once again my passion for books in 2012, devouring anything I could find.

I have recently taken to trolling through op shops and hunting for old dusty books that I can read. One favourite book I recently read is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; which I would recommend to anyone. I heard about it from John Green of the Vlogbrothers on YouTube, a hero of mine.

DeviantART Story Contest – sub 500 words

I smell his scent on the air. There is cologne, and musty hair, and the all-encompassing gulf of sweat, and pheromones and testosterone; making me drunk with love. The taste of tobacco fills my mouth, and my heart races, as I push myself against him; legs feeling more and more weak. My thoughts lazily drift towards the musing that I may be getting addicted – though it would be easier to quit having never touched a cigarette in my life.

Music floods my veins. I laugh as I am carried forward in the currents of rhythm and dance. The saturated and rolled up bits of tissue paper in my ears block the deafening and brain-cutting noise; allowing for the enjoyment of it all. I am utterly lost in the sound.

Blood pumps. Clothes dampen. Pupils dilate. Eyes wander. Blood rushes.

I’m horizontal and can feel softness, but I’m falling back over and over again, and my head is spinning. He’s lying next to me, and I smile at his peaceful rest. My heart flutters and my stomach aches. Overcome by his beauty, I pull the pen out of my pocket and begin to paint his mysterious dark features which are spattered with dark hair. The three colours of paint I have are enough. The room is in hazy darkness and the drained hues are almost washed out completely. I’ll remember this moment forever, I decide – as I immortalise the strong and silent form. Feeling and emotion seeps into the canvass.

Where am I?

I look down. There’s a scrap of stained paper lying next to my leg with a sketch on it. It’s a shaky mess and it might resemble a human figure.

As the scrunched up ball of paper sails towards the trash can, a volt of stabbing agony shoots from front of eyes to back of skull.

 

Does God Exist? by Nathan Renner

This is posted here for reference – My review and response to this article

Does God Exist? by Nathan Renner WWII Story

How can this story harmonize with the existence of a good God? Perhaps surprisingly, I am persuaded that the woeful condition of our world harmonizes profoundly and precisely with a good God; even a great God–even the most conceivably good God. In fact, I will argue that our world is exactly the kind of world a perfectly good, perfectly holy, and perfectly benevolent God would create. This evening, I will present 2 lines of evidence:

I. Let’s begin by looking squarely at the challenge: Epicurus in the third century before Christ asked, “Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing. Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

In order to address this question we should let the great Scottish philosopher John H. Hick, frame the problem, “If God is perfectly loving, he must wish to abolish evil; and if he is all-powerful, he must be able to abolish evil. But evil exists; therefore God cannot be omnipotent and perfectly loving.”

However this argument relies on a faulty understanding of omnipotence. Omnipotence, by it’s nature comes with certain inherent limitations.

If, with omnipotence, everything were possible–everything!–then that would include the impossible, because “everything,” as a universal set, must contain “the impossible” as well.  

Gregory Boyd articulates the limitations of omnipotence compellingly, “There is no reason to avoid saying God can’t do some thing so long as we are clear that this “can’t” is the logical consequence of decisions God has made.”

A few examples might be in order: Can omnipotence create a triangle that has four sides? No? because the moment it has four sides it’s no longer a triangle. Can omnipotence create a circle with a square edge? No because the moment it has a square edge it’s no longer a circle. Can omnipotence make 2+2=5? No,because the moment it’s 5 it’s no longer 2+2. And can omnipotence create a love that is forced? No, because the moment that it is forced it’s no longer love.

Just as a triangle, to be a triangle, must have three sides, so love, to be love, must be freely given. To force love is to annihilate it. Definitionally, Love, must be free. Or said another way, true love must give the right to not love.

Let me illustrate: If I were to pull out a gun and ask you to stand up, what would you do? Stand? What if I asked you to turn around? Would you? What if I asked you to stand on your head? You would try. What if I pointed the gun at you and said, Love me or I’ll pull the trigger. Could you? Of course not. Love is only love when it is free. Behavior can be compelled, but love by its nature requires freedom.

Freedom, however, involves risk because freedom can be misused. Indeed, as anyone who has ever been romantically involved can attest, freedom is risky business. And yet the risk is worth it. In fact, we often throw ourselves at the risk because of the promise of reward.

In this vein C.S. Lewis noted, “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or joy or goodness worth having.”

Simply put, the only reason God would risk creating a world in which evil is possible, is because that is the only world in which, love, joy, and goodness would be possible. A world with freedom is a world in which evil is possible, a risky world; but it is also the only kind of world in which true love and freedom could exist.

To summarize this argument, we must ask, is the suffering of our world necessarily inconsistent with a good God? The answer is a definite no. In fact, I am persuaded that the woeful condition of our world harmonizes profoundly and precisely with a good God. Why? Because a good God, a God of love, would necessarily grant his creation freedom, and freedom necessarily involves risk. Indeed, within this context, the existence of evil and suffering is an evidence of a good God, a God of love who values freedom, who is willing to take the risk for love.

II. The question, Is God good, assumes that there is some objective standard of goodness, which God must meet in order to be good. However, without God, an objective standard of good does not exist. On this point there is tremendous agreement between, theists and atheists.

Jean-Paul Sartre the French existentialist philosopher said: “It is very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it.”

Don’t miss Sartre’s the point: without God there is no transcendent definition of good, and that’s distressing. All were left with is a human working definition of good. Where then do we get this working definition of Good?

The respected evolutionary biologist, George C. Williams sees morality as, “an accidental capability produced, in its boundless stupidity, by a biological process.” or again, the late J. L. Mackie, professor of philosophy at Oxford University said, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution rather than as having been implanted by an author of nature.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, the prolific atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood this all too well. “The end of Christianity,” wrote Nietzsche, “means the advent of nihilism.” (Nihilism is defined as: the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.) Nietzsche clearly taught that, only the man who is able to live beyond good and evil will acquire mastery in the coming age of nihilism, which stands already at the door.

There is near universal agreement, that without a good God, who set up objective standards of goodness, good becomes a creation of evolutionary biology, society, or some combination of the two. One society may have evolved to love their neighbor and another may have evolved to eat their neighbor. Which do you prefer? If goodness and morality are defined by biology and culture, what are we to do when a culture, such as Nazi Germany, decides that there is a moral imperative to exterminate 6 million Jews? Do we say, their good is defined by their culture… have at it? Clearly, Sartre was correct. Without God an objective standard of good ceases to exist and this is truly distressing.

You see, if the secular, rationalistic view corresponds to reality, then every star in the universe will one day burn out, the era of light will be over, and all life, memory, and consciousness will vanish into the nothingness from which it came. If true, this option means, of course, that the question, “why is there suffering?” has to be answered somewhat like this: “You can do nothing about suffering, because all suffering means nothing. How could it, when one day the stars will burn out, the universe will collapse upon itself, and all matter space, and time will disappear with absolutely nothing to show for all that came with it, including humanity?”

In the light of the futility of this world without a good God, Albert Camus remarked in the Myth of Sisyphus that suicide is the “one truly serious philosophical problem.” If there is no ultimate purpose why would we chose to continue to live?

If however, the Christian God exists and if His promises are trustworthy, then somehow beyond the stars, somehow beyond the margins of imagination, there’s an answer to the question of suffering, and it goes somewhat like this: “There is a greater good, one greater than all that has happened, and though that greater good seems impossible even as a possibility, much less a promise–it is a promise of God.”

Indeed every day we chose to live, we confess the truth that God is right. The risks and rewards of freedom are worth it.

III. This all begs the question: Why doesn’t God put an end to suffering now? Before we answer, let me ask you, if there was a Stop Evil Now button, would you push it? Before you answer let me tell you a story: When Aleksander Solzhenitsyn returned to his native Russia after long years of exile, he greeted all the people he met on his journey across Russia, including those local bureaucrats who had tyrannized their fellow citizens under the Communist system but who had stayed in office after 1989. Some objected: what was Solzhenitsyn doing fraternizing with these people who had been a part of the evil system? To which he responded, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (The Gulag Archipelago 1973)

Because we all have the line between good and evil running through us God has not pushed Stop Evil Now button. If he did he would obliterate each and everyone of us. And He simply loves us too much to do this. However, within the Christian worldview, God chose to meet the suffering and evil of this world by becoming one of us in the person of Jesus. He experienced evil at every level: political, social, cultural, personal, moral, religious, spiritual and he begin to redeem it by his life of ministry and his death, burial and resurrection for our sins. His desire is to forgive us for the misuse of our freedom, and that the goodness of God the love of God, would motivate us to use our freedom, in acts of selfless love for others.

Please imagine that your daughter has just been abducted and murdered by some vicious criminal. What do you feel toward the perpetrator? Are you angry? Yes, and rightly so. Raging, would be a better word. Would you call the police? Yes, of course. You might even hunt the murderer down yourself. Would you press charges? Yes, without hesitancy. Testify against the evil-doer? Yes! Demand that the full measure of justice be executed against the horrible person who did this to your child. Yes!!!!!

But now, as you’re feeling all those justifiable emotions, let me add another feature to the dark story: you turn to see that the apprehended murderer sitting in the back of the police car is your daughter. Not some no-name freak, but your very own daughter, whom you love with every ounce of your being, just as you do you son. She’s the one who killed your son. Now how do you feel? Have your emotions changed, become more complicated, conflicted? Are the justice issues as easy now? What form does your “goodness”, your “love,” take now? Suddenly you want justice for your murdered child and mercy for your guilty child.  

God is in this type of predicament on a universal scale. Every human being is known and loved by God with the intimacy of a parent for their child. And yet each and every one of us has misused our freedom. Each of us has caused pain. The line between good and evil runs right through the middle of each of us—and so for God it’s messy. If He puts an end to evil, He would put an end to us.

Why then did God risk it? To achieve the best possible world.

You see, we are not living in the best possible world. The best possible world is a world of absolute freedom, and universal love. We have only one of the two. However, this world is the best way to the best possible world. A world of absolute freedom, and universal love.

From the Christian perspective God has sought to achieve the best possible world through the work of Jesus Christ. On the cross Jesus took upon himself the problem of evil. And as an act of judgment, God eliminated evil in the death of Jesus. Because Jesus always used his freedom for love he was resurrected.  

By trusting in God as He revealed himself in Jesus, we find forgiveness for the misuse of our freedom. Additionally, we are motivated by the example of Jesus to use our freedom to promote universal love.

Won’t you join me in accepting this plan to bring about God’s world of absolute freedom and universal love?

Response to Christian article “Does God Exist?” by Nathan Renner

Response to Christian article “Does God Exist?”  by Nathan Renner

This article reminds me of the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of “The Great Controversy” – explanation for why there is pain and suffering in the world though there is an allegedly powerful loving God existing in the Universe…

The opening reminds me of the short story “Candide” by Voltaire ~ It’s about a young man, with a priest mentor who has a philosophy that the world is perfect, and that nothing in the world could ever be changed to make it better, any change at all would make it worse, because it is currently in its most perfect state of affairs.
The man is thrown out of his estate, is drifting with the wind through the world, gets sucked into a war, sees mass murder, and horrible things while traveling the world, and is shocked as to how the philosopher could have been correct…
The article is for believers, so it has no relevance to my life.
If you consider reality with the assumption that the God of the Bible exists, then you need some justification for the state of things, and I feel the Great Controversy is the most logical one, but like Christianity in general, has no foundation, other than the fact that you believe in it with faith and hope that it’s true…
If God exists, then everything must be perfect, and the Bible must be flawless and without contradictions, atrocities or craziness.. because if there were bad things, surely He would have corrected them, or in any case, all things work out for good ultimately.

Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

A story about two high school guys, both named Will Grayson. One is gay, one is straight (just like the authors) and in the middle of the book they meet.

I really felt so much of the emotion that the characters were going through in the book – it was wonderful.

Click for spoiler content Select

Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

As a child, the Harry Potter series was one of the first set of books that I really loved. I feel that it got me into reading, and they were easy to read.

In elementary school, a friend if mine, Peter, was always reading them, and though I found the name strange, I was extremely intrigued. It seemed he was the only person in the school that was reading in his spare time out of choice, every chance he had, nothing to do with school…

I asked my mum to get me the book, and the adventures commenced ~

I never felt that I related to any school houses in particular, but then came to associate with all of them in some way. I was sorted into Hufflepuff by facebook, and then Ravenclaw by Pottermore. I fell in love with sweet little Hufflepuff, which is oft looked down on and shoved to the side, and now show fidelity to the wisdom loving quirky, queer and individual Ravenclaw House. 

Game design uni project

Assignment 2 video game design

My game is entitled “The One Path”.

The game begins in the real world, where you stumble through a forest, lost and without hope. Going through a labyrinth of cliffs, you battle the forest  creatures and become stronger.
To beat the stronger monsters and enter the next world, you must battle some imps which are guarding some armor and weapons. After defeating some of the imps, others start fleeing. Weather you chase and destroy them changes the course of your journey.

As with the two sides of a coin, the paths of good and evil are infinitely close, yet exactly opposite. There is one path. It just depends on which direction will you travel on it.

So you start in the forest and make your decision which path you will take.

You enter into another dimension – representing the good or evil path; icy peaks or fiery caverns. However you have one last chance to change your mind, and go the other way. You can’t go back to the forest, because the portal is a one way trip. The first person you encounter is a small girl standing over a large sword. She says it is a very valuable sword that she’s protecting for her father. She tells you to stay back, and picks up the sword in self defense. Will you take it? leave her alone?

If you follow your original path of good/evil, the dimension is your haven where you can train and gain information about the worlds, however if you go against your first choice, you are now in enemy territory.

After battling through the perils of this dimension, gaining items and skills, you enter into the opposite side of the coin.

In both worlds you find others who have been trapped there by one way portals, but towards the end of your journey, you find a group who have redirected the portal, and you find yourself back in the forest. It is very different from before. When you make your way back through the maze of cliffs, you see a figure that looks ominously similar to yourself. Yet different.. quite the opposite.

The game starts of easy, with woodland creatures as enemies. As the game progresses, enemies get more powerful and the complexity of battle rules increases. Also the battle rules for the two moral choices are different.

If you are ‘good’ – taking physical damage causes the opponent to lose twice as much damage. And physical damage you inflict also damages you, so it’s more effective to use magic.

If you are ‘evil’ if you pass an enemy without destroying it, twice as many enemies appear up ahead. So if you don’t battle anyone and run ahead to the goal, you will encounter a hoard of enemies that won’t let you pass.

The interaction with the stranded characters from the real world also changes depending on which side you stand.

If you are ‘good’, then you can get better items by befriending them and gaining their trust, however if you try to attack them, they will drop inferior items. The opposite is true for if you are ‘evil’. If you attack and destroy them, you are left with better items.

There are certain challenges you need to accomplish before proceeding to the next world. You need to find seven keys in order to unlock the door to the next world. The keys are scattered on the level so you need to explore it.

Before you go through the door, you also need to defeat the guardian of the door in order to go through it.

I used basic landscape functions to make the terrain, and portals. I then added some objects for scenery, items, monsters and other characters.

I made some containers with items in them, and changed some of the lighting (in the caverns it is always night, in the icy peaks, it is always  day.)

I didn’t know how to implement some aspects of my initial design, and don’t know if it is possible in the engine. Such as:

Using the same map, but having the monsters and human characters change in it depending on game decisions, (reusing the map, but having different functions depending on what part of the game you’re in)
Having some of the battle rules (physically damaging a monster causes damage to you/ not destroying a monster causes more to appear)
The decisions in the game – there are two versions of the game, that can happen on the same maps. The decisions should change the game. There is only one portal in the forest, and it leads to one of the other maps, depending on your decisions.

Because these functionality are hard to model, I made all the scenery, visuals, characters, items etc. But the game doesn’t function as it would if it was fully completed.



Literature review – Japanese History

JPS

Not without flaws, the text “The Empire of Things: Tokugawa Ieyasu’s Material Legacy and Cultural Profile” (Pitelka, Morgan 2009) successfully constructs a broad brush stroke overview of the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu and a picture of the cultural, political and social climate he lived in. The paper frames this biographical profile in the context of the historical significance we can glean from cultural and artistic artifacts, more specifically the painting “Dream Portrait of the Tōshōgu Deity” by Kanō Tan’yū.

This Biographical sketch aims to bring the reader through the complete life and times of Tokugawa Ieyasu, from traumatic childhood, being sent to a foreign clan as a hostage, through his adult life, his gain in military power, political ascension, strong stable retirement and glorification of reputation after death (Pitelka, Morgan 2009.) The text has three main foci which are linked to the three types of objects shown in the portrait by Kanō Tan’yū. The first focus is on the importance and significance of swords as gifts, presents and status symbols in Ieyasu’s life, especially early on in his training and growth as a worrier. The impact that Chinese culture, thought and literature on Ieyasu is also significant, and reflected in his extensive collection of artifacts and texts, two of which are pictured in the art work. Finally, the favorite past time of falconry, which also aided in political and social status, as well as physical and mental training is depicted in the wall print behind Ieyasu.

This paper shows a glimpse into Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life in an interesting and focused manner. The artifacts seen in the Kanō Tan’yū painting form the structure of the content, and keep the content of the paper focused on the areas of life that were most prominent in Ieyasu’s life and immortalised legacy after his death. I found the text easy to read and follow, easily empathising with the central figure. I felt what it would be like to live in Japan at that time. I was also able to see through Ieyasu’s eyes, and feel what he felt through his life. The paper cited varied and diverse sources, since Ieyasu had some “unwillingness to record personal thoughts and emotions in written form.” (Pitelka, Morgan 2009) These references enrich the experience of learning about Ieyasu and give a deeper understanding of his personal life. The frame of the paper is a painting which was commissioned after Ieyasu’s death, fulfilling the intended purpose of the author to use material culture to close the gaps of historical texts. Daily journal type entries by Ieyasu’s falconry partners show us his interest in the activities from the point of view of a contemporary of his.

Although I enjoyed reading the text and felt that the purpose to “enrich our understanding of Ieyasu and his age,” (Pitelka, Morgan 2009) I didn’t feel that the text had a strong or convincing argument. Upon reading the conclusion, I didn’t feel I was being called to change my view or opinions on the subject matter, and though the Kanō Tan’yū painting was used as a skeleton for the paper’s structure, and it was mentioned throughout the essay, there was no final statement as to how and why cultural artifacts indeed fill in gaps that other historical text can not do. Concluding the paper, the author only talked about such paintings as solidifying the honour and status of such clans as Tokugawa and how they continue their legacy. I felt that the introduction and stated purpose was related but disjointed to the conclusion.

In conclusion, Morgan Pitelka’s paper indeed gives us a deep and focused picture of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s life and the society he lived in, showing the importance of cultural artifacts as historical aids, however, the author could have delivered a stronger message to the reader, rather than a historical narrative and could have tied the text together in the conclusion more tightly.