Saturday, September 28, 2013

Now the Suffering Part (Part II)

The thing I use to love about Francis Schaeffer lectures, was his ability to simplify complex concepts. In my simpleton undergrad days, I saw the man as an intellectual giant.  But now, I don't think that was his fortitude.  His gift was taking typical philosophical concepts, those discussed in any community college level philosophy class, and translate them into a language that the lay person could understand. Sort of like chewing up a little steak for the evangelical community,  which was only use to intellectual Sweet-tarts.  He would often say something to the effect of, "When things are said and done, there are really only a few people left standing in the room."  I think his style appealed to me because he too suffered from dyslexia and had a great challenge in organizing not only letters within a word, but words within a concept. So for his own sake he had to structure things in an orderly way.
Red Square: Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions
      There really are only two basic questions of life, the metaphysical and the moral.  Within the metaphysical question rest the universal problem of existence . . .  why are we (or why anything is here for that  matter)?  You can't escape the question. The fact that you exist begs that question and creates a real dilemma that is hard to answer.  What I mean by "why" in this context isn't the purpose of life, but more basic. How did we get here and does that existence have a meaning?  As I've said before, there are NO easy answers.  So the real answer must have great difficulties.  Those atheists who claim that they are the only ones who don't put their brains in neutral and take the most logical approach are as much fools as the evangelicals who think that their answers are the only logical ones.
But  now that I've wasted so much time on the introduction, I want to think about the question of morals and (related) the problem of evil.  Again, this is the very basic question of morals, not discussing ethics in detail, but the big question of why is there evil . . . or suffering?  So the film, Blue Like Jazz, started me thinking about this . . . you know, the confessional booth scene.
With the problem of evil there are only a few people in the room . . . actually four.  They are like the four corners of a box, like in Malevich's painting above.
In the first corner are the pure atheists, those who take atheism seriously and not like the claims on a middle school playground of pop-culture atheism. These are mature atheists who have taken their belief to the full meaning.  In this corner, the problem of evil and suffering, like everything in their world, is meaningless.  I say this factually and not as an accusation. It is irrational (and middle-schoolish) to inject meaning where non can possibly and rational exist, except in a Star Trek or Cosmos episode. 
If the universes, with its physical laws and idiosyncrasies, happened purely by chance with a spontaneous (absolutely spontaneous) explosion of something out of nothing, then all within the sphere of existence has no meaning . . . by definition.  So, the fetus that gets terminal cancer in utero and is born and lives a tortuous week and dies a terrible death is no different than the gifted genius who lives a perfectly healthy life until he/she is 110 and dies peacefully in their sleep, after changing the world in a profound way.  In the same thought, there can be no difference between Mother Theresa and Hitler. The two are interchangeable, and balance the equation when they rest on each side of the "=" sign. Living or dying is indifferent.  Those middle school atheists, such as Carl Sagan, know that they cannot live that way, so they cheat and inject meaning . . . "The Universe wants . . . "  Or the sociologist would say, "What is best for the herd is what is good."  No. If all life forms disappeared today, it would have no meaning.  If the entire universe would implode into nothing the same way it exploded out of it . . . would have no meaning.  We are all, absolutely ( and infinitely) insignificant in the model. This is the corner of pure nilism and that is the only real choice of atheism, unless you take an irrational detour into existentialism meaning.
Within the second corner, I will combine the animists and polytheists.  Within this framework, the gods and spirits are as much victims of evil as we are.  Bad spirits or bad gods can ruin your day and your life, in the same way they might ruin the life of the weaker good god.
In the third corner is the escapism of pantheism.  Here evil (as defined by The Buddha) is the manifestation of desire or wanting. If we transcend this world and suppress the personal wanting then evil goes away.  While on the surface, the American translation of pantheism is appealing ( all religions lead to the same sea so us all hold hands and get along in peace and harmony), on the deeper levels it presents some real problems with evil.  In its definition ("Pan" = everything) then within the bosom of the god-force must rest everything, the wonderful and peaceful people as well as the most hideous evil. The worst racism in the world is practiced by pantheists, who suppress and abuse people based on skin color (being justified by the notion that they deserve it for doing bad things in a previous life). 
In the final or fourth corner rest the monotheists, but that corner actually has at least two, very different slopes. On one side is what I would call the Moslem + colloquial  Christianity + orthodox Judaism.  What I mean by "colloquial" here, is the common beliefs of Christians in the street, not true, theological Christian positions.  In this framework, God is seen as the infinite-micro-manager.  Nothing happens without, not only, God's stamp of approval, but His intention.  So then evil becomes part of God's plan, often as either a punishment for personal shortcomings or as a test to improve one's character (or to guide someone in a certain direction in the same way a cowboy uses a cattle prod). Less often evil is seen as the devil who sneaks in while God is not watching (the Why Bad Things Happen to Good People scenario), to ruin your day. But most of the time, the fault resides in you and your personal sin. 
In the second slope of the final corner is the "Biblical" Christian view. Now I use the term "Biblical" with great hesitation because that word is mostly used to manipulate people into a very precise and ego-stroking theology. But what I mean, is the basic Christian theology that most Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants would agree with, even if they don't practice it in their own homes and daily living.  Now that I've reached my corner, you would expect me to smile and say that this corner is a no-brainer, and the only logical place to be. But it isn't that easy.  The Biblical Christian corner has its own problems . . . and they are not benign.
In this corner's slope, we see this world as created by a perfect God with the intention of being perfect. But then evil (an inferior-to-God evil) was allowed to enter into the world.  This evil (for reasons that no one knows and is just one of many difficult parts of Christianity) became congenital.  So, in the Christian story, if a human was born and lived a perfect life, he/she would still suffer the consequences of evil as a punishment for the sins of the fathers. At this point Christianity appears unjust.
But part of some confusing plan, God allowed evil (even though He had the clear power, unlike the polytheistic gods, to smash it) to penetrate the world and making it only a shadow if its intended perfect self. Then of course, God took the punishment for the sins of man and will one day restore the universe to the intended perfection. But the logical questions, which we often surpass in our junior high Sunday school classes) is why did it have to happen that way?  Why did God allow evil?  Why did he set up this strange plan where He had to become a man and die a human death to take the punishment away from us and then one day recreate a perfect world?  There are a thousand legitimate questions being begged in this story . . . all of which we have no logical answer here, but a hope that beyond our intellectual ability there are answers.
I don't think the choices are equal as I do subscribe to the last . . . but it is no a slam dunk.  Most who subscribe to the last are under the false impressions (just like those in all the other corners are) that there way is the only logical way.
With this said, I come back to my original intent on suffering.  We "Biblical" Christians believe that evil entered the world and much of it was not caused by us . . . although some of it was.  So, there is a place for the evil to seek forgiveness of the sufferer.  It would not be appropriate for God to ask for this forgiveness as this was not a mistake, at least not His mistake.  Yes, like in the movie, some of the suffering was caused by the Church, and as part of the Church, I can ask for forgiveness from those who have been harmed by her. However, much of the suffering was not caused by the Church or any entity that I'm personally associated with.  Maybe it is Satan that should be the one asking for forgiveness for these things . . . but don't hold your breath.  So, in a fictional exercise of the soul, imagine that I am the perpetrator and I set up my booth where you come in, not to confess, but to hear a confession. So here goes.
We knowledge that God loves us and intends for us to have a perfect life of fulfillment, so anything less than that is wrong and you do deserve perfection, because that is how God intended things to be..
I'm sorry that you were born with imperfect bodies. That you have the tendency to gain weight, are not as tall or handsome as you want to be. God loves us and we deserve (because this is the way that God intended us to be) to look beautiful or handsome. I'm sorry that didn't happen.
I'm sorry that you were born with a genetic defect that interferes with a pain free life of strength and ability.  You deserve the later because God loves you and intended for you to be whole. I am sorry for that.
I am sorry that your parents were not perfect. I'm sorry that they didn't laugh with you, but used you to fill the whole in their own souls.  I'm really sorry that they physical or emotionally abused you. No child deserves that.  All of us deserve (once again because God loves us and intended perfection for us) the perfect parents, who loved us deeply  nurtured and protected us.
I am sorry that you didn't have the right personality or physical gifts to be popular in high school.  I'm sorry for you having emotional baggage, either from genetics or from your upbringing, that made you socially awkward.  You deserved to be the most popular person on the planet because God loves you and wanted perfection for you.  I'm sorry about that.
I am sorry for the physical injury that happened to you, that has left its physical mark on you. That mark may be pain and/or limitations.  You deserve to be whole because God loves you and wanted perfection for you.  I'm sorry for that.
I am sorry that the person you loved intensely, didn't love you back the same way.  That you suffered intense heart ache that seems to never heal.  God loves you and intended perfection for you, meaning that those you loved intensely, love you in return even more. I'm sorry about that.
I am sorry about those you loved being taken away from this planet and from your touch.  You can't hear them, feel them, share the same air with them anymore, and you loved them dearly. You can't show them in a tangential way your love and that is the worst part.  It is not fair that they were taken.  God loves you and intended for you to be side by side with the people you love for all eternity. I'm so sorry for your loss and you didn't deserve this because God loves you and intended perfection for you.
I'm sorry for the way our biology works, that as we age, we loose. We loose our beauty, our strength, our freedom from pain, or ability to think and remember. I'm very sorry for that. God loves you and intends for you to live forever with a healthy and pain-free body.
I'm sorry that you have a terminal illness, even if that illness is simply aging and natural death.  Of course I'm sorry much more if it is an illness that will lead to a pre-mature death, where you will be the one that will leave, missing the pivotal events in the lives of those who you love.  I'm am so sorry about that.
I'm sorry that you had to struggle financially your entire life, even though you are smart and have worked very, very hard.  It is unfair when others have put in much less effort but have done so much better . . . due to chance. That is unfair and I'm so sorry for that. God loves you and intended a perfect justice for you, where your labors would be rewarded appropriately.
I am sorry that you feel unfulfilled.  That you question the paths you have taken in life and now it may be too late to change.  I'm sorry that the information that you based your decisions on were erroneous and deceitful. You deserved a fulfilled life of success and happiness and anything less is not what originally intended.
I am sorry for those who have sinned against you in a variety of ways. Maybe they stole from you. Maybe they mistreated you, lied about you, took rewards intended for you. Maybe they took love that was meant for you.  I'm sorry about that.
I am sorry for the fact that answers to all the questions of life don't come easily.  That you have to struggle to find truth and even if you think you've found it, it is not a slam dunk. I'm sorry that in the state of the fall, truth is not always obvious.
I am sorry for you being hurt by the Church. It could be something as grossly wrong as being sexually abused by a priest or a youth pastor, or it could have been a manipulative pastor. Maybe it was simply the people of the Church who mis-judged you.  I'm part of that Church so I personally do ask for forgiveness.
For all these things, imagine for a moment that I was responsible for all of them, and in a token gesture I tell you again that I'm very, very sorry and I ask for your forgiveness.  I'm sorry we live in an imperfect world, where true evil does exist and bad things do really happen.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Suffering Through . . . Blue Like Jazz Part I

I host a movie club that meets at our house.  We watch good films, for entertainment's sake, and discuss them for artistic value and meaning.

This is not a Christian film club for a couple of reasons. First of all, most "Christian" movies are not very good.  They tend to be low quality in all their artistic parameters. They are often corny and most of all, propaganda. Any movie with an agenda, be it Christian or some of the Michael Moore flicks would not be a good fit for that reason alone.

I was in haste to set up this month's meeting.  I usually start with film festival winners.  But as I was reviewing one (of many) list of "best discussion films of the year" one stuck out to me, the film version of the book, Blue Like Jazz.  I decided to go with it for a couple of reasons. The first reason was being ranked as one of the top 25 discussion movies of 2012.  The other reason I decided to go with the film is how much the book impressed me when it came out in 2003.

I, like many in my shoes at the time, made the book a best seller. It was because it was one of the first voices that I had heard of serious criticism of the Evangelical mores . . . while still subscribing to the Christian belief system. There were plenty of non-Christian critics and ex-Christian critics. Before the publication of that book, in recent mainstream Evangelicalism, there were not many loud voices that took that inside critic position.  I liked the book, but that was at a time in my spiritual evolution (hate to use that work because it is so over-used these days) when it hit a cord with me.

I will have to say the movie was a big disappointment.  It was a disappointment for the same reason I mentioned that I don't like Christian movies.  I didn't sense too much of an agenda, but all of the broad artistic compilation, that which is required to make a film, can be assessed by the fact that they were a spectrum from bad to okay. The movie seemed like a bunch of bright colors of cloth all sewed together with clumsy stitching.

The other disappointing thing for me was that I now realize that I may have misunderstood Miller the book author (if different from Miller the screenplay writer) and maybe he wasn't the post-Evangelical "Joan of Arc" that I thought he was.  I could write many paragraphs about this point, but I will summarize with just the title.  I understood in the book he said that he choose the title because true Christianity is like genre of Jazz because it doesn't resolve things (which music theorist I'm sure would debate).  Traditional Evangelicalism of the time (and now) resolved everything. There was a right way, no only to pray, to sing, to think . . . but a Christian way to wear your clothes, a Christian way to pick a car and so on.  It was must summarized under the yoke of WWJD (what would Jesus do), a question you were suppose to ask yourself at each decision point . . . do I buy Supreme Gas or Regular . . . "What would Jesus do?"  The sad this is that we thought we had an answer to each of those questions because Christianity resolved everything . . . so we thought.

But in the movie, it was Miller's non-Christian father, the Christian antagonist that came up with the notion the Christianity didn't resolve and in the story, Miller fell for that idea. But in the film, his disillusionment was not perpetual.  In the end, a beautiful women was a lure (think a worm on a hook to a fish) him back to the fold . . . where once again, he did seem to believe that Christianity did resolve everything and he had only been rebellious.  So I don't know if I had misunderstood him back in 2003 or that he went through his own evolution by the time he got to the screenplay rewrite. The other, more cynical, thought is that he did have a hard time raising money for the film and maybe they had to compromise the message for the sake of donors.

But I'm going to end this posting (and as a prelude to the next) with one thing that I did like about the movie, and which was consistent with the book, was the last scene.

It was at the end of the year on Reed College campus. It was a college known for their freedom of morals (and from most morals) but presented in the movie as more restrictive than a Nazi regime. If you tried to think differently than the mores of the campus (book burning was a common past time) you would have hell to pay.  The campus had a satirical "Pope" who, beside making fun of the Church, did token things like "take confessions" from the students. At the end of that year, in the middle of a campus-wide drunken orgy, Miller was crown the new Pope and his first task was to take confessions.

About this time he was having a change of heart. While donning the Monty Python version of the Pope's attire and sitting in what looked like a real confessional booth, he decided that rather than hearing the graphic S&M stories of the students, that he would, instead, confess to them.  He first confessed to them about his personal rebellion against Jesus while on campus but also confessed to them the sins of the Church and he asked their forgiveness.

I'm going to end at this point only to say this leads to my next thought, and it is quite broad and deep and that is this whole issue of suffering.  The way it relates to the film (in my mind at least) is that a row of students, each with their own personal demons, were lining up to hear Miller's "confessions."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Christian and the Comedian

As always, there is usually an eclipse of things that get me thinking about certain topics.  In this case, a week ago I was at the Bumpershoot art/music festival in Seattle. I went with one sole purpose and that was to see the band FUN. (sic) live.  So, I decided to get in line early, almost four hours before their performance and two hours before Tegan and Sarah (sort of their warm-up band) played.  To our mistake, because it was confusing, we got into the Comedy venue line.

Now, this doesn't have an happy ending.  I mean I wish I could say we had a wonderful time in the comedy club prior to the concert, but that didn't happen. The guy behind us threw us out of the comedy line because we had unintentionally cut in.  It is a long story but apparently they had numbed the line and cut it off at the point the seating capacity had been met.  Then we walked up and join the line in the middle.

But that's not the point.  I honestly didn't even know they had a comedy venue.  But I got a program for the "Comedy Pass" and read through it as we were sitting in the arena for four hours waiting on FUN..

I've been thinking about comedy since then.  The first thought that got me thinking was the fact that the comedy venue had warnings with about every performance that it was "adult in nature and not appropriate for those under 18."  I think that might be in accordance to the law that they have to give that disclaimer.

But the other thing I was thinking about was that the first part of my life was lived in comedy.  I was voted "The Wittiest" as a senior in my high school because I was the school clown.  In my college days and during grad school, I continued doing comedy with skits I created for our Christian organization and performed in them on a local and regional (conference for the entire Southeast) level.  I think I was pretty good at it.

But two things happened over time.  Like the picture depicts, I became sad.  Now, sad people can do great comedy.  Actually I've heard several great comedians self-report about their suffering intensely with depression. But the next thing that happened was that I was in constant conflict with Christian sub-culture over "inappropriate material."

I will give a simplistic examples.  Take the classic joke set up, "Two men walked into a bar . . . "  Immediately you see the disappointed faces of your Christian audience. "A bar?" they ask.  Is it appropriated to be talking of bars, when it has been the ruin of so many people?"  So that is the kind of straight jacket I see on real comedy by someone who is also a Christian.

I can remember these conflicts starting even in my under-graduate years.  In one skit, which I had written, I was playing a Wayne's World-type kid who was into reefers and rock (and to make the skit palatable, was going to be converted at the end by a somber, sharp Christian student). But when I appeared before the production and I was dressed in sloppy clothes and a "roach clip" on my pocket (for those who are too young for this concept, it was usually a hemostat stolen from a hospital that people used to hold their marijuana by the very tip so they could get each draw down to the end) the leaders of the Christian organization scolded me and told me that it would not be "edifying" and would be "promoting sin" if I appeared before the 200 students like that.  So I had to quickly change to give the appearances of a clean cut, nice, wacked-out on weed-student, which was not a believable character.

About 15 years ago I put together a men's retreat. The first night, Friday night, was a Monty Python marathon.  We laughed our heads off and all woke up singing the "Every Sperm is Sacred" song. I thought it was going great and was a blast. But then things got bizarre. None of the men came to my planned (Francis Schaeffer Video) lecture series but all skipped out.  So the rest of the retreat was a bust.  At the end of the day, and when the guys came back together (ignoring the schedule) they blamed me for "quenching the spirit" by showing degrading movies the night before.

Years later I attempted to do a couple of comedy routines at churches and each time had offended someone so I gave up on comedy at that level.

On a personal level, my wife has never found me funny . . .  crude, childish, but not funny.  I watched Airplanes, Trains and Automobiles and laughed until I peed in my pants (not literally) and she thought it was stupid. We simply have a very different taste when it comes to comedy. She laughs at a scene in a Hallmark movie where a beautiful (adjective intended) man and women,who you already know will get married at the end, are washing a car and he sprays her and they have a brief water fight. I think that is scripted and stupid. But my saving grace was that my four sons did . . . at least to some degree share my sense of humor, and my daughter her's.

About four years ago I was sitting in the most the most surreal of places. It was a 900 year old tea shop clinging to the side of a huge, misty mountain in remote Nepal. At my table were four other medical providers, none of them Christian. Two were a lesbian pair.  I like gay people, especially when it comes to letting your hair down and laughing.  We each at a quart of "Everest Beer."  We began to tell stories, one after the other after the other after the other.  I laughed harder than I had in 20 years.  I not only laughed until I cried, I laughed until I (literally) vomited out the open second story window beside my chair. . . which caused a roar of more laughter in the group.  But no one was drunk.  It reminded me of how we use to have laugh orgies when I was a Freshman in college, until our campus ministry leader scrolled me quoted the follow verses from Ephesians, in his King James Bible:

3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

The next day, after the laughing session in Nepal, my throat hurt so bad and my neck hurt so bad that I could barely move.  Now can you imagine laughing until you vomited within a Christian setting?  People would immediately say something like "Gross" and be repulsed.

The next thing in the eclipse that got me thinking about comedy was Facebook. I need to get off. I only joined to see my out of town kids and my grand sons.  But, because I don't know how to navigate FB, I have friends from my old college Christian organization (many are still at the same place in their thinking as I was then), my old evangelical friends from my old church, my siblings (some a little rough around the edges), professional acquaintances and others.  So it is a strange mixture of people. I just can't help myself but to make a joke about some of the things my friends post.  We have all seen the Walmart people with poopy spandex pants on.  I find that funny.  I usually make a witty remark about many things people say.

So, my old college friends and my old evangelical friends don't find this funny at all.  It has to be turned into something serious. You know the 400 LB man in spandex and poop stains in his pants is one of God's creatures and isn't funny that he goes shopping at Walmart wearing his wife's bra . . . there is nothing funny about that.  Really, are you kidding me?  So, now most of the evangelicals are blocking me of FB.

I think I sense the seriousness of life as much as anyone and probably more . . . even to a fault. I do see all people created in His image. But I see a world filled with absurdity and that absurdity is hilarious.  What about the Dante?  He was graphic, gross, not gentle at all, and was FUNNY -  divinely funny.

I do think that secular comedians cheapen comedy when it is purely sexual.  It is so easy to make people laugh (for some strange reason) when it is sex.  I could walk out onto a stage and say, "I saw a huge man . . . with a tiny penis . . . the other day" and then stare and they would laugh every time. But if I said, "I saw a huge man . . . with a tiny foot . . . the other day" and no one would laugh and think I was bizarre.

However, sexual things are funny at times because they are such a part of this life.  Men are paranoid about having small penises and that can be funny.  But good comedian can make you laugh without sexual comedy, but I don't think they should avoid it either because it is part of real life on this planet.

No one knows what eternity will be like, but we each have our own projections based on our wishes and longings.  For some Christian people, they imagine spending eternity in a Heaven were we all live in hideous mansions with plastic chandeliers, marble walls, huge polyethylene plants, streets of gold and where all your neighbors have big hair, constant smiles and all wear pure white polyester leisure suites and live forever where they pretend that everything is, and always has been, swell.  To me that sounds more like hell.

In my sense of eternity, we are living high in the new Himalayans, on the new earth, sipping beer in 900 year old tea shops, with carefully carved wooden panels, that cling to cliffs in a precarious fashion, and laughing with lesbians until I vomit.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Syria . . . Thoughts in the Middle of the Night . . . and Emotional Reasoning

One of my favorite verses, and one I've used many times here is Jeremiah 17:9.  Basically, my paraphrase, it says that the emotions are deceitful, not trust worthy and are impossible to fully understand.

I've been thinking about he complexities of emotions for several reasons.  The main one starts with myself.  I will summarize by saying that in my business world there have been some issues of personnel, as with any business.  A key employee has good days, great days and terrible days.  It was after one of those terrible days that I awaken in the middle of the night with thoughts of frustration and frankly anger (a world I was told to avoid and pretend didn't exist when I was an evangelical).  The aftertaste of those middle-of-the night thoughts lingered in my mind after I had awakened.

I often start my morning at 6:30 at the coffee shop where I start to work on business things with my lap top. That morning I keyed out a letter to that employee.  It had a long list of their failures built on the framework of anger.  I remember asking myself over and over if this was the right thing to do . . . and my rational self (or so I thought) said yes . . . it was time I did this. 

By the time I left the coffee shop I sent the letter to the employee via our interoffice  communication system.

But as the morning progressed (and the employee, to my good fortune, called in sick that morning) I felt my emotions shifting.  Things ALWAYS look worse in the middle of the night.  But as the sun came up over the mountains and the caffeine made its way through my bloodstream and into my brain, I had second thoughts.

In our communication system, and since I'm the administrator for it, it was easy for me to open the letter and to read it again.  I was horrified. I was horrified by the tone and the fact that I had listed several failures in a row.  This reminded me so much of the night my old evangelical pastor sat at our dinning room table yelling at me and going through his long list of my moral failures, and he was numbering them.  It was when we got to number 8 that I lost my temper with him.  So, here I was doing almost the same thing, but not face to face and not with a screaming voice.

I was able to move the letter to the "filed" box on this employee's system, but it can't be deleted because this is part of a medical office and all communications are considered a legal document, and thus can't be deleted.  I just hope she never finds it, and I have to remain prepared in case she does.

But the bigger picture was that I was thinking about the power of emotional reasoning.  What made perfect sense and seemed very rational in the middle of the night or early morning, seemed to me to be a horrible mistake a few hours later.

I've spoken before that the way I see it is that our senses collect data. Our rational minds attempt to make sense of that data, but then our emotions act like a lens to either focus our attention or distort reality.  It makes it very hard to know if our thoughts are good thoughts or not.

I do believe that our emotions are God-given and not just the effects of the fall.  Emotions are usually re-labeled by evangelicals into spiritual terms (the spirit moved me, God spoke to my heart, I felt God saying, the Holy Spirit pointed out to me and etc.) because of the dualistic view that all things of the brain (a physical entity) are bad and only spiritual things are good.

But I do believe that the emotions are part of the physical brain and in themselves are not bad.  They are the spice of life.  The emotions can take the notes of an orchestra (as I was talking about in my last post) from a mathematical formula into a feeling of beauty to the point it can bring tears to our eyes. Thank God of emotions!

But the second issue is hearing the debate over Syria. The fool is the one who things that choice of what to do is simple or obvious.  There are no easy answers in that situation.  Either action or no action will each create its own nightmare.  Within Syria, there are no easy divisions between the good guys and the bad guys.  You can't look for white or black hats.

I watched a fantastic report on Frontline.  They were able to penetrate both sides of the war in one village and the thoughts and attitudes were almost identical.  The side they happened to be talking to only wanted peace, but they were willing to fight to keep the other side from raping their daughters and killing their children. They each said the same thing.

As I listened to the arguments, rationality was refined by emotion.  The emotion was deeply rooted in the person speaking's own sense of self worth.  The Republicans just wanted to argue that acting or not acting (take your pick) each point to how terrible the Democrats and Obama are. And it played both ways.

Then you interview those in Syria. One side begs for action from the US while another side argues that they have proof that the rebels are the ones who used chemical weapons just to draw the US to their side.  You head starts to spin after awhile. If we were dealing with rationality deprived of emotion, that would be one thing. But when you wrap it up with emotional reason, it is hard to know anything for sure.

There are no simple answers but to have the humility to ask the question, is this real or my emotional mind speaking?