June 6 1944. D-Day. The day the world had been waiting for what seemed like an eternity. Hitler and his minions had been stopped at the English Channel, but for how long? Would the war sink into another interminable volley of punch and counter-punch, or would one side finally gain the upper hand? The allies had carefully planned this day for months, and had been practicing for weeks. Literally thousands of army, marine, navy and air force troops would face their destiny on this day. All of the remaining pictures of that day are old and grainy. Nothing can accurately or adequately describe those harrowing hours.
Every day now we lose dozens of those brave men who turned the tide of the war against tyranny. Soon all we will have left are those old grainy pictures and the written words of those who survived. We have not done a good job of carrying the memory of those war years forward. History has a way of washing over the past and distorting the reality of what occurred. World War II was masked by the Korean “conflict” and that was further distorted by the Vietnam “war” which was never really declared a war. Now we have “operations” – not wars. We had Operation Desert Shield which became Operation Desert Storm. Then we had Operation Iraqi Freedom. The current commander-in-chief does not even want to use the word “operation.” He just launches missiles from secret drones in what is referred to as “surgical strikes” to kill suspected terrorists.
Everything has become so neat, so tidy. Notice the progression. We went from “war” to “conflict” to “police action” to “operation” to “surgical strikes.” We are not fighting wars or killing people now, we are becoming world wide surgeons, removing diseased or vestigial organs.
And every year the memory of June 6, 1944 fades a little deeper into the collective amnesia of a nation. That day was not neat. It was not tidy. It was not surgical. It was brutal – hell on earth. When the last army private, the last paratrooper, the last sailor who survived the “day of days” finally passes from this life an entire generation will be gone. A generation that was called upon to make a genuine sacrifice, and a generation that heard and answered the call.
I hate war. I hate the thought of war. I hate what war does to people – both soldier and civilian. But I stand in honor of those men who stepped out of those airplanes and who crawled down those rope ladders into those landing craft on that foggy June 6 morning. For so many it would be the last morning they would see.
And I am alive and breathe the air of freedom because of what they were able to accomplish that day – and for basically the entire next year. I cannot fathom their courage. I cannot comprehend their strength.
But I can honor them.
And the best way I know how to honor them is to teach that we should never again be faced with the need for another June 6. Let’s pray that we can rise above the insane desire to destroy ourselves through another world wide war. Or, another surgical strike, for that matter.
There is one thing you can say about the British, love ’em or hate ’em. They sure know how to put on a good show.
The latest skirmish between the Royals and the commoners concerns some pictures taken of the young Princess Kate. It seems she was on a secluded beach with her husband, the king-to-be after the king-to-be, and she took off the top of her bikini. Now, let it be known the royal couple was on a private resort miles away from anyone, and she had every right to expect that her actions were private and guarded. Well, some paparazzo managed to take a few blurry photos, and quicker than you can say photoshop, they were spread all over the future King and Queen’s realm. Every day since that time the royal family has been trying to get the pictures seized, which has only driven interest in the whole sordid affair, and has made the value of the pictures skyrocket. The royal family should really learn a fundamental lesson. Once toothpaste is squished out of the tube, there ain’t no getting it back in.
This situation really begs a reasoned response. First, what a young married couple does or does not do on a secluded beach miles away from anyone is totally their business and none of anyone else. Period. She was with her husband, not parading up and down Bourbon street in New Orleans. Regardless of her royal status, her privacy, and that of her husband, should be respected by everyone, the pathetic little maggots in the print media especially.
Second, why the huge double standard between the princess and any other young woman whose privacy has been violated? The publishers are saying “It’s no big deal, they are just pictures” and the Royals are saying, “NO, it is a huge deal, because it is the Princess.” I want to say, “NO! It matters because it is a young woman and privacy is privacy!” She did not consent to the pictures being taken, and the family surely has not consented to their publication. To argue that there is no prurient interest is just a blatant lie.
Some may be tempted to argue that the princess should never have taken her bikini top off. Well, let’s just argue that she should never have even been on the beach, that she should never have left the palace, and that she should never have married the prince at all. I mean, if you are going to blame Kate, why not blame her for everything. Try living in a fish bowl 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Every outfit that you wear, every pair of shoes you own, every handbag that you carry, every word that you utter – everything is scrutinized by every scurvy little “journalist” in England. I would venture a guess that you too, if you had every reason to believe you were finally protected by miles of ocean and sand, might want to indulge in a little free-spirited frolicking with your young husband.
Let us not forget that our Scriptures, the Holy Bible, contains a book in which the highest joys of sexual attraction are clearly magnified. We have 66 books in our canon, not 65. And the Song of Songs, the Song of Solomon, whatever you want to call it, is right there smack dab between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah.
I do not like the seductive way in which females dress in public today. I have already opined about that. To dress seductively in order to attract the sexual attention of the opposite sex is wrong on many levels. But that is not what this situation is about. This situation is about a young married couple and the privacy and freedom they had every right to believe was theirs, and how that privacy has been stolen and sold for a mess of pornographic porridge.
Just another sign of the coming apocalypse, in my opinion. When we start treating anyone, let alone a royal princess, like trash to be used and thrown away, then our culture has neither the right, nor the strength, to survive long.
Update: It has been pointed out to me that those who have published, and are attempting to publish, these pictures are those outside of the rule of the British monarchy. Apparently members of the British press has so far refused to print them. If that is true (I am not as in-tune with the British realm as my correspondent) then I have to give credit to those publications who have chosen not to publish them. However, if the reason is given that the pictures should not be published simply because they involve a royal, then my point remains valid. It is not her royalty that makes these pictures inappropriate. It is her humanity.
In the world of flying through the fog there are many certainties. Two that were always of some comfort to me were the facts that there was blue sky somewhere above me and the earth was always beneath me.
In New Mexico very often the cloud layers did not extend to such altitudes that we could not climb above them. This was of great importance in the winter and early spring as ice layers made continually flying in the clouds dangerous. But if you could climb through the ice into the sun, your wings would clear off and you had a gorgeous view of the cloud formations beneath you.
The second fact was that, somewhere down there, there was land; and if everything worked out okay there was an airport where I expected it would be. Unless you have done it you have no idea what it feels like to pop out of the fog a mere 200 feet above the ground at approximately 100 miles an hour and see the lights of the runway in front of you. Just even thinking about it makes my heart start pumping a little faster. It has to rate among the most amazing feelings a human can experience.
Much of life is lived in a fog. We can only see many things here darkly. But, ever so often, the clouds break and we can see the blue sky above us. And, God has promised, the earth is always beneath us. If we follow his leading faithfully and obey the rules of flying in the fog, when the times comes we will break out of the fog and the welcoming lights of the runway will tell us that we have reached our destination.
As I type this it is Saturday evening, and I have my thoughts on our worship service tomorrow. So much of worship involves the process of flying through the fog of life. We know there is a God – but as yet we have not fully experienced him. We know there is solid ground beneath us, it is what launched us on our journey.
But for today we must fly trusting our instruments, thoroughly enjoying the freedom we have as humans to experience the gift we call life.
Yesterday I addressed adolescent theology. Today the focus is on the opposite, but equally destructive theology of Pharisaism.
If I read my history correctly, the Pharisees started out as a spiritual renewal group that had a righteous foundation and laudable goals. They wanted to protect the Israelite faith from those who would promote religious syncretism and spiritual laxity. As with most spiritual awakenings, however, the emphasis soon shifted from a spiritual renewal to a spirit killing legalism. Not just content with the laws handed down by Moses, they created their own laws, their own interpretations of Mosaic laws, and greater and greater reliance upon human ability to keep those laws.
Segue to 2011. If adolescent narcissism is the Scylla of theology, what is the Charybdis? Answer: Pharisaic narcissism. If one danger to theological maturity is focusing on our freedoms to the neglect of healthy restrictions, the opposite danger is focusing on the laws to the neglect of the inherent freedom that Christ gives. Both dangers are fatal.
So far I have been relating these entries to elements of instrument flying. The connection here would be following the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s) to the extent that a pilot could never get his or her plane out of the hangar, let alone take off of the runway. The last issue of the FAR’s that I owned was over two inches thick. That is a lot of federal legalese! The basic truth is if you follow the FAR’s you will be safe. The reality is that sometimes, in order to be safe and stay alive, you have to deviate from the FAR’s.
There are so many issues around which modern-day Pharisees attempt to create their specific brand of Christianity. The nature of worship, acceptable clothing, the correct translation of the Scriptures, the use of names and titles, the proper “liturgical” phraseology for prayers, baptisms, songs, and the list could go on ad infinitum. The fact is that Scripture addresses some of these issues directly, some indirectly, and some not at all. But, in my reading, the Bible never addresses these issues as a matter of Christian law. For one example, Jesus said that those who would worship God must worship him “in Spirit and Truth.” That is fairly direct, and yet the exact interpretation of those concepts have occupied theologians for centuries.
I am in no way suggesting that by avoiding adolescent theology we should embrace Pharisaism (it is for freedom that Christ has set us free). Nor am I proposing that in order to avoid Pharisaic narcissism we should fall headlong into adolescent rebellion (shall we sin that grace may abound? By no means!). There truly is a middle path, however narrow it might be. That path consists of trusting our instruments (God’s Holy Word) implicitly and at the same time applying our human reason fairly and appropriately in working through issues of disagreement and conflict.
It really can be done. Just ask any pilot who has ever flown professionally with the assistance of an instrument flight plan.
One of the marks of the period of time that we have created and have labeled “adolescence” is a turn toward freedom. It really is a horrid time – those we call adolescents are not really given any responsibility, but they are not really given any real privileges either. Adolescents are caught in a limbo land where they are too old to be children, too young to be adults. It is no wonder that what they yearn for the most is freedom.
What most adults can see, however, is that the freedom that many teens aspire to is nothing more than a different type of slavery. They must dress, speak, act, and think exactly like their chosen herd dresses, speaks, acts and thinks. In many ways it becomes the worst kind of slavery of all.
In all too many ways the church in America can be defined as one big adolescent. Not really a child that needs and deserves parental control and protection, but not yet really mature enough to be considered an adult, the church is kicking and screaming for what it thinks is “freedom” when all it really wants is to look, act, and think like all of the “cool kids” on the block. “Don’t want to have to eat any vegetables? Come on over here – all we serve is ice cream and cake.” “Want to come dressed in your pajamas (or swim suit)? Sure, come on over here, it doesn’t matter how you dress.” “You don’t like the apostle Paul? Come visit us – all we talk about are the happy little stories of Jesus, none of that sin or obedience or hell stuff.”
The apostle Paul – yes the one that everyone hates and no one wants to read because he is so full of bigotry and hatred and all that – wrote in Galatians 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (ESV) Paul really does want us to be free. He wants us to live lives of freedom. But he wants us to live lives of freedom in Christ – and not to become slaves of what the world considers “freedom” which is the worst type of slavery of all.
When flying in the fog you must rely on your instruments alone. In one sense it is the most confining type of flying there is. On the other hand, if you can handle flying under the strictest rules in the Federal Aviation Regulations, you can fly anywhere you want to any time you want to (except, of course, in those zero visibility situations). Instrument flying then becomes one of the greatest freedoms in the world.
I see life in Christ much the same as I viewed flying on instruments. Strict, yes – but the most amazing freedom known to man. I’ll take flying on the liberating rules of instruments over the false freedom of an adolescent theology any day of the week.