Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sinestro Corps War, Pt. 1

[I re-read this around noon today and was ashamed. I did some re-editing and I like it more. Besides - its a blog, fer crying out loud! You get what you pay for! ;)]

Our local Waldenbooks is closing down in Stratford Square Mall. This is a real shocker, since it is the only bookstore in the mall and for Pete's sake - it's Waldenbooks! (Well, the economy is in a mess, right?)

But on the plus side, I was able to get two epic comic book series at a 40% off discount: The Sinestro Corps War, Volumes 1 & 2, and The Death of Captain America Volumes 2 & 3. So I got a hundred dollars of hard-bound goodness for sixty bucks. That ain't bad, not at all.

I had fun reading these - one set in deep space with "fate of the universe" overtones, the other, covert operations and brainwashing as villains try to capture the hearts and minds of the American people in an election year.

The thing that struck me as I read The Sinestro Corps War is how terrifically evil and powerful the bad guys were, and how MANY "non-lethal-force using" Green Lanterns got slaughtered BEFORE they were empowered by the Guardians of Oa to fight back as soldiers, using deadly force - because this is a WAR, and the bad guys are not going to stop until they have killed and slaughtered all opposition.

These old blue guys just don't seem that wise. They seem to think letting evil beings kill everyone is somehow noble. I don't think so.

As a young Christian, I hated the command, "Love your enemies." It sounded wussy and very nearly abusive, but I tried to obey it by not striking back at those who hurt me and ridiculed me (think geek in High School). This teaching has been misinterpreted by many to encourage submitting to hellish behavior constantly even to the point of enabling the abuser. You know how many times a bully feels bad for bullying? Never - unless a miracle occurs. How many times a verbally abusive and hateful person feels bad they "gave you a piece of their mind?" Never - unless a miracle occurs.

Thankfully, that's not what Jesus meant, not exactly. He does not want us to love evil or even hang around it. You have to look at the full context of his teachings - under extreme persecution, He tells His disciples to move on, rather quickly in fact (e.g. "When you see these signs (of human brutality) taking place, flee to Judea..." "If they will not receive you or listen to your message, shake the dust off of your feet (i.e. leave town)..."). He does however want us to be so strong on the inside that we CAN "turn the other cheek" - to desire our opponent's change of heart and their escape from Hell (or hellish behavior) and not let them destroy other souls.

Love, you see, is not just a feeling, but a directed act of the will to help another. It is a choice to act in the best interests of the person receiving the attention. It is a non-selfish, non-self-gratifying service for the personal and public good. Yes, it takes a great will power to do this in the face of cruelty, and, I must confess, a supernatural ability to love in this way. We get that ability in the real world from Jesus himself. He knows that - "Apart from Me, you can do nothing..."

This view of will as the source of heroic love is why the Green Lantern storyline is so powerful in my Christian fanboy eyes. The Green Lanterns, as the galaxy's police force, only want to - well - "to serve and to protect." They are not out to take control, to re-make all into their own image as Sinestro, once one of their greatest, did on the planet Korugar.

When I find myself being controlling - or wanting to take control - it is out of fear, not love. I have to stop myself. I may have to take charge in a bad situation, yes, but not take control. They are not the same thing. We may have to act decisively, for the good of those we serve. This is part of spiritual maturity, of responsible love, and this is the idea that lurks behind the concept of the current Green Lanterns, created some 50 odd years ago.

C. S. Lewis wrote the following to clarify what Jesus said about "loving your enemies" in regard to dispensing justice, even captial punishment (from Mere Christianity):
Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him?

No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment - even to death.

If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.

Unfortunately, the writer of the Sinestro Corps War, Mr. Geoff Johns, after hitting this mark so well, goes on to have an Oan spout it is "emotions that make the Earthmen so powerful" and soon we are introduced to other "Lanterns" based on emotional spectra: Red for Anger, Blue for Hope, Indigo for Love (nee Lust), and so forth, just as Sinestro's power of his Yellow Ring is based upon Fear.

But in a fallen world, its easy to get it wrong, to mistake emotions for a person's will or desire. We are surrounded by so much fear and so little responsible love. It takes a great deal of will to not succumb to fear, but one dose of true love can conquer ANY fear instantly (watch a mother who's afraid of 'getting her makeup smudged' witness her child in trouble in a pool, and you will find she will dive in headfirst to save her offspring).

In a Christian's worldview, it is an act of God's will in a man's life to cause love, to seek the good of 'the other', to forgive, and to correct, to praise and to punish, and to make the best decision not for our own desires, but for the good of the many.

Self vs. selfishness - the self must die. But what of those who demand rulership? Who use fear and anger and all the power they possess to destroy others? What do you do?

You love them - but not the way they want. That's exactly what Jesus did.

You love them enough to warn them. That's exactly what Jesus did.

You love them enough to confront them. That's exactly what Jesus did.

You love them enough to tell them the truth. That's exactly what Jesus did.

You warn them that they will answer for their deeds. That's exactly what Jesus did.

Hear Jesus's warning cry over people who refused to change and come to God, listen to his love and care EVEN as He warns them. This is NOT an idle threat and these were cities filled with people who'd seen God's compassionate miracles first-hand:
Matthew 11:20-24
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you!

And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!"

More bearable?

Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed on Earth! And the people are STILL going to be judged?! Whoa.

Man - that's hard.

In The Sinestro Corps War, the Green Lanterns are permitted to use lethal force for the first time in their history. Sinestro smiles when they do this, believing he has won - by showing the Guardians that the chaos of the universe can only be solved violently, in his way. Well, that's a bit of strange exposition in my mind. Giving someone the ability to use lethal force when faced with lethal force is not the same as becoming a mass-murderer or dictator.

But Sinestro's evil - and evil men suffer with twisted reasoning based on hatred.

Again, C.S. Lewis, following the quote above:
It is no good quoting 'Thou shalt not kill.' There are two Greek words: the ordinary word 'to kill' and the word 'to murder'. And when Christ quotes that commandment He uses the murder one in all three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And I am told there is the same distinction in Hebrew.

All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major- what they called a centurion. The idea of the knight - the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause is one of the great Christian ideas.

We may have to wage war on evil - but let us never become evil in doing so. We too will have to face a day of judgment.

After all the blood and death of the Sinestros fighting the newly-authorized Green Lanterns, Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, with emptied power rings, end up fighting Sinestro in a mano a mano brawl. It's pretty intense and Sinestro, like Jordan, is a military man, and they bust each other up pretty well.

But do you know how it ends?

Sinestro loses. With a black eye, Hal Jordan leads Sinestro off to Oa with these words:

"One more thing, Sinestro - "

" - you're under arrest."

He won't kill him, because he does not have to. He's an officer of the law, not a vigilante. He's going to let the Guardians of Oa decide what to do with the renegade who started this. That's just too darn cool for words. That's faith. That's willpower.

In my geeky fanboy estimation, I think Hal Jordan has just achieved a Captain James T. Kirk level of coolness.

You can quote me on that.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Return of the Jedi

The best thing about having your hand cut off by the universe's greatest villain is finding the way to convince him you bear no hard feelings - and then he ends up tossing his Master down a mile-long shaft.

Otherwise, the whole thing sucks.

So, with that in mind, I'll be posting again on Monday. Enjoy some inspiration from 1983, the year I graduated High School:

"You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."

Yeah, baby. You go, boy.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Dinner with Christians

I just came back from a Dine Around, a special "get to know each other" Christian dinner party our Sunday school class organizes every few weeks. I must say I appreciated the beautiful home, the good company and the stories. Each person shared something: how they got married, what cars we grew up with, what lost family treasures we've found and how ONE immortally bad dorm room painting was able to wander through the rooms of Wheaton College for decades.

Not a single curse word was uttered. Not a drop of alcohol was demanded. It was pleasant, kind and beautiful, this fellowship with my spiritual brothers and sisters.

I'd forgotten what it was like to enjoy human beings. To simply sit and chat and not have to answer hellish inquiries.

I think I liked it.

I think I have just made a decision to repeat it.

And I think if you had been there - or you have ever sat with a group of redeemed people who were truly gracious, inside and out (and had PLENTY of reason to not be), you would have loved it too.

Jesus loves to sit at the table with His family - and when He is present, all is sweet.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Picking Through the Rubble

Sorry -its been a long week. You may have noticed that I did not post Wednesday, Friday or Monday.

Four reasons - all unavoidable and providentially timed, I think.

Everything blew up.

1) On Wednesday, I had planned to blog from my work - it was my last night as Night Watchman - and the internet connection was out.

So I thought I'd post late on Thursday. That did not happen, either.

2) You see, my Men's Group that morning had a nice hard discussion about the Trinity and God's sovereignty over Nature and how that impacts our relationships and the Christian worldview, even to the point of male/female dynamic - and from there we moved to the subject of gay marriage, etc. I repeated something I had said on a forum where we were directly asked if there was any non-religious reason to oppose gay marriage and I basically said "Yeah - it ends the bloodline. No one here is born of a homosexual union. If you argue that homosexuality is 'natural', then Nature is saying 'I don't want you.'"

Notice - I do not say God does not want gay men or women - that is a flat lie - just that "Nature" (without a lord over her) is culling out a line by giving them a non-reproductive affinity. If you are a strict Naturalist (most cannot be), then you must admit that the non-reproductive aspect of a homosexual union says something dire. 'Survival of the fittest' and Darwinism jump in and make a very ugly statement, which I repeated.

Oh, no. Don't ever do that.

Let me share something with you: theological and epistemological clarity is not a real ability for a bunch of men showing up at a 6:15 a.m. Bible Study, drinking caffeine so they can head off to work in the Big Bad City. The words "saved by grace" were immediately thrown at me and some ungracious behavior jumped up.

I was tired, dog-tired and unwilling to clarify. We were not talking about salvation, we were talking about a worldview. I did like Moses - and 'went out in anger.'

I went home to bed, and got back up around 2 p.m. And in 4 hours, went back to bed and slept all night long - 12 hours straight.

3) Then the snow began to fall. Four inches in as many hours. I had to shovel it, twice before I could go to teach at the jail for two hours. We got hammered.

4) Then our computer at home? She blew up. Root level, sector failure problem I tried to fix in the BIOS. I could not. Had to re-install everything.

As I reflected on my failure to communicate the truth well, my own exhaustion, and my complete inability to e-mail, get online or debate with another soul, I came to a conclusion that God was 'editing me' - He was trying to keep me from getting into any more discussions (i.e. snarling dog-fights). You just can't win. There is a root-level failure in that person's "BIOS" if you will.

Clarity came this morning. I was reading a book that was a Christmas gift to me, entitled, "Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health" and in chapter one, the author NAILS why I cannot reach some people and HOW I keep getting off track.

Chapter One: Do You Thirst for God?

Desire, folks. They have to go after it themselves. If what you desire most is freedom from rules, you'll become an anarchist. If what you desire is money, you will become greedy.

From "Ten Questions to Diagnose your Spiritual Health", by Donald S. Whitney, p. 17:
"Ocassionally, an empty soul searches in more serious-minded or spiritual ways that lead some Christians to think he [the soul] is thirsting for God. But the world has no such thirst. "There is none who understands," God inspired both King David and the apostle Paul to write, "there is none who seeks after God" (Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11). Until and unless the Holy Spirit of God touches the spiritual tongue of the empty soul, that soul will never want to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). Just because a man longs for something that can be found in God alone doesn't mean he's looking for God. A man may pine for peace yet have no interest in the Prince of Peace."

It really is like that scene in The Matrix. The world has such a pretty and enjoyable illusion over the minds and hearts of men, you cannot go bursting in and telling them its all a lie. They have to want it, desire it. They have to be disillusioned FIRST before you can give them the Truth.

Watch this scene from The Matrix - it is far more accurate than you first suspect:

Not much to add to that, really.

You will believe what you want to believe. You will initially take the path of the least resistance until you see that it has no hope except an ending in despair and death.

If I am - correction - if we are - right about Christ, and the death awaiting those who do not follow Him, why argue? The events will unfold as they must.

"Follow Me," said Jesus. " - and let the dead bury their dead."

Jesus is saying "Let the spiritually dead take care of their business of dying actions." He is not being callous, but serious-minded. He refuses to play second fiddle and He knows the manipulation of the "tell me one more time why you THINK you are right" crowd.

We've got to follow Christ, not answer every detractor.

So I am going to take a sabbatical, to get my "unified self together" as Max said in Collateral. Gotta rebuild my machine from the ground up, clean out all the junk in my room and basically enjoy the Person I know best so I can do more with Him, not for Him.

May you, dear reader, have a blessed New Year.

May 2009 be the year you see the world as it is, and Jesus the Christ as your only hope.

You will love Him if you do, I promise.


p.s. It has been 10 years since I took this verse literally and went out to seek God's kingdom. Last night, we covered it in the jail. Perhaps you who are struggling financially and are thirsty for God will find it a blessing - please read Matthew 6:31-34 .

Monday, January 5, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

It looks like Alan Moore's masterpiece of deconstructive superheroism will be making it to the big screen on March 6, 2008 - if Warner Brothers who MADE the film can come to an agreement with 20th Century Fox who has the right to distribute the film. Yep, strangely, the lawyers and agents and big-deal makers missed this one. So after WB made it, got it done and is doing the final prep for release, the fine suits at 20th Century Fox showed up to sue them.

The irony is that the recurring theme in this movie is "Who Watches the Watchmen?" It seems no one was watching the Watchmen property. Once it was invested with millions of dollars, lo and behold, 20th Century Fox appears saying "A-ha! Caught you!"

[ EDIT: AHA - I was wrong on this! Seems they DID warn ahead of time, quote: "Warner Bros. acknowledges that Fox acted in good faith in bringing its claims, which were asserted prior to the start of principal photography." ]

To paraphrase Mr. Coleman Reese, the squirrely accountant from The Dark Knight: "Don't tell me you notice your baby...on the evening news!" (This thing has been in development for years, so exactly what WAS WB thinkiing?)

He smirks. He thinks since he knows the true identity of the Batman, he's SET, baby. "I want... ten million dollars a year, for the rest of my life!"

Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) responds after a moment of deep concern. It is blisteringly insightful.
"Now, let me get this straight: you believe your client - one of the richest, most powerful men in the world - is secretly a vigilante who goes out at night, beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your plan is to blackmail this person?"

Reese visibly loses his composure as Lucius finishes with a sardonic smile: "Good luck!"

It is a sweet moment. The calculating critic who thinks Wayne's behavior is "embarrasing" is put in his place. Later, when he thinks he is immune to reprisal by going public, the Joker puts a price on his head - and it is Wayne who saves his life.

I don't know how this fight will work out between WB and 20th Century Fox, but I think they'll compromise sooner or later. They aren't going to get anywhere without the other's help.

Who watches the Watchmen? questions Moore - and then shows systematically that they - the Watchmen - cannot be trusted. They are fallible "gods" and desperate humans and isolated and impotent and manipulative - great conspiracy theory stuff jaded souls just love to eat up.

But here's the converse: who can stop them from watching over us? Especially if they care for us enough to risk their lives for us.

You see there are two sides to this coin, and it boils down to self-control. We do not want to be out of control and we do not want to be controlled. But when we lose control of ourselves, it is necessary to have someone warn us, to watch over us.

The friend who sees we have been drinking and takes away our car keys. The bud who gives you a "heads up" on the girl you are interested in and how many hearts she has broken.

Recently we have been talking about chastity over on - and the social liberals are obviously taking the stance of "safe sex" and education as a means to protect the youth, citing abstinence education as a failure due to a study that literally tossed out what I consider highly decisive factors - faith and morals as determining factors within a religious education - i.e Bible-taught kids versus non-Bible taught kids. I may need to double-check that, but it seems the "God factor" - that is, does God like this behavior? - was excluded.

One poster went so far as to remind me that God gave us hormones - implying its His fault for making sex so difficult to resist.

That's blaspheming God's character, really. Its not a new argument, either.
"Adam? Where are you?"

"I heard the sound of you walking in the Garden and I hid, because I was naked!"

"Who told you you were naked? Did you eat of the tree I commanded you not to eat from?"

"The WOMAN YOU GAVE ME - she gave me the fruit and I did eat!"

Which woman, Adam?

The woman God gave him, folks. He was pretty keen to identify her with her Maker - and thus blame God for his disobedience.

He's failed, and he needs a scapegoat.

In The Dark Knight, Wayne smarmily asks, ridiculing his own alter ego, "Who appointed the Batman [as our protector]?"

District Attorney Harvey Dent replies, "We did. All of us who stood by and let scum take control of our city."

Who's at fault? The Watchman, or the Watched?

I'm afraid we are at fault, ladies and gentlemen. When we don't listen to the truth, to God or to His Word, we are at fault.

It does no good whining after the fact. We wanted it, we chased it, we got it. And now we are sorry we did it.

I'm sorry I was ever unchaste. I cannot undo it, but I can leave it. I can warn others. I can say "I got news for you - God is right. Your body is not meant for sexual immorality. It will destroy so much of your heart, you will want to die."

Moore, like many atheists, think its cute/amazing/brave to blame God - or his "gods" for the state the world is in. They see the world narrowly as cold, impersonal, violent, hopeless and say (as I did) "WHY GOD? WHY?!"

God replies "Let me get this straight - you haven't made anything, you haven't listened to Me and now you are DEMANDING an answer? After I sent my Son to pay for your sins and empower you with His Spirit?"

We are the reason the world is in this godless and powerless estate, where hard labor is the norm and death is sure. But God did compassionately enter in and make a provision to rescue us from this, if we want it. If we will admit we are powerless.

"If I had not come to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But now that I have come, they have NO EXCUSE for their sin."

Jesus Christ said that. Accepting Him as Lord means getting a watchman - and more than that, a friend.

If I were an executive at Warner Brothers, I'd be praying like mad right now.

And hope Someone would watch over me.


[Note: All got settled, quite amicably, in fact. See link.]

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ten Years of Ministry (and Taking a Break from the Doomed)

Yeah, its been ten years since I began following Jesus, and I have to say its been wonderful and crazy and weird and depressing and joyful all at the exact same time.

You are so amazed at God's goodness and grace to you, you cannot help but want to serve Him. Then an amazing thing happens - you get to deal with people who want nothing to do with God, who's like, now become your Best Friend (oh sure, you used to be Enemies - I do mean that with a capital "E").

Now you are so ecstatic about answers to prayers and seeing a change in your heart, you want to tell EVERYONE how Good God is. How He can do anything!

Nothing new about that.
"Master," exclaimed the disciples. "Even demons are subject to us in your name!"

"Don't rejoice in THAT," replied Jesus, "service is nice and all - but rejoice in the fact that your names are written in God's book of life!"

We get excited about what we are seeing God do in lives and just start wagging our tail and jumping on everyone and licking their faces, barking about the goodness of God and you want to LOVE everybody...

...and then you meet the Doomed.

Not the Damned - don't have any idea who they will be since the door shuts completely at death - but the Doomed.

The bitter. The whiner. The once-believer, now with a chip of great weight upon their shoulder - and back. The "I-was-hurt-X-years-ago-by- mychurch/pastor/evangelicals/mydrunkenpornreadingfather, yada, yada, yada... who refuses to turn it over to God and be healed.

Oswald Chambers gave me a heads up. I have memorized this piece of advice:

"Never sympathize with a soul who finds it hard to get to God. God is not to blame."

Let me clarify that, so you don't walk away trying to figure out what I am saying.

If you are bitter, angry, upset, "got issues" or have any other problem caused by another person's actions, I can understand having some tears and needing time to heal. You should. That is natural and healthy.

But if you cling to that wound, you are killing your joy in the present and the life of anyone who has to deal with you because of the past.

Self-pity is of the Devil. Period. It is Satan's Prime Tactic.

Again, a favorite from Oswald Chambers:

"Pride when it is strong is boasting. Pride when it is weak is self-pity."

God got you away from that situation, set you in a new place, and you are still whining about the past? To hell with that! Literally!

I say this as much to myself as to others: welcome to a New Year! No one wants to hear how bad your life is, 'cause simply folks, they cannot help you.

God can and will. Its your move.

So its been ten years and mostly good experiences, but only with those who accept their sin and ask God to forgive them, to change them. Who have real humility. But the ones who keep talking smart, whining and ignoring His judgment? Who blow past His generosity to them?

Nope. For me and my ears, that's over. Let God talk to them.

I'm done dealing with "it" - whatever "it" is.

And that's precisely what Jesus modeled, believe it or not.
"Teacher," demanded the Pharisees," - we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

"A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign - and none will be given it - except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the great fish, so the son of Man will be three days and nights in the earth."

Jesus is saying "No. Uh-uh. You need to repent - and I will pay for you, but still, you need to repent and tell God you are sorry. We'll handle it from there. The sign you need, of God's concern for you and My real identity - is found in My sacrifice. We aren't going to do more for you."

Here's to those who repent and stop causing everyone so much grief.

Here's a man who has a most amazing testimony of God's grace for him after a severe small plane crash. Note his complete lack of self-consciousness though he is a living "Harvey Dent/Two-Face". Note also his utter lack of self-pity or shame. It is awesome to watch him talk.

May you be so fortunate.