Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Enormous Benefits of Fasting at Lent: How & Why

Did you know that the older you are, the more cancer cells there are right now lurking in your body?  The decay that we see as a whole when we age - less muscle, more aches and pains, poorer vision and teeth, etcetera etcetera - this decay is happening first on a cellular level.  Apoptosis is the technical term for programmed cell death. This is a good thing because our cells become old and junky - like food that has been sitting in the refrigerator for too long, it needs to be thrown away. Physical health problems and diseases can begin to develop in our bodies when the rotten food in the refrigerator is not thrown out.
The older we get, the more these bad cells accumulate.  The more bad cells we have, the faster we age and the greater our odds of getting sick.  We can assist in getting rid of these bad actors by encouraging autophagy  (which means self-eating).  The most effective way to promote autophagy is to fast.  Fasting is the absence of eating.  Our first meal of the day is called break-fast.  Most people go at least 8 hours a night without food, so in a sense we have all fasted.  However the most effective fasting lasts 24 hours (which is how long it takes to burn up most of the energy present in our liver and intestinal tract).  Fortunately  fasting is flexible - there is more than one way to go about it.  I will define fasting as going without any food, certain foods, or severely limiting calories for a specific period of time.  
The benefits of fasting are being rediscovered by science and health practitioners.  “The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine recently went to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries into the mechanisms of autophagy. .. His work has already led to a better understanding of diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and type 2 diabetes.  Pharmaceutical companies are trying to produce drugs that imitate autophagy, but the easiest and quickest way to get your cells to eat themselves is through not feeding them food.   Although the biological mechanics of autophagy  have not been previously well understood, the benefits of autophagy by fasting have been known for millennium.  Fasting is the original method of healing and is more than likely intuitively practiced by your pets and children when they are sick.  When I googled “testimonies of diseases cured by fasting” I got 380,000+ results.  If you are part of a religious community, you might be surprised at the stories people can tell you from their experiences fasting.  For example, a girlfriend of mine had been trying for many years to get pregnant.  She had a severe case of Endometriosis which is very painful and often prevents conception.  Her husband and her fasted and prayed for three days for her to get pregnant.  God answered their prayers; they got pregnant (3 times in the following years - all boys), and her endometriosis was cured - it never came back.
Many religions practice some form of fasting.  In the past decade the Mediterranean Diet has been touted as the best for health and longevity.  However, most of the studies proving its effectiveness have failed to mention that fasting plays an important role of life of these people.  It is possible that it is the fasting which has more health benefits than the diet. Three of the four original studies were conducted in Crete, Corfu in Greece, and Dalmatia in Croatia.  The researchers studied what the people ate, but they neglected to note the importance of the fast in their Greek Orthodox lives.  The Greek Orthodox calendar has numerous days for fasting. There are short term total fasts from all food and drink before communion and special feasts or holy days.  Lent and three other extended time periods during the year have partial fasts from meat and often from dairy products, olive oil, and wine - also the size or number of meals can be decreased during those times.   Partial fasting is also encouraged on Wednesdays, Fridays, and other special days.   This adds up to over half of the calendar year!  I think it’s safe to say we are all slackers in the fasting department compared to Greek Orthodox.  Not every church member participates in every fast, and exceptions are made for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, and people who do hard physical labor.  Abstaining from sex and worldly entertainment are included in the fasting.  Fasting is (or was in the 1960’s) a part of their community.  However, feasting and celebration with large groups of family and friends are also integral parts of their life and religion.  Both fasting and feasting are good gifts from a good God.
In the Western church, Lent is the best known time for fasting for Christians, and I think it is the best time for people to learn how to fast.  There are a couple of reasons for this: First our ancestors naturally ate a little less this time of year.  In farming societies, there is less food available at the end of February and March.  There is naturally less of the vegetables, grains, and meat that were harvested in summer and fall.  The second reason is it’s also a little warmer.  It is very difficult to fast when it is very cold outside - our bodies want to eat more to stay warm.  And even though much of the US is still quite cold at this time of year, it feels warm compared to December and January.  The third reason is that millions of other Christian are fasting around the world during Lent.
I remember back in my New Age days a saying - “There is no spiritual hitch-hiking.” This meant that just because people around you, for example, were meditating, it doesn’t mean you will reap their benefits if you are not meditating as much as they are.  However in Christianity, we do have spiritual hitch-hiking.  Jesus said when two or more are gathered in his name, he will be there too.  I think the Holy Spirit is more noticeably present in people who are fasting, and we can receive this blessing into our life.  So if you have never fasted, Lent is a great time to begin.  Even if you go to a church where Lent is not observed, some of your fellow parishioners are more than likely observing some form of the fast.
The easiest way to begin fasting it to extend your time of not eating.  If you usually finish your last meal at 8 pm and begin your first meal at 8 am, you are already fasting 12 hours a day. You could eat dinner an hour earlier and breakfast an hour later.  Then eat the same meals as usual, but without meat and sugar.  That is a fast day.  If you want to try going completely without food, start with the biblical day which is evening.  If you eat lunch - skip dinner and breakfast the next morning and eat again at lunch, that is a 24 hour fast.  Congratulations, it wasn’t that difficult was it?  I would encourage people new to fasting not to start a fast in the morning.  If you don’t eat for a full day and night, it is actually a 36 hour fast when you begin eating again which is more difficult.
Many of the medical studies on fasting actually allow 500-600 calories a day during a fast day.  When I do this, for example, I have a whey protein shake (120 calories) for breakfast.  Soup broth with a little meat and vegetables or two small baked potatoes with salt and vinegar for lunch and/or dinner add another 350 - 400 calories. If I get especially hungry, I can add another whey shake or a couple of nuts with salt for an afternoon snack or for a dessert after dinner.  The advantage of this method of fasting is that your hunger hormones (ghrelin) are programmed to increase at your usual eating times. So by putting something in your stomach at these times, you experience less hunger.
Children (girls under 16 and boys under 18), pregnant and nursing mothers, people who have physically demanding jobs, and severely sick and underweight individuals might prefer to try a few partial fast days during Lent.  A day without meat, sugar, and flour would be beneficial for health and for spiritual discipline.  Beans and rice are classic stand-ins for meat (and are the major foods gratefully consumed by most of the world’s citizens). Some people prefer liquid or juice fasting - although too much juice from fruit and sweet vegetables (carrots, beets) raise insulin levels and hunger.  I like bone marrow and vegetable broths during a fast, and these keep insulin levels lower.
So far I have discussed a little about the health benefits of fasting, but there are also spiritual benefits. Protestants have generally been negligent on the spiritual discipline of fasting.  In recent years, however, fasting has in Charismatic circles.  Fasting was not discouraged at the beginning of the reformation.  Even our esteemed teacher and prophet John Calvin promoted the benefits of fasting.  “A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him,” ( Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, xii, 15).  I believe there are even more reason to fast than this.  Jesus told his disciples that they would fast when the bridegroom was gone (Matthew 9:15).  He also said “when you fast” not “if you fast.”  When we replace food and eating with bible study and prayer, we can reap a closer relationship with our Lord.  Two of the most significant spiritual events in my life (30 years apart) occurred during or right after three days of fasting. I wasn’t expecting these gifts from the Holy Spirit - and it actually took me a while to recognize what they were, but an increased sense of the presence of the Lord is often reported by people who fast.  Insights, the breaking of harmful bonds, and direction or clarity of vision can also come from fasting.
It is important to break a longer fast carefully.  It is natural to be hungry when breaking a very limited or no calorie fast.  You might eat an extra 100 to 300 calories for a meal or two following a fast, but don’t break a fast at a potluck or you might have trouble trying to stop eating.  As with anything, practice makes perfect.  Start with small fasting goals and slowly graduate to more difficult goals.  Some of the physical benefits you will experience from limited calorie fasts will be increased energy, less pain, and a sense of joy.  
Fasting is a great gift for a healthy body and a healthy spirit.   However, it is only been in the last week or so as I was thinking about writing this article that I realized the connection between some spiritual experiences I have had and fasting.  Now I am feeling joy and anticipating what good thing the Lord will do the next time I fast.   The health benefits of fasting are very good, but what I really look forward to are the spiritual benefits.

For more ways to encourage autophagy besides fasting read

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Wrecking Ball: Why President Trump is not Hitler

“[You] came in like a wrecking ball
[You] never hit so hard in love
All [You] wanted was to break [my] walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you wreck me,” (Lyrics to Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball" with some reversed pronouns).

The hysterics against President Trump are more than annoying.  President Trump is not the AntiChrist and not Hitler. (It is, however, possible that he is a “wrecking ball.”*)  He is a real estate mogul who is inexperienced as a politician - which is exactly why millions of people voted for him.   Presidential political campaigns tend to make us all a little extreme in our rhetoric. However now we have a president and the time for wild acclamations or paranoid denunciations is past. President Trump doesn’t act or talk like a politician which many find refreshing.  When Trump says he wants to make America great again, I believe him.  When he says that he wants to restore jobs, have secure borders, and make America a good place to run a business again, I believe that too.  I certainly hope that he succeeds.

Trump loved the campaign trail.  He loved making speeches about how to make America great, and he loved the adoration of the crowds.  Obviously Donald Trump likes the limelight. He has a personality like many actors: he wants to be admired.  There is nothing wrong with this, but I think he will find politics and the presidency are not conducive for those sensitive to criticism and desiring affirmation.  Any politician of either party today is going to be loathed by 40% of the populace just because he or she is a Republican or a Democrat. On the plus side, 30% of the voters are going to love you no matter what - the remaining 30% are more fluid in their affection.  Unfortunately the 40% who loathe you are going to be louder than the 30% who adore you, especially since they include most of the television and newspaper media.

Unlike some of Trump’s more crazed critics, I think there is a good chance that President Trump will not try to grasp more reigns of power beyond the office of the presidency.  He might even decide that a one term presidency is enough for him.  As many people have observed, Trump is not an ideologue. He does not have a partisan agenda (unlike, for example, President Obama). Trump’s a “big idea” type of person.  There is no Mein Kampf ** that he secretly wrote and forgot to publish.   Trump wrote The Art of the Deal to explain how to succeed in business.  This is Donald J Trump’s life focus and mission; he wants to export this “let’s get down to business” philosophy to the US government.  This is not fascism folks!  In fact it is downright refreshing.

I can’t help but think when a president makes the extravagant promises that Trump made for his inauguration speech that this is a man that wants to be loved by the masses.  He said he would stop violence in America, eradicate Islamic terrorism, and get rid of inner city poverty.  I think that Trump makes promises like this because he has never been in political office before.  He will soon find out that this country is not like a private business that he owns and can direct at will,  This country is like a massive ship and taking her in new directions happens incrementally and slowly.  In his own businesses, Trump can say “Jump,” and his employees will say, “How high?”  The government worker will reply to the same demand with something like this.  “I apologize but form 15206C section 3481.3 clearly states that I only have to move an inch to my left or an inch to my right.  Jumping is not in my job description.

I worry a tiny bit that the president seems to think that he has the power to carry out his promises.  I am a little nervous that the prosperity preachers with which he has often surrounded himself have made such inflated prophetic pronouncements over him that it might have gone to his head - that he might really think he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Isn’t there a rule somewhere about not believing your own hype?) Perhaps encouraging the president in Christian virtues like humility would be a better form of discipleship?

I am thankful that President Trump wants peace between the nations and doesn’t want to rush into change the political systems of foreign countries.  This is truly a humble foreign policy.    I am thankful that the president has a heart that wants to help the poor - that he wants less poverty, crime, and better educational choices. These are wonderful goals for him to have.  However, he would get more assistance in reaching his goals with an attitude that says “please help me to accomplish this.”  An attitude that ignores his most aggressive critics because they are never going to like him no matter what he says or does.  He could assuage some fears if he acts like he knows that the office of the presidency is truly too big for him or any one person to handle.  It takes a team as President Obama recently said.  And that he understands that former presidents and the leaders of other countries also had and have great hopes and aspirations for their countries.  We all want peace and prosperity.

*“I heard the Lord say: ‘Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness,’” Wallnau wrote in an Oct. 5 Charisma News article titled “Why I Believe Donald Trump Is the Prophesied President.”

**The autobiography and political treatise where Hitler defines National Socialism (Nazism),  and which contains such gems as “For as long as a people remain racially pure and are conscious of the treasure of their blood, they can never be overcome by the Jew,” (Chapter 11).

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Outer Darkness

Perhaps this is Hell.   I am watching a beautiful feast - in a shining city filled with glorious light. The Holy Angels are singing hymns of liquid praise, and some of these Sons of God are serving the wedding guests angel food. I am on the outside looking in through a gossamer fence of finest gold, solid yet transparent. I desperately want to taste the angel food, to eat the fruit of the tree of life, to drink the living waters.  Only one thing keeps me from joining the laughing radiant guests; only one thing keeps me from joining my Grandmother Grace, my Uncle Judah, and various other friends, neighbors, and coworkers that I have known throughout the years.  Even Dreadlock John that dirty panhandler that I would give money to is seated at the table.  But now he isn't dirty.  Now he smiles and shines with a mysterious glow, and he is dressed in robes of purest white.  
Dreadlock John must have been a prophet, for once he told me - when the rain was pouring down and I, feeling sorry for him, put a ten spot in his hand as I hurried on my way to the office -
“Just confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the gates will open wide,” he said quietly in an unusual display of sobriety.   
I realize that this - right now - is what he was talking about.  There are real gates here, and they look like pearls.  But I had been annoyed beyond belief at his comment. I had thought “How dare Dreadlock John give instructions to me?”  
What I really believe is that I am my own God.  I am the arbitrator of what is right and what is wrong.  I suppose this makes me an existentialist, for I have never been one to accept easy answers. I have been searching desperately for another entrance into the feast. I have walked as if forever looking for a secret passage, a forbidden ladder hanging down over the wall. So far, the only way I see to enter is by the gate.  Occasionally I see others outside the walls in even worse shape than I.  Once I saw a woman pounding on the door howling in grief and rage.
“Lord, Lord,” she screamed.  “Let me in.  Let me in.”  I wondered what was her sin?  And as soon as I thought it, I heard the answer.  “Disbelief.”
Once again I stand outside the gate, once again I see a magnificent being in white holding a flaming sword.  He speaks to me.  It is like he can read the secret thoughts of my heart.
“You are created.” he said with a voice like thunder.   “He is Creator.  He is Almighty - you are not.”  But I was given a raw deal in life.  Memories flood my mind of the cruelty of others, of broken relationships and bitter disappointments.   Where was God when I needed him?  Where was God when my wife died of breast cancer?  Then there were my little lusts and desires: things I had to have even though my conscience said “Stop.”  Sure I did some bad things -I am not perfect after all!   The silly young girls who couldn’t say “no” to me.  The money. The lies to get the money to get the things to get the status to get the silly young girls.  It seems like my whole life was one brief affair with one lust after another.  Yet on the whole, I was not a bad person.  I worked hard, I volunteered, I gave to charity - but now I stand outside the pearly gates dressed in filthy rags.  Ten times filthier than the clothes Dreadlock John ever had to wear.  I don’t understand.  Why am I out here, and he is inside? In my heart, there is still this stubborn disbelief.  I still can’t actually see this Lord.  Does he even exist? Maybe this golden feast is a facade.  And if he does exist, who does this Jesus think he is to tell me what to do and how to live?  What human being can possibly live up to his standards of perfection and righteousness?
So I turn away from the shining party. In the distance, in the dark is a campfire  where I see someone dancing or jumping like on hot coals.  “I will have my own party,” I tell myself, “my own food, my own drinks, my own companions.”  I walk away from this piercing light which reveals way too many stains on my rags feeling desperate - feeling very very alone.  And I hear wailing in the distance.

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Thank you Lame Stream Media Thank you Fascist Lefties Thank you Jesus

Thank you Lame Stream Media
Thank you Fascist Lefties
Thank you Jesus
For Making Donald J Trump our next President!

The Left slash Lame Stream Media is totally to blame for the Trump presidency.  For the last 8 years they have acted like the enemies in this country are the Bible believing Christians whose intransigence against gay marriage, abortion, and transgenderism are impeding some great New World Order.  Those intolerable bitter clingers to guns and religion - those homophobic racist haters are for some reason so terrified of a continuation of the Obama/Clinton regime that they voted for a man who appeared to some to be unqualified in terms of experience and temperament to be president of the U.S.  

Maybe it's because we don’t like being called racists for wanting more safeguards put on Muslim immigration (not to mention that anybody with any education at all knows Islam contains multiple races of people - it is a religion/political system not a race.)  Maybe we don’t like being fined into oblivion for following our conscience when refusing to fund abortion or sell bouquets and cakes to homosexual weddings.  Maybe we are sick and tired of seeing a constant barrage and attack on our faith in all areas of media - especially on TV.  Maybe we dislike the state and federal courts that override the voting decisions of her citizens.  Maybe we don’t like the myriads of ways our tax dollars are being spent.  Maybe we think that public schools and college campuses have become little leftist factories turning out easily triggered irrational cry babies.

I was afraid that my language in this article was a little over the top when I read the NYT this morning.  It seems that anytime I peruse the NYT (once a week or so), there is another article  attacking Christianity or “white Christians.”  Today’s opinion was titled “The Rage of White Christian America.”  Of course that term is a ploy to divide the church which for 2000 years has consisted of every “tribe, nation, and tongue.”  While the NYT hostility towards Christians is not the least subtle or hidden,  television is even worse.  This fall I tried watching a few new television series and was shocked at the blatant attack on Christians that I saw.  One program on NBC showed in the first three minutes an “evil” mother dragging her poor teenage daughter to church (the horror). Off went my tv.   Another show on CBS called Geniuses had a bearded and seemingly kind Christian man praying for his pregnant wife.  “This is awesome,” I thought, “here’s a man who could be from my church.”  Wrong.  A little later his “true” self was revealed.  This fictional character was shown to be abusive to his poor little browbeaten wife and would prefer to let his wife die in a painful childbirth that would kill her than to abort their child.  Snookered again!  Off went the TV. I thought the screenwriter must have witnessed a (not unusual) bearded kind Christian man praying with others in a hospital and thought “Christians can’t really be this nice - there must be something wrong with him.”   Mostly though the tens of millions of people who attend church services regularly in the US are just ignored in TV/movie world unless they happen to be black.  (Thank you Tyler Perry.)

Mark my words - they have made us the enemy, and this presidential election only enforces their dislike of conservative Protestant Evangelicals, traditional Catholics, and most Mormons.  Regardless of race, 58% of Protestants, 52% of Catholics, and  61% of Mormons voted for Donald Trump despite his shortcomings.  And although his language was vague - the only promise I heard him make was to have people say “Merry Christmas” again (lame), Trump did say he would protect Christians in many many speeches.   It struck a chord in the hearts of his followers.  Did the media or Democrats ever stop and ask what it is we thought we needed protection from?

The left wing media for years has made such ridiculous over-the top accusations against even the mildest conservatives (ex. George W Bush is Hitler), why would anybody listen to them now?  They made sure to try to tarnish the reputations of social conservatives who were running in the Republican primary (ie. Cruz) and gave great leeway to The Donald, who they knew to be socially liberal, and who they believed would never be elected as president with the arsenal of dirt they had on him.  Well Trump outsmarted them all, and it is no small accomplishment.   He did it in large part because he has outstanding instincts into the fears of the masses (mostly economic fears) and how to assuage them.  Fortunately for the church, Trump also has a reputation for loyalty.  He will remember the evangelicals who put him into office.  Hopefully legislation will be promptly brought forward while the Republicans have control of all three branches of government that ensures safeguards for the church, traditional families, freedom in educational choices and freedom of conscience for employees and business owners.

What I’d really like is for the paranoid hate mongering against conservatives and Christians to stop.  Can’t we all just get along?   Yes, I think gay marriage is a travesty on the holiness of God, and unfortunately I don’t expect Obergefell to get overturned in the near future.  However, forcing me to bake a cake for a gay wedding is not going to make  me change my mind.  I know in your fantasy, all Christians will stop believing the bible and get with the program, but we have history and thousands of years of tradition together with God’s word as our foundation.  We actually really would prefer being fed to the lions than worshiping Caesar (the government). And all this worship involved was burning a teeny piece of incense and saying “Caesar is Lord.”  Persecution comes and goes, but the word of the Lord remains forever.  We also have time and the future of our side.

We have the world’s population rapidly becoming more Christian or Muslim.  At. least Christian countries don’t execute homosexuals. And despite the NYT’s misleading article, Christianity in the US is not shrinking but maintaining it’s own (white, black, and everything in between).  The irony of all this is that it is actually the Protestant reformation that lead to freedom of conscience in the public sphere.  How is it that the great universities (many of which our Puritan ancestors helped to found) are now the most closed minded intolerant places in the US?

Donald Trump has opened up a totally new territory in the world of US politics.  We only know for sure that this presidency will be different.  Any person who becomes president is ultimately a figurehead for the various interest groups behind his or her bid for power.  May the interest groups behind Trump who value good, our great Republic,  and our liberties prevail.  The US is burdened with enormous debt.  Other than that, our life is really pretty good - especially compared to most of the rest of the world - that’s why most immigrants (Mexican, Muslim, and others) want to come here.  As a Christian, I continue to hope and pray for our president, congress, and courts and continued domestic tranquility.  Liberty is a beautiful gift that I intend to hold onto and enjoy.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: The Great Divorce

Review: The Great Divorce

I have finally read the Christian Classic - The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis - first published in 1946. Obviously it has been reviewed, studied, and received many accolades before.  I add my 2 cents worth in the spirit of admiration and because of the self-revelation this book afforded me.

Lewis goes to great lengths in the preface to state that this story was not based on a dream or a vision of heaven and hell given by divine revelation.  He calls The Great Divorce a fantasy.  I believe he emphasizes this because the book contains so much profound insight into God’s design that it seems like a vision.  The reader would easily have believed Lewis if he had told us that an angel had taken him on this bus ride to visit the suburbs of heaven.  

The story demonstrates how the heavenly realms are much larger and more substantial than both hell and earth.  Lewis seems to have put the Book of 2 Corinthians into a fictional form.  “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God. “ 4:3.  The passenger on the bus are visitors from Hell (or Purgatory)on an excursion to the suburbs of heaven.  But even in heaven, the passengers are blinded by their paltry little sins which keep them from the glory which is all around them.  

The heaven dwellers (called the bright people) have come to meet the visitors (who are called ghosts) from the bus in hopes to lead them to heaven.  Each visitor has his or her own teacher or guide that s/he knew on earth.  The bright people constantly tell the visitors “now is the acceptable time; look, now is the day of salvation,” 6:2. Yet each of the visitors has some problem that keeps them from accepting this salvation.  What blessed me is seeing how some of the problems of the visitors are also my problems that keep me from experiencing joy and heaven even now.

I cringed when I heard the once well dressed fearful woman fight against the Spirit’s guidance.
“Friend, said the Spirit, ‘Could you only for a moment, fix your mind on something not yourself?’” (62).
Self obsession, it seems, is one of the major obstacles in seeing heaven. Then there is Hard Bitten Ghost who is negative and suspicious about everything.  And Grumbler who is a very unhappy creature.  “Ye’ll have had experiences begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it; perhaps criticising it.  And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it.  Ye can repent and come out of it again.  But there may come a day when you can do that no longer.” (77-78). I have had many dark hours and grumbling moods.  And I can feel this truth in my soul - that there is a point when I may no longer be able to repent of my grumbling - a point when I become a grumbler for good - bereft of the comforts of the Holy Spirit - stuck in my own small dark sad world.

Then there is the ghost who carries on his shoulder the lizard Lust.  And the dwarf who is manipulated by his own marionette Tragedian. So many sins, so little time.  What the Great Divorce helped me to see is how easy it is to be free of these unclean attitudes and sins that cling to our souls.  The Bright Lady admonishes the dwarf, “But now can set all that aside.  Never think like that again. It is all over” (122).  And the reader wants to shout,”Yes, Just believe what the bright spirits are saying!”
The Bright Spirits are models of heavenly citizens. Always forgiving, kind, loving, and serving those they hope to guide.  They patiently point out to the ghosts the problems with ghostly thinking. The sin areas that they hold onto.  Yet most of the ghost ignore the admonitions of the Bright Spirits.  They love their own sins more than light and freedom.

It is a rare book that sheds such a light on both the dark nook and crannies of our souls and the brightness and joys of heaven.  Which is what makes the The Great Divorce a classic that one will want to read many times and share with many friends.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Review of The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe

Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe

Little Brown & Co, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-316-40462-4

When getting my Master’s degree in English, I discovered the fascinating world of linguistics. With my emphasis in English as a Second Language, I took classes in Psycholinguistics (which is the physical and neurological aspects of language acquisition). I was especially intrigued by how language functions similarly to the genetic code, and I loved Modern Grammar which can be used with any language using the principles of Universal Grammar.  Universal Grammar, postulates Noam Chomsky (the founder and king of modern linguistic theory), is innate in all human beings - moreover all languages are similarly constructed of verbs, adjectives, and nouns.   What I didn’t realize, until I read Tom Wolfe’s superb book, The Kingdom of Speech, was that Chomsky had been toppled from his position of linguistic demi-Godhood by a relative newcomer, Daniel Everett.

In The Kingdom of Speech, Tom Wolfe not only takes down Chomsky in his usual sharp yet languid manner, but Charles Darwin and his “Just-so” stories on the evolution of man also undergo a, much needed, examination. What ties Darwin, Chomsky, Everett, and this book together is the quest to solve mystery of the origin of language. Darwin guessed that language evolved from humans imitating bird speech.  Chomsky believed that language ability evolved within (an as yet unknown) brain/nervous system “organ.”  However, a relative newcomer in the world of linguistics, Daniel Everett, Moody Bible College graduate and former missionary to a remote Amazonian tribe called the Piraha, throws a monkey wrench into “established” Chomskyan linguistics.
What Everett discovers in this Amazonian tribe is a people who do not have all of the Universal Grammar elements in their language. Furthermore, they have no words for colors or numbers, and they have no language for the past or future as they live in a state of eternal now.  Everett says that the uniqueness of the Piraha language - because it does not prescribe to Chomsky’s Universal Grammar - proves that language ability is not innate but actually an artifact created by humans to live in community. In other words, language is a tool, a sophisticated tool, somehow devised by humans over time.
I have a number of problems with Everett’s ideas - which Tom Wolfe, by the way, seems to totally embrace.  Everett see the Piraha as an example of the earliest humans.  They have embraced very little from other cultures (in the Amazon rainforest) because of their belief that anything outside of their culture is inferior and should be dismissed. The Piraha’s language - although extremely difficult to learn - is a very limited language in complexity, sociological constructs, and vocabulary.  This tribe can not even be counted as stone age in their technological development since they don’t have stone tools.  Their only tools are very rudimentary bows and arrows. They live in lean to’s that are easily disposed of.  Having no concept for the future, limits their desire (or need perhaps) to prepare for it.
Obviously such a people will leave few traces of their existence; however, I see no reason to view them as something from which stone age and present day humans have evolved.  Of course, I am not a (macro) evolutionists, and what I am about to say is terribly politically incorrect, but could it not be equally true that this tribe is an example of devolution? Cannot change (change and evolution are synonyms) happen in both directions?  For example, present day humans have smaller brains and weaker physiques than Cro Magnon people.  
I would be very interested to see a DNA analysis of this 300 or so person tribe. I would not be surprised if they all have a common ancestor that broke off a few hundred or so years ago from another Amazonian tribe. Are they really a separate and distinct people as their language seems to imply.  
I could speculate as to why their progenitors were not using a native language. Could they have been feral children who have little experience of human language.  What kind of language would such a pair or more of ferals create?  And although the extreme conditions of the Amazon rainforest  make it seem unlikely for a child to survive without adults, perhaps this is the case for the origins of the Pirahas.  Perhaps the progenitors were deaf/mutes? Or perhaps the Piraha language is not as different from the surrounding tribes as Everett believes. I assume the tribe has no legends of their beginnings since they have little concept of the past, so why or how they came to be will remain a mystery. However, the magnitude of Everett’s claim has not been thoroughly examined, it seems to me.  
He is saying the Piraha’s language is akin to a prima lingua.  If this is true, it should be easily proven by the Piraha tribe having a separate and distinct DNA lineage because, as we have seen throughout history, when different people groups intermingle, their languages also intermingle.  Everett is claiming (by using them as an example of a prima indigenous people) that this tiny tribe has somehow stayed intact, separate, an unchanged - for what? 10,000 - 100,000 - 1 million years? It is hard to say because evolutionists throw out dates for humanity’s beginnings as easily as gamblers throw out dice at the craps table.  All that is needed is a simple DNA test to prove if the Piraha are truly a separate indigenous people group.   In other words, to make a whole new case for the origins of language based on one tiny tribe of people seems ludicrous.
I suppose my true colors as a Chomskyite are being exposed. I do believe in an innate language ability that is wired into our brains/nervous system.  I only disagree with the evolutionary (as in macro-evolutionary) origin of speech.  I would say that we are endowed by our creator with the ability to use speech and to understand language.  In Genesis, the very first task that Adam was given was to name the animals.  And in the Gospel of John in the New Testament, it states that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Language is divine.
It was especially interesting to me that Everett the former missionary turned away from Christ to follow the God of Anthropology and Evolution.  Interesting but hardly surprising.  There is no quicker way to derail and ruin a career in academia than to be a Christian.  Any theory (of anything) that is based on Intelligent Design rather than evolution is dismissed out of hand in this very small and narrow world.  Unfortunately the evolutionary worldview limits scholars to new hypotheses and possibilities as to the origin and development of language.

If you are interested in language or in understanding the philosophical trendsetters in the last 150 years, I highly recommend The Kingdom of Speech. Wolfe makes the journey in this 185 page book not only educational but enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why the Transgender Movement is Bad for Women

The beautiful ones - the ones who pass as women that we don’t even notice because they fit - they have always used the women’s restroom without comment.  But now we have to allow the creepy dudes - you know - the ones who are obviously men and are playing at being a woman for a day or two. Or who are slightly deranged and washing their hands in the sink next to me. These are the ones we can’t call for management to kick out of the bathroom any more.  

That is not the only problem. Another is - sister hasn’t anyone told you that taking extra hormones really is not safe?  Your body runs on the perfect balance of  estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone - you’ll get more than facial hair and a lower voice from testosterone, you could get higher blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer.  It’s dangerous to mess with Mother Nature.

Third - Why do the women on the Chinese swim team have such deep voices and broad shoulders - we know they’re taking testosterone - but why?  Because it improves their performance. You start putting real men (who identify as women of course) with their natural testosterone, their  naturally bigger bones and muscles, with their bigger hands and feet, why do women want to compete with that?  I’m sorry, you can’t change your biological sex - it’s impossible - and men who want to pretend to be women will ruin, decimate, and totally destroy women’s athletics.

I saw a college girl on 60 Minutes who said she felt like a man, so she started making “the transition.”  She went from being the top swimmer on the women’s team to the worst swimmer on the men’s team.  “Are you totally nuts,” I thought? She also went from looking like a sexy competent woman to a sissy looking boy.  Why?  For the man, however, who “self identifies” as a woman, guess what?  He goes from being last place on his men’s swim team to first place on the women’s swim team.  So who does this transgender thing really help? It helps the men get into our bathrooms, get into our showers, get into our sports teams, and I say “Women Wake Up!!” It’s a lose lose situation for us.  Don’t allow this to continue.

Chinese Olympic Women Swimmers