Friday, February 22, 2008

Tattoos and Piercings and Plugs, oh my.....

Sometimes, I fear that the curmudgeondom that stalks us all is gaining on me, or at least that's how I feel whenever I venture to the mall with my wife.

I always imagined that in the future, we would be driving jet cars, living in domed cities and wearing form-fitting unisex jumpsuits. I imagine that there were many other kids back in the 1970's who shared the same daydream. It's amazing what 38 years will do to a daydream. I drive a pick-up, live in suburbia, and would look downright scary in a unisex, form-fitting jumpsuit. Beyond this, one can't swing a dead cat in Northern Virginia without hitting someone who would seem to have stepped off the pages of a 1970's-era National Geographic magazine. This phenomenon has left me both simultaneously bemused and concerned.

There is what seems to be an obsession with body defacement (or "modification"). I have observed this across the age spectrum from young teens on up to AARP members. The "military tattoo" of the soldier or sailor, along with the demure ear piercing have become a quaint relic from another time. Earrings have given way to "plugs", which have given way to extreme plugs. To date, I've seen earlobe plugs that appear to be the size of half dollar coins. I've seen faces that contain enough piercings to construct a modest wind chime. I have to ask, "Why am I so disturbed by this?"

There are only two reasonable answers to preceding question; I'm becoming either a grizzled old curmudgeon, or I am troubled by something that may have deeper connotation than first realized.

I pride myself in being a Christian Libertarian, and one who strives to keep the main thing, the main thing. Within this, there is a scared responsibility not to use my liberty as a club. Yet even with this said, I will vigorously content that God's word speaks clearly to, and proscribes a large number of practices and lifestyles that are rife within our society. We as believers first, and humans second, ignore these proscriptions at our own peril.

I went on a dig throughout Scripture to see what it might say on the subject of body modification (tattoos, et al). It turns out that bodily defacement is clearly prohibited by the Levitical Code as delivered to Moses by the LORD. These were practiced by the pagan nations (and are still practiced by cultures today). It would be a reasonable conclusion then, to say that the practice of body modification is unscriptural.

Does this fly in the face of a libertarian viewpoint? I don't believe so. The proscription against bodily modification lies within the listing of moral prohibitions, rather than ceremonial requirements. Though we don't offer up a guilt offering under the New Covenantal economy, it is still an offense to knowingly defraud our neighbor. Christ fulfilled the ceremonial requisites of the Law, he didn't abolish its moral requisites.

Some might support the practice on the basis of silence, the fact that the New Testament doesn't speak to the practice. I believe that this too is a faulty position. Consider the fact that the New Testament is silent on the topic of inter-species copulation. Despite this fact, there's not one sane person who would make a case for such a practice, or contend that it is permissible under the New Covenant.

The explosion of body modification and other sub-christian practices should stand to remind (and warn) us that we live in a society that is Post-christian, and slipping away from anything remotely resembling what Francis Schaeffer referred to as the "Christian Consensus".

Saints, Evangelists, and Apologists; our work is cut out for us.

Why DO we need to study Hermenuetics?

There's a quote out there along the lines of, "A text out of context is merely a pretext". I've also known of one particular pentecostal preacher in describing his sermons as, "Being like baloney, you can cut 'em off anywhere".

In my brief 45 years on the planet, I've had the privlege of hearing men who were gifted expositors and/or powerful, passionate orators. Others, like Dr. J. Vernon McGee, were able to deliver timeless biblical truth with the ease of a grandfather speaking to his grandchildren. But then there were others, unforgettable ones, who's sermons have stuck in my mind like gum in the treads of my sneakers.

We who would presume to proclaim the word of God in homily or lesson form should never approach this in a careless or casual way. I say "we" because the the preceeding video made me pause for self-examination. James, Christ's younger stepbrother gives us a clear caution in his epistle when he reminded those who would take up the mantle of homilist or teacher of a "more stringent judgment".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday 2008

Good day to you, sir or ma'am. Fasching, Carnival, Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday; they're all yesterday's news as our array changes from green to violet. It's a strange Ash Wednesday in NoVa-land, with temperatures hovering in the low 70's. The day feels much better suited for Queenscliff or Geelong, where balmy February days are generally the rule.

Sadly, Lent seems to be little more than a carnal cease-fire. A time for our bodies to issue a temporary restraining order against its induldgences. Some swear off swearing while others will step away from sodas. These are pale substitutions for Lent's original objective.

Lent is rooted in a time of preparation. Her two fortnights were a time when converts made their final preparations for their public confession of Jesus as their messiah. In an age where a public acknowlegement of Christ could result in a violent death, conversion wasn't a casual act undergone through repeating a "sinner's prayer". Martyrdom was beyound conceivable and the convert knew this. There was a true cost to be counted.

Though I wouldn't pretend to know your expectations for the next 40 days, I want something more out of Lent this year. I don't want these proceeding 40 days to pass without profound, permanent change in my life. I want this to be time spent in the Lord's Gym, a season growth and a time of maturation.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Collect for Ash Wednesday

Friday, February 01, 2008

Above the Clouds

Wow, Doug Hill nailed it. It has been raining buckets since early this morning. The steel-gray skies are a matter of perspective though. A few thousand vertical feet can mean a world of difference on a day like today. Jet 12,000 feet above stafford and you're enveloped in azure skies. The steel ceiling has been replaced by a carpet of pure lamb's wool.