#187 Pentecost 11: Bent Light
"I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies." ~ Psalm 18
Artwork: In the Pool Artist: Huleeb
While Rev Fisk is taking a break, we bring you more from the Mad Mondays archive. This was first published on August 15, 2022.
The problem with the devil is that he is twisted. “Let there be light!” And there was. But light was not content. It wanted more. It wanted to be the source.
There is a long history of twisted light. The mirror is not a new tool. Light reflecting off a pool is as old as still water, and there is nothing inherently malicious in welding sand so as to make a looking glass. That said, a mirror is by definition “twisted light,” and the narcissism of you looking at you isn’t exactly a recipe for enhancing the love of others.
After the mirror came the scope. Twisting light anew, we learned to look up, and then down, at things we’d never seen before. The heavens were opened to us and they are beautiful. The deeps revealed to us the particles of life and their principles defy imagination. Yet at the same time, this new view did not enhance man’s awe at the mighty hand of God, but ushered in an era of declaring He does not exist, that space and time exist without Him, and that we are the ones who hold the future in our hands.
After the scope came the camera, the image maker, by which we remember our loved ones, catalog history, and see parts of the world we would never otherwise experience. But its power is the power to lie, to distort reality, to convince me reality is something other than what it is right now. A photograph is not real. Despite what I imagine, thanks to photographs, I have never seen a cheetah. I do not know what Bangladesh looks like. I do not know Donald Trump.
The industrial light and the magic of twisting that the screen at last gifted us has taken all these powers and amplified them. There is simply no distortion of the senses like the suspension of the present; nothing like the talking picture and its ubiquitous internet yammering. We now live most of our days staring into the face of twisted light.
The tools of film and fiber optic cable are no more naturally evil than still water. The problem is that man is. Man has an innate ability (let’s call it “concupiscence”) to use the best things of God in the worst possible way.
I don’t think I believe that tools which twist light are substantially of the devil. But I do think our use of them unavoidably symbolizes him, and that the times that we live in are uniquely diabolical as a result. If all that you want out of life is distraction, then all that you want is actually out of this life.
If you plan to keep on living in this here Babylon as a Christian, if you don’t want anyone to steal your crown, if you’re tired of being lied to and are fed up with being manipulated, remember that the eye is the lamp of your body. Fill it with good light. Remember what the sun and the moon and the stars are for. Believe that you may not be able to condense reality, but that your God has solved all problems already at the cross. Decide that distraction isn’t nearly so worth your time as being present, seeing truth and acting on what is real.
What would life be like if I wasn’t always being formed by twisted light? That’s what I, at least, am heaven-bent on finding out.
Till angel cry and trumpet sound,
The Mad Christian
In this edition of Mad Mondays:
Stealth editing in the library
Mad’splain: what happened in Ohio
And a jam-packed edition of news and information..
Fire in a crowded library
Writer Kat Rosenfield has written an interesting post about libraries, book banning and the loss of shared public spaces. While much of the hair-on-fire reporting has painted the conservative push to move explicit content out of the hands of children as "book banning", Rosenfield argues that what is really going on is an "existential power struggle to politicize the few remaining ideologically neutral spaces in the country."
Rosenfield is not a fan of right-wing activism at the library, but she notes that progressive librarians are doing much the same thing yet with no outrage in the press. The formula involves identifying "problematic" books and then "weeding" them out. Rosenfield says the advice to librarians is: "You should do everything in your power to stop people from reading this book, and then remove it because people aren't reading it anymore."
According to this librarian's blog, problematic content can include "harmful stereotypes", lack of diverse representation in the characters or when the author is an "authentic" authority on the subject matter. Examples of such books she nominates include Little House on the Prairie, "many of Shakespeare’s works" and anything by J. K. Rowling. Original editions of books that are considered dubious might also be endangered, given the recent scuffle created by "sensitivity readers" tinkering with Roald Dahl's stories.
Meanwhile, the newly-minted president of the American Library Association, Emily Drabinksi, seemed surprised at pushback she received after she announced she identifies as a Marxist and a lesbian. In a social media post, she stated her belief that “collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world.” Republican lawmakers in several states demanded their state libraries quit the Association, but so far Montana is the only state to have done so.
If you’ve been to a local library recently, you probably already know that they are often, sadly, thinly-disguised activist spaces. But all is not lost. It may be time to expand your home library. Electronic media boasts some advantages, but for the books you really love and want to pass to your children, get physical copies. Apart from collecting and sharing old books, you may be able to join a local library board and make a difference. Or find a problematic book marked for weeding and check it out of the library. Regularly!
We really enjoyed last week's Gottesdienst Crowd podcast on communication, specifically navigating conflict. Pastor Braaten and Pastor Buvinghausen discussed the book Never Split the Difference by former FBI negotiator, Chris Voss. The men lay out Voss' strategies for getting to a solution by engaging in "honest and productive" conflict. Voss is an entrepreneur and writes with businessmen in mind, but as this conversation shows, a lot of these tricks and tips can be used in church situations, marriage and parenting.
Speaking of communication, Federalist contributor Casey Chalk suggests that asking questions can be an effective sparring technique. As progressive types attempt to redefine the terms of engagement in the culture war, it is worth thinking like a detective and asking questions. An article last week in the Telegraph noted that when it comes to issues of gender, media outlets such as the BBC “regularly use..terms without further explanation.” As a consequence, a third of U.K. residents were unaware that “transwoman” actually refers to someone who is male. But with newspeak, confusion is the point.
You may remember Rev Fisk's advice that Christians should play offence more often and not be forever defending. Worldlings may dismiss your query but we should at least make them give a defense of their position. If they can.
What’s the matter with Ohio?
Ohio has voted to keep things as they are in a special ballot last week. Issue 1 was a referendum on whether to keep a simple majority for passing constitutional amendments in the state. The measure, proposed by pro-life legislators wishing to ward off attempts to enshrine abortion into law by raising the threshold of votes needed to 60%, crashed and burned at the ballot box. An amendment to protect life, (or not) will be put to the vote in November.
While we must thank God for his mercy in the overturning of federally-mandated abortion last year, Albert Mohler pointed out on his podcast, that with the a dissolution of Roe, we now have two battlefronts: stateside and nationally. Dr. Mohler reminded listeners that in a sinful world, there are no permanent political victories. The war against sin and its consequences is one that continues until Christ returns. The ballot in Ohio is a wake-up call: though much has been gained in the fight for life, we cannot quit.
Odds and Ends
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) has filed articles of impeachment against President Biden. "The articles feature accusations of fraud, obstruction of justice and bribery stemming from allegations of illegal business dealings and tax crimes." (The Hill)
U.S. Attorney-General, Merrick Garland has appointed a Special Council to investigate accusations against Hunter Biden. (Washington Examiner)
Newly subpoeaned evidence suggests surveillance of Catholic churches involved several FBI field offices, contrary to what director Christopher Wray had claimed. (Just the News)
Florida governor, Ron De Santis has suspended the state's Attorney, Monique Worrell for not doing her job. (Red State)
Marriage, sex and children
A trans-identified tennis player has dropped out of the women's events at the recreational Governor's Cup in Wyoming, saying he is worried about turning the event into a "circus" and putting himself in danger. The president of one of Wyoming's tennis associations had resigned over the inclusion of the male player last week. The policy of the United States Tennis Association to include transgender players has been criticized by former champion Martina Navratilova who said "women’s tennis is not for failed male athletes." (Cowboy Sate Daily, NewsMax, WNG)
Wisconsin parents have raised concerns after finding out that a boy would be allowed to play against their daughters. In tryouts for interscholastic athletic events, parents say girls are "leaving with welts and bruises they've never received before." "They're just not used to the ball coming at them that hard", one parent said. (Fox11)
A new poll shows that 70% of Americans say that trans-identified athletes should only be allowed to "compete on sports teams that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth" (their words, not ours!) (NBC News)
Law, policing and crime
FBI agents shot and killed a Utah man on Wednesday morning. The man had been under investigation by the Bureau over his social media posts which contained violent messages that mentioned President Biden and other officials. (WNG, Salt Lake Tribune)
A civil case brought against Antifa members by journalist Andy Ngo has found the defendants not liable for violently assaulting him. Conservative media recorded plenty of evidence of jury intimidation on the part of the defence, saying that the verdict sends a message to thugs that they face no consequence for violence. (Townhall, Center for American Liberty)
Former Minneapolis policeman Tao Thou has been sentenced to almost five years in prison for holding back a crowd of bystanders while his colleagues apprehended George Floyd. (USA Today)
Divers have found 32 cars in a lake in Miami-Dade, Florida. (USA Today)
More than 3,000 U.S. sailors and Marines arrived in Bahrain, in a bid to deescalate tensions with Iran. The soldiers will be used as armed security personnel aboard commercial ships in the Strait of Hormuz to deter Iran's attempts to harass and seize vessels in the strategic maritime passage. (Marine Insight)
Two U.S. navy sailors have been charged with selling military secrets to China. The men allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for information about "the defense and weapon capabilities of U.S. Navy ships, potential vulnerabilities of these ships, and information related to ship movement,'' according to the indictment. (CBS8)
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has requested that Washington D.C's top prosecutor investigate Dr. Anthony Fauci for allegedly "lying to Congress about his knowledge of US-funded coronavirus research in Wuhan, China, before the COVID-19 pandemic." (New York Post)
Newly-disclosed records allege that NIH big-wigs Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci recived "royalty payments from companies to license their inventions developed with taxpayer money", amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. (Just The News)
Makers of a new weight loss drug, Wegovy say trials show that it reduces risk of heart attack. (CBS News)
The FDA has approved a new drug to treat post-partum depression. (NBC News)
Researchers have developed an A.I. program which can guess a password by the sound of it being typed. (Daily Fetched)
Cyber security researchers recorded 100 hours of hackers performing a series of actions on "honeypot computers". (Tech Crunch)
Norway has warned Meta that it will be fined $100K per day for harvesting location and other data through its social media platforms without getting user consent first. (The Guardian)
A years-long anti-trust investigation into Amazon wrapped up last week, with observers expecting the Federal Trade Commission to launch a lawsuit against the e-commerce giant. Amazon dropped a lot of its in-house brands to help stave off scrutiny over its monopolizing position, but it may not be enough to prevent a froced break-up. (ArsTechnica, The Verge)
California’s Public Utilities Commission has approved a vast expansion of driverless taxi services throughout Los Angeles and San Francisco, despite concerns over public safety. In related news, the test driver of a self-driving Uber car has been charged for her involvement in a fatal collision. Rafaela Vasquez was distracted by her smartphone when the car she was in failed to detect a pedestrian. (Los Angeles Times, CNN)
Economy, banks and markets
Sam Bankman-Fried of collapsed crypto company FTX is facing jail time following fresh allegations of witness tampering. His bail has been revoked. (All Sides)
PayPal has launched its own stablecoin, pegged to the cryptocurrency Ethereum. (The Verge)
Oregonians will be allowed to pump their own gas since self-service was prohibited in 1951. Opponents of the change say that older and disabled drivers could be at disadvantage but service station owners trying to find staff post-covid seem pretty happy with the move. (Fortune)
Anheuser-Busch InBev has announced it will sell off several of its craft beer brands. The move comes the brewing giant "continues to navigate the controversy surrounding Bud Light. Following conservative boycotts earlier this year, Bud Light experienced a notable drop in sales." (VinePair)
Household credit card debt in America has reached $1T. (CNN)
Stories from far away
Lithuania has revoked the permanent residence permits of more than 1000 Russians and Belarusians, after deeming them a security risk. The Lithuanian government surveyed the group's views on Russia's war in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea. (ABC News)
The U.S. dispatched four warships last week to keep an eye on a flotilla of Russian and Chinese navy vessels. The group of ships stayed out of American territorial waters but sailed close to Alaska. (ZeroHedge)
A woman has been detained for questioning in Ukraine after a plot to assassinate President Zalensky was uncovered. (The Hill)
Ecuadorian presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio has been murdered on the campaign trail. "He ran on an anti-corruption platform and pledged to reduce tax evasion if elected." (WNG)
John Michael Jones Gets a Life is produced for Mad ⳩ Mondays by E. Darwin Hartshorn. Episodes can also be found on Tuesday, along with previous episodes, on Bunny Trail Junction at bunny-trail.com.
Quick Hits for the Eyebuds
🇦🇺 A boat race on a dry river?
🔍 Details you probably never noticed in famous logos
🐈 Stop, flop and roll: man greets neighborhood cats
🛁 We’ll just leave this here: Beer made using recycled shower water.
☄️ Photos from the Perseid meteor shower
🐿️ Tricking a squirrel into charging your phone
😍 Papier mache critters
🥇 America’s new favorite dog is a Frenchie!
Sweetness You May Have Missed
This Week Preached: No sermon this week!
Podcast Release: BHoP#155 The New Pioneers
Let us pray: Almighty and most merciful God, preserve us from all harm and danger that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish what You want done; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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