As a grandfather and a writer I know words are important. My grandson’s use of words is increasing rapidly, and he now expresses his desires in sentences instead of a baby’s cry. And when I write for the Focus my readers and I share a common language and understanding. My father-in-law was born with red-green color blindness and was once asked what red looked like to him. To his interlocutor (word of the week) he replied, “Well, what does red look like to you?” At some level understanding is experiential. As an example, each of us knows what a car is because we’ve all seen one.
You may not know it, but we’ve entered the liturgical season of Advent. Advent derives from the Latin word for arrival. Every year we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world two thousand years ago; and nothing has been the same since.
Unfortunately, we can also anticipate the seasonal rant of activists demanding that the religious aspect of Christmas be expunged from the Holiday Season. Perhaps these malcontents don’t realize that the word Christmas comes from the old English word for Christ’s Mass.
Words do mean something. Theism is a perspective which acknowledges the existence of God. If you put “a” before theism you get the word atheism, a perspective that denies the existence of God. Recently, I read an essay by a chaplain which appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. His credentials included a Master of Divinity as well as a Medical Doctor. However, what struck me was his self-described atheism. Yes, you read that correctly. This atheist serves a major hospital in New York City as a chaplain.
Existentialism is a perspective where the individual exists “in an unfathomable universe…and must assume responsibility for his actions without any certain knowledge of right or wrong.” Though the “chaplain’s” essay was well written, I felt pity for him (and his fraud), as he described his feelings of isolation during a liturgical holiday. Perhaps I was sympathetic because I once toyed with existentialism and agnosticism during my sojourn in the “far country” of the Prodigal.
If there is no standard of right or wrong, isn’t everything relative (relativism)? Can there be morality without an agreed upon standard? To measure a door frame I might use a yard stick, but I had better be sure I didn’t mistakenly pick up a meter stick as my standard of measure. I now ascribe to a perspective you might call absolutism because I believe in a perfect Creator as my standard measure of the ideal.
William James was an American philosopher and an atheist. He is credited with the school of pragmatism. James said that if there are two diverse perspectives, and there is no incontrovertible evidence that either is right, a rational man is free to choose the perspective that works best for him.
The Middle Ages was a time when truth came from faith (in God). The Age of Reason later argued that truth comes from rational thought and the scientific method of observation. We have come far in our understanding of the universe, but I believe we “know only in part,” as the philosopher Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13. Materialism holds that the universe is defined by what man knows. I believe this is a woefully incomplete definition of reality.
My medical partners used to smile at my observations of life, calling them Fergisms. Years ago I used some of the humorous stories in a Focus essay, but things seem more serious these days. In fact, I’m disturbed by the –isms of our day. Even Ferguson, Missouri, has come to Cumberland Avenue under the moniker of racism. Actually, the debate in Ferguson and across the nation is actually about observational facts verses emotion. I don’t know the details of the shootings of Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin, but other citizens looked at the evidence (the facts) and rendered verdicts. The alternative to the law is mob rule driven by emotion and a return to lynching.
How do you arrive at truth? Is truth determined by facts through observation and prayerful, conscientious analysis? Or have we devolved to the Middle Ages where faith in a political cause or a party determines our truth? I am concerned that power and its acolytes in the media are becoming the instruments of truth. They even justify the usurpation of liberty by stating we are too stupid to take care of ourselves and must be led to their promised land.
These days we find ourselves along the fault line between the great tectonic plates of Western Civilization and Islam, and at the edges of the colliding perspectives known as conservatism and progressivism (also known as modern liberalism). Please discard the names Republican and Democrat because these are antiquated terms and are mere facades of reality. Don’t listen to what they say, ask yourself why they say it.
Conservatism embraces the traditional way of doing things, though it remains open to measured changes over time. Progressivism is a catchy term that is actually more than one hundred years old. However, its modern incarnation embraces the radical, revolutionary and untested hope and change of Barack Obama. How’s that working out?
I welcome the Advent Season as a time to turn off the TV and the stodgy face of Mitch McConnell and deceitful face of Barack Obama. I don’t identify with either of them, their political parties or their quest for the Middle Earth Ring of Power. The quest for power destroyed the Gollum, Slinker, in Tolkien’s novel just as it is twisting Harry Reid into a human caricature.
Jesus came to earth to give us a new focus. I think God wanted us to have less fear of Him and more love, so He became a man to live among us and to show us a better way.
The Christian apologist C. S. Lewis said it best of Christ. In his “trilemma” Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or Lord. Even atheists admit there are no facts to show that Jesus was either of the former. He is therefore the latter, and the reason for the season.