Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thinking About Thinking


One of the perks of working a monotonous job is the ability to reflect. Not many people have time to dwell inside their mind. Not many people understand the person they claim to be best acquainted with: themself. We take this idea for granted actually, yet many ancient philosophers were definitively convinced that the key to understanding much about life, is to deliberately meditate upon your individual purpose in the cosmic epic, unfolding daily around us. 

Know thyself.

Such a strange concept in a world in which we desperately wish others to know us. We are so focused on attaining a stamp of approval from our peers, and much of the person we've created to  secure this coveted approval, is actually a mere reflection of (what we believe) others wish to see. This caricature is not our true self, at least not all of our self.

This is the vital nature of self-reflection. The essential quality it possesses which makes it as necessary to our soul as food and water are to our physical being. 

I have much time to sit inside this solitary space at the job I work, and some of my best thoughts have come from this space. Some of my boldest desires, and most profound ambitions have been cultivated in the space of quiet, surrounded by the hum of heavy machinery.

I am convinced that we are a generation abandoned. Many will blame our parents for abandoning us. Some will blame society, politicians or economic theories. Some will blame generations past. 

It's simple to find people to carry the burden of blame for us, far easier than owning up to the fact that the single greatest abandonment has been the abandonment of our souls. 

We've traded a rich life of understanding for shallow commodities and comforts. We accept other thoughts unquestioningly, instead of scrutinizing and creating our own. 

We are afraid to know the true person within because our beauty is terrifying and our ugliness must be faced. It's a great paradox really. The fact that we have such difficulty accepting our true beauty, yet think that we are so highly of ourselves that we render ourselves unable to examine the darker parts of our souls.

Yet, if we are to fully heal, it is to this place we must return. To denounce our abandonment and accept our responsibility to fully know our self. Our purpose. Our duty. We must know why we exist and strive to live accordingly instead of squandering the precious moments we've been given.

This is why we must meditate.

This is why we must reclaim that quiet place inside our mind.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thoughts On Final Fantasy in the Windy City

The hum of the multitude fills the veranda, excited chatter, indistinct conversations, like the sound of a colony of bees in full production mode it envelops me. I see faces very young, old and everything between and smiles abounding; it seems that tonight's festivities hold a universal appeal. I see many in their finest clothes, sweaters, scarves, boots, dress pants, ties and the like. I see others in cosplay, they aren't difficult to pick out, pinpoints of color awash in a sea of proper black and white standard dress. I see pink hair, blue hair, and white hair alike, characters from world's I've never known manifested right before my very eyes. This group smiles the most frequently, and the most fully. 

The storied venue, beautiful and rotund, shows off the elegant trim lacing the balcony sporadically accented at points with clusters of warm, glowing lightbulbs. The stage stands strong carrying the weight and dignity of many decades worth of performers, while a great chandelier hovers above the milling multitudes gradually streaming in to find their seats, a timeless sentinel which has presided over many a show. 

On the stage, musicians pluck and tweak their instruments. Always diligently pursuing that elusive specter of excellence, only to have it vanish upon their arrival, reappearing further ahead and beckoning seductively to the pursuant. It is a fruitless quest they find themselves in, yet it is a noble one as well, the spirit of excellence always propelling them to overcome life's natural inertia, driving them forward into the unknown, raising them above the others who have resigned themselves to mediocrity.

Everyone is dressed sharply on stage. Dark dresses, flowing to the ankles of the women. Shirts are freshly starched, bold whites contrasting deep blacks, every gentleman with a neat bow tie, shoes catch the gleam of the sentinel from above, and display their shine. 

We take our seats and the lights dim.

Out from the darkened side stage emerges the Concert Master. He initiates the tone which allows the musicians to undo all their prior tweaking. The rich washes over the audience. At first disparate, the product of many autonomous instruments, as it continues the disparate quality diminishes as the tone becomes one. One solid note. Now they are ready...

No more than a minute after the Concert Master takes his seat, our Conductor comes forth from the wings, graciously acknowledging the applause. He bows, then waits as the noise peters into nothing. An electric, anticipatory silences now charges the room, this is the moment we've been waiting for. The conductor stands alone elevated above the crowd, before a dark stage which is dimly lit by one hundred musicians' music lights. He is the one has the next two hours of our lives in his hands, this is his stage, his moment to release the tension which has been building to the point, and release it he does...

With a flick of his baton we are immersed in the worlds that those characters from the lobby has stepped forth from. The music hits with the force of a prizewinning boxer, strong and powerful. A screen above the stage displays dazzling visuals of lands unknown, and stories untold to me. I allow the music to lift me into its flow, this flow is immensely volitaile one minute caressing my ears with a hauntingly beautiful melody, the next angrily assaulting them with the sound of an epic battle theme, and I love every minute.

The drama unfolds, tales of the good there once was, of innocence and light, shattered by darkness, tales of the evil and powerful advancing while the good look on helplessly, tales of despair and longing for things to be right again, tales of emerging heroes seemingly weak, yet defying all odds and overcoming the foreboding power brokers who have enskaved the world.

Love. 
Loss.
Friendship.
Enmity.
Tragedy.
Ecstasy.
Life.
Death.
Rebirth.

The music tells a story words could only hope to mimic. It speaks to my core, my soul. It dawns on me that the reason for this is because these stories aren't simply the product of some fantasy world. These stories are our story. Continually admonishing us to find the hero who lurks within us. To rise when all seems lost, and when we think that we have been forsaken. These stories inspire us to live boldly in the face of adversity and to discover within us the power we all hold, the power to make real substantive change in a decaying world.

Fantasy can help us to identify that which we've lost sight of in our very own life. Too often we buy the lie that the only epics are those in the books, games or songs, all the while ignoring our very own story unfolding before our very eyes. The makers of this particular Fantasy, I think, would wish their fans to know that this is our story. That we have a part to play standing up to the rampant darkness, which runs free in the world. That even the smallest of us is, as Marianne Williams would say, 'powerful beyond measure'.

The music slows now, the ending is near, I can feel it, my soul has soared in the highs, ached in the lows, despaired in the darkness, and learned, once again, the meaning of hope in the rebirth. The challenge now is to take this experience from this venue. To understand that this wasn't simply a fantasy, but the truest reality. We all have a story to live, and our pages are limited, so what will we make of that story?

Final note. Cutoff. Applause.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What Do YOU Believe?

Such a simple question. I bet any number of things come to mind when one hears that question. Belief is such a convienence to us in the Western world. It's a commodity. It is something we merely use as an accessory. It's a way to identify with people we love and hate. It's a litmus test for friendships. It's something we wear as profoundly as our cars wear bumper stickers.

The simple, standard definition of belief is simply, 'a state of mind, which one holds,  in which the individual believes something to be the case without any empirical evidence'. 

Belief is easy. Mustering the conviction to act according to principle is difficult.

See, we can believe all kinds of things to be true, and belief (of holding to the above definition) can facilitate this process, because it is fluid. 

But to actually hold a belief, this, my friends, is when simple faith becomes conviction. This is what our society lacks. Conviction to act.

This is why I cannot take people seriously when they claim Christianity. Hell, I don't even think I can take myself seriously when it comes to that anymore.

True belief is supplemented by action. This conviction to act according to principles allows for consistency, this belief is not simply a novelty when things are going smoothly, but remains still when all is looking hopelessly bleak. 

You see, when it comes to something like religion, discussing the eternal things, claiming faith and allegiance to a deity, without any sort of need to demonstrate this conviction, belief is simply an empty statement. If you aren't willing to bet the whole farm on something, you probably don't believe in it that strongly. 

Instead, Christians have this nice sounding "Jesus is my personal savior and lives in my heart", "It's ok, God is just love and loves everybody" doctrine, which is accompanied by "I'm a sinner, you're a sinner, so I have no right to judge anyone or say anything that might offend" mentality. By doing this, this religion becomes completely subjective to the individual, thus negating its central tenant. Self-sacrifice. We don't make "the rules" this belief is simply predicated on whether or not one will submit...

Furthermore, if Christians in our day and age truly, I mean truly believed they carried the words of God wherever they went, then they certainly would actually know what is in between the leatherbound covers. Alas, there is no such sense of urgency.

All this to say, it is one thing to claim you believe in something or someone, it is another thing to live and act as if you do.

Erase

At some point you look in the mirror, and you realize how utterly pointless everything is. Sometimes the fight is too exhausting. Sometimes you just find yourself overcome by numbness. Sometimes you find yourself becoming painfully aware of all your shortcomings. The things you've tried to embrace and failed, repeatedly, at. You look at those sunny days, when everything seemed on the up and up, and wonder how the fuck you went wrong. How you ended up locked inside the cage of your mind, alone, completely isolated. Those bright-lit uplands a seeming eternity away. You see the darkness that permeates every facet of this state of detention we find ourselves in, living here in this place. You begin to wonder what sort of a fucking God could love us enough to banish us to this quickly fading scrap of rock, dwarfed in the midst of the cosmos. 

Pills don't fix it.
Drugs don't fix it.
Trying harder sure as hell doesn't fix it, in fact, the harder you try the greater the pushback. 
Try to do good in the world and you will be pushed down. Try to share your dream with another only to realize they know nothing of your soul, and you're left wounded again.

The only answer seems to be mediocrity. The unremarkable. Resignation and subjugation to the system. Be a good little man, don't cross any lines, keep your mouth shut and punch that clock.

Each punch like a ticking time bomb, the tension of monotony building within. The hatred, the anger. The inner rage at being confined, yet exhaustion, because you know you have no fight left. You pass through the motions, muster a smile where necessary, and let the numbness take hold. Numbness is better than feeling.

Always will be. 

I wonder, if anyone ever happened to read these words someday, if they'd be saddened by this pathetic fucking existence. The most unremarkable, insignificant story likely ever told.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Defect

The changing of seasons are a visual manifestation of my mind. I've written about seasons in the past. I've written about struggles of the mind. I find the natural illustration perpetually fascinating though, as well as the propensity for the broken to desperately wish that these seasons weren't as predictable as the fluctuations of the mind.

I think that it is natural to want to be whole. To desire to wake up one day and be free from feeling defective. That feeling of being constantly just out of sync and the yearning to fully align, just once. I think that the warmer months can instill an illusory sense of optimism, the belief that, just once, normal is a possibility.

Yes, I know we all carry our baggage, we all wear scars of the past or carry some sort of secret, but those are things which may, hopefully, be put right some day. The mind would be freed to move on, and focus on living, rather than to remain in a regular state of brokenness. Yes, this particular struggle can be remedied with pharmaceuticals, but in their absence the alignment once again becomes twisted, and the symptoms of the greater illness return. It will never be remedied one hundred percent. It will never leave on its own.

Religion, drugs, relationships, hobbies, and causes, these are all ways in which that weight can be alleviated, but at the end of the day one has to be prepared to face what lurks in the moments of idleness. The moments that can't be avoided as a human being. The moments of stillness when the rush of life settles, much as a cloud of dust, and one is confronted, clearly with that defective place within. The thing that only a god could fix, if a god even cared enough about us to do so.

So with the passing of the seasons, into the cold, numbness, brings with it the isolation. The quiet. The stillness that haunts me with all the ghosts of the past, blowing in and out of focus, much like sheets of snow drifting across the roads. The icy tendrils of paralysis, apathy, anger, sadness and contemplation of failures creep back into the picture. Each vying for prominence. Each set to torment if I will, simply allow it.

This is why energy becomes so little in the dead, grey months. Because it takes everything I have to battle these forces.

But...

This is why I still believe that there is a God, and not simply a presence of something greater, but a true, loving God of some kind; prior to, what I believe to be, my experience with this being, I used to be crushed beneath the dark waves that would swell up each spell of winter. I saw no hope or purpose. No end to the pain, and darkness that would envelop my person. That has changed since.

Many people may attribute human strength and characteristics to these shifts. Perhaps the brain has stabilized beyond the volatile juvenile stages. Perhaps its maturity, or different coping skills. Perhaps its the quality of people we surround ourselves with, or better drugs.

I don't believe that. I am still profoundly aware of my brokenness. I am profoundly aware of my desire for isolation, and to live alone with this. Yet, for all my desire to bear it alone, I've never been alone since. I know that I don't make it because my personal strength is so admirable, it has failed in the past, several times. I know, for a fact, that my ability to see hope in the future, and to bear the weight of things, is not my own. That it is there to remind me that there is beauty as well as pain. New mornings coming forth from the darkest nights. The contrast in these promises, as well as the visual paintings we witness every year with the changing of the seasons lead me to believe that these feelings are not simply a product of chance or counseling. They aren't an accident, and also play into the larger metaphor for the short period of time you and I are allotted in this life.

The idea that there is much to live for is one that propels us forward, forever curious about the part we are destined to play in this tragic place. I know, to the very core of my being that that is not an accident.

There are many stories yet to write and many memories to make. There is a brave and bold tomorrow waiting to be shared, if you will simply retain the courage to believe you will make it through the night, and with help beyond that of ourselves, I believe that we can make it out alive.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Defiant Submission

Have you ever felt that you were meant to do something? Not just the typical "to-do" list, but something more akin to the feeling of destiny? 

Something that stirs within you day and night. Something that when you pursue floods your very being with life. Something that others can't relate to. Something that causes anxiety, restlessness, even depression when you feel you're being held back from doing it?

Do you see those around you, even those closest to you, smile encouragingly when you speak about this thing, but you know that they can't even fathom the depths of your urgent passion? They simply smile politely and wait till you've exhausted yourself on the subject, then proceed to talk about the mundane. The unimportant bullshit which consumes 97% of human interaction, the insignificant, pointless issues that keep humanity entertained and carefree. The unsubstantial dialogue which wastes our breath daily, as we burn the wick of our life's candle wastefully, melting down the crucial limited time we have been given.

All the while humanity makes the same mistakes over and over. Isn't that the very definition of insanity? Repeatedly engaging in a particular behavior yet expecting different results?

All the while your soul screams to be free. To live the way you were meant to live, and to break the chains which bind you to the monotony of resigned existence for existences sake.

Oh well, break's done, better get back to work.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Socialist Jesus

There is a tendency amongst the atheist, humanist, secularist demographic to paint the founder of the Christian Faith as a socialist. This is, in and of itself, fascinating since this demographic tends to reserve most of its vitriol specifically for religion, deeming it the disease of the world and longingly desiring a world free of it.

Many maintain, and I agree, that religion is a man made construct which is often warped and twisted to consolidate power, and exert control over the masses. 

Preach!

So what is this fascination with the actual figure revered by those faithful they outwardly despise? Could it be that perhaps Jesus is really, truly compelling to the atheist, secularist or humanist? Could it be that perhaps they see that the nature of God is often distorted by the hopelessly well-intentioned (or not), yet fatally flawed adherents to this religion?

Or is this simply a tactic used by the Leftist political movement to convert new disciples into their agenda? Is it a way of manipulating a largely ignorant body of faithful into worshippers for the altar of Marx? 

I can't say what every motivation may be for those who, though they have very little interest in Christianity, are suddenly using the Bible and the figure of Jesus to prop up socialist theory, however, I do feel as though the claim is easily refutable and must be addressed.

Firstly, I'd like to note the irony of this position. The typical accusation leveled against the Christians, and a legitimate one at that, is that they simply mold Jesus into their culture. They lambast Republicans, gun owners, property owners among others for not examining, and living to the letter Jesus' actual teachings.

Yet herein lies the irony to claiming Jesus as a proponent of socialism. Those who do fall into exactly the same trap as those they despise. They dress the Christ up in a poncho, have him smoking a blunt, blessing LGBT weddings and talking about income inequality. All modern political issues. So this hippie, zen philosopher Jesus is really no better than the gun toting, NRA loving, Republican voting Jesus.

He is yet another product of humans who wish to justify everything they believe, because when your beliefs are given the thumbs up by God there's no reason to question their substance, or to cause inner contemplation of change.

Secondly, when atheists and the like give "evidence" to support these claims they also do exactly the thing they despise American Christians for doing: they cherrypick different biblical texts to support their agenda, while ignoring others that don't. Isn't this the height of hypocrisy? I totally get the anger at Christians for not understanding their faith, and drawing proofs out of context, but to do the very same thing and claim moral superiority over the "poor, stupid, ignorant religious people", isn't that in a way worse? 

Thirdly, it's important to understand what is meant by socialism. Socialism is an intermediary form between a non-communist society, and a communist one. It is characterized by some industries being publicly owned (owned by the government) and other elements of the market owned privately. Socialism always gives way to Communism, because the nature of power is that it grows. Communism and it's near twin brother, Fascism, are both systems of governance which have brutalized, abused, exploited mankind throughout the last two centuries, moreso than any other ideology. These systems are alike, though they differ slightly; where Fascism generally demands worship of a particular leader, Communism demands worship of an icon, that is, the state. Jesus wants nothing to do with the worship of political ideology.

When individuals cherrypick sayings of Jesus and use them to justify a particular political system they severely undermine the entirety of His message and purpose, that is, to show you and I the way of God. 

Some political mechanisms are derived as a way to safeguard man against his fellow man, this is due to the defect in our basic human nature, which innately desires to commit evil against our brothers and sisters. Other political mechanisms are designed to hold factions under the control of a particular group. Some political mechanisms are predicated on utopian ideologies. Marxism is a utopian ideology. 

All political systems fall short of being able to contain the purpose of God.

See, if we begin to believe that Jesus was a "socialist", then socialism becomes the end to which we strive, not faith in God. Jesus, as a result, simply becomes a human contrivance which is readily available to all who wish to create their own paradise. This is completely and utterly contrary to the core of the Christian story, and the failures of this belief system are prevalent throughout the late 1800s to our present era.

The authoritarianism which big governmental systems promote demand an allegiance that is at odds with the message of Jesus, who preached the citizenship of Heaven and loyalty to the Kingdom of God.

The Christian story isn't one of humans creating a human-made utopia through our own wisdom. The arrogance of this assumption is astounding, not to mention that it goes against every lesson chronicled in our past. 

The Christian story is about the brokenness of humanity. It is about rebellion and a cost that must be paid for that rebellion. It is about self-renunciation, and living submitted to a benevolent dictatorship. It is about realizing that God, not man, is the only remedy to a decaying world.

The reason that God isn't concerned about politics is that He understands that the problem which resides within humanity isn't about finding the "right" social formula. 

The problem is our heart. 

In our hearts we carry seeds of hate, envy, greed, jealousy, anger, lust, and every other imaginable vice. Which seeds bloom depends on our disposition, but none are immune to this defect.

No law will correct this. No human contrivance will heal this. This is an issue between our Creator and ourselves.

Today, sadly, many want Jesus to align with their ideology, this is true with the current idea of Jesus being a socialist. It's easier for people to handle if God conforms to them, rather than to stomach the realization that we were created to conform to God. 

They'd rather have a "quick fix" to the problems of the world, and for many the government is as good as God when it comes to achieving this end. 

They wish to keep doing the depraved things they do, free of the conviction to change, so the focus then shifts to the external factors. Because identifying yourself as the problem is far more difficult than blaming someone else. You and I see this every day in society.

Self-control is difficult when it comes to sex, so let's normalize promiscuity!

Saving money isn't easy, so let's create credit so I can get whatever I want, whenever I want and pay later!

Parenting is hard, let's make the public schools do the job parents ought to be doing.

And on and on it goes.

I believe this is the underlying reason secularists have rallied under the banner of this fabricated religious icon. With "Jesus" endorsing their ideology they can move forward living however they wish to live, free of the convicting voices who articulate a different kind of message from God. 

"We are the problem."

At the end of the day, the whole text matters and the entire narrative is essential. Anything less and we've done ourselves, and those we influence, a great disservice.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Purpose

It's a curious thing, purpose. Something so vital, yet so rarely deliberated on. Doesn't the whole of this existence beg the question of purpose? Doesn't each breath stir the contemplative curiousities lying within? Have you ever witnessed something so utterly beautiful or something swaddled in tragedy and examined the instant quest to discover purpose. A reaction so intermingled with our very fiber of existence it passes as quickly as a shallow breath?

Do we exist merely to exist, or is there purpose yet for you and I? Are we the concoction of fatalistic chance or characters in a dazzling, dramatic epic?

You must decide this for yourself, however we must make one allowance to reach the point of decision.

You must allow yourself to be free enough to simply ask. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Cycle

"By willing endurance we cause suffering to pass. Evil becomes a spent force when we put up no resistance. By refusing to pay back the enemy in his own coin, and by preferring to suffer without resistance, the Christian exhibits the sinfulness of contumely and insult. Violence stands condemned by its failure to evoke counter-violence.

The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from that passion in our own lives?" 

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Periodically, I will encounter a book so completely engaging that I won't be able to stop referencing it, or the author, for several weeks (much to my wife's chagrin). The aforementioned quote is one such piece of literature, a Christian classic which, until just recently, I hadn't had the privilege to read.

My reading patterns recently are quite whimsical, and this has prompted me to lug a book bag (literally an entire bag of books, notebooks and highlighters) along with me to my workplace. One day I could be enthralled by the writings of Madison, Hamilton and Jay, and the very next I could be completely unable to focus on that subject matter, but will be drawn, as strangely akin as moth to flame, to a completely different topic whether it be religion, or philosophy or leisurely reading.

I have zero method, and to be quite honest, it's a pain in the ass (as well my back) to haul a book bag with at least four reading projects in progress lying within. Lately it's been Bonhoeffer though, and I think it's because I feel drawn to his charisma and action in a time, much like today, Bonhoeffer displayed character and indomitable will that has rarely been seen, and is quite foreign to those of us in America today.

Bonhoeffer was an outspoken critic of Hitler, one of the few courageous souls who chose to dissent though it cost him everything, even his life. This kind of conviction eludes us in our present era, though the cultural circumstances we find ourselves in the midst of continue to dog mankind. 

In a culture of a depreciating currency, an uninformed voting class, a populace whose adherence to religion is merely a label passed from parent to child, cronyism and an increasingly secular state the space in which demogogues not only find their roots, but flourish, is vast. The tyrant breeds and discovers his strength in the midst of chaos and fear, and our nation is no exception to the rule. 

When tyrants rise, prosperity declines, and hardship is foisted upon the people in the name of civic duty, and this duty continues to be leveraged against them until they have no spirit of their own. They exist for the subsistence of the State and its ends. Period. No exceptions. 

What I want to offer you today, however, is an idea which is challenging. The idea of destroying the Cycle of Hate. By hatred I refer to a legitimate loathing of another human being. Sometimes, a word can be used so often that it loses its potency. In our culture today, the word hate is used so frequently that it has become synonymous to disagreement. 

The common argument runs something like this:"You disagree with me, therefore you hate me, I can't believe that you'd be such a close-minded, intolerant, hateful person for holding such a view."

This is the nature of discourse in our public, as well as virtual, square today. This idea, if it is to be believed, is actually quite dangerous as dissent is not simply an accessory, but a hallmark characteristic of a free People. 

The Utopians dream of a world in which all are accepted and no judgement is passed, provided (of course) that what is accepted doesn't contradict their idea of a fair, just and kind world. This isn't the Utopian's fault, of course, because this is simply man's natural defect at play in the world which, as we know, is riddled with imperfections due to this inherent flaw.

However, the Utopians do carry fault insofar as they perpetuate the Cycle of Hate due to their unwillingness to acknowledge the defect of Man. Optimism does have its faults, and unrelenting optimism faithfully entrusted to a naturally flawed being, who has shown its inadequacies historically, is fatal to what little progress has been made throughout the whole of human history toward the tangible freedom of the individual. 

As Christians, our objective is different than that of the Utopian. A Christian understands that the natural flaw of man isn't within our power to remedy; we must realize that our true purpose is to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man, and that this relief will come at our expense through sacrificial action. Many may struggle with this notion, but the entire premise of Christianity is that the follower of Jesus has been rescued at the highest of cost, this leaves the disciple graciously indebted to his rescuer. Or to put it another way, we are not our own. Our entire self is spoken for. 

We live in a tragic world, and yet despite the darkness we face every single day we can see altruism illustrated more clearly because of that darkness. This isn't an accident. Despite the brokenness of the world there is opportunity for those who wish to share God with others to visibly magnify his cause to those who haven't personally encountered Him. 

No political program, NGO initiative, or method of "higher thought" will remedy the problems that so entwine our being. There is only one who could remedy that. We can't place our faith in a manufactured construct. So often we get lost in a cause and forget our reason for the cause. The cause becomes God. The cause itself is transformed into the world's new savior.

This is why our churches in America are spiritually dead. We have created a science, a business formula, for a successful "church" complete with life-changing programs that address every aspect of human struggle. The more invested one becomes in this entity, this organism, the better their chances of being "fixed". Thus, we have stolen the mantle of the Savior and his sacrifice and placed it upon the altar of self sufficiency.

Evil advances easily under these circumstances, because being a savior was a job never given to us and, quite frankly, we are no good at it. As a final result, evil twists the worldview of Christians who have allowed the coup d'etat of their rightful King and replaced it with human ideology, and uses them as vehicles for perpetuating the Cycle of Hate.

One of Bonhoeffer's most profound points so far, is the concept of the Christian forfeiting all for the sake of Christ. It's true that doctrines may give lipservice to this concept, but the abstract is as far as the sacrifice goes. This is why church attendees aren't different, they don't stand out as someone who follows Jesus. If someone truly followed Jesus it would be quite obvious because his or her actions would so radically differ from what is accepted by society at large.

Take, for instance, the concept of personal rights. If Bonhoeffer is to be believed, and Jesus truly desired followers destitute of all but Himself, then Christians would not be seen clinging to political protections which they are "owed" by society. They would have no need of a gun, because Jesus didn't endorse vengeance or even self defense. They wouldn't need their lawyer, because the way of Jesus doesn't play ball with the world's methods of conflict resolution. An American Christian wouldn't require titles or property rights because these are things that are the property of all men, even the exploitative.

Yet, it seems that the church in this country is determined to have its cake and eat it too. It seems determined to assimilate into the world, all the while claiming piety. It is determined to love Jesus with everything it has, that is...when it's convenient. This is why being a disciple of Jesus, in Bonhoeffer's view, is so difficult. This is why it is so exceptionally rare.

This brings me to my last point. This really was the initial point of the post, but it seems that the late hour and an active mind have taken me on a prolonged detour. At any rate, it seems to me that the nature of Hate is perpetuated through disconnectedness. Hatred, genuine hatred and not simply disagreement, is bred from a self-centered worldview. The hateful person has no interest in another person unless they are of some utility to them, if they have no utility then that person becomes expendable in the hateful individual's eyes. 

It is my experience that empathy is an embedded characteristic in humanity's DNA, but empathy requires interaction to be enabled. Hearing another's story, learning about their situation, their upbringing, their family, all these things cause us to begin sifting through the information, subconsciously of course, and we naturally begin to align ourselves with the ways in which we are similar.

I was reading an article today about a former white supremacist who was interviewed by a black man. Why did the skinhead leave the culture of hatred he was immersed in? He became a father. The love he had for his daughter disrupted his anger. What was this man's connection with a black reporter? Fatherhood. The bond they shared as fathers, carrying the weight, anxiety and joys of parenting, transcended the hatred this man had for his imterviewers race. They saw each other as human beings first.

I own a shirt created by a local printing company. It has a circular design on it  that says: "Hate Creates Fear, Fear Creates Hate".

I find this to be utterly true. Fear causes distance between people. Distance is disconnect. Disconnect allows for broad based assumptions to take precedence over actual fact. It relieves us of our duty to know the truth before issuing condemnation. This is why governments favor a polarized public. A divided, angry electorate is far more likely to acquiesce to political ploys for power gained at the expense of a marginalized segment of society. People who are afraid for their safety will allow their freedom to be taken in the name of safety. History has shown this repeatedly.

Knowing someone different than yourself dispels the prejudice derived from ignorance and fear. When I was a part of the campus ministries at Oshkosh I couldn't understand why no one would attend non-Christian clubs or events. We would meet once a week, then have bible study and talk about how rotten the world was, and how we would stand for our faith but it all took place in a theoretical realm. There was no action. We were living for comfort, not for a Christ.

When I began attending the LGBT club meetings with two other "renegades" immediately I felt that fear, that aversion which is so common in the political arena, begin to dissipate. I didn't say much, I wasn't a "good witness", I simply listened to story after broken story. I heard much about pain experienced by those in attendance, and the feelings of isolation. This experience taught me that there is far more to pursuing Jesus than simply showing off how many Bible verses you can quote, or how frequently you attend your small group. 

It was challenging. It was saddening to hear the hurt. It was convicting to hear the damage done by those who claim Christ. The vast majority of those in campus ministries will never experience that. They will huddle in their safe zones and act persecuted because people dislike their perceived pretentiousness.

The Cycle of Hate will continue to spin if you and I choose to engage in the tactics that are common to the world. We will fail if we hide from those who disagree and challenge us. We will fail if we treat our fellow Man as a combatant rather than a companion on this shared journey. We will fail if we cling to things, and status as defined by society. 

The revolutionary nature of Jesus is that it defies the normative thought, and embraces what seems to be nonsensical to those who don't know Him. If we refuse to repay evil with evil the Cycle of Hate will fail, and we will be victorious.