doubt.jpg
user
17/Mar/2020

Temptation rarely seems dangerous. Rather, it comes to us in the form of something appealing.
Let’s face it, though, do we really need to be told to act in our own best interest? Usually, the
wrong thing to do has the better advertising. It distracts us from our purpose… to be the best
version of ourselves. The complexities of life can seem overwhelming. Our modern temptations
come with excellent marketing but they really aren’t much different from those our earliest
parents faced.
We all know the Creation Story in the Bible and our beginning with Adam and Eve. They were
placed in the Garden of Eden by God with the instruction to cultivate and care for it. They have
full freedom except for one thing… they are not to mess with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil. This was the only law and outside of the law, there is no sin (Rom 4:14-15).
They were naked and felt no shame (Gen 2:25). The only law was obedience to this one
command and outside of that was absolute liberty.
Why this law? What’s so bad about knowledge that God would keep them from the tree that
would make them wise? Parents can agree that there is some knowledge that is best left for
maturity. Do we want our children to probe the complexities of adult relationships at an early
age or do we provide fairy tales and happy thoughts while they are young? There is nothing
wrong with human interactions… but there is a time and place for appropriate interactions. This
could be the case with our first parents. It’s not that God wanted them ignorant but that He
wanted them to trust Him as children (Matt 18:3). Once they knew of good and evil, they could
make choices for both (Deut 11:26)… and that’s an edge that’s easy to fall over. It was for their
own protection.
The Devil enters into this nursery with harmful intent. He knows what God has commanded
them and he wants them to disobey as he did. Does he outright tell them what to do? No. He
introduces doubt where there was trust, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the
trees in the garden’?” From that simple question, he laid a trap of logic… why should one tree
be any different from any other? If you can eat from all trees but one, what is different about
that one? Why is God such a meany? Eve answers that it is only the one tree and they would
die if they eat from it or even touch it. He’s ready to spring his trap, “You certainly will not die!
God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who
know good and evil.” The one who desired to be God himself and was thrown out of Heaven for
his sinful pride has now introduced doubt into God’s creation with the promise of godhood for
themselves. This is temptation, indeed! Do they obey God or become like Him?
Eve was tempted in all ways. She had a lust of the flesh in noting that the fruit was good for
food. She had a lust of the eyes in seeing how it was pleasing in appearance. She had the pride
of life in desiring to gain wisdom. Where God had commanded, the Devil had introduced doubt.
Could they trust what they were told or was God simply denying them something good for
them? How many times do we rationalize our own decisions the same way? We feel that

hunger in our bellies. We want what is beautiful to behold. If we don’t experience this pleasure,
we might miss out on the experience! We fail in the same ways our first parents did… for the
same reasons… and with the same results.
Immediately after taking the fruit, their eyes were opened (Adam was with her) and they
realized they were naked. It’s that the same feeling we feel after some illicit pleasure. Did
anyone see us? Can anyone know? We feel naked and exposed in our sinfulness. And God calls
out to us in our conscience as He called out for Adam in the Garden, “Where are you?” Does He
not know? Of course, He knows… He calls us to stand before Him in our nakedness and admit
our guilt. Adam was naked in the flesh before but now his nakedness is of the soul. God hasn’t
moved away from Adam. Adam has distanced himself from God in disobedience. We don’t
handle this now any better than our first parents as Adam doubles down on his problems. In
Adam’s denial, he is also confessing… “I was afraid because I was naked.” Was he really afraid
of God or was it that he feared what he himself had done? He was naked in his sin. He feared
what came next. He feared the punishment he knew he deserved.
God confronts Adam with his guilt, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you
to eat?” When we face our crime directly, we have a choice to make… be honest or seek a
deflection. Adam chose the latter and put it right back on God, “The woman whom YOU PUT
HERE WITH ME…”. Oh… ok. It’s God’s fault. If He hadn’t given me a loving companion, this
never would have happened. God’s blessings are never the cause of our sin (James 1:13). Our
sin comes from our fear… if I don’t do this now, I may never get the chance!
The narrative of the story is common to us today. When we face temptation, it begins with
doubt… eating my coworker’s donut won’t hurt, will it? We rationalize that donuts taste good,
they’re pretty, and I may not have the opportunity later so I should seize it now! Does it matter
to the story whether we’re talking about fruit, donuts, violence, or infidelity? All are forbidden
fruits in some way and all sin progresses similarly. When our conscience calls us to account, we
lie to ourselves, “it was just one time”… “it isn’t a big deal”… “everyone does it”… until we are
called out for it. “Did you take my donut?” Do we apologize or deflect? We tend to deflect, “Oh,
that was yours? Oops. You should have labeled it better.” It’s your fault.
God doesn’t make things complicated. We do. In the beginning, He gave our first parents a
simple instruction. They had full freedom except for one clearly defined prohibition. Today, we
also have clear instructions. The whole of the Law is encapsulated in two things: Love God with
our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we
allow doubt and fear to control our lives, we find ourselves restrained and unable to love. Love
is the antidote to fear. In love, we have the freedom to be the best version of ourselves.
The Devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Adam and Eve did die and
from the moment they disobeyed God. In their acquiescence to temptation, they doubted God
and His command. In disobedience, they sinned. In sin, it brought death by severing God’s
covenant relationship with them (James 1:14-15). It lead to physical death in the mercy of God.

God, as the author of life, knows us better than we know ourselves. What He tells us is true and
beyond doubt. We should focus our attention on His Will and Word in prayer, deny our lustful
flesh in fasting, and be attentive to the needs of others in almsgiving of our time, talents, and
treasures. In doing so, we will become the masters of temptation and live love, not fear.


user
14/Sep/2019

Our Lord faced a great deal of opposition in His day. It wasn’t because He was a bad person… quite the opposite. They hated Him for his goodness. They hated the Truth He personified. We understand in the age of the Church that He came to die for our sins on the cross… the leaders of His day just wanted Him dead because His Truth was obnoxious and threatening to them.

Wisdom 2:12 Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.

13 He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.

14 To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us,

15 Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.

16 He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father.

17 Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end.

18 For if the righteous one is the son of God, God will help him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.

19 With violence and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.

20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

It has always been that way. The spirit of lies in the world has always hated the Truth and those who speak it. Whenever the spirit of the world has authority, free speech is outlawed. Christians are not allowed to proselytize in Islamic lands. Catholics and Jews are murdered for their faith. “Polite society” isn’t allowed to discuss politics and religion. The end result is a disordered society where the Truth is never heard and interpersonal contact is stunted… by design. The Truth may be considered politically incorrect… but it is always correct.

Our First Amendment enshrines our God-given right to freely speak in the firmament of our laws. This isn’t the freedom to say what is approved–we don’t need laws to protect acceptable speech. Our Founding Fathers wanted to be sure we would always have the ability to speak our minds… and those who speak the Truth will always ruffle feathers and someone will take offense. In essence, our First Amendment protects our right to offend. That runs contrary to modern sensibilities.

The religious leaders in our Lord’s day sought ways to condemn Him. Since our Lord lived a perfect life, their only avenue was to find some way that they could charge Him with transgressing the laws of the religious authorities–their laws, not God’s. One method used repeatedly was our Lord’s works of mercy on the Sabbath. The religious leaders taught that nothing was to be done on the Sabbath… not even good works. What they missed was the whole purpose of their observance… they were supposed to be following God’s Will! Why observe the Sabbath at all except that it is God’s Will? Keeping the Sabbath holy isn’t just an exercise of inward reflection and self-denial, it is also an act of love. Through observance of the Sabbath, we express love for God and, by extension, to all of those made in His image and likeness. Can we not serve another in need?

Luke 6 On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?
” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored.

But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

In a modern world that tells us to keep our religion to ourselves, is it lawful to freely exercise our religion? We can’t shrink from the public sphere and expect the public to respect the Way of the Lord. The world falls into darkness when it no longer hears the light of Truth.


user
23/Aug/2019

Those who know me know that I really like superhero movies. A lot. When I was a kid, I watched Superman at least 50 times in a single Summer. I identify with him. He’s kind of the “speak softly” (Clark Kent) “and carry a big stick” (Superman) kind of guy. That’s me. Where most superheroes wear masks to conceal their human identity while they’re fighting crime, Superman’s mask is his human identity. He’s a fascinating character study… and it’s fun to imagine having his abilities.

What makes superheroes super? One obvious trait is their powers and skillsets are superior to normal human beings. Power itself doesn’t make them superheroes, though… the bad guys typically have comparable abilities for the heroes to overcome. The hero part is the unique trait. Who says the bad guys MUST be overcome? Who made it their job?

Heroes know right from wrong and must deal with the obstacles to doing what is right. This is the fun part for a comic book writer… coming up with the ultimate challenge for their character and then trying to write them through it. The comic book franchises test their characters repeatedly by putting bigger and more impossible obstacles in their paths. One thing a hero can’t do no matter how impossible the situation becomes?

Give up.

Those who don’t read comic books often assume they lack the depth of traditional novels. Perhaps the name conjures images of the Sunday funnies. Comic books are a genre of story-telling that is best described as graphic novels. There is depth in the characters and complexity to their interactions with the world. The characters are not just super, they have to deal with the consequences of their actions and identity. Some of these stories can be emotionally intense and some comic book titles have even earned literary awards.

The problem for movie studios? Fans already have a picture of their heroes ingrained in their memories. How can you match that image in a way that does justice to the fan’s interest and doesn’t come across as a live-action cartoon? Either listen to those who know the characters the best, the fans, or be a fan yourself.

Bringing comic book characters to the film industry has been a decades-long challenge for Hollywood studios. DC Comics hasn’t been able to successfully bring more than a trilogy together for any of their characters on the big screen. This is a sharp contrast to the Marvel side of the house. Marvel has been wildly successful in their recent offerings. What’s the difference?

Story-telling.

Both franchises have a rich history of stories but DC keeps starting over and trying to retell the same stories in new ways with new special effects and more drama. Each director adds a spin of their own and tries to remake the characters in their own vision. They refresh the characters with each iteration and show something new to existing fans. What they haven’t done well is listen to the fans. Batman keeps beginning and Superman keeps getting introduced to Lois Lane. When it doesn’t resonate, they start over again. They seem think comic book fans don’t want stories they love from the comics, they want something totally different. They don’t.

Marvel has been successful in translating their biggest story arcs to the big screen. They don’t keep rebooting, they move the story forward with situations and characters the fans recognize. They focus on the fans and their expectations. Their actors are encouraged to read about their characters in the comic books to understand their own mythology. Marvel has been so successful that the actors have become their characters to their fans. Can anyone argue that Robert Downey, Jr isn’t Iron Man, Chris Evans isn’t Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth isn’t Thor?

It’s that simple. Listen to the fans.

Marvel’s secret is telling the familiar stories in a familiar format and making the characters relatable from the comic books. The movies are made by comic book fans for comic book fans. Just like the comic books, each major character has their own title that comes together for the big issues they can’t handle individually–the Avengers movies. The studios have contracted with their starring cast for the anticipated number of movies in which they would appear. As the movies proved popular, they had big-name stars like Robert Redford and others requesting to be in them. Success breeds more success.

In the midst of the great stories, there is also great consistency. Kevin Feige, the Russo Brothers, and Jon Favreau had the overall vision and kept the plot moving forward through each character’s franchise. There are nods throughout to comic book fans’ expectations and Easter eggs hinting at upcoming story arcs. It was brilliantly conceived and exceptionally executed.

Spoilers beyond this point… you have been warned. If you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame, don’t read beyond this point.

The anticipation for Endgame was palpable. Avengers: Infinity War set up the impossible task for the heroes to overcome and fans were in a frenzy trying to figure how it would play out.

One theory I read online (written before the movie premiered) identified each Avenger with an Infinity Stone. There are six original Avengers and six Infinity Stones. The theory was that the Infinity Gauntlet was too much for any one of them so each would handle a stone in defeating Thanos.

That got me thinking about what actually occurred in the movie.

I noticed the directors actually did something similar to the theory above but with a different twist. The fate of each Avenger at the end of the movie can be related to an Infinity Stone.

Soul: This one is fairly obvious. Black Widow sacrificed herself so the heroes could attain the stone.

Time: Captain America is referred to as the “man out of time” throughout the series. At the end of this movie, he returns to his own time to live out the life he missed.

Space: Thor was meant to be king of Asgard after Odin died. Instead, he takes a different path and joins “the Asgardians of the Galaxy” in their return to space.

Power: Hulk is referred to often as “the strongest Avenger.” Using the Infinity Gauntlet left him wounded and weakened.

Reality: When Hawkeye lost his family, his reality changed. He became Ronin, an assassin. At the end of Endgame, he is able to return to his former reality when his family is restored.

Mind: The time heist was a product of the mind of Tony Stark. More than this, his armor allowed him to steal the stones from Thanos, bear them, and use them. His fate is due to the products of his mind.

I haven’t seen this theory anywhere else and I salute the brilliance of the writers for their story-telling skills. There is depth to the characters and meaning to their stories. They successfully brought the best attributes of comic books to the movies.


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"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." -- Thomas Jefferson
"The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; it is right [to do so].... There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man." -- G.K. Chesterton
"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time: the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." -- Thomas Jefferson
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?” -- Frederic Bastiat
"Although all men are born free, slavery has been the general lot of the human race. Ignorant—they have been cheated; asleep—they have been surprised; divided—the yoke has been forced upon them. But what is the lesson? ... the people ought to be enlightened, to be awakened, to be united, that after establishing a government, they should watch over it ... It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently free." -- James Madison
"Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery." -- Thomas Jefferson
"I respect ordinary thieves more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. (They) don’t insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better." -- Walter Williams
A democracy flirts with the danger of becoming a slave in direct ratio to the numbers of its citizens who work, but do not own / or who own, but do not work; or who distribute, as politicians do, but do not produce. The danger of the 'slave state' disappears in ratio to the numbers of people who own property and admit its attendant responsibilities under God. They can call their souls their own because they own and administer something other than their souls. Thus they are free." -- Archbishop Fulton Sheen
"A time will come when people will not listen to accurate teachings. Instead, they will follow their own desires and surround themselves with teachers who tell them what they want to hear." -- 2 Timothy 4:3
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