We the People

God Bless The United States of America.

God Bless The United States of America.

 

“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” The U.S. Constitution

On July 4th we the citizens of The United States of America are celebrating our countries 239th anniversary. As countries go, we aren’t by any stretch of the imagination the oldest governed country in the world. There are actual populated cities on this earth that are far older. But for what we may lack in age and maturity, we certainly make-up with in brashness, can-do spirit, and audacity. Is that good? I don’t know, any perspective less than a hundred years old I immediately consider suspect at best.

Regardless of my nation’s sometimes bloody, sometimes noble, sometimes idiotic, sometimes unfair, and sometime brilliant past or present, I do love my home and nation – warts and all. Our US flag stands for a great deal, some bad, but so much more that is good.

Consider how many people from around the world would move to the US at the drop of a hat. Think of all our Latin American neighbors sneaking in against or laws and policies because they would rather live here than their own nations. I work at a University and meet many students from other nations who would rather stay here than go back to their own nations as their academic careers draw to a close. Many struggle to stay, some are not so successful.

No matter what people may think of the United States of America, it is for me the most wonderful place to live in the world. If you were born in a different place and take offense at my statement, I truly hope you love your home as much as I love mine. My wish for you is that you will work hard to make your nation a great and a wonderful place to live.  As for me, I will endeavor to help my home maintain our national identity as “one nation under God, indivisible with justice for all.”

Is our country perfect? What does perfect mean anyway? Is their room for improvement, absolutely.  But if we don’t learn to work together and face our difficulties with civility and respect, the alternative will always be bleak.

 

Name one thing you love about your home in the United States and one thing you would change for the better.

 

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The Genre of Horror: Let’s Talk About It.

Scary Young Girls Face On Halloween Day

 

For many Christians, the idea that horror literature could be legitimate as an expression of faith and love sounds like heresy. After all, how can someone that claims to serve the God of peace and love purposely intend to terrify people? I mean, isn’t intentionally scaring people some kind of sin, or if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Those questions are valid and move this discussion from mere literature into theology.  When you consider The King James Bible has 71 instances where there is a command to “Fear not.” The idea of frightening people seems antithetical to the basic tenants of the gospel.

Any student of Church History understands clergy have been scaring people into the Kingdom of God for centuries, does that make it right? No one’s figured that out yet. One of the most noted and famous sermons preached from our side of the 16th century is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That sermon is as much a horror story as any Stephen King novel. More important, the sermon underscores the one aspect of God that people seem to forget. Life apart from God is a life of misery and loss.

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Going to Hell is everyone’s right of choice and God doesn’t mind accommodating anyone’s desire to spend eternity out of his presence. For many of us believers the idea of being apart from God, now that we have tasted his love and generosity, is terrifying. Remember Christ’s words on the cross when the full judgement of the world’s sin came upon him, and his true parent turned his back to look away from the only Begotten of God?  Jesus said,  “My  God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s pure abandonment and fertile ground for the horror genre.

Horror is as much apart of the Bible as faith and blessing. Consider the beggar Lazarus wanting to warn his family about the judgement waiting for them and is told “no.”

Many people consider that horror is only about frightening people.  Who wouldn’t think that when looking at pictures of Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, or watching a long list of movies made for the sole purpose of shocking and terrifying audiences. What people don’t realize is that horror isn’t strictly about scaring people.

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Horror explores important topics like hubris, monsters, the unknown and our responses to things we don’t understand. This genre, when done well, allows us to explore our own darkness from the safety of our favorite chair. Some of my favorite horror stories such as  The Birthmark by Hawthorne, or Frankenstein by Shelly, or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe deal with the topics of unforgivable sin and hubris. These dark tales aren’t grossly gory, but they are entertaining and cautionary in nature.

Horror can also deal  with hope, redemption, acceptance and love. Don’t believe me? Read the stories I mentioned and decide for yourself. Of course not all horror is good or even entertaining. Some of it is genuinely awful, but that’s true of all the other genres too.

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There are those tender hearts out there that say,  “Fear is always bad.” To that response I’d  say fear as an emotion isn’t intrinsically a bad thing.

My family owned land and horses in Southeastern Washington State. It’s very arid and dry and home to rattle snakes, scorpions, millipedes, and a few other venomous creatures, Bringing the horses in from pasture could be an adventure as it sometimes brought me face to face with this innocuous little rattle from the tall grass or from beneath a sage brush. That little sound could make my heart stop, not to mention my feet.

I would turn around, and go back the way I came, why? Because I stood a good chance of getting bit by the thing making that sound.Was I afraid? Yes, but in a good way that kept me from harm.

Before we dismiss all instances of fear as ungodly. Let’s not forget that running away from temptation because we fear entanglement is completely encouraged. (1 Cor 6:18, 1 Cor 10:14, 1Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22).

There are things that should genuinely should frighten us, like hardening our own hearts to compassion, kindness, and the leading of God’s Spirit. We should always fear injustice, bigotry, and genocide. The violence of Fergeson and Baltimore were far more horrifying than any zombie apocalypse, but very similar to those stories – except no one was eating brains.

Digital Illustration of a Dragon

The genre of horror serves a cautionary purpose, useful for discovering our own personal evils as well as exploring our own redemption, forgiveness, and pathos. I maintain that horror has as much place in Christian fiction as romance, fantasy, mystery, and any other genres you can mention – maybe even more so.

Click on the link below and be prepared for a pleasant surprise. It’s an award winning zombie short film that will surprise you and make you rethink the uses of horror.

Can you define the components of  horror as a genre? Do you think it’s appropriate for people who call themselves Christians to read it, write, or watch it? Why?

Do you do Halloween?

When I was a kid, everyone I knew participated in Halloween’s most popular event:  trick-or-treating. When I say everyone that includes all the people from my conservative-minded, small to medium sized Christian church. One of the best places to trick-or-treat was the pastor’s house—they gave out good stuff!

We lived in the country, hence, we were not subjected to the likes of “designated trick-or-treat days and times”. Heck, no, we trick-or-treated multiple times during the week of October 31—as many times as our mom would take us, her insisting OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe not miss one of the church’s little old ladies’ who apparently lived for seeing all the “kids” in their costumes. Sometimes heeding the designated times when we headed in to our “town” friends’ homes—but not always. We were rebels, I tell you. And serious masqueraders, too. You see, our costumes always included a mask or some sort of face-disguising mechanism, with the goal being to stump the person who opened the door. This poor or lucky person depending on your perspective HAD to guess until he/she uncovered the trickster’s identity. None of this bare-faced, lazy masquerading for us. No, siree. And we only went to the homes of people we knew, never strangers. Fortunately, we knew a lot of people, most of whom prepared weeks in advance for visiting tricksters.

And then a few years later, like overnight it seemed, trick-or-treating and all things Halloween were suddenly awful and terrible and of the devil. Say what? By then I was past the age of actually going trick-or-treating and didn’t have children yet so my immediate interest in the subject was minimal, but still, I struggled to grasp the sudden change.

In the next couple years, many in our conservative-minded community got on board the “we don’t do Halloween” bus and took quite a stand, citing the centuries-old origins and practices surrounding the holiday. As parenthood loomed in our future, we felt compelled to check out the “new” evidence suddenly wrapped around the very events that held manyfile0001449116966 fond memories for both me and my husband. We didn’t delve too deeply into the history and traditions of the holiday but enough to discover some things we’d never associated with our innocent, fun-filled Halloween traditions. Yeah, some of the stuff was pretty yucky and nasty and evil. But what did that have to do with us and our Halloween traditions of wacky costumes, stumping our friends and neighbors and hoarding massive amounts of candy?

We eventually settled on a happy medium. We’d never been into the really scary stuff anyway, so we set a precedent of no super scary costumes—monsters or really gross creatures. Or stuff like the devil or corpses. Costume decisions became a family affair, requiring agreement from both parents. No springing an idea on us the day before.  After much discussion, our daughter once wore a pair of black pajamas with the major skeletal bones outlined in white with glow-in-the-dark glasses that imitated facial bones. After all, skeletons ARE a real fact of life and not necessarily scary or evil. Right?

I love all thinPumpkings fall and wasn’t about to give up my favorite season because some people had deemed Halloween, pumpkins and every other staple of fall to be evil. Pumpkins are cute and fun and make for mighty tasty treats. They are not evil. And the gorgeous rainbow of fall colored leaves? Nothing morbid about them. God’s handiwork at its finest.

So, we put a big emphasis on fall. We decorate with pumpkins and leaves, inside and out. We stockpile canned pumpkin and actually schedule whfinal12ich of our favorite treats we will make when, leaving room each year for scrumptious new recipes. Sometimes we entertain with a fall theme—everything is either shaped like a pumpkin or leaf, has pumpkin as an ingredient OR is orange in color.  It’s just fun.

A few years ago, our church weighed in on the Halloween debate and decided, rather than to protest Halloween or join forces with those who’ve denounced any and all celebration, to host a family friendly outreach event—Trunk-or-Treat—during the local city’s trick-or-treat time slot. Since our church is 6 miles from town, we rent a pavilion at the park, line the parking lot with family-friendly decorated car trunks or truck beds from which candy is distributed to trick-or-treaters. In the pavilion we serve hot soups, an array of home-baked goodies, hot and cold beverages. And we visit with people. We ooh and ahh over their cute little ones. We make new connections and renew old acquaintances. We share church info, when asked, and trunk or treathave brochures on hand. We welcome 500+ people from the community at no cost to them. A fact that many find quite difficult to believe.

You do this for FREE? Every year? Wow…

Yep, we do. It’s a lot of fun. Quite a bit of work too, but many hands pitch in to make the evening a success.

So, that’s how we do Halloween. What about you? Do you do Halloween?