Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Daughter's First Time Drag Racing!

I suppose it is a sort of rite of passage in our family.  When you get to a certain age, you head down to the drag strip and make some passes.

This is my 17-year-old daughter Violet on her first day at the drag strip, piloting her 2005 V-6 Mustang.  I'm proud of her!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A New Poem - Wifely Beauty

I was finishing up my leg workout in the gym today, and thinking about how it is that my wife keeps getting more and more beautiful to me as the years go by.  It seems to be some really deep magic in operation.  And then, the basis of this poem came to me.

Wifely Beauty

What if all women have beauty sublime?
And what if all men are quite blind?
And what if the scales will not fall from our eyes
Until after the covenant’s signed?

And what if her beauty, unseen until wived,
Is hidden until you give plight?
And what if that covenant, faithfully lived,
Is the balm that will strengthen your sight?

In that case, my son, I suggest that you vow,
That you promise, commit, swear, and yield.
And do not seek beauty to cause you to love;
But love, and see beauty revealed.

©2015, Paul Erlandson

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Down Syndrome as Superpower

I remember when Down Syndrome used to be considered a disorder or a defect.

The March of Dimes apparently still thinks so:
"Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that includes a combination of birth defects."

But recently, to my great surprise, two very trusted Anglican priest friends each posted this meme with an Albert Mohler quote, which paints Down Syndrome as something that makes one infinitely more beautiful than other people.  It is in fact (according to Mohler's logic) something of a superpower.

I'm not sure that I trust a Southern Baptist to define or delineate the Christian worldview for me.  But this quote is wrongheaded any way you look at it.

Can any one person be "infinitely more beautiful" than another human being, when we are all made in the image of God?  Mohler robs cover models of the Imago Dei.

"But," someone will object, "surely he is focusing on the airbrushing, and not the model."

Doubtful.   But let us yield, for sake of argument, that airbrushing blurs or mars the image of God in us.  Do not aging, incapacity, defect, and disability mar it also?  The God whose right arm is not shortened cannot be perfectly modeled by a man whose birth defect is to have no arms.  The God who sees all cannot be perfectly reflected by a blind man.  But just as these defects do not take away the image of God from the disabled, so airbrushing away of wrinkles does not take away the image of God from a cover model.  Or, it ought not.  It apparently does for Mohler.  How else to explain the fact that another human being is "infinitely more beautiful" than she is?

It's a funny thing about blindness.  When Jesus confronted it, he healed it.  He did not stop, upon seeing a blind man, and say:  "Behold, a blind man!  His face is infinitely more beautiful than the faces of the sighted."  No.  He saw a defect, and he fixed it.  He healed it.  He remedied it.  He undid it and reversed it, like the effect of the Fall that it really is.

Would Jesus heal the defect (only quoting from the March of Dimes, mind you!) we call Down Syndrome?  I say he would.  Moher must say no, because to do so would be to rob that individual of infinite beauty!

In sharp contrast to the spirit of Mohler's quote, I was always taught that the Christian worldview demands that we "love the unlovely."  And now that Mohler has informed me that airbrushed cover models are the unloveliest people of all ... I intend to dedicate the remnant of my life to loving them.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A New Movie - Killing Poe

A friend of mine, Nathan A. Jacobs, has directed a new film, Killing Poe.

Take a look at the trailer!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Real Live Flannery O'Connor Character!

You never know what or who you will find on facebook.  This morning, I found a real live Flannery O'Connor character.  His peculiar concoction of God-hauntedness and sin-blindness was amazing, and I ended up reading his entire timeline.  I will call him Dwayne (not his real name).

Consider a few facts about him, and try to make them all fit into one person:

1.  He talks about his own recent failed suicide attempt.  He failed this time (if he even really attempted it), but promises to do better in future.

2.  For several hours in a row, he posts the one photo he possesses of himself and his (ex?) wife, begging her to "come home".  Because he is lonely.  Because he is horny.  Because he is so incredibly needy.

3.  Worked at:  Disabled.  Studied at:  Didn't.

4.  Frequent admonitions (to us readers, or to himself?) to "pray."

5.  Blames the "dirty, nasty cops" for breaking up his home.

6.  Says the cops run the church.

7.  Says all Christians are mean.

8.  Has about 3 dozen facebook Friends, all of them are scantily clad women half his age.

9.  Says he "really needs to get stoned."

10.  States that people need to be nice to crazy people, because he is right on the edge, and if people don't learn to treat him nice, some people are going to get hurt.

11.  Can't spell to save his life (e.g., cercomstances for circumstances, camit for commit)

12.  Posts memes with Scripture verses.

13.  Claims to be a defender of the downtrodden, especially strippers and models.

14.  Posts memes about trusting God.

15.  Says that Jesus is a whore who has stabbed him in the back.

16.  Claims he is going crazy without his wife, then adds request for his wife to bring him cigarettes at the loony bin.

17.  Posts the pic of him and his wife (for the hundredth time), pleading for her to come home.  Then immediately posts a photo of "my favorite model" in a bikini, seductively pulling down her bikini bottom.  Mixed messages?

Well, you get the idea.  He's not very bright, but he's very angry.  His career, for a long time apparently, has been to be Disabled.  Lack of productive work will do terrible things to a person.  We may think it's great collecting money we didn't work for, but it rots us from the inside out.  Deep inside, we know we are slackers.  Deep inside, we know the wife is very wise to stay away.  But we need someone to lash out at.  So we befriend pretty models on the internet, hoping that one of them will make the mistake of getting close enough to hurt her and (maybe) make the anger go away for a moment.

I start off trying to be very compassionate to such people.  But you can tell from his Timeline that a lot of people have already tried that (the church, women, law enforcement, Jesus).  He rejects them all.  They are all losers; only he is vindicated out of all humanity.  Compassion is sadly lost on such a person.  In the Bible stories (e.g., the sinful woman washing Christ's feet), there is a difference.  They had shady pasts, but in the present, they admit their wrongness, and own up to their own wretched dirtiness.

But what is one to do with one who has sinned more than any of them, but holds his head up high, strutting like a peacock in his pride?  Who (unlike the humble man in the story of the publican and the sinner) confesses sin, but only the sin of others against him?  Such a man is very like some of the characters in C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, who instead of merely doing sin, have in the final end become their sin.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Martyrdom, Booty Pics, and the Musée des Beaux Arts

Bear with me, and I will show you how these three things are related.

Let's begin with my possible (future, of course) martyrdom.  Everyone who cares already knows that the "Islamic State" just martyred 21 Coptic Christians in the name of Allah and of Islam.  I won't link to the video of the beheadings; I suppose that anyone who wanted to see that has already done so by now.

I used to read a magazine called Touchstone - A Journal of Ecumenical Orthodoxy.  I enjoyed it quite a lot until I realized that what some of the editors meant by "Ecumenical Orthodoxy" was that all Protestants and Catholics must convert to the Eastern church.  I even had several cartoons of mine published in this journal.

One time, perhaps 20 years ago, I attended a conference held by Touchstone in Chicago.  Nearly all the speakers predicted a coming wave of martyrdom for the church.  Triumphalist Reconstructionist that I was at the time, I thought to myself, "To hell with that!"  I rejected the notion.  But it is now clear that they were right and I was wrong.

So now I come to look at the martyrdom of these Coptic Christians, and to look forward to my own possible martyrdom.  In the past, I've always liked the quote from a Flannery O'Connor character (in A Temple of the Holy Ghost), who opined that, "she could be a martyr if they killed her quick."  But the martyr-makers don't always give us that luxury.  And so I picture myself at the moment of death, picked out for especially inhuman treatment because of the large and glowing Christ tattoo on my back.  I wonder if I'll go calmly.  But I also wonder what the world will think.

Or, anyhow, I used to wonder.  Now I know.  I know from watching the internet response to the brutal murders of the 21 Copts.  Most people of good will are shocked and saddened, of course.  But, we go on.  We get past it, and mostly pretty easily.  And I had reason to know this, even before watching the response to recent ISIS murders.  In the 1974-75 school year, I took AP English, and our teacher spent a day on W. H. Auden's poem, Musée des Beaux Arts.  It is a very important poem, as I am learning.  It has much to teach us, none of which I really comprehended back in 11th Grade.

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

W. H. Auden

And so I know just how my martyrdom will go.  There will be a nice, high-definition video of the thing, and a lot of good people will post in on facebook and elsewhere on the internet.  And other well-intentioned people will click the "Like" button beneath the video, presumably not Like-ing the fact that I've been offed, but rather to thank the person who posted it.  And then, just as the figures in Breughel's Icaraus, they will move past it, to the next item in the facebook feed.  Maybe it will be a macaroni-and-cheese recipe.  Or possibly a meme about the opposite political party.

But I think it highly likely it will be a booty pic, a sexy female derriere, in tight yoga pants.  A most fitting stand-in for Auden's horse, scratching "its innocent behind on a tree."  And the soul who just recently mourned my passing at the hands of the jihadists shall click "Like" on this magnificent photo, and pass on.  It's what we humans do in the face of suffering.  And I'm kind of okay with that.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

More Paul-Hating from the Arch-heretic.

I can't believe I wasted 14 minutes of my Sunday listening to the Archheretic preach. But I did.

If you skip to 6:45, you can hear her explain why St. Paul had a completely wrong attitude in Acts 9:22 - "Saul became increasingly powerful and confounded the Jews, by proving that Jesus was the Messiah."

"Yet the sad reality is that others soon began to tell his story as one of reversal, of trading violence toward one group for power plays over his own people. What originated in an expanded awareness of truth gets narrowed down again to a tale of winners and losers."

"That's the story told by a people who still feel afraid and anxious. See how powerful our leader is? How thoroughly he conquers the unbelieving?"

She goes on to say how it is not Christ-like to be successful at apologetics.