Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Taking the plunge!

While my wife and I have been living and working on Innisfree for the last three and a half years, it has always been something of a part-time job until now. Late last year, we paid off the last of our outstanding debt and as a result, we have decided to have both of us working on the farm as our primary occupation.

While this may sound idyllic, the fact is that it is a leap of faith and a huge risk. Even in the best of circumstances, farming is not a high paying occupation, and the cost of living modern life is higher than most people realize. Nevertheless, it is a risk we are willing and able to take.

Here’s to hoping and to the future!

DLH

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Worldview: Why I Am Pro-Life

Or, “Stop Insisting that I Hate Women and Thump Bibles Just Because I Take a Viewpoint You Oppose.”

A guest post by Pete Hitzeman

 

I am a Christian. I am a conservative. I am Pro-Life. But I am not a Republican, nor a fundamentalist, nor am I part of any alleged war on women. I am a libertarian (lower-case “L” intentional), who believes in things like the Fair Tax, limited drug legalization, electoral reform and a host of other causes that are as excellent as they are unlikely to ever be enacted. I draw the ire of friends and family members of all political persuasions with at least one of my views, such as my refusal to vote for a Republican candidate who I believe to be disingenuous just to oppose a Democrat candidate.

But nothing will so quickly alienate me from many of my friends and family than my stance on abortion. I am ardently and unabashedly Pro-Life, something that can bring even the warmest of friends to the verge of hurling obscenities. I must hate women and disrespect them. I must not believe that women have authority over their bodies. Surely my poor wife must be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, while I drag my knuckles around my cave and grunt. Equally, my Christian friends would shun me because I believe the Christian Right has done more damage than good to the Pro Life movement, and I’m not afraid to say so. To them I must be an atheist in Christian clothing, a heretic, a sympathizer of evil.

None of that is true, and this is why. My Christian faith does establish for me the sanctity of human life, and by that the evil nature of murder. But even most of my atheist friends would agree that innocent human life must be protected. Whether you believe, as I do, that we are made in the image of God, or that we are all simply stardust, everyone recognizes that the human race is something special, something different, something entirely apart from all the rest of known creation.

So the issue was never about protecting human life, because we all agree that that is a noble thing. The disagreement lies in the qualification of human life, and the characterization of the development of that life within the womb. And this is where I believe abortion advocates, more than those who oppose it, suspend their belief not in God, but in science.

At the moment of conception, the genetic information of each parent is combined into a new, unique, distinct and wholly other entity. It is a new, living organism by every definition, and so is no longer a part of the woman’s body, only contained within and supported by it. Further, the new organism is most definitely human, because its genetic makeup says so. It could not become a frog or a chicken or a palm tree, only a human being.

Inasmuch as one’s rights extend only to the point that they violate someone else’s, there is no such thing as a one’s right to terminate the life of another innocent human being. The new organism inside the woman is human, and it is alive. This is according to biology, not theology. It has committed no crime against the mother or society, and so is innocent. Any further argument regarding abortion depends entirely on some ambiguous definition of personhood, a definition that relies much more heavily on faith (of the secular variety) than science, and that has some truly dangerous and frightening conclusions if it is followed. Under the more vague definitions of personhood, the practice of eugenics becomes the only logical outcome.

This is where members of the Christian Right fall into an insidious trap. In their eagerness to embrace and proclaim their faith, they wail that abortion is wrong because God says so. That may be true, but it will never be a winning argument with an increasingly atheist society, because it is meaningless to them. And then they introduce instantly doomed initiatives like the Personhood movement, which can never succeed so long as its proponents push it as a faith initiative instead of a legal one. Abortion law was decided by the government, so only the people, through the government, can change it.

Even more uncomfortable for my moderate friends is the fact that the definitions I laid out above allow for no exceptions. There is nothing in the process I described that makes a child resulting from a rape less alive or less human, and certainly not less innocent. The exposure of the fallacy of sub-human life in the womb makes us face the cold reality that evil has terrible consequences. We, as a flawed race, as a woefully imperfect society, must come to terms with those consequences, and work to exterminate the evil, rather than the result.

Beyond that, if we admit to abortion being what it is, namely the termination of a human life, we then have to examine our own fault in the perpetuation of a great evil in itself. No one wants to admit complicity or support for evil, even if it was unwitting. But as we once were forced to confront and expunge slavery from our culture, so too must we face the unjust extermination of millions of innocent human lives, in order to avoid suffering or inconvenience ourselves.

And so, exiled by friends and family from all sides of the argument, I will take my advice from John Adams, and will “always stand on principle, even if [I] stand alone.”

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Worldview: Faith: Why are you surprised?

Why are you surprised it’s getting harder to be a Christian in 21st century America? In the industrialized West? In the whole world?

It’s not like you weren’t warned.

Of course you’re suffering hateful rhetoric. Of course you’re suffering discrimination. Of course you’re suffering disdain. Of course you can see the threat of persecution.

That’s exactly what God said was going to happen.

Did you think he was kidding? Did you think that he inspired what the Bible’s authors wrote to be ignored? Did you think it wouldn’t happen to you?

Well, you were wrong.

No, we were all warned, and we’re even ridiculed for believing the warning. Yet we can look around us and see the truth. The world hates us for what we believe. It hates us for who we believe in. It hates us because of our hope.

And, it will continue to oppose, discriminate, disdain, and persecute until it believes it has destroyed us. Until it believes it has driven the Word from the world. Until it believes it has become god.

Why are you surprised? These aren’t my words. They’re what you say you believe.

DLH

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Faith: Why are you giving something up for Lent?

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. — 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV 1984

I’ve always found the tradition many people have of depriving themselves of some arbitrary thing during the season of Lent to be a troublesome practice. In the many times I’ve asked, I’ve yet to have someone give me a convincing, Biblically-based reason why they do it.

The problem, as I see it, that people have in giving these things up for Lent is that it is not a fast with an intent of change. The purpose of the fast, just like the purpose of the whole season of Lent, is to prepare ourselves in mind and body to more fully embrace the reality of the saving work Christ finished on the cross and for the work of righteousness we have inherited as a result.

To me, the purpose of the Lenten fast is preparation, not just for Good Friday and the festival of Easter, but for the next leg of the journey all Christians find themselves a part of as they struggle toward heaven. To me, Lent is like those last intensive days of training just before an athlete competes for the prize, and I can never figure out how giving up meat or coffee or chocolate figures into that idea.

So, to me, the idea of the Lenten fast should not be to deprive myself of something that I fully intend to return to once the fast has ended, but to put an end to something that the insight of my faith and my conscience tells me could stand between me and eternal life. If that is the purpose of the Lenten fast, then the New Testament is full of the kinds of things we should give up for Lent and forever after that, and meat or coffee or chocolate is never among them.

Further, the Lenten fast should not just be about putting something off but also about putting something on. If we are truly preparing ourselves to run the race with the intent of winning the prize, then what we wear is as important as what we don’t.

In the end, that is the purpose of the Lenten fast, to put aside more forcefully our sinful natures and to put on more firmly the nature of righteousness. It is then, I think, that we have fulfilled the intent of change the fast has always carried with it.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

–Colossians 3:1-17, NIV 1984

DLH

 

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Worldview: Christmas Day 2010

A choir sings during the lighting of a 100 foot steel Christmas tree atop Aegibong Peak overlooking South Korea's border with North Korea. Image credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters via The Christian Science Monitor

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

–Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV, via Biblegateway.com

DLH

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Worldview: Christmas Eve 2010

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25, NIV, via Biblegateway.com

Peace. Hope. Love.

Those are the words, among others, that people use in their celebration of Christmas. We join in a universal longing for the end of strife among ourselves, among our nations, and with our God. We celebrate peace, hope, and love because that is what the nativity story says, and we want to believe it with all of our hearts.

But there is something more to this story of a baby, born of a virgin mother, announced by angels, and laid in a manger:

Atonement. Sacrifice. Death.

You see, baby Jesus was not just any baby, he was the answer to the pressing question of how we achieve peace, hope, and love. He was the one, born into the world at just the right time, while we were yet sinners, to pay the price no human could pay since that fateful day when Adam and Eve violated God’s first covenant with them. Jesus was born in a shadow, the shadow of the cross on which he would die.

Yet even that is not the end of the story, for in the life of this man whose birth we celebrate more than 2,000 years after it happened is an even greater promise:

Justification. Salvation. Eternity.

It is Jesus, laid in a manger at his birth and murdered on a cross in the prime of his life, who also defeated death and the power Satan exercised over us when we fell from God’s grace. It was Jesus who died the sacrificial death, finishing all that had to be finished, and who rose through the glorious power of God as the first fruits of who trust in God’s promises.

If you celebrate Christ’s Mass, it is this reality that you must face: peace, hope, and love with God , paid for with the blood of his only Son, and guaranteed to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

There is no other reason for this celebration because there is no other cause for hope.

Lord Jesus, come quickly to fulfill that hope for those who believe.

Amen

DLH

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Worldview: “Keep your head down” represents a compromise of the Christian worldview

I hear this idea or something like it often: “We should just keep our heads down and mind our own business.”

Usually, it comes from conservatively minded people, often from Christians, and mostly in relationship to ongoing world events the speakers find troubling. Every time I hear the idea expressed, I wonder how it jives with everything conservative Christians know about the faith and worldview we are supposed to possess.

How can we be salt and light, share the Gospel with the world, or let our gentleness be evident to all if we’re hiding from the world? How can we do the good works God has created for us to do if we keep our heads down? How can we be the citizens of a shining city on a hill if we’re minding our own business?

From my point of view, these ideas represent a fundamental compromise of the Christian worldview, and the result of that compromise has been the demise of the good our forebearers accomplished.

The Christian worldview is on that can only be lived out loud. Look at the history of our faith. It is filled with men and women who refused to be silent even in the face of exile and death. Many of our American ancestors came here as an expression of and because of their worldview. It was, in part, from their loud proclamations of belief that the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights derived their legitimacy.

Yet, modern American Christians, in great part, would rather hide when the command is to shout and make a spectacle. If we do not declare what we know and believe, how will anyone hear?

As for me, come better or worse, I will not be silent, nor will I be afraid.

DLH

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