The Storyteller

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Storytellers were not so uncommon at that time. They wandered through the villages aiming to attract listeners and get new apprentices for such noble art. Therefore, it was not only for being a storyteller that he distinguished himself in a unique way. What earned him fame and distinction was the kind of stories he told.

With great perfection, he wove stories that always began with palpable realities, stories from the visible world and daily life, from what was immediate to the eyes of his listeners: he would speak about crops, heritages, weddings, wages and many other social habits. But his stories would then point to a reality that was not so immediate, foreseeing new possibilities, digging up a whole new hope. It was as if those stories announced that reality is much bigger than what one can see; that there is History beyond stories of crops, heritages and weddings; that there is a way beyond blind alleys; that there is life beyond mere survival.

Many of his listeners delighted in his unusual stories, trying to absorb what they could from those stories and also discussing their meaning among them. Others, with excessive zeal for a small reality, one that they could comprehend and fully embrace, protested against the storyteller and wanted to silence him.

Thus, the crowd that followed him was heterogeneous and to all of them he would tell stories that often went somewhat like this: “The reality of which I speak is like a treasure hidden in a field…”

The storyteller exhorted his listeners to expand their understanding because the stories that he was telling required a renewed way of thinking so that they could be properly understood, experienced and applied. He compared his stories to new wine that cannot be contained in old wineskins, new cloths that cannot be patched on old garments, new software that doesn’t run correctly if the hardware is outdated.

He even said that, in order to understand the stories and the reality they disclosed, listeners should become like children. Children love stories: they live in a world of endless possibilities and they regard with much more simplicity and credulity those great hopes that adults deem unreasonable.

A conspiracy sprouted from the adults that were trying to silence him – a conspiracy that led to a death sentence and to an execution. They sought to put a full stop to the history of the storyteller, since his stories were becoming too inconvenient. However, without perceiving it, the supposed full stop of the story became the central point of History. For the one who masterfully told uncommon stories is also the one who masterfully writes History itself. The one who spoke of a way beyond blind alleys is also the one who inaugurates that way – or, in other terms, he is, himself, the Way. The one who talked about a hope great enough to exceed the mundane possibilities visible to the naked eye is also the one who brings such hope into the temporal reality.

As a kind of epilogue, the storyteller left us a great commission: “Go into all the world and tell the Story; don’t only tell it: live it. That way you will also make new stories and new storytellers.”

Storytellers are not so common at our time – it seems that our technocrat world tries to asphyxiate each and every story. However, besides the commission of the storyteller that still echoes across the centuries, it’s time itself that begs us to tell again his stories. Stories hold a hidden but great power even in the post-modern age characterized by massive doubt and deconstruction. Stories are able to surpass the barriers of suspicion, break in the walls of our cynicism and plant seeds of new possibilities in our skeptic hearts. Therefore, it’s time for us to frame our hope, our lives, our own stories in the greatest Story ever told, the Story that becomes History.

Rediscovering Death

One of the most striking situations I have faced as an oncologist pertains to a man who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His disease had spread all over his body, and especially on the liver. The only way to treat him was with chemo, but we were unable to do so on account of liver failure. In short, this man didn’t have much time to live and there was nothing we could do about it.

After I explained to him the situation, he just glanced and me, his face overcome by sorrow, and he said:

“Oh, doc… I just got my retirement last month. I have been working hard all my life, sacrificing myself to get a comfortable retirement… I thought this was when I was gonna start living for real. And now this.”

In two weeks he was gone. He never got to enjoy the retirement he strived so much for.

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This real story encapsulates an important life lesson. I must take solace in the thought that his tragic death was not in vain if we get a chance to learn something from it. For you see, this man embodies a very important mistake in our modern days: he lived as if he was not going to die.

In the last five centuries, Man has undergone an unprecedented evolution in the fields of science and technology. This evolution has, in fact, been exponential in growth, so that last century’s advancements dwarf the ones from the four centuries before… and the developments just from last year are too many to list appropriately.

We are now able to talk in real time with a person from the antipodes. We were able to put a man on the Moon. And the developments in the fields of medicine conquered many of the diseases that shortened Mankind’s lifespan.

But there is one thing we haven’t conquered still (and, because of the unforgivable laws of entropy, we may never conquer): Death.

Sooner or later, irrespective of all of our evolution, death will come to us all.

In this sense, death can only be viewed by Modern-day Man as a failure. The frontier he hasn’t conquered and knows not how to. Unconsciously, Modern-day Man “forgets” about death, and concentrates on his impressive achievements, making them permeate all aspects of his life. In short, he lives as if he were not going to die.

There are many symptoms of this. For example, we don’t bring our children to funerals, with the excuse of not “traumatizing” them. In fact, many adults feel “traumatized” with the simple thought as well, and will not enter a place where someone is almost dying. We also rush to buy new pets for our children whenever the previous one dies, so as to make them forget about the deceased one as soon as possible. We watch deaths every day in movies and television, just to see the protagonists “unexpectedly” being brought back to life after the final credits or in the next episode (and even if their deaths are permanent on screen, they are alive as real actors, so it’s all fun and games.)

 

But the most glaring examples come from the field of medicine (since it was medicine that was able to extend life expectancy so much.)

We “medicalized” death… most people don’t die at home anymore but in the hospital. Even when a person is moribund, their relatives just usher him to the doctor, as if he could be sustained a little while longer. The signs of death are not recognizable anymore since it is treated just like any other disease: “rush him to the hospital.”

This is not entirely people’s fault. They no longer have contact with death, so they don’t know how to recognize it. Much of the fault lies with the medical personnel too. Doctors have also been influenced by the modern mindset according to which death is a failure. A failure on their part. As doctors, they have tools at their disposal making them able to produce results which could only be regarded as miraculous by people in the distant past.

This leads to dysthanasia (not to be confused with euthanasia), also known as therapeutic obstination. Even though it seems to stand opposite to euthanasia, it is important to note that dysthanasia is considered by the vast majority of medical bioethical organizations and most religions (including Christians) as a grave bioethical error.

What is dysthanasia? Unduly extending life beyond its limits, instead of accepting the hard fact that that particular person’s time has come. This error usually comes at the expense of a significant break in the person’s quality of life. It is wrong, since it pushes off the boundaries of human activity into God territory: we can’t avert death indefinitely and it’s wrong to increase suffering by not accepting our finiteness on this issue.

Unfortunately, many pro-life activists, in their righteous fight against the evil of euthanasia, have unwillingly embraced this error. Clinging to mediatic cases, they advocate for invasive treatments and diagnostic measures to moribund patients with irreversible conditions, confusing a sober acceptance of one’s own death as letting someone die who might otherwise live (i.e. passive euthanasia.) I truly believe that a proper activism mandates that pro-life people are sufficiently familiar with bioethics to actually fight against the thing they claim to be fighting. Only by knowing one’s enemy will one be effective, instead of railing against windmills, squandering credibility in the process.

If pro-life activists do not learn to avoid the pitfall of dysthanasia, they will multiply the number of cases of inappropriate suffering, that will certainly be used as arguments by the pro-euthanasia folks.

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However, I also believe that the most notorious symptom of this modern discomfort with death comes, paradoxically, from the pro-euthanasia field. How can this be, if they are asking for death to come more swiftly?

It is true that many people who request the right to end their own lives really want to avoid suffering, not death. However, as I noted in my previous article, this doesn’t seem to explain everything. My experience is that all my patients who consistently asked for euthanasia (and not just temporarily venting during an acute symptomatic peak that subsided after adequate medication) did not suffer major discomfort from their disease until the day they died. I remind you, this experience of mine is anecdotal, but I can’t simply eschew my observations as if I didn’t testify to them and shouldn’t learn from them…

If those patients were not suffering from pain or other symptoms, why were they so bent in asking for euthanasia? Well, they were suffering indeed, but not in a biological way. Rather in an existential way. These were usually well-educated people, who excelled in their field of work or in their hobbies. In short, extremely active folks. Suddenly, the rug had been swept beneath their feet. They were told they had weeks or months to live. All their plans immediately turned to dust.

Those who lived their lives as if they would never die abruptly found themselves in a situation where death haunted the rest of their suddenly short lives. They who never prepared for death, for they never thought about it, saw death forcing its way through and permeating everything they did. Most importantly, they who always thought their lives were in their own hands, in the power of their own merits and knowledge and achievements, saw their lives suddenly under the rule of a new master: the Grim Reaper.

In a desperate way to regain control of their own lives, they ask for euthanasia. If death has to come, it must come out of my own choice. When I ask for it. On my own terms. This is a tragic illusion… they are not gaining control, for they still cannot avoid death, they cannot add one single minute to their own lives besides what death has stipulated. What they are doing is claiming an undue mastery over their own lives, opening a Pandora box in the process: the societal notion that it is acceptable (and even merciful) to end the lives of our sick people, as if they were not worth living. The illusion may be comforting, but its ramifications throughout the whole fabric of society are very real indeed.

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People who lived before our day had a more healthy relationship with death. Being more in synch with nature, they saw death as an intrinsic stage of one’s own life, just like birth or marriage. They testified from tender age how the animals in the fields died, sometimes soon after birth.

Without cures available to most ailments, most of medicine was palliative in scope. It was as important to heal as it was to comfort. In fact, many early hospitals, created out of the charity of religious orders, focused precisely on that: comforting the sick and the moribund. In light of this, a person with a terminal illness who got to die comfortably, surrounded by his loved ones, at peace with his own story, was a success rather than a failure.

Most importantly, religions tempered Man’s hubris by constantly confronting him with his finiteness. Memento mori, quia pulvis est et in pulverem reverteris (“Remember that thou are dust and to dust thou shalt return”) was a part of the liturgy, namely on Ash Wednesday before Lent. Chapels were built in Italy, Portugal and the Czech Republic, using the bones of deceased people, so as to remind those who entered such sanctuaries of their own mortality. And many paintings featured the Danse Macabre, where any living person would become a skeleton and dance to Death’s song, irrespectively of sex, age, wealth or social status (death was the great equalizer, reducing both king, priest and peasant to the same condition.)

Ultimately, death was made present by the fact that Christian religion taught us that we ultimately live for a life beyond death. Every reality from this world is ephemeral and will soon come to pass. The wealth we earned will not follow us to the coffin, old age will eventually wrinkle all our efforts to perpetuate our beauty, fame and honor will soon give way to oblivion. All of this is vanity, so says Kohelet. But the most important things, on the other hand, are eternal, and can only be experienced in full after the soul has come through the ordeal of death.

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Modern-day Man may counter by saying that such an emphasis on death is too morbid and not as healthy as I make it out to be. Besides, too great a focus on the afterlife may hinder the solving of actual problems in *this* life. There are some merits to these counter-arguments, but still, we can’t say that it is also healthy to live our lives in a complete alienation of one of our most inescapable and intrinsic realities: that we will die someday.

So maybe a balance between those two extremes may be found.

On my end, I think that humility would solve a lot of problems. Yes, Man has come a long way and found a lot of solutions to many problems. Man’s technology has evolved in impressive ways. Man has developed medicines to many ailments… and he continues to do so as we speak.

However, we should not see this with pride and boastfulness, but with gratitude and awe. We should be impressed by the strides made by a species such as ours, so ill-adapted to its natural surroundings (a man is probably less prone to survive in a jungle than a lion), inhabiting a small planet in an inconspicuous corner in the vastness of the universe. Still, those strides should not make us lose sight of our true dimension in the grand scheme of things.

In that grand scheme of things, Man will eventually die. It is a natural part of his life cycle. In the same way, as we should view our remarkable evolution, we should contemplate our lives with gratitude and awe. Every single day is a gift. And this is only highlighted by the fact that our lives are finite. We will not last forever. We can’t eternally forestall what needs to be done. There is a sense of urgency that makes living all the more important.

This day may be our last. So we need to live it to the fullest. Not squander it in vain, shallow and ephemeral activities, but actually use it wisely, like a good administrator of finite resources.

In this sense, death conveys meaning to life. If we forget about the existence of death, we may risk losing track of what’s truly important. We may risk existing instead of living every day.

Modern-day Man thinks he is omnipotent. And yet, death triumphs over Man every single day. It is something that Modern-day Man can never manipulate, something that goes forever beyond his reach, beyond his scope, beyond his power. In this sense, death also serves an important purpose: to temper Man’s pride, lest he forgets about his own limits.

Don’t get me wrong. Death is a harsh, cruel and horrible reality. I do not mean to sugarcoat it, by all means. But we need to live our lives through the lens of the inexorable reality of death. We can’t escape it. We can’t ward it off forever. This is the reality. It is not a failure, it is part of life. We need to accept it and better incorporate it into our life philosophy. Not by making it haunt us, but by making us re-center our priorities.

As my Palliative Care teacher always said: “We die the same way we live. So don’t wait for death to come to start to learn how to die. It is too late by then.”

Pedro Gabriel,
Oncologist
Blogger @ https://wherepeteris.com

Darkness dwell inside us all

Troubled times are those we live in when small things take so much importance in our lives. The crave for possessions, the yearning of being famous, all sorts of things that consume our humanity come from within just keep their breath on.

It’s a fact, darkness dwells inside of us all. The natural tendency to fall into sin lead us to do unspeakable things. In fact, that natural tendency has been minimized by philosophers and liberal theologians, alleging that moral relativism asserts that what is evil to some, might not be to others. Atheists consider it a part of animal behavior that mankind possesses. It is a small shard in the heart of sound doctrine, that creates a blooming infection of the whole system.

As Boromir from The Lord of the Rings said: “It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing… such a little thing“. Sin starts with a little thing. A pitiful lie, a small angry root, a glimpse of sexual lust for what is not ours… So many little things, so small, so feeble before the might of mankind and Christianity. Yet, so capable of getting all together and become master and dominance in our lives.

So this darkness, this Cthulhu awakening, the Kraken of the post-modern days comes not from fairy tales or folklore, but from our inside. All of us fell short before God and deserve to die on the cross for our continuous sinning (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We are not to be punished by Adam’s fault, but we have inherited the consequences of that in our DNA and the cosmos suffers from that error as well. Where once was undoubted unity, sin came crashing in and turn that into a forceful separation. A rupture that needed a rapture operated by Christ on the Golgotha.

With the fall of Adam, both humanity and the entire cosmos were affected. Illness, therefore, is not the root problem, but only a symptom. The far more significant consequence of the fall was the rupture of the communion between God and humanity, between humans among themselves, and between humanity and the rest of creation. For Christians, sickness and death are not the real problems: rather, it is alienation from God, and the resulting spiritual death, which are the real tragedy.” (Paul Meyendorff, THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK, p 84)

As put by the Orthodox theologian, Fr. Ted Bobosh:

The fall did not simply lead man into a biological form of life. It encompassed the whole of his psychosomatic being which, once turned from its intended state, submitted itself to instincts that led to the realm of the passions. Carnal pleasure for the body is equivalent to avarice for the spirit, all of which leads a person to be disconnected and lacking in harmony; it shatters his original unity.

So, what to do? Repent and submit. There is no other way around. To repent is to recognize the fault state we are in, showing a convict desire for change, like the Apostle Peter spoke in Acts 2:38. That leads us to a full confrontation with God’s grace and glory, that makes feel like Job (Job 42:6) or Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5). Once there, the light of the Sun of Righteousness shines on us, removing all darkness from within (Malachi 4:2), doing that by His own merits and unpaid favor based in His love towards us (Ephesians 2:8,9).

The darkness simply vanishes, hence comes light. So we are then called to be like the Apostle Paul (1st Corinthians 11:1), imitator of Christ, the Light of men (John 1:4). Dissipating darkness makes it go away from us, but the threatening shadows still try to entangle us all. In his work “Praying Always”, the Dutch theologian Frans Bakker makes us acquainted with this feeling:

“The Lord sometimes causes the consequences of sin to remain, even though forgiveness has been granted. Thus he keeps his people humble. A bitter aftertaste is left so that a sinful past will not be forgotten.” (Praying Always, Banner of Truth 1984, p.92)

Nevertheless, even the bitter aftertaste can be tasted through the might and power of Jesus. When we endure this kind of fights, we must remember that temptation knocks on our door, just like it did with Cain. Darkness still wants out of the abyss and like Nietzsche proclaimed: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you“. Our fight is a life lasting fight against what rots us from the core, our most and deepest lying hurting secrets, our own tainted will. Because sin even defeated at the Cross, still manages to come and plot against us, to deviate us from the Way.

Memory is not what the heart desires. That is only a mirror“, wrote J.R.R. Tolkien, so it is darkness on the contrary. Our hearts may desire goodness, but instead, commit a fault for darkness dwells around us. The Orthodox priest Michel Quenot once taught that: “Man was not created for death and finality, but for immortality and eternity“. In eternity, no darkness shall prevail. In life, no darkness can abide where the Light of the World, the highest beacon of hope and love stands His ground: inside the heart of men.

Talking about sin in times of Carpe Diem

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We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t even want to think about it. We prefer to regard sin as a concept from the past, a reminiscence of an oppressive age characterized by the heavy yoke that the religious authorities imposed on us. We now claim to be free from such oppression, as we adopt behaviors and choices that were once considered morally wrong, or morally dubious at least. We claim that the outdated rules issued by those authorities were solely means of controlling people and maintaining the status quo; rules that, at the same time, hindered the self-fulfillment of the individuals. As we react to that past age, tearing apart all the former norms and precepts that are now regarded as obstacles to our personal happiness, a new age has been born: the age of Carpe Diem.

This new age can be summed up by an aphorism: act first, think later. The will of the individual – often an unthought-of will, based on pure immediacy – has become the basis for his actions. We don’t accept anymore any external authorities determining what makes an action good or bad. And each individual doesn’t even care to set himself a personal authority to his choices; the individual doesn’t think through his own decisions in order to live accordingly to some personal precepts. We just let ourselves be governed by our personal and volatile will, as we aim to “seize the day”.

I cannot blame my contemporaries for this huge shift. There are actually good reasons for us not to accept the authority of self-proclaimed human powers; in fact, many of them are, indeed, controlling and tyrant. For instance, I believe that many of them are precisely the kind of powers from which Jesus wishes to set us free.

It is true that religious powers across history have used their authority to impose particular agendas on human societies, imprisoning minds and constraining the developing of individual consciences. Behaviors regarded as sin in particular contexts have often corresponded to the ‘do’s and don’ts’ that please the authorities and maintain a certain ‘status quo’. Therefore, even though I am a Christian, I can accept that this historical shift possesses some legitimate motivations and some positive consequences.

However, this shift poses a tremendous challenge for the Christian witness in the post-modern world: the reality of sin is a key part of the Christian worldview, but how are we supposed to talk about sin nowadays? How are we to testify about Jesus as the one who takes away the sin of the world if our contemporaries don’t agree that there is sin in the world? If we just insist on promoting a particular list of ‘do’s and don’ts’, then we won’t be able to surpass the great barrier of suspicion that characterizes our secular societies. This is the case even if we derive such list from the Scriptures and even if our biblical hermeneutics is particularly objective – the suspicion towards the Scriptures is particularly dense since the Bible was itself used in the past – inappropriately – as a weapon of control.

In the past, we were taught that sin was primarily defined as something external to the individual: to sin was to incur in any attitude or behavior that offends God. But, in the age of Carpe Diem, we don’t rely anymore on external referentials: the individual becomes his own referential and the concept of sin must be brought into such referential. In our secular society, we have to start from the individual to make sense of non-material concepts such as sin. Otherwise, the individual will not relate with such concepts since they appear disconnected from his practical experience, dissociated from immediate reality. For instance, I even advocate this general principle to do theology in the post-modern world: if we want to dialogue with a society that has abandoned every dogma, we should make an effort to develop a “bottom-up theology”, i.e. from the human to the divine.

In other words, I believe that the challenge posed by our secular society is also an opportunity to review our Christian worldview as we seek to present it to the world in relevant and palpable ways: a worldview that starts with the material reality – with bones and flesh – before addressing the existence of a transcendent reality. We start first with the immanent reality and, through it, we may find our way to the transcendent realm. I believe that it’s God himself who authorizes us to approach Christianity like this, especially as He chose to reveal himself through the incarnation: He, who is transcendent, becomes immanent so that through his immanence we may conclude that He is transcendent. This is the same pattern that we see in the disciples who dealt directly with Jesus in flesh and bones: they began with the human and, eventually, they discovered the divine.

How, then, can we talk “bottom-up” about sin? Is there something in the immanent reality of the individual that can be related with the concept of sin?

Yes! I would like to claim that, even in the age of Carpe Diem, our popular culture still recognizes the reality of sin even if we use other words to talk about it. If we carefully analyze the pop-culture that has spread massively across the world due to the globalization, we will find elements that point towards a Christian principle: we, humans, are flawed. We can find such elements in music lyrics, in movie scripts, in novels, etc. They are often expressed using terms such as: “demons”, “monsters”, “skeletons in the closet”, among others. I am aware that these expressions can have multiple meanings, but they often point to the struggle that the individual has with himself as he tries to deal with bad and hurtful choices from the past. Through such expressions, we express awareness of our internal conflicts and we recognize that, deep in our souls, we are haunted by sadness and regret.

Nowadays, concerts and movie theathres – more than religious services – are the events that make us confess our “dark side”. Check, for example, the following lyrics:

When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide

Demons, by Imagine Dragons

There’s a place that I know
It’s not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away

Everybody’s got a dark side
Do you love me?
Can you love mine?
Nobody’s a picture perfect
But we’re worth it
You know that we’re worth it
Will you love me?
Even with my dark side?

Dark Side, by Kelly Clarkson

I’ve been burin’ the blues with a capital be
Surfin’ in hell for a brand new me
Got a bone to pick with my skeleton crew
Cashin’ in my IOUs

Smoke ’em if you got ’em
Ain’t no place like rock bottom

I’m dancin’ wit my devils
Blind side by side
I’m dancin’ with my devils
Me, myself and I

Dancin’ With My devils, by Mr. Big

These lyrics show how our secular culture is talking about sin without really addressing it. They show that our proneness to hurt ourselves and others (our sinful nature, as Christians would call it) is still a recognized reality. We are still talking about sin even if ‘sin’ is now a mocked word. We are still talking about sin even if we don’t relate it to any sort of religion or belief in God. And note that the secular concept of ‘sin’ even allows a deeper understanding of it: despite the way we talked about it in the past, we were never supposed to reduce ‘sin’ to a list of do’s and don’ts; sin is much more a part of what we are than a set of wrong behaviors. It is something that lies inside of us – whether we call it a monster, a devil or a dark side – and not only the external and visible actions that result from such dark side.

How can we explain that sin is still present in the age of ‘Carpe Diem’? If the religious authorities made it all up, shouldn’t we be able to mute – to kill – our devils and demons once and for all? Shouldn’t we be able to purge our culture from such elements? Why aren’t we able to get completely rid of them?

I believe that we are not able to stop talking about ‘sin’ because sin is real. It’s something real, palpable, concrete; something that is deeply encrusted in our souls and in our human societies and human structures. We may try to negate it, hide it, mask it. But it’s there. It’s real and reality will always find a way of supplanting all the man-made parallel realities.

You may think that I am exaggerating, since popular culture isn’t so much concerned with reflecting reality but only with entertainment. You may even think that my train of though leads just to another way of imposing external concepts on the individuals.

Well, let me take the issue a step further into the personal and existential realm: do you sing along these songs? Do you see yourself in the characters of the novels that struggle with their “demons”? Do the “skeletons in the closet” of TV shows’ characters resonate with you?

If you find yourself answering affirmatively to any of these questions, you may want to accept that sin is something real and concrete. As you embrace such reality, the next question can be: what do you do with it? How do you deal with your monsters and how do you cast away your demons?

You may find, as many have found across the centuries, that a bottom-up approach is the answer: if sin is something that we are able to detect in our human reality and in our human structures – if it is something immanent – perhaps we have to lift up our eyes and seek the cure in the transcendent. And that is precisely what Jesus Christ has to offer according to the New Testament and according to the Christian witness across History.

If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.

I John 1:8-9 (The Message)

Dignity

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Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

During a recent (and fortunately failed) campaign to legalize euthanasia in Portugal, I heard an argument which is usually waged on these sorts of debates by those favorable to euthanasia: “We just want people to be able to die with dignity”.

This is an understandable response to watching people (sometimes close family members or acquaintances) undergoing suffering on their last days of life. But as much as I can understand and even empathize with such reaction, I also know it is emotionally-driven and it betrays some confusion regarding end-of-life decisions and practices. Unfortunately, for various reasons, many people don’t get the best end-of-life treatment they can get, because palliative care resources are not widespread in many countries and especially, because a palliative care mindset is not widespread among the general population and, more grievously, among the medical profession. I will address this on a later article.

But, for now, I would like to focus on the “dying with dignity” canard. Usually, this slogan is coupled with lots of repulsive imagery of dying sick people enduring all sorts of physical and psychological pains, with no possible relief, described in the most gruesome way possible in order to elicit a visceral reaction against it, so that people will say: “this person would be better off dead”.

As a doctor who deals with these kinds of experiences every day, I must say this is not close to the reality of facts, at least not on the vast majority of cases. On my end (and mind you, this is an anecdotal experience), most of the patients who were in such dire situations actually were the ones who clung more avidly to life and fought against death the most. And since euthanasia is all about personal autonomy, this means that they would never choose euthanasia… meaning euthanasia would not “solve” the suggestive imagery that pro-euthanasia folks would use to describe such cases.

In fact, all my patients who consistently and consciously asked me for euthanasia were people who weren’t experiencing physical pain from their illness at all… and who died without suffering major pain.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that the “die with dignity” problem is actually more deep than what a shallow Culture Wars approach might think. Pro-life people, fighting against euthanasia legislation, have focused too much on the “die” part of “die with dignity”, and less on the “dignity” part.

The problem is that our human perceptions have a warped idea of what “dignity” is. Our postmodern worldview (with all its utilitarian and hedonist thinking) exacerbates this problem, no doubt. But this warped perception of “dignity” is actually intrinsically connected to our humanity.

I have reached this conclusion by attending elderly patients who, comparing themselves to their younger selves, would complain: “But why am I still here now, doc? Wouldn’t I be better off dead?” They can’t work anymore, as they used to. They can’t do their pleasurable hobbies and activities, as they used to. They can’t perform, as they used to. They view themselves as burdens on their loved ones. And they think this is grounds for thinking themselves better off dead.

Mind you, these elderly people are usually extremely religious and would never, ever choose euthanasia. But still, they also share from this warped vision of dignity, since they think that old age, frailty, and impairment can somehow diminish their dignity.

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However, this thinking is wrong. It means that dignity is based on what you “do”, not on what you “are”. That dignity is somehow contingent on what you can contribute to society or to the family unit. This is utilitarianism pure and simple… and therefore wrong. People aren’t valued more the more useful they are.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, right at its beginning: “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”. In other words, dignity is inherent to all members of the human family, without distinction… and the human rights that come with such dignity are inalienable.

Mind you, this is a secular document. It is, however, not alone. The very well-known United States’ Declaration of Independence (which is also secular, even though clearly more Christian-based) also states: “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”.

By saying that rights are endowed by the Creator, the Founding Fathers were postulating that human rights are God-given… and, for that reason, unalienable. No human authority has the right to take them away. This ties very nicely with the Christian doctrine of Imago Dei (i.e. the image of God). For the book of Genesis states that man and woman were created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gn 1:26-28).

This means that whenever someone infringes on the rights of any man or woman, he is actually attacking a vessel containing the image and likeness of God. Religious people will usually shudder at the thought of someone desecrating some kind of sacred ground, building or object. If it is so, just imagine how much more should we tremble whenever the image and likeness of God are trampled on when someone attacks the dignity of the human person. God will never be mocked… and even if He may remain silent for some time, in the end, justice will prevail.

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From this we can see that it is easier to defend the inherent concept of human dignity on religious grounds (especially religions with the Imago Dei doctrine): in these instances, human dignity is God-given in an unalienable fashion, and can’t be taken away or diminished.

Nevertheless, even on purely secular grounds, we can see that human rights only make sense if they are viewed as intrinsic to human nature. As something so inherent and inseparable from a person, as the concept of “roundness” is to a ball. If it were not so, we would have to arrive at conclusions that are unacceptable to our modern sensitivities (and rightly so).

If human dignity is not intrinsic to a human being, but contingent on external situations, then this means that every dictator who has incarcerated, tortured and eventually killed a freedom fighter who dissented against his corrupt and bloody regime… as won. This dictator was able to take away their human dignity. This dictator has become the taker of human dignity… and, as a corollary, this means that he is also the giver of human dignity, in the sense that a person can only have human dignity if he does not take it away.

Is this really what we want? Do we want to give the authority to grant and take human dignity to other human beings, as fallible and sinful as we are? And yet, even in western and “civilized” nations, we have fallen for the fallacy that human rights are given by governments and other human institutions. An unborn child only has dignity if he/she is chosen by their mother. An immigrant only has rights if he crosses the border legally. In all this, we see that human dignity seems to be contingent on what these human beings “do”, in their external situation.

This cannot stand. We must know that human dignity and human existence are intertwined. A human being in a dire situation does not lose his/her dignity. And this extends also to external situations which are not human-caused, like natural disasters and illnesses. People who can’t “do” what others can, people who are in situations of vulnerability, have exactly the same dignity as any other person.

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Pixabay @ pexels

However, I would like to venture one step even further. Let us not just claim that vulnerable people have the same dignity as others… let us try to understand that they have, in fact, more dignity.

This is most perfectly highlighted in the Christian religion. Christians worship a God Who died in a Cross. As a doctor, I tremble whenever I think of all the biological ramifications of someone being crucified. The suffering and the pain are excruciatingly atrocious.

And yet, who can say that this Crucified man has less dignity than the passersby of this horrible show? He is the living God incarnate! Who in the whole wide universe can claim a superior dignity than the One God of all things? And still, look at His suffering! Look at the miserable external conditions He was put on! Look at how impotent He is, without being able to do anything anymore, with His hands and feet nailed to a wooden instrument of torture… and yet, here is the source and summit of all human dignity.

This same God tried to teach us this lesson throughout His whole life. When the Magi from the East thought that a new king was born in Judah, they went straight to Herod’s palace. That’s where our human nature tells us human dignity is at its highest… someone of superior dignity should be in a royal palace, no? And yet, how many times those who we deem of superior dignity, kings, and princes, presidents and VIPs, have behaviors below their station as Imago Dei? How many times do their hearts get corrupted so that they act in inhuman fashion like Herod did?

No, God means to tell us that dignity lies elsewhere. The true King of Kings was born on a manger, in a stable, for He was rejected by every inn. Still, is there any more dignified vision than a Nativity Scene?

This Jesus of infinite dignity was, at some point during His life, an unborn child, a refugee fleeing persecution in a foreign land, a humble carpenter, a homeless sojourner dependent on the charity of others, and a convicted criminal. This is the perfect antidote to our natural human tendency to warp the concept of dignity into something it’s not.

That’s why, as Christians, we can understand the meaning of the biblical sentence: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me” (Mt 25:40).

Translating this into the secular realm, I think it’s quite obvious that, only by ascribing a dignity of the highest order to those who are most vulnerable can we evolve into a more solidary and civilized society. Only by seeing those who suffer as more dignified versions of the human ideal, can we start to relocate our resources and efforts into what should be our true priorities.

By doing so, we would not spend so much time quarreling over “dying with dignity” or whether the terminal sick have “lives worth living”. Those questions would not make any sense at all. Of course, those sick people have dignity! They have the utmost dignity! And because of that, we should roll up our sleeves to help them, be either through our voluntary work, our charities, but also with our political activism to change unfair political structures. We should fight for the cause that they will be able to have access to affordable healthcare in general, and palliative care in particular… but also be met with those human needs that institutional structures can’t ever provide in full: companionship and empathy. We should seek, above all political fireworks, to alleviate the suffering of those who are ill and help them cope with their situation.

Only by doing so can we achieve a more dignified society, and a Christian one.

Pedro Gabriel,
Oncologist
Blogger @ https://wherepeteris.com

The fly in the ointment: pride vs worship

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Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” – Ecclesiastes 10:1 (KJV)

King Solomon uses a metaphor to exhort the believers. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks profusely about wisdom and begins this chapter with this same theme. In this verse, the King presents a basic principle: that foolishness creates problems for those who practice it. Solomon compares the good reputation to a good perfume. The dead fly does to the perfume what foolishness does to the reputation does to the wise people.

Wise here does not mean being wise in the human sense. It has nothing to do with intellectual knowledge or status. It has everything to do with hearing the Word of God and practicing it. Wise is he that feareth God, which obeyeth the voice of God. The Bible says that ” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10, KJV).
And many may ask: “What is the wisdom that compels us to obey God without question Him?” To those the Bible replies, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20: 7, KJV) It is foolish not to follow God, the one who gave His own Son for, as the Apostle John wrote: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36, KJV).

This explains why some are wise, and others are foolish. It all depends on the disposition of the heart. So, let me ask you: where is your heart? Where have we placed our heart? The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21, KJV) This can only means that we have our hearts in what we worship. But we will get there soon.

King Solomon uses an interesting comparison here. Tell us about a fly that falls in a perfume and spoils it. And this is similar to the mistakes we make and that call into question our name. This has legal and social implications. If we make a mistake, we will be held responsible. All our actions have consequences, whether they are good or bad.

But let’s think about this verse from the spiritual side. What principle is at the basis of this verse?

King Salomon tells about a Perfume, made with oil and aromas, and a fly that falls into it. The perfume is now ruined.

The same thing happens in our lives, is true of our lives, if we think about this oil as the anointing presence of God. Sin (the fly) ruins our relationship with God.

But let me ask you something: why did the fly fall on the perfume bottle? The answer is simple: because it was open. So it is with our lives: if we leave the lid open, Satan comes and ruins our perfume. We opened the gap, and we fell. Sin undoes many good things and it can completely destroy a lifetime.

What we receive from God, we must guard well. The presence of God must be something that we must preserve every day in our lives. We cannot open any gaps, which is getting more and more difficult these days. The temptation is everywhere, and has many names: addictions, excessive use of television or internet, pornography, lust, money, power, … (you can continue the list with other sins).

 

WORSHIP:

How can we preserve this presence of God? Living a life of worshiping Him. The Bible says in John 4:23, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, – for the Father seeks such love it. ”

So, what is worship? It is the ultimate expression of love. You know, God does not seek worship. He seeks worshipers. He does not care so much about what you

do, He cares about what you are and how you worship Him. If you are a good worshiper, your worship will be received by God. If you truly love Him above all things, He will receive your worship. And it does not matter if you cannot sing, play an inpexels-photo-952437strument, or preach. Use only the gifts that God gave you! We all get a gift, at least. Use it! But use it for the glory of God as a way of expressing your love for Him. May everything you do be done for the glory of God.
We are Christians and Christians are radical. Christians are seriously radical. We have to be 100% committed to God – He won’t accept less than that.

Worship is a way of life. It is not about singing some songs on the Sunday service, pray every now and then, raise your arms, cry a little bit or feeling a shiver on the spine. It’s more than that: it’s a lifestyle. If we love something (or someone), our whole life revolves around it. If love money, your whole life will be made around working hard to make money, or managing schemes to make money; If you truly love your wife or husband, you can’t even imagine of betraying him/her: he/she is the only one in the world.

With God it is the same thing: we become what we worship. When we worship God, we taste a little of what He is, and that will change our life forever. From the moment you know Him, in which you worship Him (in spirit and in truth), and you do it continually, your life will change. So yes, worship is a way of life. And keep in mind: whatever you do will be to the glory of God: “Therefore whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV).

A worship lifestyle is the best lifestyle we can adopt: a life where we always seek the presence of God, where we seek the Holy Spirit, to guide us every day. Worship is something that brings us closer to God. It is exalting, glorifying God without thinking of us. There’s no “me” or “my problems, my needs” at that time. At that moment there is only God, nothing more. The presence of God is the best this world can give us. Funny how the best thing in the world it’s not of this world, huh?

 

PRIDE:

The most opposed state to worship is the pride. Our ego collides with the Holy presence of God.

The greatest example that the Bible gives us about pride is that of Satan. It’s impossible to think about pride without thinking about Satan. Let’s see what the Bible says about him:

 “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weakens the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne  above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the   congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of  the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly  look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the   earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms.” (Isaiah 14:11- 16, KJV)

In these lines we can see the five wishes of Satan, or the five “I will” that he claims:

  1. I will ascend into heaven
  2. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God
  3. I will sit upon the mount of the congregation
  4. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
  5. I will be like the most High.
    You see, this is all about height. Satan wanted to be great, wanted to be exalted. What about us? Well… We want and seek attention from others, we want to see, we want to be seen when we do something good.

We should be like Jesus Christ: humble in heart. Jesus was God and He never had a single arrogant, superb word. He never judged himself above others; on the contrary, He always pointed to God: “For my Father is greater than I” (John 14:28, KJV); ” But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do”(John 14:31, KJV).

The curious thing about Satan is that he gives us two great hints of worship:

1) – Through the gifts he has given us.

Notice that the Book of Isaiah, in the chapter 14:11, states that he had viols (stringed instruments) within him. More, in the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 28:11-19, we learn that he also had drums and percussion instruments inside:

“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone  was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the  carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy  pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
By the multitude of thy merchandise, they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou  be any more.”
(Ezekiel 28:11-19, KJV)

All the instruments that exist in the world, Lucifer played all the instruments in the world. He was responsible for praise, for the worship of God. No worship led to God without going through Satan first, and this was a problem to Satan. In Ezekiel 28:16, God tells us about a trade crime, committed by Satan, the pride crime that began his rebellion. Satan took the worship to God, in his own hands and we couldn’t resist of taking some for him. He thought he proudly deserved some for him. PRIDE: the sin that took Lucifer out of Paradise, the lust of wanting something that was not his, the attempt to resemble God. It all began when Lucifer said, “I want.”

Who are we to say to God “I want ?!

2) How to worship God?

Satan also shows us how to do it, in Matthew 4:8-9: Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain. (he sure loves to feel high, right?) and starts to tempt our Lord: ” Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt falls down and worship me.
And that’s how we worship God: falling down on our knees, in our ego (meaning, with a sincere heart, fulfilled with gratitude) and giving all the glory to Him. Satan knew this was the right way to do it because, at some point in his existence, he did it. He kneeled before God and praised Him.

Satan has made many prostrate before him, for material causes, for moments of enjoyment, in exchange for things that are not worthwhile. But there is only one worthy of worship: God. Only before God, we should bow down. Only His glory will make us fall at His feet. When we prostrate before God (physically or not) we declare that we are sinners, that we need Him, that we have nothing good to give Him to pay for what He has done for us, but that we acknowledge His greatness and glory.

Worship in spirit and in true involves a manifestation of love. It involves a physical expression of love. How can we worship in silence? It is impossible to stand in the presence of God and not manifest our worship. Even Satan knew this! He did not want Jesus to just say, “Yes, I adore you.” He wanted Jesus to express his adoration to him if he prostrated himself before him. And why did Satan want this? Because that’s how you worship in Heaven. This is what he saw the angels do in the presence of God.

As we worship God, as we contemplate His glory, we will be changed. Like Moses when he came down from the mountain, our face will shine, not because we are good and spiritual, but because the glory of God shines in us. And this is exactly what Satan does not want: you and me standing in the presence of God. He wants to divert our focus, and he will do anything to remove us from the presence of God.

He will do everything for the fly to fall into the bottle of perfume. It is up to you to store the bottle, to keep it tightly closed. Enough of living with the bottle uncovered, in the expectation that the fly will not fall; that we can live with our sins without God caring about it. Enough of living a life without sanctification, where we can have a little bit of everything: a little of us, letting a tiny place of our heart to God to fill. Enough of living in our pride in which we manage our lives and do not submit to the will of God.

The Bible is very clear about this: “So, because you are lukewarm, and not cold or hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16, KJV). Either you are cold, or you are hot, but you cannot be warm. The problem of being lukewarm is that we say one thing and do another: we give bad testimony and disgrace the name of God.

Come to live a life of worship. May everything you do be to the glory of God.

 

 

The D day

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Photo on VisualHunt.com

Today we celebrate (this is a term that I am struggling with to keep in the text) the 74th anniversary of the D day or the invasion of Normandy by the Allied troops, against the Nazi Reich in the II World War.

There’s lots of films and series about this or including this subject: “Saving Private Ryan”, “Brothers in Arms” or the classic “The longest day”. They all share the same focus… the beach arrivals, the slaughter caused in the battle, the blood and the gore that we are used to watching on TV. Some are historically more accurate than others, but the facts remain. The D day was a huge leap in the fight against Nazi Germany and its massacre of those who they deemed unfit to be part of a perfect race.

Too much contempt of the truth is nowadays present. Holocaust deniers, revisionists, White Supremacy movements and extreme-right parties are flourishing due to the inability of Men, and the institutions he created, solve problems like impoverishment, crime rates, illegal immigration, globalism, etc. These movements appear as a result of something that was lost but isn’t found. They share the same common traits and pursue the goal of getting back to the old days when things were the way they were and for them they were good.

As a Christian, I must confess this appalls me. The idea of ideology mongering is alive these days, making us forget that we should learn with History what mistakes not to repeat. Unfortunately, the human being is very good with some cycles. The erase, rewind, repeat cycle is one of them. That’s why we must be vigilant about things getting out of hand, hence causing problems or situations where the lack of individual freedom or privacy violation is put to the test.

But as a Christian, I also must remember that we had a D day. What I call The Great Atonement, the King’s Murder, the Day of Penance. For Jesus Christ, himself man and God, came to die for us, laying His life in the hands of the Father to be crucified for sins committed. Not by Him, in who no mischief was found or lie was proffered, but by us who dealt in sin and still do struggle with it. Our simul justus et peccator condition (as taught by Martin Luther) still make us do band when good should be done and do no good. This is the cause of the worst bloodshed in History… not the Colosseum ones, not the ones from the various wars or not even the ones from terrorist attacks.

Rahab, who is a type of the Church, suspended the scarlet thread from her window as a sign of salvation, to show that the nations would be saved through the Lord’s Passion. Just as the house of Rahab and all those with her were saved through the scarlet sign when Jericho was destroyed and burnt and its king, a type of the devil, slain, so when this world is destroyed by fire and the devil who now has dominion over the world is overthrown, no one will be preserved for eternal salvation if he is not found inside the house of the Church which is marked with the scarlet sign, that is, with the blood of Christ.”  Gregory of Elvira, Tractatus 139.

But the one that led an innocent to the death of a guilty man. The guiltiest of all man was wrongly trialed, delivered by the regional ruler to the hands of His murderers, beaten down, scorned, spat on, hanged on the cross, mocked, pierced on His side… All to fulfill the promise of Isaiah 53. The punishment that brought us free was laid upon Him.

We needed an Incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him, that we might be cleansed; we rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him; we were glorified with Him, because we rose again with Him.” St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 45, 28

So, today you can approach Abba without constraints, because of our Older Brother sacrifice. A willing, self-denial, pious deliverance to the worst pressure and most horrendous case scenario.

Today Christ’s holy passion dawns upon the world as a saving light. For He comes of His goodness to suffer. He who holds all things in His hand consents to be hung upon the wood in order to save mankind.” Kathisma Hymn (Tone 1) of Bridegroom Matins of Holy Monday

Make this your D day and twist it into J day. Let the yelling prayer of Bartimaeus come out from your heart and soul:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46, NIV)

Adapt. Evolve. Consume.

I was born in the year of 83. Growing up, I learned the art of creating mixtapes, playing Nintendo and other arcade games. The closest to iPods were Walkmans and then portable CD players. No pay per view, at the beginning only two TV channels, that came up to four when I was starting my pre-adolescence. We spent much time playing football outside, drawing in paper sheets and playing hide and seek.

As time past, I watched all types of marvelous things come up. MP3 players, Playstations, laptops, mobile cell phones (oh boy, Nokia did some good job back then), cable TV. And after that, iPod’s and tablets, smartphones, smart TV’s. Top notch Internet connections and wireless devices. Smart watches, app’s to remind us when to do things, to get us doctors appointments…

At the first glance, this might sound like it caused in me one of two feelings: fear or enthusiasm. Well, being tech-savvy I can say that enthusiasm won. But it came with a price. I had to learn three things:

Adapt – The world around us changes constantly by the second. Not all new things will remain and it’s the law of the jungle when it comes up to that. Only the best ones survive. Like companies, we have to learn how to adapt. Adapt is the art of dealing with something new, learn its purpose and use it to fit it in your life. We adapt every day. We adapt to schedules, jobs, trends, life commitments. We can do it naturally. It might come as a hard process, but to adapt is the key to grow stronger;

Evolve – They might seem the same, but they’re not. To evolve is to develop new skills, to pick up something we didn’t possess fully and make it grow and work. We evolve throughout History. From the invention of the wheel and the dominance of fire to the Industrial Age or the computer creation, Men acquired new skills and features. It’s like we were improving ourselves. From Men 1.0 to Men 3.0, we are gaining some skills but growing weaker in others. The constant use of computers and digital equipment is leading to the art of bad handwriting. Evolving comes with two things: creating and erasing. We create this new set of things in us, with the pass of time or the recurrent use of something, but we tend to erase from our lives some things that become obsolete. Be careful to not turn important things into obsolete ones. Evolve your social skills but don’t let the art of silence and time alone to go obsolete and thrown away;

Consume – Consume is the key word for today. Most of what we see are things to consume. Either to our own satisfaction or need, the focus on consuming is stronger these days. This comes because our society grew too quickly without having time to adapt and evolve itself in the process. So consuming is like the keyword. If you’re not consuming the latest trend, you’re becoming far behind and obsolete. I used to listen to a metal band called Fear Factory. I remember they had something that pretty resumes what I mean to say right now. It goes like this:

 

Man is obsolete!
Our world, obsolete!
Man is obsolete!
Erased, extinct!
Obsolete!

Excessive consume will lead to dependence and to the crush of your own being. It tears relations apart, divides families, cuts real presence social tights… We get addicted to something, we search it for consuming over and over. End there and we’re obsolete and ready for extinction. Because materials and goods start to own us, instead of being otherwise. Let us not make the things dominate over mankind. Consume is to handle with care because things are not worth the value of losing humankind and relationships;

This generation isn’t lost. We can still overcome the debts we own due to this three steps process. Master and dominate these three steps wisely, go look for your Jedi master in this and become his/hers padawan. Engage with this culture like it is what it is: just another stage of time that will pass and make us come to a different process.

I’m a true feminist series (2)

Yesterday I started writing about being a true feminist. I decided to do it so because of a part of what was defended by original feminists are things that we can see in the Bible. The topic of the last post began with the abolitionist movement and the fight of Susan B. Anthony against slavery and slave owners. Today, I will engage on another topic. But before doing that, let me state somethings first. Like all movements, feminism is subjected to the changes in culture, time and society. So Susan B. Anthony’s feminist (what I call true feminism) stance does not match entirely what we see today as feminism. This so-called third or fourth-wave feminism have conflicting points with Scripture. And when those conflicting points arise, I’m compromised with God and His written word. In Scripture, we find words of life, teachings that enrich our spirit and we are honoring God. In social justice movements that exceed what God determines as a limit, we can only find disobedience and lack of comprehension of who God is, what He does and how He loves us.

Today I’m approaching the women’s suffrage movements and rights. They’re at the core of the feminist movement since women we’rent recognized as having the right to vote. Women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt and Lucretia Mott had ties with the Quaker movement in the US, claiming that a man and a woman are equal under God. So there is a Christian foundation behind this movement. Women who saw unfair treatments and non-righteous actions stood up to those who committed them. They fought for the future of those who would come to be and that has a record in History. The Universal Declaration of the Human Rights states in its First Article:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

So, why is the right to vote so important? Suffrage is granted to qualifying citizens once they have reached the voting age. At face, we can say that having the right to vote denotes that we are citizens, recognized as equals among our peers, not having a statute of limitation that will limit our exercise of citizenship. Failing to recognize this is a failure to recognize that both man and woman are equal at the eyes of the State. Thus, making that difference viable, it creates a vacuum in which we can slide into other rights like education, non-discriminatory practices like equality of wages, etc. And that will link to God’s moral law. Like Calvin wrote:

The law of God functions to keep evildoers from being as bad as they otherwise might be. Thus, to some degree, it serves to protect God’s people from the sinful machinations of the ungodly

The Lord protects both men and women, so His moral law is applicable to both. As followers of Christ, we are a people of grace and not law. But it is God’s law that demonstrates his spotless character and shows our need for grace. The grace that we receive and that is to be shown in our daily lives and acts.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, KJV)

I hold the belief that both men and women have complementary roles in the eyes of God. Which is not a full rebuttal of feminist equality, but yet a variation of it. Complementary roles are related to functions, not “rights”. But they are equal in terms of salvation, love, receiving grace and others (Galatians 3:28). Men have a set of duties to carry, as women have another. Together they combine in one unique being, which his only possible by God’s grace. Because in our perspective, in what concerns to God, we have no rights, nor demands (Isaiah 64:6). But He is the one who can demand from us since He is the Creator and the one who rules everything with His hands.

Returning to equality, God used numerous courageous women in History like  Zipporah (Exodus 4:24-26), Deborah (Judges 4:6-7), Ruth (Ruth 3:9), Hannah (1st Samuel 1:12-18), Abagail (1 Samuel 25:30-33), Esther (Esther 4:15-16) or Mary (Luke 1:38), that served His purpose for His glory and our benefit. These women acted while females, obeying God and putting themselves into action to stop harm, unfairness, and tragedies. I would dare to say, they are the true Bible feminists. Those who did it guided by God and to the benefit of those to come after them, while maintaining their female sense and personhood.

I’m a true feminist series (1)

I’m a feminist. And a true one. In a hyper-assumption culture, I’m assuming myself as a feminist. I’m not one of those wannabee feminists that desecrate churches, have the need to show themselves naked, confuse seriously women rights with exceeding good sense and doing what thou will says. Such groups like Femen are a disgrace for women rights and for the legacy that was granted to a woman either by social activists, either by God. They act based on instinct, not on logic or good values. The main motif is to contradict whatever they come across and that does not bow to them. That is not Feminism. That is subjugation of women by women, in a culture of no holds barred, posing as true defenders of feminin sex but diminishing it as they act like cults.

Feminism should not be about elevating women above men, of fighting a supposed “patriarchal” society. It should be grounded in providing women enlightenment about who they are based in God’s relevation and the complementary work between two equal valued and loved beings: a man and a mon. So I’m assuming this subject. It might come to be controversial, but the truth is to be put up high so it can lighten the world. Want to know why? Because of this:

  1. I share the same anti-slavery convictions of Susan B. Anthony. One of her maxims was: “No compromise with slaveholders. Immediate and Unconditional Emancipation”. I share the same conviction. Either through Capitalism or Marxism (or any other theory), the exploitation of man by man is sinful. William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist Christian at some point called the US Constitution: “covenant with death (…) an agreement with Hell“. Slavery is cancer that spreads through the globe and we take part of it when we ignore it. The Global Slavery Index gives us alarming numbers:

    “On any given day in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery. Of these people, 24.9 million were in forced labor and 15.4 million were in forced marriage.”

    Historical figures like English activist William Wilberforce, Methodist preacher John Wesley, Presbyterian Charles Finney (who argued for slavery being a moral sin), Theodore Dwight Weld (who wrote The Bible Against Slavery), the well known “Prince of Preachers” Charles Spurgeon or Sojourner Truth fought for the right of free men and women. I stand with them. Christ came to release us from the bondage of sin and to give us a new life. Those who seek to shackle other human beings are not following the example of our Lord.

    No Christian can compromise with slavery, either like in the African exploitation, nor like the consuming slavery that drives people to suicide resulting from pressure in their jobs. No non-Christian should accept to compromise with these events too. They quickly create a degeneration in humankind, creating first, second and third class citizens, much like the chast system in India. No one should be anyone’s paria. Our generation has to compreend this on the basis of creating a generation weaker in morals and ethics. A generation that won’t consider the value and cost of human life since their income and goods are guaranteed. Today we can be changing the future just by embracing social justice, acting upon slavery with no remorse of fighting it.

    For those who will argue with the word “slavery” in the Law of Moses, let’s enlighten the subject and end it quickly. The translated word, ebed is used in a different context:

    not only actual slaves occupied in production or in the household but also persons in subordinate positions (mainly subordinate with regard to the king and his higher officials). Thus the term >ebed is sometimes translated as “servant.” Besides, the term was used as a sign of servility in reference to oneself when addressing persons of higher rank. Finally, the same term was also used in the figurative meaning “the slave (or servant) of God.” Thus, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prophets, David, Solomon and other kings are regularly called slaves of Yahweh (Exod 32:13; Lev 25:55; 1 Sam 3:9; Ezra 9:11, etc.). Similarly, all the subjects of Israel and Judah are called slaves of their kings, including even wives, sons, and brothers of the latter (1 Sam 17:8; 29:3; 2 Sam 19:5, etc.; cf. also Gen 27:37; 32:4). Addressing Moses and prophets, the Israelites called themselves their slaves (Num 32:25; 1 Sam 12:19, etc.). Ruth refers to herself as a slave girl of her relative Boaz (Ruth 3:9). Being a vassal of the Philistine king Achish, David called himself his slave (1 Sam 28:2).” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, David Noel Freedman (main ed.), DoubleDay:1992)

    From here one can conclude that the concept of “slave” is not to be taken literally, but in context. Much like the Greek doulos which comes close to being equal in significance of ebed. We can then see that there is no contest between someone who is humiliated, taken out of its place and enshackled against it’s will, moved to a foreign country and forced to work there.

    Modern day activists like Hillsong’s Christine Caine and the A21 Campaing are doing God’s job in which concearns social justice, freeing girls and women from sex trafficking all over the world. In this matter, Caine is more of a feminist than Femen alltogether. Not only because she acts upon fighting evil, but because she’s doing it by God’s grace and for His glory (and those women benefit).

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