I’m currently more active on the Minds social platform, using its blogging functionality. Maybe one day I’ll return to the idea of my own website.
This is a long form response to a discussion I’m engaged in on Gab, initiated by this post by Lawrence Blair.
In response to me, he linked to an article on Got Questions entitled “Will there be a second chance for salvation after death?”
My first issue is with the interpretation of Hebrews 9:27; it reads in the NKJV “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” The article in question seems to imply that death happens and judgment immediately follows, yet this contradicts the account in Revelations 20:11-15 (which is later quoted and discussed in the article, and a scripture I myself quoted to begin with).
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
The chronology from this scripture appears to be: dead appear before Him that sits upon the Throne to await judgment; the dead are judged according to their works, by the things written in the books; the sea gives up its dead and Death and Hades (that is, Sheol) delivers up the dead who were in them; these are all judged (that is, the dead from the sea, Death, and Hades, as well as the entities Death and Hades themselves); Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire; anyone not found in the Book of Life is cast into the Lake of Fire.
It does not appear reasonable to assume that Great White Throne judgment is an ongoing event which everyone faces immediately upon death, since immediately following the judgment of the dead, Death itself (as well as Hades/Sheol) are judged and then thrown into the Lake of Fire; therefore, if Hebrews 9:27 is correct and men die once and then face one judgment, there appears to be a potentially huge time gap between any given person’s time of death and that judgment, which occurs at the Great White Throne.
I will admit that I am somewhat rusty in this area of scripture, so I cannot think of a definitive scripture to point to which delineates exactly what one must do in order to have one’s name written in the Book of Life. What I can point to is Romans 10:9 which states “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” I cannot think of a scripture which would justify the idea that confession or belief cannot occur in the time lapse between death and judgment; moreover, it actually provides a mechanism for the oft answered question about “what happens to people who never hear the good news of the messiah in this life time?”
This article also fails to account for another scripture I quoted in the discussion, which is 1 Timothy 2:4, which reads “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Are we to argue that God cannot accomplish what God desires?
An entirely separate discussion would have to be had regarding the interpretation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, but for that discussion I would direct people to this essay by Ernest L. Martin entitled “The Real Meaning of Lazarus and the Rich Man.”
Over the years, I’ve noticed an increasingly disturbing trend. It’s becoming impossible to have a meaningful or productive dialogue anymore. And this isn’t just with strangers, this problem is now seeping into professional, casual and even personal relationships. It indicates there is a deep-rooted problem at the base of many other issues preventing real communication.
One of the first problems, which has been noted by others, is the fact that people simply can’t even agree to simple terms and parameters for discussion anymore. This is especially true of politically, religiously and ideologically charged subjects. While the definition of “fact” (when googled) is ostensibly “a thing that is indisputably the case,” in practice, pretty much anything is up for debate anymore. Further confounding the problem is the fact that statistics is a notoriously slippery discipline (and also notoriously misunderstood by the general populace) and most research today is funded to find a specific result (and as such, is not really unbiased.) Sometimes there can even be intentional obfuscation on an issue in order to keep the debate and division roiling – regarding the recent gun control controversy, I overheard on NPR the following quip while driving this morning that really just hits the nail on the head: “One thing missing in the debate on gun control recently? The data.”
Related to this problem of a lack of agreement to terms and facts is the fact that most people are untrained in the disciplines of determining truth, especially logical truth. Decrying the poor logic of public discourse, particularly online, is a bit of beating a dead horse at this point, but it really is a troubling trend. People don’t know how to determine whether arguments are sound or valid let alone true and they don’t particularly care. While my generation and presumably younger ones (I was born in 1988) were raised with this concept of “everyone is entitled to their opinion,” with good intentions, the concept has gone way too far and had a disastrously toxic effect on discourse. People can’t distinguish facts from opinions and moreover because everyone extends this “you’re entitled to your opinion” mentality to everyone in every situation (to include actual ARGUMENTS, which are different from OPINIONS), a nefarious sub-effect has developed wherein the general attitude seems to be “since everyone is equally entitled to their own opinion/argument, nobody can really be wrong, which means I can’t really be wrong, so why should I bother evaluating my own positions?” Whether you’re discussing the merits of entertainment media, art, or public policy, discourse has become a maddening chore.
In a recent back-and-forth on Facebook, a discussion over whether YouTube removing gun-related content on their platform was a violation of free speech (it’s not: “freedom of speech” is a legal protection of the constitution that restricts government censorship of your speech; Google and YouTube are not the government and are not beholden to let you say and do whatever you want on their platforms) somehow devolved to a conversation about whether Muslim restaurants not serving pork was somehow discrimination deserving of equal legal consideration as the case of the cake shops refusing to serve homosexual customers. (Discrimination, by definition, refers to the differentiation in treatment between DIFFERENT CATEGORIES of people/things/etc, and when a given item [pork] is unavailable to EVERYONE, it cannot be discrimination. If we have the legal right to demand Muslim shops to serve us items that aren’t on the menu, then we would also have the legal right to demand Domino’s to serve us a Cheezy Gordita Crunch. It doesn’t make any sense.)
One underlying issue that’s going on is the increasing trend of personalizing politics. The phrase “identity politics” is quite telling, as people are literally tying their identities to their politics. Politics are becoming a new sort of religion as the more traditional religions are fading away in importance and relevancy to most of the public. And with that transformation comes the same sort of emotionally charged, dogmatic adherences to things poorly understood and poorly thought out. I’m sure many of had or seen the experience of trying to debate a fervent missionary or street preacher, and that’s become the same experience of talking about public policy with most young(er) people. People have rightly been very concerned with the religious invading the political, but now that the political is essentially religious people haven’t seemed to be as alarmed. When you’ve tied up your very identity into something, it’s unlikely you’re going to be unbiased in talking about the pros and cons of your position, and its even more unlikely you’re going to be reasoned out of your position.
The notion of “echo chambers” is a relatively recent phenomenon that is related to the maladies being discussed. People seemed surprised by the rise of, for example, alt-right Nazi movements or other “hate groups,” but haven’t thought about what’s pushing people to those groups. Many college campuses, workplaces, and other public spaces have essentially become echo chambers for the same type of views. This view tends to be anti-white and particularly anti-male. This is not a “boo-hoo, white men are victims” argument, but just a simple statement of fact – one need not look further than the recent controversy around Evergreen State College in Washington to see how extreme and yet widespread these views are becoming. I’m nearly 30 now and I remember (as a white male) being exposed to this type of narrative as early as middle school. It only got worse in high school, and later college (despite a thankful and brief reprieve in my time in the United States Marine Corps). More than just being regarded as an “evil white male” (whether literally – feeling the seething hatred of peers who really felt and thought just that – or more abstractly – being taught about how white men had fucked the world up and how all of my own successes must actually be attributed to privilege regardless of any of the facts of my circumstances), my voice was silenced on more and more of the issues of the day due to precisely my biological sex and skin color. I couldn’t talk about oppression or basically anything to do with ethnicity because there was no way I’d understand. I couldn’t talk about equal opportunity, or male-female wage gap, or virtually anything that wasn’t completely trivial (like entertainment media). And hell, in the modern day, we’re even seeing traditionally “safe” topics LIKE entertainment media becoming saturated with the same politically charged discussions (and thus the same disbarment from participating in those discussions) that exists in other topics. So when virtually every facet of society is telling you you’re a worthless (or worse than worthless: evil) piece of shit who can’t have an opinion on anything, is it really any surprise that young white men would begin cleaving to groups that aren’t telling them that? That, moreover, are telling them they actually do have value, do have worth, are capable of good and great things? Now, understand, I’m not defending or even excusing Nazis or hate groups (though, this being the internet, I’m sure I’ll be taken out of context and accused of the very same), but much like any other echo chamber, people flock to these groups because it makes them feel good. We live in a society where somehow the way to “win” is to be the biggest victim, to see everyone else as an enemy who is assaulting you, and to draw a circle around “us” and condemn “them.” It’s what LGBT and feminist groups have been doing for a long time (constantly bickering about whether or not someone is a “true” ally or even having infighting about whether someone is a “true” feminist or whether someone is actually trans and so on) so why is it any surprise that white men would do the same thing? And, quite tellingly, Steven Pinker – a well known cognitive psychologist and author – recently discussed on an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast how, most of the time, when these “alt-righters” (for lack of a better term) were engaged in respectful conversation, they can be easily talked out of their extreme and unreasonable positions. The problem is, we’ve all become so polarized that reasonable and respectful conversation is now the exception rather than the rule.
Many might point to the spread of various “liberal” (and I put the term in quotes because “liberal” and “liberalism” have actually become some kind of Orwellian double-speak terms whose meanings in practice have nothing to do with the meanings commonly held in the mind of most people) policies and agendas, in particular certain aggressive strains of academic feminism and the tenets of political correctness as the source of what’s going wrong. While it’s true that these philosophies have had an insidious effect, and it might be worthwhile to discuss some of the particulars, that conversation has been happening around various parts of the web for a long time now (gaining a lot of traction in 2009 and only heating up since then) and there’s plenty of information about it for those interested elsewhere.
One thing that needs to be stated here, and that isn’t talked about enough, is the fact that none of this is really new. People feel like it is new, insist that it is new, but history begs to differ. This isn’t the first time women have fought for (and been attaining) equal rights, or the first time sexual morals have been revolutionized, or the first time religion has fallen out of favor in society at large. John Bagot Glubb wrote a fascinating treatise entitled “The Fate of Empires” which traces the themes of expansion and decline of the world’s largest known civilizations to point out all of the similarities. It’s quite an eye opening read. And this idea that we haven’t learned from history is an idea as ancient as history itself; the ancient document of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament opens with the author (generally regarded to be King Solomon, an ancient Jewish King renowned for his wisdom) bemoaning people’s lack of learning from those that came before: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new?” It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.” It seems failure to learn from history is a trope as old as history itself.
And maybe that has to do with what I propose to be the real root order cause of it all. Here’s the thing – we know from studying human communication that a person constructs their reality based upon what they decode from whatever messages have been encoded to them. While improvements in encoding can be important (that is to say, it’s important to think before you speak, to write carefully and clearly, and so on and so forth), the fact of the matter is that any objective truth or merit of any given encoding (including the process of decoding natural laws etc through the process of science – that is to say, decoding the encodings of natural phenomenon) is SUBSERVIENT to the subjective or relative truth of any particular person’s decoding processes. If this doesn’t sound very, very troubling, it ought to. Any number of biases processes can distort what would otherwise be an objective truth or reality to something completely incongruent with the truth, and because of this phenomenon, many have questioned whether there can really even be an objective truth to begin with. And if there can’t be an objective truth, then why should your argument be any better than my argument? (We see here a repeat of the theme raised above, when discussing opinions and arguments.)
Language and our language faculties in general may, in fact, be the culprit. A while back I wrote an essay on the entwinement of language and thinking, which delved into many aspects of language theory (http://www.jwdonner.com/2010/08/10/talking-about-thinking/). When you get to the heart of it, the major differences people point to as starting conflict (things like ethnicity or national pride or anything else) may have in fact, at their base, been due to differences in language. I suggest you take a look at the section on Language Ideologies in the essay above. Of import here, I reiterate from that essay the following:
“[T]he entire system [of language ideologies] is imposed right under our noses. It begins in the classroom: “Standard language ideology is a basic construct of our elementary and secondary school’s approach to language and philosophy of education. The schools provide the first exposure to SL ideology, but the indoctrination process does not stop when students are dismissed” (Lippi-Green, 1994)… After the school system, there are several other guardians of standard language ideology…: “…the educational system, the news media. the entertainment industry, and what has generally been referred to as corporate America. At the end of the article, I argue for adding the judicial system to this list” (Lippi-Green, 1994).”
What does this really mean? It means arriving at a solution to gun control, to LGBT rights, to abortion, to any other charged issue of the day is a bigger problem than just the factual particulars of that issue (given what we already know about the difficulty of agreeing to what the facts are in the first place). With so very many things out of whack in our modern society, with “mental illness,” (I put “mental illness” in quotes because that’s a whole separate quagmire of misunderstandings and poor solutions) dissatisfaction, and even hopelessness on the rise, one has to wonder whether we are dealing with a million individual problems or if we aren’t in fact dealing with the symptoms of one much larger, unifying problem. Our ability to communicate is fundamental to being human, and we are taking it fundamentally for granted. Understanding the communication process – noise, feedback, biases, encoding, decoding – and realizing the benefits and pitfalls is central to resolving other issues. Realizing that what you heard may not have been what the person said (that is to say, the message you decoded is not the message they intended to encode) – even if you can repeat their exact words back to them with 100% accuracy – is an example of what a more sophisticated understanding of communication could bring us. And until we reach the point where we are actually communicating with each other rather than to each other, we are only going to continue to see the rise of extremism in all facets of life – whether they be political, religious, or ideological.
Today’s theme song is Atmosphere’s “Little Man.”
Perhaps I jumped the gun in thinking I could so quickly progress into later phases of my life. I forgot several interesting and perhaps crucial details about my childhood.
I may have been too quick to say that my childhood was more or less normal. I have always known – and appreciated! – that I certainly didn’t have it “that bad.” One interesting familial wrinkle I forgot to highlight concerned parental disagreements. I cannot recall in my early youth if they were frequently disagreeable (or, stated another way, often fighting about small things – as they would later in life) … but every once in a great while they would get into a rather vicious verbal disagreement. My father, who was normally a very patient, docile sort of man, could erupt in a powerful anger made even more poignant by its rarity. Sometimes these fights would end with either parent storming out – leaving those of us left behind to wonder whether they would ever return. The strangest ends to these fights happened when the parent storming out would take one of us kids with them – I can remember at least being taken once by either parent and can’t say for sure how many times it truly happened.
Another interesting wrinkle about my upbringing I forgot to highlight was my internet activity. I can’t be certain exactly how young I started getting online, though I do know it was before I was even 11. This is because I had already started using http://www.gamefaqs.com at age 11, under the alias DaMan (user id 161 on those boards) and later Death Hunter (40,000+ something user id) and there’s all sorts of interesting things that happened on GameFAQs, though those things were going on more in the “middle school” phase of my life, so we’ll get there in due time.
Early internet use centered almost solely around built in America Online features, however, and most specifically chat rooms. I was fascinated by the ability to basically talk to anyone, and because I’ve always preferred to type correctly, people just assumed I was much older than I was. While I can’t remember anything super specific about what I would chat about, or how frequently I was chatting, or much about who I was chatting with, I do recall there was one (supposedly) 18 year old girl who had something of a romantic interest in me until she found out I was 9 or 10 or whatever.
Being that I’m still quite busy on my holiday trip, I’ll have to continue breaking this up into smaller posts.
I’ve been quite a bit more busy on my holiday trip than I imagined, which has limited the amount of time I have to just sit down and write. As such, I haven’t been churning out content quite as quickly as I thought I would be. However, I did restore some old posts that were lost (particularly some of the important images to them) and so now a whole train of thought from right before my life changing medical severance from the Marine Corps can be revisited. Read these in order:
Odds are strong that some of these links may contain broken links in and of themselves; I’ll probably get around to cleaning that up at some point but I don’t have the time at the moment.
If you have no idea what’s going on, start at the About page.
Let me begin by stating something that should be obvious. No one’s memory is perfect, as in, the events I end up discussing as I go through the history of my life may not have panned out in reality exactly as I described them. Odds are, if people who were involved at the time end up reading (and commenting), we are going to remember things differently. I’m not here to try to discern the factual reality of the events that transpired, because frankly, that’s immaterial. What matters is how I remember them, and how that shaped the decisions I would later make and the perspectives I would later take. While talking about the actual truth of what did or did not happen may be profitable towards mending bridges and reconciling – and I’m all for it – that’s a sort of tertiary effect of this exercise that I am not counting on happening.
So we start at the very beginning. I, obviously, don’t have a very cohesive memory of my early childhood, and my recounting of it relies heavily on vaguely remembered stories from other people interspersed with my own imperfect recollections. But something needs to be made clear up front – up until about the age of 12 I was more or less what I would consider a relatively normal, healthy, happy young boy. So far as I knew, we were a more or less regular family, and my mom loved me the best she could, my dad did the same, and while the kids may have fought amongst themselves from time to time, that’s just kind of what kids do. With perfect hindsight there are some things that stick out in this relatively idyllic early part of my life worth mentioning, and that’s what this post is going to be about – but by and large the take home point here is “relatively normal.”
I would not begin to become personally invested in music until I was about the age of 12, but music has played a very critical part in my thought life, and has often been the only reliable outlet I’ve had for emotional expression and release. Because of that, depending on what I’m writing about, I may include an obtrusive link to some song you’ve never heard of or don’t like, and spend way too much time talking about the lyrics and instrumentation solely to trigger you. And to begin this grand tradition, enjoy a link to Dream Theater’s Solitary Shell, which I would choose as an eerily accurate (and later eerily prophetic) sort of “theme song” for myself after first hearing it. And while obviously the lyrics are meaningful in and of themselves, you won’t get the full power and weight of the songs unless you listen to them for yourself.
He seemed no different from the rest
Just a healthy normal boy
His momma always did her best
And he was daddy’s pride and joy
He learned to walk and talk on time
But never cared much to be held
And steadily he would decline
Into his solitary shell
When it comes to my early upbringing, I do not know whether or not I cared much to be held. But by the time I heard the song (sometime in the early 2000s), deprivation of physical intimacy was already a fact of life I’d come to accept, and so the lyric rang very true for me. Moreover, at that same time, I was already descending into a “solitary shell,” and I don’t know how early that trend started, but I’ll talk about its possible origins in just a bit.
The first thing I want to discuss is that I grew up in an ostensibly Christian household. We regularly attended Church as a family and as youth we were actively engaged in Sunday school and likely a number of other church activities I don’t recall too well. I remember my brother – 8 years my senior and a half brother technically, though we’ve never thought of each other as such – even being in some kind of a teaching or leadership position in the Sunday school. I remember taking great pride as a youth in memorizing and reciting scripture, earning badges and trinkets and baubles and praise for such performances, and doing my best in church-organized plays and things like that.
One of my earliest personal memories – vague though it is – must have been from when I was around two or three, given what I know about my age at the time I lived in this particular house. I can remember praying to have Jesus (like most people, I didn’t then have any idea that Jesus was not the Messiah’s name, or even what “Messiah” meant, or that his last name wasn’t Christ, and on and on and on – but none of that stuff matters for a child, necessarily) enter my heart.
Importantly, I can remember making my own decision to be baptized (which I was) and more importantly I remember being quite young (but old enough to understand the implications of the decision) in front of the congregation taking a vow with several other similarly aged youths to never have sex until I was married. I don’t know whether hand jobs and masturbation on my part have rendered this vow broken, but to this day I’ve not had intercourse with a woman (before you ask, neither have I with a man, nor am I interested in such a thing) – and, I might add, not for lack of trying or desire. (I am 27.) But we’ll get into all of that in due time.
As a boy he was considered somewhat odd
Kept to himself most of the time
He would daydream in and out of his own world
But in every other way he was fine
[INSERT CHORUS HERE – the lyrics are not as relevant to this stage of my life]
From a very early age I developed two poignant methods of escapism. One was an active imagination fostered and nurtured by primarily, I think, my brother, directed towards the end of creative writing. I very much admired and looked up to my older brother, and tellingly, he was a bit more of a father figure to me than my own father was. My father, I am told, was engaged in rearing me as a baby and infant and very young child, but when it came to who I remember going to for advice on anything – especially when it came to matters of masculinity – my first real role model was my brother. This was the birth and origin of a trend that would follow me for the rest of my life, where I would choose a role model to emulate and do my best to make decisions the same way they did and simultaneously win their approval, sometimes at the expense of what I personally wanted to do.
The second method of escapism was hoisted upon me even while I was fresh in the womb, which was video games. My mom actively played video games all throughout my pregnancy and my brother was, in his youth, a somewhat avid video gamer. As a baby/infant/what have you, he would often hide the first player controller behind his back while he gave me the second player controller; he would be playing the game but “tricking” me into thinking that I was playing the game. I started playing them for myself at a very early age, and got into relatively complex games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior which required a lot of reading and rudimentary math skills to enjoy. Because of this my parents quickly got tired of having to read things for me, and in order to continue playing video games I learned to read well in advance of going to preschool. My brother was primarily, as I recall, the one responsible for that kind of a thing, and he would continue to foster a love for learning and particularly literary skills as I grew – which, had he not, I probably would be much worse off today, since public education did everything it could to make me hate learning. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If we return to the first verse of our theme song, specifically the line about retreating into a solitary shell, I think I can estimate the origins of that in my life. Due to financial follies, our family moved around my hometown like clockwork, pretty much once every three years. For whatever reason – and, having talked at length to both of my parents about this, I’ll never truly know what happened or why it happened – bills would stop being paid a year or two after moving in and then by the third year we’d get kicked out and the process would repeat. The end result was that, until the 4th grade, I was in a different school district every time this happened. So I had one set of friends in preschool, then brand new people to befriend in kindergarten, then brand new friends to make in 1st-3rd grade, and then brand new friends to make again in 4th grade.
This had two effects. One, I learned how to get along easily with people, but two, I detached from making strong emotional ties to anyone because I couldn’t trust that they’d be around long enough for the investment to be worthwhile for me. What was the point in getting super attached to any particular friend if I kind of knew in the back of my mind I might not see them next year because we’d be moving? This just reinforced my tendency to retreat to fantasy realms, be it my own personal creative fiction or video games, and bear in mind that at this time video games were very certainly not cool or socially acceptable like they are today. I was certainly considered “somewhat odd,” though had my own way of dealing with people who tried to bully me and as such never went through a lot of bullying. In fact many I went to school with seemed to perceive me as one of the “popular” kids – an irony that would weigh very heavily on me. But. We’re getting ahead of ourselves again.
One very poignant example of me actively withdrawing from my peers for no real good reason – and beginning a trend of treating people who wanted to get close to me and could’ve possibly been good for me poorly – happened in the 4th grade. I remember it was one of the early days of being new to the school and I hadn’t really made a lot of friends yet. It was recess and I went over to the swing by myself and just kind of sat there. I must’ve looked sad because I remember feeling sad and unprompted a girl innocently came over and tried to ask if I was ok. Her name was Allyse, and unbeknownst to me at the time, she would grow up to be a stunningly attractive young girl and woman. None of that really mattered to a socially stunted prepubescent boy and so I kind of curtly told her off and that was that. This, too, is the origin of a pattern that would repeat.
In the town I grew up in, elementary school ended at 5th grade and middle school began at 6th grade, meaning you were dumped into larger social pool and had a change up in expectations, class structure, etc etc etc. Middle school was also where the more or less relatively innocuous childhood with which there was no major unhappiness began to become unraveled. As such, it is best left for a separate post – one I may write and publish immediately, but one that should be separate nevertheless. Before I do, because I don’t want to reuse songs in future posts (beyond perhaps mentioning them again in passing), allow me to finish analyzing the rest of the lyrics and how they would describe and even come to predict my life.
He struggled to get through his day
He was helplessly behind
He poured himself on to the page
Writing for hours at a time
As a man he was a danger to himself
Fearful and sad most of the time
He was drifting in and out of sanity
But in every other way he was fine
[SLIGHTLY ALTERED CHORUS]
In school I quickly developed a habit of falling behind in work only to rush at the last possible minute to get it all done in one frenzied burst. I suppose if I were to try to explain it, it was a way for me to add a certain degree of challenge that was otherwise completely lacking. As for pouring myself on the page and writing for hours at a time – it’s something I still clearly do, though especially earlier in life I often did it either developing fiction (which, as I grew older, was mostly just an outlet to express my inner turmoil) but later became this sort of introspective nonsense that no one has ever given a shit about.
The bit beginning after the line “Writing for hours at a time” is eerily prophetic. For those that don’t know me, that more or less became my life – I’ve been in the psychiatric ward 6 different times and the government often considers me a legal danger to myself, which means I have no rights when it comes to the types of treatment I receive.
Both choruses also apply to my life, though I didn’t take the time to type them out and analyze them. Consider that your bit of homework, casual reader – if you even exist – since it should be pretty easy to piece it together if you follow the rabbit trail I’m building.
Perhaps I am at a unique juncture in my life that many do not attain to, but I feel like I have done every natural thing I’ve ever really wanted to do (outside of write and publish a book). To elaborate, becoming a Marine was my superhero dream as a child – I greatly admired my grandfather who had retired as a LtCol (and I would later come to find out survived some of the bloodiest battles in USMC history) and watching documentaries about Marines made them seem like super humans. As I grew into a young boy and young “adult,” I never acquired much physique and moving into high school I dropped sports and focused purely on academics and the debate team.
When I moved to Utah at the age of 17 to escape a negative living environment, I only became more and more sedentary. I found success at both of the jobs that ended up hiring me, eventually focusing on one and becoming promoted to Assistant Manager at the number 1 store for a national watch retailer and repair shop. One of the VPs (the son of the man who started the company when it had been family owned) wanted to adopt me into the family, and it wasn’t just a joke. But this was back in 2007, with the economic downturn, and I didn’t like the way corporate had phrased some of their emails about why numbers weren’t as high as expected, so I decided to jump that sinking ship and consider a career in the Marine Corps.
There were many conflicting reasons about why I enlisted (especially during a bad time in the war) but the fact remains that I did it and I earned the title. Later in my career I attained all the glory I could ever hope for as a Lance Corporal when Marines I served with considered me their hero for going through a difficult Request Mast (a risky whistle-blowing maneuver). My ambition was to carry on in the Marine Corps and go as high as I could go – even after the office of the Commandant if I could.
It was very shortly after I had received all this glory and praise that the Holy Spirit came upon me for the first time in a decade or longer. However, because I wasn’t grounded in the scriptures and didn’t have a man of God in my life at the time, the simple message the Spirit was trying to give me (about divine governmental order) was twisted and corrupted by my own pride and by the whisperings of the devil. I thought that I could profit from this seemingly random epiphany and attain great rewards from the Marine Corps because of it. The Bible instructs us to buy truth but never sell it and because we have been given much we should also therefore freely give.
It’s taken five years to fully process that simple message the Spirit gave me and now I can say that I no longer have any earthly ambition that is driving me. My ambition is for the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven; my heart is truly to see the Kingdom advance as quickly and efficiently as possible and to play whatever role I am to play in doing that. One of the gifts that I have been given by our creator is a proficiency with the English language (both spoken and written) and so if I can help do His will through His gifts, I will. Moreover scripture tells us that the Father will give us the desires of our heart when we walk with him, so I very well could end up writing a book and then I would well and truly have no earthly ambition left. (I’ve sometimes thought I might want to be the father of a family but it’s never been something I’ve fully committed to wanting – but that is another way that I could be blessed should I continue in the discipline of His will and not mine.)
So my question to anyone who reads this blog is – where are your ambitions? Are you still striving for rewards in the natural or have you realized that the only thing we’re taking out of this life is our relationships with other people? This doesn’t mean that a life of poverty is for everyone, nor does it mean that everyone will have a life of great financial abundance. But everyone is guaranteed a life of great spiritual abundance by obeying the King and living according to the laws of the Kingdom, such that, like Paul, we know how to live in abundance and live in abasement.
We’re to judge ourselves before we judge anyone else. I consider myself nothing but a private in YHWH Tzabaoth’s Army, having been little more than a “super private” (E3, Lance Corporal) in the United States Marine Corps. YHWH Tzabaoth’s Army has a better benefits package and if the USMC can be considered one of the most elite fighting forces that has ever been on this natural Earth then almost certainly His Army would be that much more excellent. Similarly, if the USMC’s boot camp and enlistment requirements are stringent, so much more would His Army’s requirements and disciplines be.
We may take some measure of pride and comfort in thinking that we are all soldiers in His Army but I would have to ask the tough question of what are your fruits in the role and capacity of a soldier for Elohim? What battles have you been winning when it comes to spiritual warfare for yourself and more importantly for other people? What formations are you marching in? Do you know how to wear the uniform of the day, and do you know what uniform goes with what posting? Do you know the standing orders and do you know how to seek out those other people we are to temporally obey because they’ve already put in the years and have lived the discipline? While ultimately Yeshua is our one and only true commanding officer, we are still to recognize those who have gone before us and whose iron will sharpen our iron on our path to report in to Yeshua for our next set of orders.
I know at least one man who is sharp enough that he could be considered a master blacksmith, able to forge swords out of scrap metal. That is not something that I can currently do, but if we have the heavenly perspective we realize that there is an element of an illusory nature to time, in that, in the Eternal realms the victory has already been won and we are already reigning with Christ! I know that one day, should I continue my walk down the narrow path faithfully and not be turned aside by things like worry, doubt, or my own flesh, I too will be able to forge swords from scrap metal. In fact, part of what I feel called to do is to re-equip the saints with a modern understanding of warfare, as the modern world is that much more complex and complicated compared to the ways warfare was fought 2000 years ago. How accurate are you as a basic soldier with your M16A4 Service Rifle of the Spirit? Do you have the discipline it takes to get “shots in the black” from 500 yards with an iron sight, or do you “miss the mark” (another phrase for sin!)?
There are many who are attracted to the honor that might be afforded a soldier in His Army but few I’ve found who actually live lives that bear the fruit of that kind of discipline and self-sacrifice. Prayerfully consider whether this is you, or whether you are even called to serve in His Army (there are 300+ million Americans but only 180,000 Marines! Not everyone in the Body need be in the Army, but the Army protects the rest of the Body!)
[This was originally composed to a friend on Facebook after he pressed me about why I believe in something that cannot be proven scientifically.]
I haven’t given you a fair response in part because I wanted to avoid getting into a debate with you. I’m not interested in debates and winning arguments – there was a time when I was but no longer. I can, however, share with you my perspective on why I base my life around my relationship with our triune Creator (YHWH, Yeshua, and the Ruach Qodesh) and the scriptures concerning them that have been around for 4000 years (Old Testament) and 2000 years (New Testament). (Yeshua can be found in the Old Testament too!)
The simplicity of it is you will never have a reason to believe in the scriptures or trust God for anything until the spiritual realm comes into your life. Hopefully, when the spiritual realm comes to you, it is the Kingdom of Heaven that you are entering into or seeing for the first time, and not the deceptions of the Kingdom of Darkness (which can mimic the miracles of God as seen when the court magi reproduced many of Moses’ miracles, and supported in scripture by Paul when he writes Lucifer and his ilk can appear as angels of light). Also, I realize that you will probably think justifying scripture with other scripture is some kind of circular logic or logical fallacy, to which I have no counter argument for you other than “Live the scriptures and then see what you think.”
I have spent the past five years stuck in the wake of what happened to me in February of 2010. You were an intimate witness to that time and for me the experience was intensely spiritual. I don’t remember how involved you were (I was trying to involve everyone) nor do I know how you feel about that time or whether you even remember it. That was the first time in a long time at that point in my life that the Holy Spirit had come upon me. But I wasn’t fully receiving everything I could have received because I hadn’t been grounded in scriptures since about the age of 12 and had in fact been very angry at God for many things and basically ambivalent about whether He even existed. I envied people who could believe in him, because I was still living by some of the moral principles that are found in the Bible (for example, I was never able to break my vow to not have sex before marriage – in part because I never learned to trust women, especially not that intimately, due to my relationship with my mother and in part because God was helping me keep the vow by befuddling circumstances).
Had I been grounded in the scriptures or had a man of God in my life at the time of my 2010 experience I would probably still be in the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps was my life and identity and part of my downfall. I prided myself on being one of the Few and the Proud, and I wanted to be the next LtCol Donner (at the least! I wanted to be a General!) Just as Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, Satan came to me and whispered in my ear as the Holy Spirit was whispering to me and promised me great glory and status if I could just explain my “system” to the Marine Corps. Being given glory for the Request Mast didn’t help with my ego either, as people were coming up to me and telling me I was their personal hero (I still have a letter from Stiles signed by multiple people at the company, where the envelope is labeled “To the Hero of ELMACO” and MGySgt Haen has confirmed as recently as Christmas that people still talk about me out in Okinawa).
The simplicity of it was a vision of divine governmental order, but there’s always a spiritual competition and for the last five years I have had to fight for my eternal life (and many people have had to fight on my behalf as well). I almost lost that battle twice recently – once by giving up on someone who has demonstrated greater love for me than any other person on this earth and once again in the psych ward 1/1/2015 to 1/24/2015.
When you are in the psych ward they pump you full of medications, up to 40 different ones. If you are spiritual you know that there is a spirit behind everything – including medication (this is not to say all medication is bad). If you are natural senses reasoning, you might say that every medication has side effects. This last hospitalization has been the most difficult one to stabilize from afterwards because of the intense medications they put me on while in the ward. My sleep schedule is still awful, there’s residual effects from stuff they put me on, and at one point I couldn’t even dress myself without assistance.
I don’t know how any of this will help you or convince you of anything. Most people believe what they see, and most people haven’t seen the Kingdom of Heaven because the church has failed massively in its designated role of advancing the Kingdom. They have truncated the Gospel to simply “Jesus died for your sins,” when Jesus dying for us was never a message that He himself preached. John the Baptist preached “repent” (change your thinking) “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and after being baptized by John, Jesus taught the same thing. The entire message of the Bible concerns God trying to re-establish the Kingdom on Earth that he wanted to give to Adam who in turn gave it to Satan until Jesus redeemed it back to mankind.
I think it was Myles Monroe who said that Jesus dying at the cross is like the gate to a magnificent castle; the rest of the castle is the Kingdom of Heaven but everyone is stuck at the gate and don’t want to press in further.
I could write more but I don’t know if you’ll even read this much or even care because there’s nothing that tastes specifically “scientific” about what I wrote. I could write for ages about all the mystical experiences I’ve had (and I did that once, back in 2011) but I can’t GIVE you my mystical experience and my mystical experience has no right to be authoritative to you (but has every right to be authoritative to me – check out William James for more on this).
The philosophical fate of the West was sealed when we decided to take the perspective of Aristotle which is that there is no such thing as eternal forms and no use to talking about eternity (which Plato very much taught about – he also valued direct human interaction over writing everything down since much meaning is lost in writing and reading). Ever since then our God has been our natural senses and since you can’t see or perceive Spirit through the natural senses we’ve given up on trying to explain things that are outside the scope of science. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, it just means that if science can’t explain them they must not be valuable.
Your friend in this great tribulation we call life,
To those who followed this blog on the promise of my grand whirlwind tour of the United States, I apologize. I haven’t been posting because I’m still in the process of recovery from my last stint in the psych ward which was probably the single most disruptive one in my life. They put me on some very powerful drugs in the ward that I’m still filtering out of my system, and I still haven’t yet entered into a stable daily routine that leaves me time to accomplish all of the things I need and want to accomplish on a daily basis.
That said, I have been growing closer and closer to our triune Creator, and learning to rely more and more upon Him. As I recently told my senior pastor, the scriptures are the realest thing I’ve ever experienced and they continue to become more and more real every day.
It took me approximately four long years of searching the scriptures, attempting to live the scriptures and just very recently 100% trusting the scriptures. I am at a place where I am constantly mindful of whether I am trying to see my will done or His; I repent of any worry and I ask for forgiveness when I start pre-planning what I need to say to people I’m meeting in life. I’m also being tested in my stewardship, not just of finances but also of time. Time is perhaps the more difficult thing to steward and yet it is the thing in which we are all equal. We do not all have access to the same amount of finances but Elohim HAS given us the same amount of time each day. How much of our time are we investing into our walk with Him, sharing Him with a lost and dying world, advancing His Kingdom and being the light in the darkness?
I am encouraged that each day it is becoming easier and easier to rely on Him and easier and easier to sublimate myself to His will, but I am a long way from having “arrived” and a much longer way from “perfection.” I feel that I am at least bearing fruit, particularly some of the fruits of the spirit. In this season I am concerned about my fruit of self-control, which is one of the least talked about fruits. It seems many people are not so keen on discipline and would rather want for grace, but I wonder why we can’t have the fullness of both? A healthy body is helpful in ministry, especially if Elohim is calling you to be up for 24 or more hours at a time. You may find yourself in that situation where Yeshua is asking you to stay up for one more hour and pray with him and yet you find yourself giving in to your flesh just as the 12 did. One of the promises I want to see come to pass is the promise of Yeshua that we will do “these and greater things” by following his teaching and relying upon the Ruach Qodesh.
Be encouraged knowing that, as the scriptures say, trials and tribulations build perseverance, perseverance builds character, and character builds hope.
So, as I mentioned in my last brief post, I had been in a psych ward recently. Well, some of that followed me home in a bit of a naive decision to be a roommate with someone I had met in the ward. It caused some headaches and definitely stretched my faith and character.
My mentor and senior pastor tells me (and it is true) that I can still exercise too much selfishness. The last two years of my life have been pretty selfish – I was leeching off the VA and SSDI without much to show other than progress toward a 4 year degree. I am moving into a season where I can begin to exercise some degree of normalcy over how my day to day living is, the first time that’s been true really since having a job back toward the end of 2011. I am looking forward to building healthy habits such as having time to write, time to read, time to play music, time to work out, time to learn how to cook and shop for healthy food, and things of that nature.
It certainly wouldn’t hurt to find a godly man who needs a roommate but isn’t as crazy as I sometimes am or at least have the potential to be (certified 100% by the VA!)
Thanks to everyone who followed this blog and I hope to get back to you.