Monday, January 18, 2010

Pain and Suffering: Martin Luther King Jr vs. Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson is an asshole.

I realize this isn’t a shock to anybody.

As I’m sure everyone knows, Pat made the following comment, following the horrendous and devastating earthquake in Haiti last week:

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' True story, and the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another."

According to Robertson, this isn’t the first time that God has gotten pissed at humanity and decided to punish thousands of people for it. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 because some women get abortions:

"I was reading a book that was very interesting about what God has to say in the Old Testament about those who shed innocent blood… Have we found we are unable somehow to defend ourselves against some of the attacks that are coming against us, either by terrorists or now by natural disaster? Could they be connected?"

And God is limited to using natural disasters to punish people for poor moral behavior. Following 9/11, he and Jerry Falwell sat around on the “700 Club,” and pontificated on how God allowed the attacks because of moral decay - specifically the ACLU, abortionists, feminists and gays.

Pissed off yet? Wait, there’s more

In 2006, Robertson suggested Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was given a debilitating stroke because he was trying to make peace with the Palestinians and give them land. "He was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any Prime Minister of Israel who takes a similar course…God says 'this land belongs to me. You'd better leave it alone.'"

Back in 1992, Pat wrote in a fundraising letter, "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

Pat Robertson’s God is a very little, vindictive, and unmerciful God who acts like a jilted lover when she finds that her man is cheating on her with another.

But instead of hiring Richard Greico and the people at Cheaters, God possesses more power and instead of just catching a dirty adulterer in the act, He will send fireballs from heaven to destroy sinners who do some sins, which according to Robertson, are worse than others.

I would carry an umbrella, Mr. Robertson, because if God is anything like what you think he is, the next round of fireballs should be headed straight for you.

Why do I care what Pat Robertson has to say about natural disasters and terrorist attacks? Robertson is not that different from many uninformed “Christians,” he just has a platform that forces us all to cringe every time the fool opens his mouth.

If God is a general manager, and Christians are his baseball team, it’s time to make a trade. Or just cut him from the roster all together. We don’t want him on our team anymore.

I have a problem with Pat Robertson, and anybody else, who confuse and ignore what the Bible has to say about evil and suffering.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It isn’t. The Bible isn’t written as a “How To” book that answers every one of our questions with a tidy diagram like a car maintenance manual. If it were that easy, we would all agree and that would be the end of it.

Robertson has an opinion, and I suppose he is entitled to that opinion, as we all are, but he is wrong.

Why would Jesus, the Son of God, tell the crowd that gathered to hear him teach, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” – Matthew 5:43-47

Did you catch that? Jesus says that the rain falls on “good” people and “bad” people alike. Sinners and saints bask in the sun and get swept away in tsunamis just the same.

Am I supposed to believe that there is not a righteous man or woman on the island of Haiti? Will we not find any Christians’ names in the shrines and memorials built at the former site of The World Trade Center?

Three days before the 7.0 quake in Haiti, there was a 6.5 one in my hometown of Humboldt County. My mom was in the mall with a friend, who sustained a minor scratch on her arm when a ceiling tile fell to the floor.

Because my parents, and several other close friends live in Humboldt County, and are moral, upstanding, “good,” Christian men and women, should I then conclude that they were spared massive destruction because they read their Bible and say their prayers each night?

Did the devil make poor building codes and a lack of quality building materials in Haiti? Was that part of “the pact”?

Last time I checked, Karma isn’t a concept found in The Bible.

Karma is a clean system of belief: Do good and be rewarded. Do bad and be punished. It makes sense and it feels good to know “where you stand.”

But bad stuff happens to good people and vice versa. You can’t reduce the events of the universe to a simple formula. Why would you even try?

I don’t know if Robertson believes in Karma. I do know that he doesn’t believe in the sovereignty of God. The two are irreconcilable.

Over and over again in The Bible, and in the lives of His people are stories of rain.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Jesus Christ. You know, the one where he was murdered by lawless men, even though he never committed a crime.

That’s not fair.

My father-in-law told me tonight that the world is a broken place. I think he’s right.

He and I talked about darkness, futility, sin, and a fracture in shalom (peace).

Bad stuff happens because we live in a broken world. Earthquakes are literally the groaning of an earth that has been “subjected to futility” (Romans 8).

And don’t give the devil credit for that futility, because Romans 8 goes on to say that creation was subjected to futility, “In hope.”

In hope. Imagine that.

Pat Robertson is a victim of hate. Not a hate committed against him, but a hate that corrupts his heart.

Hate will do that to a person. Martin Luther King Jr. knew it well when he said,

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false, and the false with the true.”

I don’t expect that every reader of this blog will agree with me.

If God knows all things, is in control of all things, and yet allows evil and suffering to continue… This is a hard pill to swallow. It doesn't make clean and perfect sense, so don't expect it to.

We have to believe, like King, that there is a purpose in the pain:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Every earthquake in Haiti, hurricane in New Orleans or Bali, and every brain tumor and tragic car accident is a time of challenge and controversy for you and I.

How will you respond? How do I respond?

King went on to say that, “My personal trials have also taught me the value of unmerited suffering. As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways that I could respond to my situation: either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course. Recognizing the necessity for suffering I have tried to make of it virtue. If only to save myself from bitterness, I have attempted to see my personal ordeals as an opportunity to transform myself and heal the people involved in the tragic situation, which now obtains. I have lived these last few years with the conviction that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

Don’t be like Pat Robertson.

And the next time you read some asinine comment from him, or someone like him, don’t just call him an idiot and move on.

Every story of pain and suffering - your own, or that of someone else, is an opportunity of reflection, renewal, and redemption.

Be transformed by trials. Perhaps that is their purpose.

P.S. If this post made you feel down in the dumps, go back and read the previous one about Karate Kid. That should cheer you up for a minute.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Text-a-Thon: Karate Kid

The following is a real conversation between two real men that took place entirely via text message. It took place on Saturday morning. This is a precise and exact word-for-word account of what happened:

Justin: Karate kid on vh1! Doing 222 for my point total this weekend

(Kevin and I have been betting NFL point spreads all season long. For the playoffs, since there are fewer games in which we could disagree on, we each pick a ‘total points scored for the whole weekend’ number as a tie-breaker, if it comes to that.)

Kevin: I literally got up to text you about karate kid. Wow. One of the top five re-watchable movies eve. I’m doing 191. 222 is so high.

(While Kevin is right, 222 is a lot of points to be scored in four games, I would like to point out, that at this point in the season, he owes me $35, because I beat him almost every week. He doesn’t have much room to talk.)

Justin: I got burned last week, so I am overcompensating.

Kevin: Daniel could never get a girl like Elisabeth Shue. Let’s be honest now.

Justin: That’s where you’re wrong. She was tired of those so-cal boys who just wanted her for her body. Daniel treated her right.

Kevin: Hahaha. Alli’s a grown up girl. Matured and developed. I’d be surprised if Daniel even has hair on his balls.

Justin: That was hilarious. Best of the day. You won’t top it so don’t try.

Kevin: I love discussing movies from 1984

Justin: Nothing beats watching this shit. Its preserved forever in history as a capsule of a wonderful time.

I already work around the clock!!

Justin: “I don’t know what she sees in him.” “she must be into fungus.”

(This was dialogue between two of Alli’s friends, in reference to how she could possibly be into Daniel. It really is the greatest mystery of the whole movie. There is not an explanation that makes sense. Absolutely remarkable.)

Kevin: I have a 1984 crush on her. Daniel’s such a wuss.

How could you not? What the hell was Daniel thinking there? Poor decision making skills.

Kevin: The water thing? He can’t outrun those guys. They’re prime physical specimens.

Justin: Whose jersey is that he is wearing?

Kevin: Antonio Gates. Duh…

(This is funny because Antonio Gates is the current tight end for the San Diego Chargers who wears number 84, and Daniel is wearing a #84 San Diego Chargers jersey, but it’s 1984. good job by Kevin here.)

Justin: if Johnny lands that kick, Daniel is dead and this whole movie takes a dramatic turn.

Kevin: Hahaha! I think I need to save this conversation.

Justin: I know. I am laughing hysterically to myself this whole time. well done.

(At this point, I started the process of recording the conversation on the computer before my cell phone required me to erase the text messages.)

Kevin: If Daniel dies, do alli and mr. Miyagi join forces, train together, and secretly pick off each cobra kai member one by one in a murderous rampage.

Justin: Isn’t that the plot of ‘the next karate kid?’

Kevin: With hillary swank! Before she was a boy. Or was she a boy in that movie? Does hillary swank even have genitals?

Justin: “you got some nerve old man… I like that”

Kevin: Ahh the scene where we get to see miyagi’s house and wonder how the hell he affords such a posh pad.

Justin: How long do you think you would have played miyagi’s game of free manual labor? I feel like you wouldn’t even make it til lunch

You saying you would’ve? I probably would’ve stuck with it for awhile. He’s a sage. I recognize that.

Justin: I would have never started because I listened to my mother when she said, don’t talk to strangers.

Kevin: Well daniel’s mother doesn’t seem too concerned with his safety. Or that he’s repeatedly getting his ass kicked. All she’s concerned with is getting that hunk of shit car started. Bad parenting.

Justin: We should get sweet bandanas and wear them when I move up there.

Kevin: Ralph maccio was 23 years old when the movie was made. That’s crazy.

Justin: And yet youre (my bad – it’s your, not you’re) comment about hair on his balls probably still applies

Kevin: more than likely.

that guy on the mcdonalds commercial kills me. ‘talk to me.’

(The commercial I am referring to is the one where the guy tells everybody who tries to have a conversation with him, “Not until I’ve had my coffee.” Even when the employee at the restaurant he goes to attempts to take his order, he rudely responds, “Not until I’ve had my coffee.” Once he finds out what she has to offer (coffee), he changes his tune and says, “Talk to me,” with a smirk on his face that makes me want to slap him with a dead salmon.)

(And don’t get me started on the Big Mac snack wrap.)

(Or Luke Wilson on the AT&T commercials every 2.5 minutes.)

Kevin: I feel like I should be starting my day. The motivation’s just not there.

Justin: what would Daniel son do?

Kevin: get in a bike wreck.

Justin: Daniel’s abnormally small nipples disturb me.

Kevin: Haha. Short shorts alli’s too hot.

Is miyagi drunk in that boat scene? Or just jovial?

Kevin: Jovial. The awkward drunk scene is coming up.

Kevin: Johnny’s hair is amazing.

I was just texting you the same thing! Get out of my head!

(Kevin and I have been accused of sharing the same brain on several occasions. It’s not true, we actually are very different, but it’s creepy how many times we are thinking the same exact thing.)

I would like to think that I would not have joined in the laughter at Daniel’s spaghetti incident, but most likely I would.

Kevin: You’re a bad person. How he got it all over him, head to toe, is beyond me. It’s everywhere. A full white outfit may have been a bad choice.

Justin: You have to dress in anticipation of something like that happening. Again, poor decision making shown by larusso

Kevin: his poor decision making fuels this movie. What a fuckup.

Justin: You can’t change your dirty clothes before making a visit to your mentor? Get it together, dan

How would miyagi feel about Daniel rifling through all his stuff? What an asshole.

Why is the crane kick indefensible if done right? Seems pretty silly.

great montage

Justin: Of course he picks the yellow car. But in all seriousness, what a sweet present from miyagi.

Kevin: Imdb tole me that Ralph maccio said, ‘forever my sensei’ at at morita’s funeral. Touching.

(Agreed. Very touching.)

Justin: you want me to drive?” “hey it’s the 80s, why not?”

Kevin: best line of the whole movie.

Justin: You’re the best, around!

(…Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down… What a great song.)

Kevin: God, this sequence is fantastic. Best movie montage ever?

Justin: can’t think of anything better. Rollerblade race down devil’s backbone in airborne? Nah.

Kevin: I’ve never even seen that movie. I suck.

Justin: And you call yourself a westsider. I’m more Westside than you.

(Some clarification for my non-Cincinnati audience: Devil’s Backbone is the name of the street that the final race scene is set on in the fantastic movie, Airborne. Airborne is set in Cincinnati. I used to watch this movie all the time when I lived in California, and think that Cincinnati seemed like a terrible place, but that’s another story. In the movie, Devil’s Backbone is portrayed as some strange hill in the middle of Downtown, but in reality it is the name of a road on the West Side of Cincinnati. This is important. In Cincinnati, which side of the City you grew up on is of the utmost importance. People from the East Side of town look down on the West Side and accuse them of being trashy. West Siders think the East Siders are snobs and way too full of themselves. I could write a whole blog about how fascinating this aversion to the opposite side of town is.

The point of my comment to Kevin, “I’m more Westside than you,” is an easy attack on his pride. I work on the West Side, and was only originally accepted into Kevin’s group of friends (a bunch of West Siders) because I, A) liked Seinfeld, and B) knew all about the streets, stores, restaurants, and people of the West Side. This gives my friends a great deal of pride. It’s like I have been adopted in as a West-Sider, without having been born and grown up there.

I thought that Kevin would be furious by my questioning of his “West Side-ness” but the movie was reaching climax too fast and he did not respond.)

Justin: Did the cobra kai sensei believe Johnny could not take Daniel? Or is he just ruthlessly evil?

Kevin: so dramatic when he claps his hands together. The music starts, the intensity rises.

Kevin: the line sweep the leg, Johnny, is never actually in the movie.

Justin: most intense moment in cinematic history

Kevin: the crane kick is illegal.

Justin: “you’re alright, larusso.” That would never happen.

Kevin: Never happen.

Kevin: Well, Justin. We successfully watched the entire thing. You better believe this conversation is going online.

Justin: I already started the transcription. It will be posted as a blog by the end of the day.

Kevin: Really? Well, I’m posting on mine too. Probably with a different intro.

(And there you have it.)