Saturday, November 14, 2015

THE MIRACLE GOD

Perhaps, because so many of us grew up playing make-believe games and controlling what we imagined—whether teddy bears, dragons, paper dolls, or invented companions—we wrestle with the concept of a real God: the Creator, Ruler, Judge. A real God would have ultimate control. His very existence could demolish our comfortable mental castle of retreat from personal failures and mistaken choices. For this reason, some of us try warding off this real Deity from attacking our fantasy world by using such magical phrases as: “I can’t accept a God like that!” or “My concept of God is. . .” (and each fills in the blank with what he or she wants).

Those familiar with C. S. Lewis know that in his younger years he was a skeptic. He doubted God’s existence and certainly could not accept the Triune Deity revealed in the Bible. But his philosophical journey of dealing honestly with logic led him to face the real God. That confrontation toppled the castle walls of his agnostic dreams or illusions of less “threatening” gods. When he finally bowed his knee in allegiance to the true, living God, Jesus Christ became his King.

Some who read Lewis become infuriated at how his logic gnaws away at their dysfunctional fantasies about God. That was his purpose: to dismantle their comfortable, make-believe worlds just as divine truth stripped away his own escapist imaginations. One such effort was his book Miracles. The following passage1 from it may lure you to read the whole work. But the quote serves to conclude the brief point I’m making and to reinforce it by stating it even more clearly. . . .
Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract and negative deity to the living God. I do not wonder. Here lies the deepest tap-root of Pantheism and of the objection to traditional imagery. It was hated not, at bottom, because it pictured Him as man but because it pictured Him as king, or even as warrior. The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for Him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you. There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth should flee away at His glance. If He were the truth, then we could really say that all the Christian images of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be cleansed. It is with a shock that we discover them to be indispensable. You have had a shock like that before, in connection with smaller matters—when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness. So here; the shock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following. It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God’!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He found us? 
So it is a sort of Rubicon. One goes across; or not. But if one does, there is no manner of security against miracles. One may be in for anything.
_____________________
1. C. S. Lewis, Miracles (Macmillan: New York, 1978), pp. 93-94.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

SOUL AWAKE—DNA SLEEPING

Death has different meanings in Scripture, depending on what part of a person dies. Paul’s prayer in Thessalonians 5:23 (WEB) lists these parts: “May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
 These three components or our human nature are similarly described in the creation of Adam: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath [spirit] of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2:7, KJV).

What is the Soul?

The soul seems to begin when that fleshly dust and spiritual breath come together. It connects them as a God-designed mediator. Our soul integrates our visible animal bodies and our invisible angelic spirits, making us body-spirit beings who can interact with both the material and spiritual realms. These three parts of our humanity form a lifelong amalgamation—a human trinity—that images the Creator in special ways, both separately and in union.

The soul has self-awareness and a personal identity that thinks, feels, chooses, and remembers. Other people can perceive an individual’s spiritual character when the soul reveals his or her unique personality via the body. A person’s soul, though not seen directly, is recognized through the bodily activity of thoughts communicated, emotions expressed, and actions taken.

A computer can illustrate this tri-unity of body, soul, and spirit. The body with its brain, nervous system, sense organs and musculature, is like the computer’s motherboard, RAM and ROM memory, hard drive, and input and output devices. The spirit is like the electrical power energizing the whole unit. But the different programs loaded and the personally stored data make up the functional soul of the computer.When the power is turned off or an essential physical component breaks down, the programs and data continue to exist on disk or backed up on a cyberspace memory cloud. When the physical computer (body) is turned on (spirit), it has a functional character (soul). The computer’s body is visible; its electrical spirit is not. While the programs and data are also invisible, they become uniquely recognizable through the running computer. While not perfect, this analogy might be helpful to some.

The “Soul Sleep” Misinterpretation

Because the Bible often speaks of death as “sleep,” some teach that the soul goes nowhere at death but either ceases to exist or unconsciously rests in “the grave” with its disintegrating corpse. The latter scenario becomes a strained interpretation when the grave is the ocean, or when an explosion literally makes a real grave impossible. The former idea fails to explain the martyred souls in heaven described in Revelation. Those “souls” weren’t asleep in their graves but had wide-awake wills actively choosing to express mental thoughts with strong emotional feeling, all in a definite, non-earthly location:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10, KJV)

If it’s important in our conception of death to know which part of us dies, it’s also important to know which part of humanity is sleeping, when Scripture metaphorically uses “sleep” to indicate death. People can mistake which part is asleep by confusing the metaphor. The appearance of literal sleep provides the metaphorical significance of “sleep” as a description of how a dead body appears. Observers no longer see choices of the will, perceive no more sad or happy feelings, hear no thoughts being communicated. Shake a dead person vigorously. Why is there no response? “The dead know nothing,” says Ecclesiastes 9:5. The corpse is profoundly asleep. The dead body has nothing more to do with the ongoing activities of this physical world, except to disintegrate and be reabsorbed by it.

What Sleeps in the Body’s Death?

Christians believe that bodies, sleeping in death, will awaken at the resurrection. How so? How can a buried corpse absorbed by a tree root, or a drowned body scattered throughout the ocean, or one vaporized by an fiery explosion, be reconstructed into its original state as a resurrected body? In Christ’s resurrection, all the matter in His body was still local. In ours, some molecules from those who died at sea might end up on our table in the next bite of fish. This thought may bring emotional discomfort, but it poses no scientific problem. What sleeps in death is not the body’s array of personal dust but each person’s specific arrangement of DNA.

The material composing the bodies of living creatures is in constant flux. Cellular structures are continuously being built up or repaired with new molecules taken in as food. Old cell material is likewise being broken down and discarded from the body as waste. This process of construction and destruction replaces all the atoms in a human body approximately every seven years. In other words, “we’re not what we used to be.” We’re not living in the material body we had seven years ago. Even the old atoms on each double-helix DNA molecule have been exchanged for new ones. However, the DNA stays the same, except perhaps for some minor mutations.

When reduced to its essence, our personal DNA is a numerical arrangement, much like the computer’s stored programs. If the physical computer is destroyed, the programs can be reloaded on an entirely new unit. But the difference with DNA is that it holds the specific formula for the physical unit’s unique design. This is why I personally believe that the intangible numerical formula of our personal DNA—expressed tangibly in this life through the medium of matter—is registered in the soul and taken with it, along with our entire personal memory, when the soul and spirit leave the body in death. As far as our bodies are concerned, “we’re just a number,” but a number “wonderfully and fearfully made” by creation’s Master Mathematician.

Michelangelo's "Resurrection of the Dead"
On Resurrection Day, what’s the point of having our bodies restored from the same material our DNA was borrowing for the last seven years of our lives? Any nearby dust will do. What about the undesirable results of a believer’s DNA defects, caused by sin in a fallen world? Surely each of our DNA programming will be restored to the perfection of the Creator’s original design. Jesus said He “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and not only the soul and spirit were lost in the Fall. Christ’s glorious physical resurrection is the pro-type of our own. He will reconstruct our bodies to be “like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Sadly, this hope for “the redemption of our bodies” is a part of the Gospel not emphasized in modern evangelism. Yet bodily resurrection is so important that Paul declares, “in this hope you were saved” (Romans 8:23b,24a, ESV).

Putting the Soul Sleep Doctrine to Sleep

But this resurrection hope doesn’t include the unconsciousness of the soul in death. Widespread belief in “soul sleep” or in the soul’s annihilation at death is relatively recent. Various versions of this concept have been held by Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses since the late 1800s. However, this doctrine is absent from the teachings of the primitive church, although one critic reports that “according to historian Philip Schaff, soul sleep fomented in the mind of a specious fourth century pantheist named Arnobius.”


In modern times, the growing number of those bold enough to share their personal testimonies of near-death experiences have confirmed the early church’s teaching. Even though these episodes are usually only “near-death,” some of those describing NDEs were professionally evaluated as clinically “dead.” In other words, God let them miraculously come back from death to tell their stories. While their descriptions may vary, these people unanimously report a continuing consciousness, sometimes seeing the bodies they left behind. They talk about still experiencing their soul’s ability to think, feel, choose and remember. It might take only one NDE to convince teachers of “soul sleep” that their doctrine was erroneous. If not, their final death certainly will.

In discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I sometimes show them Genesis 49:33 in their New World Translation: “Thus Jacob finished giving these instructions to his sons. Then he drew his feet up onto the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” I explain how this verse mentions first body, then spirit, and finally soul. If they say, “Oh, but to be ‘gathered to his people’ means to go to the grave,” I show them the next verse, Genesis 50:1, “Joseph then threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.” Then I point out, “You forgot something. Jacob wasn’t buried yet. His body was still there, but a special part of him had just been ‘gathered to his people.’ Don’t you find that theologically embarrassing?” No, they don't. A footnote in the Watchtower translation tells them to ignore the clear implications of this phrase by insisting it to be merely “a poetic expression for death” rather than a divine revelation of what actually happened. This is the kind of stubbornness that could benefit from an NDE.


I had a Seventh-day Adventist friend who was similarly adamant in her belief about the soul’s unconsciousness in death. When she died, I envisioned her immediately regretting her insistence on that doctrine. I even wrote a poem to be read at her graveside service, believing that someday in the afterlife she will thank me for doing so.

That poem is probably the best conclusion I can make for this article.

SOUL SLEEP

For eighteen hundred years was taught
That only corpses went to graves,
That souls went on, awake in thought,
While bodies slept ’neath dust or waves.

I choose to keep the older creed
That says our flesh must rest from toil,
Awaiting, like the planted seed,
That Day of Rising from the soil.

If later teachers’ words are right—
That souls must sleep before they rise—
Then when I hear that Trumpet bright,
I’ll wake up and apologize.

But if they’re wrong, then their mistake
Was known the moment that they died,
For even now they’re wide awake
Repenting for what they denied.

I’d rather be aroused from sleep
To find that I was duped by lies
Than be awake in death to weep
Till God decides to dry my eyes.

— David L. Hatton, 3/12/2013
(to be in Poems Between Here and Beyond)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

THE HEALING POWER OF LOVE

The sister of former President Jimmy Carter, Ruth Carter Stapleton, was a well known speaker and facilitator of spiritual inner healing, often called “healing of memories.” Her 1st book, The Gift of Inner Healing, describes her own experience of emotional healing and the ministry into which it launched her.

Ruth Carter Stapleton
After reading the following story in her 2nd book, The Experience of Inner Healing, I immediately felt led to share it, to reinforce to young moms and dads the importance of parental love and perhaps to help older adults seek inner healing for repressed wounding from deficits of that love. This is quoted from her chapter on “The Healing Power of Self-Acceptance,” p. 95-97:
From the moment we become conscious in our mother’s womb, immense emotional and spiritual forces emanating from our mother and, to a much lesser degree, our father begin to mold our pliable sensitive emotions which will one day be the adult self. People have tended to ignore the significance of that first nine months in our mother’s womb. Every new parent ought to be instructed that what they think and feel is more important in the care of an unborn baby than how they care for themselves physically.
The mother of a two-month-old baby boy had to rush him to the hospital. For no clinically explainable reason he was feverish, dehydrated and starving to death. Intravenous feeding did nothing to stabilize his condition which continued to deteriorate. Visiting in the home of a Christian friend while her son was hospitalized, the mother met a man who, after hearing her story, said, “I think it’s important for you to know that I’m a Christian doctor. Christ has shown me the absolute importance of love.” Possibly, he informed her, the baby was in its serious condition because it didn’t feel loved.
The mother broke in tears. “You’re probably right,” she said. “I don’t love the baby and I don’t love his father. I never wanted to have the child in the first place and I’m divorcing my husband as soon as I can.”
When the doctor asked if he could pray for her, she consented, and with deep tenderness he asked Christ to heal her broken spirit. As he spoke, she felt enveloped in a terrible shroud of bitterness that, over the years of antagonism, she had woven into her marital relationship. She realized she was killing herself with hate because of her own problems and was starving that innocent baby to death in the process.
After the prayer the doctor instructed her to go to the hospital, take her son’s face in her hands, look straight into his eyes, calling him by name, and say, “I love you.”
When she got to her son’s crib in the pediatric ward, she saw her little boy more dead than alive. Suddenly she was filled with a new sense of tender love for him. Reaching down she gently held the baby’s face in her hands and told him, “Michael, I love you. O Michael, my baby, I love you.”
At that moment the hospital doctor came into the room and asked her what she was doing. She told him the whole story.
He looked straight into her eyes. “I believe everything you say,” he told her. “I believe your baby is dying because he has no will to live. What you’ve just done may possibly save his life.”
It did.
The next day the fever broke. The child began to assimilate nourishment and fluids. A week later a loving mother brought her nearly recovered baby son home from the hospital.
 God is love,” says the Bible in 1 John 4:8. When we think, speak or show love, we serve as channels for the eternal love of the Triune God. Whether expressed through an attitude of gratitude, a pronouncement of blessing, and extension of forgiveness, or an act of kindness, this divine love has healing power.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

CRIB-DEATH CONSOLATION

Almost a year ago, my painting “Crib-Death Consolation” together with my poem “Baby’s Farewell” were published on ArtWay.eu as the Visual Meditation for October 26, 2014 (original post). I’m posting them on my blog for those who missed ArtWay’s post, and for those who might want to re-blog it. Also, for those who would like to print out the poem to share with others, there’s a link to a PDF file of it at the end.

"Crib-Death Consolation" (18"x24", oil on wood panel)

 BABY’S FAREWELL   

She was sobbing on the pillow, as the night about her crept.
“It’s not fair that God should take you,” was the whisper that she wept.
Futile now, the preparations, baby showers, hopeful dreams . . .
Wasted, all the pains of labor, muffled moans and stifled screams.
Senseless seemed the fervent pushing, ending with a mournful cry:
Forty weeks of expectation for the baby that would die.
In the midst of grieving passion, as she languished on the bed,
Tears had trickled down to dampen where the pillow met her head.
Bearing him had left her weary, now remorse had made her worn,
Worn and weak with restless hours, since her little boy was born,
So she tried to close her eyelids on the shadows in the room,
Finding needed sleep to drown the empty cramping in her womb.
And she dreamed that he had lingered, staying with her, at her breast,
Not to nurse, but just to nestle, to be cuddled and caressed.
Such a joyful little spirit, swaddled in an angel’s cloud . . .
It amazed her when he stared and spoke these gentle words aloud:
“Darling Mother, you are precious! You have carried me so well!
You can’t see the way you’ve blessed me, but eternity will tell.”
As he snuggled in her bosom, she could feel his body grow,
First a toddler, then a child, with his angel face aglow.
“Mother,” said his shining spirit, “you bestowed a gracious gift.
I received the greatest send-off . . . it was like a special lift.
Holding me with hope and longing, you encircled me with love.
See how fast your welcome nurture helps my growing up above.”
Then he soared past adolescence on into a manly state,
Standing by the bed she lay in, saying, “I can hardly wait!
Heaven is so vast and lovely, every part is rich and true.
When at last you get to come here, I will show it all to you!
You must also meet the Master who prepared it from the start,
He has known the loss you’re feeling, and He waits to heal your heart.”
When she tried to cling to him, as he began to fade away,
She was only clutching blankets at the dawning of the day.
She arose to face the morning, prayed a prayer and read a psalm,
And reflecting on the vision, sensed God’s peace and felt His calm.
Though her arms were still as empty as they were the night before,
Hope was mingled with her sorrow, and she feared her grief no more.

by David L. Hatton, 1/7/1993
(from Poems Between Darkness and Light ©1994 by David L. Hatton)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

DESTROYING THE LIE OF BODY SHAME

I want to blow up a dam of false thinking about our bodies that impedes the desperately needed flow of theological truth. Only a trickle escapes, and our thirsty world ends up drinking from filthy drainage in the gutter. Destroy that dam, and a flood of creational, incarnational, restorational truth about the human body can wash away this lewd, gutter‑minded thinking from both society and the church.

All naked creatures God created remained so, except for us. Few animals artificially camouflage their natural appearance for protection or stealth, but none for hiding nudity. Except where humans learn body acceptance culturally, body shame takes over.

Most Christians won’t adopt body acceptance if they believe that body shame is humanity’s natural response ordained by God. Scripturally, that’s a groundless assumption. Historically, what’s recorded contradicts it. Culturally, its promotion reveals the “dark side” of indoctrination. Personally, just from these three categories, I’ve found enough truth to demolish the dam built by this false but widespread belief.[1]

I began working at this by confronting the church’s ineffective approach to porn addiction.[2] Strategies based on body shame get no help from God. He sets people free with truth. But a sacrilegious allegiance to body shame often stifles the truth of body acceptance.

Pornography is the tip of the iceberg. From body shame, and the sexual objectification accompanying it, come other social problems. The original sin undermined God’s will for us to accept ourselves as a divine fusion of dust and spirit. Body shame, which at first manifested as fearing nakedness, brought mental alienation into humanity’s body‑spirit self‑concept. Once disassociated from personhood, the body became open to self and social misuse and abuse. Among the results beyond porn addiction were body‑image dysfunctions, sexual promiscuity, gender confusion, and human sex trafficking.

The only sure way to “blow up” this stubborn dam of body shame is to reveal its diabolical origin. When I discovered that its source was the exact opposite of my assumptions, I was shocked. Until confronted by a critical mass of evidence against it, I too believed body shame was God’s will.

Like most Christians, I grew up hearing from pastors that bodies without clothing were indecent or obscene and that seeing the opposite sex undressed would cause sinful thoughts. My 34 years as a male RN proved otherwise, especially working 24 of them in L&D, helping mothers birth and breastfeed babies. Working routinely with unclad female patients never stimulated the sexual lust predicted by sermons. These religious warnings were mere suspicions, not reality. To serious Bible students, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Who dares teach that sexual lust comes from seeing naked Bathshebas, when Jesus clearly said it comes from the heart? (Mark 7:20-23)

Later in life, I took a college figure drawing class, where we drew from nude models.[3] Neither I nor my classmates got sexually excited by seeing naked guys and girls. Although staring intently at their bare anatomy to sketch various poses, their nudity didn’t trigger the lust that church leaders led us to anticipate.

I learned something else. When missionaries first went among naked tribal people, they preached body shame right alongside the Gospel, insisting that converts cover up. But this backfired, opening up those lands to pornography. Modern missionaries quit this practice, letting these naked people keep their natural, wholesome view of the body. This policy reversal exposed the past mistake, but churches at home failed to admit and apologize for the error. Christianity’s enemies try to condemn the church of hypocrisy by broadcasting these historical facts. If we still preach body shame in the name of Christ, their criticism is justified.

Also, those visiting “clothing optional” beaches in Europe may discover a surprising absence of the body shame or sexual stimulation warned about by their religious upbringing. Experiencing no shame when joining their European friends in skinny dipping or nude sunbathing may heighten their doubts about the church’s credibility. Having found church ministers wrong about something as simple as the body’s natural state, can we blame such people for questioning our accuracy on something as important as the soul’s destiny?

Lessons and illustrations like these compelled me to search the Bible for the real source of the body shame taught so zealously from pulpits. The world desperately needs the Gospel, but it’s not “good news” when body shame is mixed into the liberating message of Christ. I wrote this poem to help blast away this falsehood from believer’s minds and from Christian preaching:

ORIGIN OF BODY SHAME[4]

Dressed up as a serpent in crafty disguise,
A demon attempted, by using his lies,
To blot out the beautiful image that God
Had made of Himself out of hand‑woven sod.

As naked as truth from the day of their birth,
And destined by God to be rulers of earth,
Both Adam and Eve were alive by God’s breath,
But Satan used knowledge to put them to death.

The serpentine liar pretended to heal
Their blind faith in God for what’s moral and real.
His trick by that Gnostic fruit opened their eyes,
Remaking their minds independently wise.

“You see for yourself, God left both of you nude!
Your unhidden bodies are shamefully lewd!”
Our first parents listened to what Satan said,
For now their life‑bond to the Maker was dead.

The diet of conscience controls how it guides,
Which sins it allows, or what goodness it hides.
So, God found and asked them, with leaves round their waist,
“Who said you were naked? What fruit did you taste?”

Some call it God’s will to keep chewing that fruit,
Embracing its scruples in zealous pursuit,
Maligning His gift of our wonderful skin
By calling the sight of its nudity sin.

But others discover a godlier view,
Rejecting this prudery’s body taboo,
Resisting the porn that is wedded to shame
Passed on from the devil’s original claim.

These temples are sacred, not sordid, unclean.
If you would be holy, don’t call them obscene.
Our hearts can be dirty, or lustful and bad,
But bodies are closest to truth when unclad.

(c) David L. Hatton, 1/23/2009

Our ancestors in the faith didn’t have our modern body shame. In the first few centuries after Christ, believers were baptized in their birthday suits. These early church nude baptismal rituals required that each naked believer be anointed with the oil of exorcism, as he or she renounced Satan and his ways.[5]

Most believers, preachers, Bible scholars and popes (except for John Paul II)[6] ignore God’s question to the first victims of body shame: “Who told you that you were naked?” Of course, since God was rhetorically asking who taught them about nakedness, He already knew the answer. But do we? Obviously, Satan was the culprit. But by disregarding the implication in God’s inquiry, most attribute to God the satanic work of sowing body shame into the minds of fallen humanity. This ought to cause “fear and trembling” among Bible teachers guilty of this!

Today’s church needs to embrace the body acceptance exemplified in ancient times, exorcising body shame from believers by renouncing its deceptive originator, and perhaps validating that exorcism’s effectiveness by reinstating the requirement of a fully naked immersion. That, indeed, would be a stick of dynamite to blast away from Christianity the dysfunctional dam of body shame.



[2] Some years ago, I joined some other pastors in creating the website “My Chains Are Gone” to help liberate porn addicts through the truth of body acceptance. Our site, though geared toward men, has been a blessing to both men and women.

[3] Read the “Art Policy On Nude Models” from the art department at Gordon College, an old and well known Christian school.

[4] From Poems Between Birth and Resurrection 82013 by  David L. Hatton.

[5] See Chapter 21 in The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus of Rome (215 AD), which gives in detail the early church’s prescribed congregational pattern of fully nude baptism preceded by exorcism.

[6] The most extensive and comprehensive theology of body acceptance in all of church history is Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body - Male and Female He Created Them (1986).

Monday, June 29, 2015

OUR SUPREME COURT ISN’T SUPREME

In the 1857 “Dred Scott case,” the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that the slave Dred Scott was just a piece of property that had to be returned to his owner. The Justices at the time made their decision in the midst of political controversy and under “blind justice” according to law, not according to a justice based on ethical guidance.

Nearer to our time was the 1973 “Roe vs. Wade case,” where our Supreme Court ruled that a developing  fetus wasn’t a separate, living, human individual but merely tissue which a woman’s right over her own body allowed her to exterminate. This decision, made under political pressure in the midst of ethical controversy, wasn’t guided by scientific evidence or moral insight. Even the woman “Roe” in the case ended up rebuking the Justices who had decided in her favor.

Human misjudgments by appointed judicial authorities are open to rebuke, even if they become the “law of the land.” About 24 years ago, I combined my criticism of both these Supreme Court decisions in the following poem:

DRED SCOTT

Dred Scott, Dred Scott!
What is truth, and what is not?
Do the Justices agree?
In your skin of ebony
does a human being dwell?
“No, Dred Scott, go back to hell!
Born a slave, a slave you’ll be.
Only humans can be free.”

Dred Scott, Dred Scott!
What’s the judgment that you got:
not a person, just a sale,
open to a bull whip’s tail,
open to abortion’s knife,
black-skinned slave without a life,
property until the tomb,
modern baby in a womb?

Dred Scott, Dred Scott!
It’s their choice to let you rot.
Highest Court in all the land
cannot see that you’re a man,
cannot hear your silent scream,
cannot raise the moral steam
to refuse a so-called right:
justice blind to freedom’s light!

Dred Scott, Dred Scott!
Some break laws to change your lot.
Maced, they’re dragged away by cops,
while you plow the slaver’s crops.
What is Congress waiting for?
Do they want the Civil War?
Do they want plantations burned?
Babies die while backs are turned.

Dred Scott, Dred Scott!
Justices Supreme forgot!
In decisions where they lied
God will never let them hide!
Abolitionists will win!
Truth in time exposes sin:
holocausts, the death-camp flames,
Murdered babies without names.

— David L. Hatton 10/14/1991

But earlier, when the slaughter of the innocent unborn was sweeping our land, Id already written this poetic critique exposing the lack of supremacy in our Supreme Court:

COURT JUSTICE SUPREME

Court Justice Supreme,
             awakened from terrestrial dream,
             a ghost before real Justice,
             felt familiar spirits dancing
             through his mind again:
             his own thoughts, so it seemed.

Court Justice Supreme,
             glanced briefly from this prancing team,
             and watched a well-known law
             of deathbed will and testament
             point to an older, mother truth
             of unknown will and tests unseen.

Court Justice Supreme
             saw in her ancient light a stream
             of many pristine untried lives
             with fading echoes in their eyes
             from each one’s last convulsing cry
             for justice from the Court.

Court Justice Supreme
             turned back to join the dancers’ scream,
             and stepping to their song
             of rights to freedom’s ease,
             soon found no way to quit
             the jerking, reeling frenzy
             of the dance in demon darkness:
             sentence of the Highest Court.

— David L. Hatton, 9/14/1990

The recent Supreme Court ruling on “marriage” was beyond the legitimate jurisdiction of any human court, because the institution itself predates all earthly governments. But again, this decision came in the midst of nationwide controversy and under an extremely well-organized agenda of political pressure. It’s obvious that the pressure won out, for the unanimous voice of history, culture, biological science and the world's religions did not. But those Justices await their own hearing, where they will have to answer to a much louder Voice than these. And we’re next in line right behind them, for it’s the same Voice to which all of us must eventually listen, trembling either with joyful faith or fearful regret.

In their own upcoming case, these current Justices of our Supreme Court are scheduled to appear before the real SUPREME COURT. At their inevitable arraignment, our Creator and Judge will surely allude to His previous ruling in the first chapter of His Law-Book:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. . .” (Gen 1:27-28a,  ESV)

Perhaps to this He will add, “The gender-distinctive anatomy was there. The physiological reproductive function was there. My authority as the Designer was there. My wisdom as the Inventor of marriage was there. What did you not understand?

Various shouts, rejoicing or decrying our nation’s Supreme Court decision, are presently flooding the Internet. I stand with the call to show love to all without changing commitment to God given in the official statement of The Wesleyan Church, the denomination in which I’m ordained. But I’ve appreciated the insights and implications in the post by Seedbed’s editor, J. D. Walt: “Why Marriage is not about Marriage and What it is about.” I also agree with the critique and message by the young Catholic, “still virgin” journalist Arleen Spencely, who wrote a post entitled, “Why same-sex marriage won’t spark a marriage crisis.” I’m sure other commentaries will attract my appreciation. But my own thoughts remain unperturbed.

In view of the Final Judgment we all must face, I see this recent decision as merely another confirmation of what happens when human wills live in disregard for the will of God. It’s not a time for Christians to get angry, discouraged or apathetic. Our Supreme Court has not and cannot change what marriage really is. But the wayward trend in our social environment confirmed by this contrived legalism offers us a definitive opportunity to refresh our initial commitment to walk simultaneously in God’s love and in His truth.

The call to love and care for those presently celebrating in the LGBT community has not changed in the least. The call to practice and proclaim divinely revealed truth—whether it concerns marriage or any other God-ordained reality abused or redefined by lost souls—is also as firm as ever. In view of eternity, this situation is temporary, transitory, passing, just as all others in life. But it offers another perfect occasion in morally stormy weather to invite those wholl listen to come join us under the everlasting shelter of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

STILL MY BEST POEM ON THIS ATROCITY....

IT CAME FROM HELL

“We blew it!” pouted Satan at a council held in hell.
“The sacrifice of innocents by Hitler went too well.
Although the ground we gained against our Foe was very great,
Reaction from the world was soon to doom our triumph’s fate.
My memories of gorging on such feasts in human pain
Stirs up the evil cravings that have driven me insane!”

“Me! Me!” the demons shouted, to acknowledge they agreed.
They wailed and gnashed their teeth until their lips began to bleed.
“Me! Me!” the caverns echoed, drowning Satan when he spoke.
He speared one noisy imp, who shrieked, exploding into smoke.
“Enough!” the Devil thundered.  You could hear a cinder burn.
“A plan to glut our growing hunger now is our concern!”

“Me! Me!” the horde began again, but this time with restraint.
A shriveled ghost approached to meet his master’s loud complaint.
“Old heinous rituals,” he said, “have always stayed alive,
And even Moloch offerings are starting to revive!
Some fools still praise you, Lucifer, as bearer of the light,
And slay for you their own or children stolen in the night.”

“Me! Me!” the goblins howled. “We want them pure and younger still!
It’s blood of innocence we thirst to fuel our hunger’s will!”
“Just so,” the Devil hushed the crowd, “the youngest brings the worst.
Such murder spreads my damning deep till all their land is cursed.
But I want higher numbers!  More!  Bring forth your darkest dreams!
More subtle still than witchcraft, I want sly but massive schemes!”

“Me! Me!” resounded once again, then from the shadows ran
A pale and grinning demon who bowed down as he began,
“O Master, long ago the oath of old Hippocrates
Prevented men of medicine from helping us to seize
The damning strength in holocaust of life within the womb
That brings so many into hell the day they reach the tomb.”

“But now,” the fiend continued, “they’ve forsaken godly goals.
They treat the world as physical and don’t believe in souls.
If we combine their selfishness with promiscuity,
They’ll sacrifice their unborn babes and call it ‘liberty!’
We’ll bend the will of doctors, capture judges in their courts—
Our motto: Babies tie you down; the prudent girl aborts!”

“How shrewd!” the Devil flattered, as he clapped his hands with greed.
“They’ll massacre their offspring, but they’ll never see their deed
Nor hear their infants wailing, which might cause them to repent.
The spell will twist their faith, and even logic will be bent!”
They went to work the moment Satan’s council had adjourned,
And like a whirlwind through our world, abortion fires burned.

— David L. Hatton, 11/4/1993

(from Poems Between Darkness and Light ©1994)

************************
I have other poems addressing or related to the abortion issue:
"ABORTION" -  "COURT JUSTICE SUPREME" - DRED SCOTT"
SECOND CHANCE" - "THE JUDGMENT" - "CHILD ABUSE"
"GUARDIANS" - "PAS" - "ROCK-A-LIE, BABY"

Saturday, April 25, 2015

"OBJECTIFICATION SUSTAINED!"


A couple with a baby and young son sit in a restaurant awaiting their order. When the infant becomes fussy, the mother opens her blouse and begins nursing. After loud whispering from a few tables down, an elderly lady approaches them on a mission.

“Honey,” she scolds, “not in public like this . . . and surely not in front of your little boy. Have some decency and take it to the ladies’ room. For Heaven’s sake, this is a restaurant!”

Sound familiar? It should. Her words echo much of the modern church. Her reaction to open breastfeeding is common among evangelicals. But the attitude expressed is neither godly nor God-honoring. It’s a subtle perversion that slithered its way into popular Christian culture as a “Gospel” standard. God referred to its deceptive source when He found Adam afraid of his nudity and asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” Satan is behind most human-unfriendly ideas.

“But the sight of her breast might lead to lustful thoughts!”

Ask a simple, logical question: “Why?” Who or what imposed a sexually lustful focus on women’s breasts? Some tribal cultures don’t treat the bare female bosom that way, until Western ideals supplant their once wholesome perspective. If you don’t believe this, ask missionaries who’ve witnessed the process. If you don’t believe them, then ask maternity nurses like myself, who fight uphill against a culturally sexualized breast in trying to help moms maintain the normalcy of public breastfeeding when they leave the hospital.

But the breast is not the problem. Jesus addressed the real issue when He said, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” (Mark 7:15). Bare nipples cause immoral enticement only when people are programmed to see them as objects of sexual arousal or lustful fantasy. It requires scrupulous social training to undermine a healthy view of their God-intended purpose as organs of maternal nurture.

“Who’s behind this sexual objectification? Hollywood?”

Movies exploit body parts only by misusing what’s already been sexually targeted. Sadly, the Western church has a long social history of targeting the female body as a sex object—a behavior that “misses the mark” of God’s design. This is a religious sin with social consequences. By sustaining an objectified view of female anatomy, we have significantly assisted those who profit from that objectification in ways that grow progressively more depraved.

Face the tragic reality: wherever prudery is imported , it guarantees the growth of pornography. Take Japan, for instance—once famous for the body acceptance displayed by its nonsexual custom of mixed public bathing. Today, Japanese society exemplifies how Western influence turned a modern, body-friendly culture into one flourishing with pornographic exploitation. Who’s to blame, a pagan Japan or a “Christian” West?

When cross-culturally savvy missionaries witnessed this same degrading trend among primitive tribes, it forced them to do their math. They saw that nudity was our own cultural problem, not theirs. So, they had to quit preaching clothing as part of Christ’s Gospel to naked people groups—a doctrinal sacrilege of which their predecessors were unwittingly guilty. The church at home gained no wisdom from this cross-cultural error abroad. Yet how we cringe in embarrassment when college professors of cultural anthropology tattle on us for this part of our missionary past!
Laura Bates

“So, are you blaming this on the church?”

A spiritually healthy church is quick to acknowledge its errors and correct them. Sadly, we often postpone our reform until compelled by a critical mass of secular outrage from those who logically connect the dots that we chose to ignore. Outside the church, many secular voices are addressing the causative factors of female exploitation and are calling for its end. (See these TED Talks: “Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates and “The Sexy Lie” by Caroline Heldman, for starters).

Caroline Heldman
We can’t hide the implicating trail of evidence left by our persistent complicity in female objectification:
  • our Victorian redefinition of biblical “modesty” from practicing humility to hiding skin
  • the unforgettable evangelical episode of measuring girls’ skirt lengths on Christian campuses
  • the tactic of  “eye-bouncing” in “every man’s battle” against the sexual allure of female bodies
  • the existence of church cry-rooms for babies who wouldn’t be fussy if breast-fed in the pews

These and other behaviors—religiously baptized as “Christian morality”—have broadcast a united cultural message that females and their bodies are sex objects.

Our pulpits have tried to insure that women in general, and young girls in particular, accept an unavoidable self-identity as “sexual targets.” Instead, we should have trained them to stand up alongside men and assert their right to be treated as unique individuals, never as enticing stacks of body parts. Sermons should have preached feminine beauty as a divine stimulus for praise to the Creator. Instead, we have earmarked the gender-distinctive anatomy of our sisters as a dangerous pitfall from which spiritual men should flee in fear. That fearful flight, however, allowed exploiters, porn-mongers, and human-traffickers to seize control of a crucial realm of creation that belongs to God. We prudishly abandoned our stewardship of that realm.

“Can we repair the damage?”

The human body is God’s holy turf. The hands that surrendered it must retrieve it. We have a duty to retake this lost territory, first by cleansing our own minds from any sentimental allegiance to an objectification of our sexual physiology. Porno-prudery is both theologically heretical and socially destructive. Religiously, it sabotages the credibility of our presentation of the biblical message of sexual morality. We must rebuild into corporate Christian thinking a wholesome attitude about the nitty-gritty physical reality of the human body’s sexual dynamics.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of in this area except for our own near-Gnostic reputation of hesitation or silence when it comes to the body’s gender-specific anatomy. Ours is a shameful neglect that has effectively marginalized the church’s impact on society’s sexual ideas and practices. The Bible’s healthy, incarnational understanding of how our fleshly “male and female” nature images the Creator ought to be well-known in the social arena. But, as in times past, whenever we weren’t doing our theology properly and proclaiming it powerfully, we now have immense “catching up” to do.

If we are going to liberate women from religious attitudes and social actions that showcase them as sex objects, we must start by confessing our personal and ecclesiastical failures. If the repentance is authentic, reform and restitution will follow. This will require new strategies and bold changes, such as:
  • Encouraging Christian moms to nurse their babies in public and especially in the congregation, so that the next generation can learn why God made breasts in the first place
  • Preaching on the “milk of the Word” (1 Peter 2:2) by expounding how the analogy comes from the familiar, healthy sight of breastfeeding in Bible times
  • Preaching from Isaiah 66:9-13, where God uses His functional design of the female body to illustrate His own birthing and nurturing care
  • Encouraging young Christian artists to excel in depicting God’s fleshly temple by ignoring the legalism that made the nude models in anatomical drawing classes a religious taboo
  • Cross-examining “lust” myths about the body by having Christian healthcare workers—expert witnesses—describe the mundane reality of routinely working with non-sexual nudity
  • Hosting conferences for youth and parents where Christian biology teachers bring frank, sex-education talks that explicitly address gender-distinctive human anatomy and sexuality with visual aids that confront porno-prudery directly
Will such radical moves toward a healthier viewpoint eradicate sexual lust? Although coed latrines and public bathing in Bible times may have helped limit it, they didn’t eliminate it. But recapturing the common body acceptance implicit in those ancient customs can point us in a more sane direction. It can lead toward re-subjectifying the body—associating physical anatomy with the person who lives there. It can help us theologically disengage the sight of external skin from its present misuse as an explanation for internal lust. Only by dispensing with misplaced suspicions and vain imaginations about body parts can we refocus on God’s target: human hearts.

If you need more ideas and ammunition for your reform efforts, I’ve written two other articles on this issue of the sexual objectification of women: “Teaching God’s Design for BREASTS - A Message about ‘the Visible Breast’ for Christian Leaders” and “A Dangerous Male MYTH: ‘Men are visual.’

Thursday, April 16, 2015

WHY I'M CATHOLIC, BUT NOT ROMAN

When a friend of mine, an accomplished Bible scholar, recently embraced Roman Catholicism and became a priest, I recalled my own attraction to what I call “that denomination.”As with all other churches, baptism or church membership is no guarantee of authentic faith. Yet only the most bigoted Protestants will deny that many of those comprising the one truly catholic (“universal”) Church of Jesus Christ are from this Roman branch of Christianity.

What attracts people to the church of Rome? By clear examples, it boasts historical length, geographic breadth, devotional height and philosophical depth. Other denominations may excel in one or more of these areas, but this concurrent, multi-faceted combination in the Roman church has significant drawing power.

Rome’s patronage of the arts is also attractive. Artistically minded souls may abandon the visually impoverished atmosphere of an evangelical service for the liturgical decor in a Roman or Orthodox setting. Zealous Protestant leaders were wrong to ban visual beauty from their churches. Worship environments rich in sacred symbolism and sacramental ritual meet a legitimate human need—a reality divinely revealed and extensively illustrated in the Old Testament.

While such features personally draw me, my greatest attraction is to Roman Catholic friends with whom I share Christian fellowship and to authors loyal to Rome from whom I continue to learn Christian truth. Henri Nouwen, G. K. Chesterton, Thomas Merton, and Pope John Paul II are some favorites. I’m in the midst of studying Thomas Oden’s Systematic Theology, based mostly on early Catholic thinkers, and my daily devotions include the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, a compilation of writings by the Catholic church fathers.

So, if I faithfully confess the “catholic” faith succinctly stated by the ancient Catholic church in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, why haven’t I become a Roman Catholic? Frankly, some of Rome’s later creeds contain doctrines which I cannot embrace. Since my Scriptural reasons against these Roman innovations are well expounded by other Protestant pens, I needn’t rehearse them here. Instead, let me describe what I consider the kingpin doctrinal error that has allowed all the others: “Peter’s chair.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”— Matthew 16:16-19 (ESV)
By politically interpreting these verses, successive bishops of Rome claim to preside over the entire Church by sitting in “Peter’s chair.” They insist that Jesus was establishing a perpetual pontifical office and installing the Apostle Peter as its first pope. Beyond inserting into Christ’s words the idea of “succession,” Rome goes on to confer authoritative infallibility on each man filling this papal seat. Such foreign additions—while laying the foundation for a political interpretation of this passage—have tragically obscured its confessional nature.

Protestants see Christ’s focus not on Peter but on his confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” A few verses later, based on Peter’s words, Jesus calls him “Satan” (Matthew 16:23). So here, based on this creedal statement of “Simon Bar-Jonah,” Jesus calls him “Peter” (petros; literally, “a rock or stone”) and immediately says, “on this rock I will build my church.” But in this second phrase, Jesus didn’t use petros, but a different word, petra, which literally means “a rock, cliff or ledge” and is elsewhere often associated both with Christ’s teachings (Matthew7:24-25) and with Christ Himself (Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4).

The Holy Spirit carefully selected the wording He ordained for Scripture. Just as a petra is much greater than a petros, so the identity of Jesus is much greater than the man confessing it. If, by this divinely inspired word-play, God meant to distinguish Peter himself from his confession, then it was “on this rock”—on this petra, a confession divinely “revealed” to Peter—that Christ was saying, “I will build my church.

Such poetic language was indeed prophetic of Peter’s Gospel role at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41), in Samaria (Acts 8:14-25), and at the household of Cornelius (Acts 10), but none of these events won him a special ecclesiastical office. The emphasis of the Matthew passage, and of those cited in Acts, is on the power of Peter’s evangelistic confession, which becomes the same power in the mouth of all true followers who confess Christ. The promises given by Jesus in connection with Peter’s original confession were not political and official but creedal and spiritual, therefore transferable to the whole catholic church.

So, whose take on this Matthew passage is right, Rome’s or that of Rome’s would-be Reformers? Which group is interpreting correctly?

The Bible points toward a confessional interpretation. Peter’s initial leadership role in the early church was soon overshadowed by James in Jerusalem and by Paul in the Roman Empire. A frank reading of the New Testament shows Peter using his confessional “keys of the kingdom” to open the Gospel door for both the Jewish and the Gentile churches. Peter then fades from the scene of political activity in the church until we find Paul confronting him later in Antioch for his failure in leadership (Galatians 2:11-13).

The New Testament’s final record of Peter’s influence on the early church are his two Epistles. These letters confirmed not his political role as the church’s head bishop but his continued spiritual role of expounding the implications of his original faith confession. Only on the basis of extra-biblical stories can Rome claim that Peter sat down in a rudimentary papal “chair.” When these and other Roman stories became the criteria for creedal doctrine, Rome boldly stepped into the place of authority that God had reserved for His Word alone.

Roman persecutions provide even more clarity in evaluating the validity of Rome’s political interpretation of Matthew 16:16-19. Following the example of the Roman Empire in killing those who confessed Christ, later Roman pontiffs also initiated and orchestrated policies of harshly persecuting Christ-confessors. The detailed accounts of the Waldensian slaughter in Italy, or the bloody Huguenot massacre in France, or the well-organized extermination of Protestant believers by the Inquisition, shamefully expose the dangerous religious stand taken by bishops who ruled politically from “Peter’s chair.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a painfully humbling read for most Roman Catholics. Its sections that record the atrocities perpetrated by Rome’s “Dark Ages” became the critical mass behind this article and a heavy emotional burden that found mental catharsis only through writing the following poem:
INQUISITION 
From its height of papal glory,
Rome still bears a stain:
Cruelties and tortures gory
Of believers slain;
Hung or flayed to die of bleeding,
Burned alive in prayer,
Slaughtered for their Scripture-reading,
All by “Peter’s chair.” 
Had their protestation perished
Under fire and lash
Or their hope for freedoms cherished
Vanished in the ash,
We today would too be liable,
As that martyred host,
Just because we owned a Bible
Or made Christ our boast.
Roman faith, if it has merit,
Cringes at these tales.
Mass and Mary can’t repair it;
Explanation fails.
But the popes who wrote this story
Pray without refrain
That those flames be purgatory
Where their souls remain.
— David L. Hatton, 4/13/2015

Salvation is found neither by church membership nor by filling an exalted church office, but only by placing authentic faith in Christ. Countless multitudes of those who confessed Christ in this way perished in horrendously cruel ways for being designated “heretics” by papal edict. Were they unwilling to confess the Apostles and Nicene Creeds? Far from it! Instead, they were tortured to death for refusing to embrace those additions to the later creeds that Rome politically enforced as essential doctrines, and which Protestants have never stopped resisting as unbiblical errors.

According to a creedal belief in “the communion of saints,” all Roman, Orthodox and Protestant believers confessing Trinitarian faith form one “holy catholic Church.” When Rome began killing Protestants for their “heretical” loyalty to Scripture, the historical departure of “Peter’s chair” from Peter’s creed became indelibly manifested. This holocaust of Christian martyrs, lasting for hundreds of years, politically confirmed a creedally Roman church, while spiritually nullifying its boast of being creedally catholic. In fact, Roman believers today should ethically reevaluate using the name “Catholic” for self-identification. Rome’s self-concept of exclusivity precludes true catholicity. In light of those early creeds, “Roman Catholic” is a self-contradictory phrase. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Because of my “born again” nature in Christ and my orthodoxy in creedal confession, I am first catholic and secondarily Protestant. Roman Catholics can think this way too, and should. But when Rome tried eradicating believers like me, it identified itself as primarily Roman and only “catholic” within the context of its own political power structure. Even today, Rome still treats me as not quite catholic—designating me as part of the “separated brethren.” That’s not the fault of my catholic faith but of the Roman politics that perpetuates this artificial separation.

Christ, however, placed in my hands, as He did in Peter’s, the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” to “bind” the powers of darkness with truth and to “loose” the powers of healing with love. While boldly confessing that Jesus Christ is “the Son of the living God” and that He is still in direct charge of building His church, I use that “key” of love to join my Lord in supporting the catholic nature of His Church and in outwitting the mistaken polity of him who sits in “Peter’s chair”:
“He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”
(from “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham)