As we observe and ponder the amazing conditions of this earth, how can we not also recognize with awe creation by divine design and feel gratitude to the great and marvelous Creator?
A friend gave my husband a subscription to National Geographic for Christmas. When the March issue came, I scanned through it and was struck by an interesting article briefly mentioning 13 things that make life possible on earth. As I read about these amazing details, I was struck by the vast knowledge and wisdom of God in creating all of these perfect conditions to support life on this earth. It reaffirmed my faith in a wise and loving creator.
Then I turned the page and found an article about how life on this marvelous earth evolved from simple life forms to us amazing humans. What a way to deflate the beautiful balloon.
Standards provide safeguards and guide us in life. Moral standards provide a framework for a peaceful society. The assault on moral standards leaves individuals vulnerable and weakens society.
What are standards and why do we need them?
A standard is a set point against which things can be measured. Standards are effective when generally understood and accepted by all and when set by an appropriate authority. Standards within an organization provide order and consistency. They instill confidence in the quality and safety of products, services and personal conduct. Our confidence in leaders is determined by the standards that they live up to.
Moral standards serve similar functions to promote order and safety in society as well as personal well-being and progress. We all will not measure up to standards at all times. We are human. But without standards, we have no idea how far off course we are or whether we are even going in the right direction. Standards serve as a guide to make corrections. We can have a sense of security and peace when we live up to standards.
I am concerned about the battles raging in our society – the battles which divide us into opposing groups, and also the internal battles for individual souls. These are continuations of a war which began long ago. We have no recollection of it, but scriptural accounts can stir up feelings and give us a sense of the intensity and eternal significance of the struggle. (See Revelation 12:7-9, Moses 4:1-4, Abraham 3:27-28)
What makes this war is so challenging on an individual level – and that is the level that it really counts – are the realities of our current mortal existence.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I believe that we are essentially spiritual beings. We are actually the spiritual offspring of God, and as such have at our spiritual core a divine nature and potential. In order for us to be able to progress toward that potential, we have been given the opportunity of this mortal existence. We have been housed in physical bodies and placed in a temporal world. I do not believe that everything about these physical bodies and this world are inherently bad or evil. These bodies are marvelous creations and allow us to do wonderful things. Our world is filled with so much that is beautiful and good. However, being a spiritual being inside a physical body creates the basis of our test, and the core of the battle – will the spiritual overcome the physical and progress, or will the spiritual yield to the physical?
We often hear someone comment about another being a “good person”. Sometimes this is said in spite of evidence that this person may have done something seriously wrong, as if that action was out of character. Other times this is used to eulogize someone by summarizing their life as basically good.
I think the designation of “good person” is often used in the same manner as labeling someone “nice”. I knew someone whose catch-phrase was “Be nice like me”. What I learned from her, however, was that it was totally possible to be “nice” while also being very self-centered and manipulative. The term “nice” seems to me more about being socially acceptable. It includes manners and respect and courtesy, but also conforming to whatever society or a particular group determines is acceptable behavior. It is really about pleasing people so that they will approve of you.
In order to do what is right, there must be standards which we can choose to follow because we believe they are right.
I read a Facebook post with this quote from Timber Hawkeye’s “Faithfully Religionless” (FB told me a friend liked this – it was not on a Page I follow):
“I’m not against religion, I just don’t believe we need it in order to be ethical, especially since morality means doing what is right regardless of what you are told, and religion is about doing what you’re told regardless of what is right.”
My first thought was “How can you possibly know you are doing what is right?” In order to do what is right – or even to know what is right, moral, or ethical – there must be standards. One important role of religion through the ages has been to provide firm, set standards of right and wrong. The source of these standards is believed to be divine and always right – the source of absolute truth.
Rather than blindly doing what a religion says to do as the non-religious claim, the religious are actually making a conscious choice to be obedient to the standards of right and wrong that they believe have come from a divine source. They are really doing what is right, regardless of what the secular world is telling them. This is morality.
We have a very real, and powerful, and successful, common enemy who has become expert in turning us against each other.
For a brief time after 9-11, our Country was united in a way reminiscent of the World War II era, when we were faced with an obvious identifiable evil – a common enemy. Unfortunately, it did not take much time for us to become divided again until divisiveness is now greater than I have ever known.
The great irony is that though the recognition of a common enemy is usually effective in uniting groups of people to fight against that enemy, we do in fact have a very real, and powerful, and successful, common enemy who has become expert in turning us against each other. He seeks to destroy us all though getting us to destroy each other. He is winning when we fight against each other rather than unite to oppose him.
Exposing this common enemy might be easier by contrasting opposites, for he became our enemy by opposing our common God and all that is good and true which comes from him. Continue reading
Some thoughts on perceiving things as they really are and trying to stay sane in an increasingly crazy world.
I have always considered insanity as being about a disconnect between individual perception and actual reality. The extreme of this is psychotics who have hallucinations and delusions – they see things that are not really there and talk to voices coming from no one, or insist something or someone is something other than what they really are. My husband’s traumatic brain injury is sometime exhibited in frantic searching for lost items that we do not actually own. I have at times myself, especially in dealing with alcoholics or addicts, felt a little crazy because my senses and my brain were telling me one thing while the addict/alcoholic was insisting something else was real – I didn’t really smell what I smelled, slurred speech was my ears fooling me, this was not what it appeared to be. When the choice is between believing a lie that someone you love and trust is telling you or trusting in your own perceptions, sometimes it is preferable to feel crazy.
We humans rely largely upon our senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste – to make determinations about whether something is real or not. Even then we can be fooled by things like the illusions of a magic act or prevalent virtual reality. Add to that the many conflicting messages we hear about current events. It used to be that we could trust that the majority of people accepted and presented reality as reality – there was a kind of common consensus of reality. But now things have become blurred and conflicted. Reality is no longer based on sensory or even scientifically verifiable observations, but more on feelings and ideology. It is no longer a constant we can count on, but is relative and variable, dependent upon prevailing popular opinion or even individual personal choices. Things which were obviously “real” years ago are no longer considered real, but have been replaced by new reality. All this leads to the questions: Are we really perceiving “things as they really are”? Or are we as a society going insane? Continue reading
In a world with so many conflicting voices and contradictory facts, how can we distinguish real truth from all that is erroneous and false?
With any statement made by a public figure, especially a politician, a “fact-checking” process immediately begins. This process may seem to be intended to keep such people honest, but the motive is more likely to create a “gotcha” moment–to catch someone in a lie, error, or untruth; to in effect label them a liar; cast doubt on their intentions; even discredit all they have said or may say. But is fact-checking really an accurate or honest way to assess someone’s honesty? Do facts really reflect the truth of the message?
Facts are simply pieces of information which are assumed to be true, usually because they have been recorded or can be verified. It is the interpretation of facts which is significant–what do they mean? That interpretation of fact varies depending on the perspective and foundational beliefs of any particular person or group. With skill, any select group of facts can be used to successfully argue almost any point. Other facts which may contradict a hypothesis or suggest other meanings are left out of such arguments. Even when intentional efforts are made to find all of the relevant facts, there may be others which may not be known or available at that point in time. Often facts are selected and deemed relevant because they fit into the framework of an accepted belief system. We intentionally, though often not consciously, seek facts that reinforce what we already believe to be true. We also discount or ignore facts which do not fit that belief system. So fact-checking is usually self-serving, seeking to reinforce and validate a position already accepted by some to be true and in the process point a finger of doubt and shame at someone with another perspective who did not present the appropriate or correct set of facts. Continue reading