The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Lent 4 :: God looks on the Heart

How well I remember that spring day in 9th grade science class. We had just been given the week’s Science Weekly Reader, a newspaper specifically geared toward young, budding science students. On the front page was an article about a new acne treatment, complete with a “before” and “after” picture of a teenage boy who had received the “miracle” cure. His “before” picture was pretty much what you’d expect: a young face pockmarked with acne scars, blackheads, and zits. The “after” shot showed a smiling young man with baby-smooth skin. The transformation was miraculous, if not hard to believe.

As I was reading an article about something-or-other, two girls sitting behind me called out to me to turn around. They held the front-page acne article up and began comparing the “before” picture with my face! Giggling to themselves, they suggested I might want to try the cure.

The President's Speech

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, but I did listen to The President’s Speech last night. He waxed poetic on the moral imperative of protecting a people from tyranny, seeming downright animated at times. He was careful to point out that America could ill afford another extended and costly—in terms of lives lost and dollars spent—quagmire as happened in Iraq under the watch of his predecessor but really didn’t say a whole lot as to how long we could expect to be supporting the NATO efforts in Libya.

As usual, pundits and politicians were all over the place in their response to The Speech. Some for, some against, and all of it political posturing. The New York Times has a pretty good distillation of the various responses here. I especially find it interesting that most conservatives do not seem bothered by any potential cost—in terms of dollars spent. I guess we’ll just pay for this like we always do: by deferring the cost to coming generations of Americans or by cutting much needed social safety net spending for the least of us here in the States.

Change Happens!

Caught this article on today. It’s about a former Presbyterian pastor who used to preach against homosexuality and gay marriage. Turns out he’s changed his mind.

Good for him!

Today's "Flo & Friends"

Flo & Friends

Flo & Friends

Usually not a profound strip, but today's "Flo & Friends" could be an apt commentary on the state of ignorance in our country, what with all the birthers, creationists, history-revisionists, climate-change-deniers, out there—not to mention those who want to completely do away with our public school education system and replace it with some sort of fundamentalist, theocratic parochial system.

Give me a break!

Taxes [don't read if you're having a bad day]

In today's New York Times online, there's an article about G.E. and how it avoids paying taxes to the U.S. Last year this megacorp earned profits of $5,200,000,000 [that's a five and a two followed by eight zeroes]. Their tax bill? $0 [that's a zero followed by no zeroes]. Actually, the megacorp claimed a tax benefit of $3,200,000,000 [that's a three and a two followed by — you guessed it — eight zeroes].

So that's pretty bad. But hear this: according to that same Times article, over the past five years megacorp G.E. brought in "$26 billion in American profits, and received a net tax benefit from the I.R.S. of $4.1 billion." [I suppose the Times doesn't use zeroes 'cause they take up too much space.]

This huge benefit comes at a time when many people in America are struggling to find a job. Many others have simply quit looking. Our Senators are talking about deficit reduction and slashing "entitlements" and busting up labor unions and giving even more and bigger megacorp tax breaks and cuts for the wealthy.

Lent 3 :: "He told me everything I have ever done!"

I gotta tell ya: I ‘aint so sure I like this one… little… bit! Look, I know it’s true that God sees into the hearts of people. God knows our thoughts, sees our actions (even when we are alone!), discerns our intentions (even if we are unsure of them!). In short, there’s absolutely nothing about any aspect of our lives that is hidden from the Great Seer of all.

Right. But don’t talk about it Jesus. Don’t tell me that you know everything. I mean, it’s embarassing. I know what I’ve done, what I’ve thought, and most of what my intentions are, and I know that you know these things. But can’t you just keep quiet about it? Do you have to remind me? Life is so much easier when you just let me go about my merry way. Don’t muck it all up by bringing up my past.

Brain Washing

Unstrange Phenomena

Unstrange Phenomena

Saw this on this morning. It's from "Unstrange Phenomena" by Ed Allison and — at least for me — is reflective of the kind of thing we all need to do to get away from the crazy thinking of the past several years and start to really care about what we are doing to one another and the world in which we live.

Anyone for a real brain washing?

Lent 2 :: "He came to Jesus by night"

Of course Nicodemus, a fine, upstanding member of the Jewish temple hierarchy, would not have wanted others to know that he was seeking out this upstart rabbi. After all, being a noted teacher, why should he go to Jesus and ask him important questions about faith? Didn’t Jesus earlier that week rout out the money-changers and sellers of animals from the Temple precincts? And in doing so, didn’t Jesus blaspheme the very Temple sacrificial system that Nicodemus was supposed to support? No wonder Nicodemus sought the cover of darkness!

How often is it that we, not wanting our friends and colleagues — or perhaps even our families — to know, that we too, seek answers from Christ? We look around and see that many Christians seem so sure of all the answers to the questions of faith that our faith pales in comparison. We don’t quite measure up. Maybe we even doubt. “How do I get to Heaven?” “How can I avoid Hell?” “Why do people suffer?” In the face of such uncertainty, those who seem to have all the answers appear downright smug to us.

Lent 1 :: The devil made me do it!

Remember Geraldine? She was comedian Flip Wilson’s alter ego back in the 60s and 70s. Every time “she” did something she shouldn’t have done, she’d exclaim, “The devil made me do it!”

I’m not sure, of course, but I wonder if Flip read Genesis? Especially that wonderful scene when God catches Adam and Eve after they’ve eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God asks if they’ve done what they shouldn’t have done. Adam complains: “She gave it to me and I ate. It’s not my fault!” Eve says: “Well, the serpent said it’d be okay. It’s not my fault!” I guess the devil was pretty busy in Eden that fateful day.

Responsibility. It’s not something any of us find easy to accept, unless it is responsibility for something good. But when something bad happens: “The devil made me do it, it’s not my fault!” How quick we are to place the blame for our mistakes — read “sin” — on others. It’s as if our egos refuse to admit that we could do anything wrong. Perhaps Lent is a time for some ego “cleansing.” Let us face up to the fact that we alone are responsible for our actions. Ask God for forgiveness when we have done something wrong and give God the praise when we have accomplished something good. Let’s quit acting like Geraldine.

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