Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pompous Circumstance

Just last week we had the traditional "Let's Stand and Clap at Everything the President Says" speech, a.k.a. "The State of the Union". Unlike the other talking heads on FOX, MSNBC, CNN, etc., I'm not going to give you my opinions on the particular things the President said. I can't. I didn't watch the speech. I had no intention of watching it. And no, I'm not an Obama-basher (okay, maybe I am, but not at the moment); I didn't watch them even when G.W. Bush was giving them. I have only caught pieces of the speech given by different Presidents over the years, only because they seem to take over every network channel during them (I love you, Netflix!)

The reason I don't watch it is because the founding fathers of our country did not intend it that way:

Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says, "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;"

(Side note: What the hell is it with the capitalized words in the middle of that thing?)

As it states, the President is supposed to give Congress information of the state of the union, along with recommendations. George Washington delivered the first before a joint session of Congress in 1790. Thomas Jefferson thought it too similar to a speech that the King of England would give and stopped the practice (you know, not presidential, but monarchical). From that time on, it was given as a written report to Congress - read by a clerk. I think it was read out loud by a clerk because Xerox hadn't given us the copier yet.

Woodrow Wilson was the first to give the report orally to Congress since Jefferson stopped it. Most Presidents have given the report in writing; Jimmy Carter was the last to do this. Calvin Coolidge gave the report (now a "speech") on radio for the first time in 1923. And, since most Presidents like to outdo each other (how many Presidential Libraries do we need, anyway?), Harry S. Truman gave it for the first time on television in 1947.

Here's where I think it has gone astray. No longer is the State of the Union a report given to CONGRESS, but a political speech in front of the American people. As Congress now stands up and applauds every time the President takes a breath, you can almost hear Thomas Jefferson saying, "I told you so!"

The speech is stupid for another reason: why, oh why, would you have the majority of your government officials in one building at one time? There are all kinds of methodologies put in place to make sure that not everyone is in attendance, but still! Why would one risk it? Hasn't anyone seen "Mars Attacks" or "Independence Day"?!?

All kidding aside, there are plenty of opportunities during the year for the President to address the American people. This should NOT be one of them. Instead of a serious report, it is an opportunity for grandstanding and occasional abuse (of the other Branches). Go back to giving it in writing. Hell, even email it!

Nothing is worse than watching the State of the Union. Outside of the rebuttals that follow, that is.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Doing Time

What follows may be a little odd, coming from a person who is on a sabbatical from "intellectual Christianity", but I think it will stimulate your thinking. This follows closely in hand with a talk I gave to a group of men at a breakfast a few years ago. Since the subject matter was up to me, what I presented was a passion of mine: time and time travel. I know, a weird topic for a group of Christian men. I posted my talk (as a transcript) to my blog: "I Grasp It, But It Keeps Slippin' Outta My Hands!". Please take a moment to read that before continuing, or what follows may seem even more outrageous than it does on the surface. May I suggest skimming down until you reach the paragraph that starts with "Anyone who has gotten to know me knows that I am hooked on the concept of time and time travel", as the beginning is more of an introduction for the guys at the breakfast.

Okay. Ready to go on?

When I first embraced Christianity's Protestant flavor, one of the notable differences between it and the Catholic upbringing I had, was their view of the cross. If you have never seen one, a crucifix is a cross with Jesus on it. The Protestants embrace a cross with Jesus notably absent. The reason for the difference is that Catholics want to keep the crucifixion in front of their attention, whereas Protestants believe that, since Jesus is no longer on the cross, and has risen from the dead, the cross should be empty.

Which is right? In a sense, both.

As a quick overview, Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for their sins. The bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). This "payment" is commonly known as the grace of God: you didn't earn it - you just accepted it - God did all the work. The alternative is paying the penalty yourself.

Here's the question: What does the bible mean by "death"?

If the answer is physical death, than once you physically die, you've made the payment and "bam!" you're in heaven with God. If that is true, Jesus dying on the cross was a complete waste of time - you can do that payment on your own!

If the answer is spiritual death, than once you sin, you've died spiritually (become separate from God), made the payment, and again, "bam!" you're with God. If that is true, Jesus dying on the cross was a complete waste of time as well. Since we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

As a quick aside, the reason spiritual death is separation from God is that God is absolute holiness. It is not that God cannot be in the presence of sin, but sin cannot be in the presence of pure holiness. God's purity would "annihilate" the sinner. So, it is the love of God that keeps a sinner separate from Him. (Make sense?)

In the account of Adam and Eve, they were told in the day that they eat of the fruit (of the knowledge of good and evil) they would die. They ate, and didn't physically die. Actually, in pre-Jewish tradition, God slew an animal (shed the blood of an animal - killing it) and made tunics for them (Genesis 3:21). That "payment" was a temporary patch, if you will. In the Old Testament Laws, animals were sacrificed to pay for the sins of the people almost continuously. This was to cover the spiritual sin of the people temporarily, until he could send Jesus to make the payment once and for all on the cross.

So, if it is neither physical nor spiritual, what kind of death are we talking about?

Here is where I may seem a little cray-cray, and why I suggested you read "I Grasp It … "

The only kind of death that fits the penalty is "eternal separation from God". That's it. No other kind of death would fit the bill. Because of a person's sin, that person would be eternally separated from God - because like I said above, sin cannot be in the presence of a holy God.

So how did Jesus' hanging on the cross for a few hours, and dying there, pay the penalty of eternal separation? Let's look at three statements made by Jesus while on the cross:

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34)
"… My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46)
" … Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit …" (Luke 23:46)

Did you see what happened there? Jesus went from calling Him "Father", to "God", to "Father" again. The only time Jesus did not refer to God as "Father" was while on the cross. It was at that point that God "turned His head" and did not look upon Jesus, who had taken the sin of the world upon Himself (you can lookup the doctrine of the "scapegoat" on your own).

How long a time went between those statements is not known, but no matter how long, it does not add up to "eternal separation", since Jesus DID go back to calling God "Father" while still on the cross. So how DID He pay that price?

Remember at the beginning of this particular blog article, when I said that both the Catholics and the Protestants were correct in their view of the cross? They both ARE!

As I said in "I Grasp It … ", eternity is not defined as "time without end", but as "NO time". God lives outside of time. That is why He is without beginning or end (if He had beginning and end, he could not be God - as that would mean He is caused, and not cause-LESS).

In God's eyes, Jesus is "still" on the cross - separated from Him, and ALSO sitting on His right hand (Luke 22:69)

But J.P., the bible says that without the shedding of BLOOD there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). I'm sorry, you are so right. As a matter of fact, I cut myself shaving this morning - therefore I shed blood and paid for my sins. Of course not! The shedding of blood is another way of saying DEATH.

So, the Catholic crucifix is right, because for God, Jesus is eternally separated from Him on the cross (in eternity - get it?), and the Protestant "empty" cross is right, because Jesus is no longer there.

I guess this makes me either a Catholestant, or a Protatholic. And now, back to my sabbatical.

("Doing Time" is the title of a song by Bad Religion, from the album "How Could Hell Be Any Worse?" - catch the irony?)

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Visions Through Satan's Eyes

As I feel the poison
flowing through my veins,
no tears do I shed.
I have taken the love given me
And have transformed it
into some precarious form
of disillusionment.
I have warped the minds of innocence
and have distorted it
to suit my satisfaction.
I hold the hand
of one in need,
and so carelessly crush it,
until the bones snap
like dead branches.
Ah, death.
Tis a sweet gift
I give unto thee
who is so full
of joy.
Pain is just an emotion
which deserves its equal time
with love.
I live by a sadistic law:
Agony be it
for those
who think kindly.
As my mind dissipates
with the sweet sickness
that is death,
I laugh
at man’s feeble attempts
to live
by love.
I am not the disease,
just a minor element.
Man shall continue
when I am gone.
he shall make my work
that of a saint.
Total devastation
shall be achieved
by man’s love.
My only wish
is that I may live to see it.
what a performance it shall be.
One that will require
no encore.

J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 1985

A touch of the macabre; written appropriately at midnight; should be read sitting down with a strong cup of coffee.

(Special thanks goes to BladeWolf for use of ~Sinilius~. The image was originally posted on I received permission from BladeWolf to use it back in 1985 when I posted the poem there. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate him on the site to link to him here.)

"On this home by Horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!
- Quothe the Raven 'Nevermore'." - E.A. Poe
(special thanks to the "master")

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Do You Desire the Right to Choose?

At the end of my last blog, "Walkin' the Line", I quoted from the first verse of Johhny Cash's "I Walk the Line": "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. …I walk the line." My hope was that it would have the same impact upon you as it did to me.

We all like to think that we keep our "eyes wide open all the time", but do we? It is very easy to find yourself stuck in a groove (a throwback cliché referencing vinyl records that would have a scratch, and the needle would replay the same sound bite over and over and over and … ). Watch too much FOX News and soon you'll start sounding like Bill O'Reilly. I'm no different. That is why I try to bring different things into my arena of thought that will challenge me.

A few things that have effected, or are currently affecting, my thought processes are podcasts like We Have Concerns, The Cracked Podcast, and JuRY; and books like Freakonomics, and anything written by Malcolm Gladwell. I highly recommend any of those - and if you have suggestions, let me know!

One example of challenge came from The Cracked Podcast. I'm a Second Amendment kind of guy. I fully believe in the right to "bare arms" (yes, I LIKE short-sleeved shirts. So sue me!). During one of their podcasts covering the topic of statistics, my (hardened) opinions concerning gun ownership were taken to task.

Did you know that statistically, the chances of your house being broken into is slim?
Add to that the chances of your house being robbed if you have a security system, with obligatory sign on your front lawn, are slimmer?
Add to that the chances of your house being broken into, with a security system, with you there at the time, is even slimmer?
How about the chances of your house being broken into, with a security system, with you there at the time, where you would be able to successfully deter the robbery with your gun is even slimmer?

What about the statistics that say that if a person owns a gun, they probably own more than one? An acquaintance of mine had his house robbed - no security system, and he wasn't home - where the thief got away with a large portion of his gun collection. Ever wonder where thieves get all of these "illegal" guns?!?

One of the major arguments for gun ownership is self-protection. If you look at the statistics regarding the chance of someone being injured or killed by a gun in the home, does the above idea really make sense?

Again, keeping your eyes wide open all the time.

Another challenge came while reading Freakonomics. One of the things the authors were looking at was the fall in crime, with New York City as the focus. Obvious reasons were looked at. And then, one not so obvious. One that pushed my "needle" out of its "groove".

The passing of Roe v. Wade.

According to the data, the majority of people in prison came from broken homes, unmarried women, and poor/impoverished environments. According to the data, the majority of abortions after Roe v. Wade were by single women in poor/impoverished environments. Once abortion became legal, the crime rate dropped (albeit, it took a decade or two for the impact of those abortions to affect the crime rate). You see, the people who were most-likely to commit those crimes were no longer around to commit them.

Please understand, the above has been challenged, but not refuted. Challenge is good. Eyes wide open and all.

As a Christian, I have, for years, followed in the mantra of Pro-Life. All life is sacred. ("Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great." - Monty Python) Who knows, that one abortion might have eliminated the one person who would cure cancer.  Now? I have to ask my Christian Pro-Life spouting cohorts: If you are pro-life, are you pro-crime? Notice that I didn't mention the level of crime. I really don't think it matters.

Okay, as a reminder, the name of this blog is My Humble But Accurate Opinion. I am now going to give some of that opinion to you. Remember, the Humble But Accurate part is tongue-in-cheek.

According to the data, if you are pro-life, you have to be pro-crime. If you are anti-crime, why are you so against the most-capable of deterrents?

Why are the pro-lifers so anti-choice? We look at the Christmas story and see the angel coming to Mary. Did Mary have a choice? Of course she did. That's what made her decision so valuable (WHY she is called "blessed")! Let me ask you, do you think Mary was the first person the angel came to? Maybe the first person said, "No." What if SHE had said "yes"? "Hail Gertrude, full of grace, the Lord is with thee …" I'm not mocking. As the saying goes, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence." Just because the bible didn't say it, doesn't mean it didn't happen!

If you are anti-abortion, do you believe it is okay to use contraceptives? If so, YOU are a hypocrite! What is the difference between eliminating the joining of sperm and egg, versus preventing the joining of sperm and egg? Aren't both the elimination of life? Isn't it possible that that condom prevented the possibility of the person who would cure cancer? At least the Catholics are consistent: they not only do not believe in abortion, they don't believe in contraceptives either!

For one thing, do you think that only ONE person would be able to come up with the cure to cancer? Hardly. Most cures today come from research TEAMS, not any one individual. And for another, if God is ultimately in control, and contraceptives are not 100% effective, don't you think that if a certain joining of sperm and egg "needed" to take place, God couldn't use the 1% ineffectiveness of that condom to allow it to happen?

And finally, let me ask you: Is God pro-choice? Okay, I'll clarify: Does God want you to have the freewill to make choices, or does He want to control everything you do? Be careful. Think about that before you answer. If you want help, read my blog "I Grasp It, But It Keeps Slippin' Outta My Hands!" for some assistance.

(Assuming you stopped to read that blog … )

If it takes freewill for us to openly love God, and anything less would make us, in a sense, robots, why do we feel it is okay for us to want to legislate the ability of others to make choices?

Why is it okay for Christians to want legislation that would make it illegal for a woman to MAKE THE CHOICE whether or not to have an abortion, but not okay for followers of Islam to want Sharia Law forced upon people? What makes one limitation of ability to choose anymore right than the other?

Everyone should have the right to the consequences of his or her decisions.

Don't be mad at me, if you are. I only want you to stop being so hypocritical.

And for those of you wanting to bring up the death penalty, perhaps we should save that for another blog.

Keep your eyes wide open ALL the time!

© Emittravel 2015