Thursday, September 17, 2020

Smokey Sun

The Autumn Solstice
has not arrived but somehow
the Sun is shaded.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A View From Home: Smoke

So answer a question about my travel coming back to The Ranch, we are in fact in that part of the country that is being affected by forest fires - fortunately for my parents, the fires are well away from their home but the smoke is impacting literally everything - landing at the airport, we were only about 500 ft above the ground before we could see it through the smoke.

To give a sense of impact, here are pictures from my visit in July and this week.

Off the front porch:

Off the back porch:

The smoke has dissipated even since we arrived here.  Hopefully the fires will end soon.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Banality of The New Air Travel

I am out at The Ranch again this week for Round 2 of the Work Remote Experiment. I am fortunate in that this time out, The Ravishing Mrs. TB was able to come out with me.

As we both traveled out this weekend, I realized how less and less excited I am to be traveling in general.

Oh, not because of the end result.  I am happy to be here - I am always happy to be here, even when (as it always is in September) the land is brown and dry, waiting another month or so for the rains to start.

It is what travel has become.

Upon arrival at your chosen airport of departure, you go to the automated kiosk to check in - which works for me, of course, as I tend to shun human contact.  You enter the flight information, update the baggage information, and then receive the tickets as well as the tags for your baggage - which you now have to attach yourself instead of airline personnel doing it (and woe betide you if your ends are not aligned).  You take your baggage up to the counter, present your identification, and turn your bags over. 

Next, off to the security line.  You wait in line, move to the ID check, re-submit your identification for scanning, pull down your mask and show them your face, then go to the scanner.  Bags, shoes, and jackets/belts go into one container with your phone, your computer in another.  Push your bags down the line until the belt picks them up.

Wait for the security scan:  Step in, arms raised, wait three seconds while the unit makes its 270 degree scan.  Step out, wait, maybe go through, maybe get asked to flip your hands over or check your collar (it has happened to me).  Recollect your things, re-put on your shoes and belt, re-stuff your computer back into your bag.  Move on.

Wait at the gate in the now social distanced wave of the future.  We board by tens.  Wait for your cohort to be called.  Move through line, distanced. Hold out your ticket, respond to perfunctory "Have a nice flight".  Social distance down the jetway to the airplane.  Get into the seat (no middle aisles now). 

All of this, with reminders along the way of "wear your mask", "social distance", "refrain from touching your face", etc.

Go here.  Go there.  Wear this.  Do that.  Take this out. Put this in. 

Almost at every point in the process now, you are being told what to do.  The excitement of air travel - of going somewhere exciting - has been replaced by the banality of a managed process at every point.  It now has all the joy of standing in line to get your driver's license.

It is convenient, which is the only thing to recommend it at this point.  But is certainly feels nothing like an adventure.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Why Some Churches Are Failing

A number of memes or quotes have been making their way around the InterWeb over the last two-three months about why young people are falling away from the Church.  The reasons, if I can generally characterize them, are 1)  The Church had an inherent bias in that while they preached holiness, they did not practice "social justice" as it is defined today, and 2) the Church - at least the American Church - had become more "American" than Christian.

The problem with these analyses, of course, is that they more often reflect the bias of the individuals that create them than perhaps the actual reality of the situation - or what the Bible has to say about such matters.  It makes the Church one more mechanism to enforce one's political, psychological, and social leanings than what the Church was actually meant to be.

I think, in this case, I can speak a bit from experience.

Sometime in the mid to late 20th Century, the Church began to make a hard turn from the concept of everyone is a sinner consigned to Hell except by the grace of God.  That concept was wrong, it was said - people were flawed perhaps, even fatally so - but after all, that was unacceptable and mean spirited and did not represent what has become the passionately held belief that people are inherent good, not evil.

If people are not sinners and Hell is not a reality, then a tension comes to exist between what I am told - that I am inherently good - and what the Church and Bible teaches - that I am inherently a sinner.  People, given human nature, are more often than not going to move towards the path that makes them feel the best and of less resistance.

Suddenly, the salvation that Christ offers is no longer the critical need of the human heart.

Without that as a critical need, Church becomes another activity.  And the teachings of the Church, be they moral or social, begin to have no basis for practice or reason to exist after a time.  Because if sin is not real and I do not require forgiveness from that sin, the formally clear commands of Scripture are really just more "suggestions" rather than rules, subject to the decisions of the time and culture I live in or, frankly, what is convenient for me.  And if this is so, "Church" is just another club I belong to or thing I have to endure, and why would I do that if I have five other interests that cover the same thing?

I wrote above I can speak from experience.  Over my years in the Church as we have moved around, I have found that the word "sin" has become a word which is almost never mentioned now.  The idea of redemption may be, but redemption from what?  It is never clearly defined.  Certainly never an idea of redemption from my inherent sinfulness, which I have to not only confess, but then repent from daily.  The phrase more and more, it seems, is that I need Christ to be my Saviour for an indeterminate set of issues that are really more bad habits than critical failures.

The Church has definitively moved away from the need for salvation and thus the Church has definitively moved away from its primary purpose.

I understand that some of those that occasionally stop here are not Christian and to them this will largely seem like an in-house argument.  Which it is, I suppose - were I atheistic or Muslim or Buddhist why people are leaving the Church has no more relevance to me than the fact my coffee is less warm than I like it in my cup. 

What I do find somewhat disingenuous - at least for the in-house debate - is that personal beliefs are being substituted for reasons - or in some cases I suspect, justifications - for why the Church is losing people.

It is odd - I wrote the phrase above "everyone is a sinner consigned to Hell except by the grace of God."  It strikes me that in today's charged environment, that is a statement which by some would be considered some sort of unacceptable speech. It is clearly in the Bible, multiple times of course.  Now, that verges on a controversial and potentially odious statement, one that (I submit) those that find justification in their reasoning for why the Church is failing would point to as indicative of the hide bound thinking that has caused the failure.

The fact that large portions of the Church have walked away from it really, I suggest, tells the critical observer all they need to know.  When any organization rejects its most basic tenet and function, the reason for its existence eventually disappears as well.