Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My high school reunion

This last weekend my high school grad class reunited our 20th anniversary. It was great to see a lot of the people from my high school and get a chance to get caught up. It also gave me a chance to reflect on my childhood.

Before I go on any further, I should be clear that I've never been diagnosed with anything, this is merely my own selfdiagnosis.

I didn't speak my first word until I was almost five years old. I was also very clingy, attached to Mom's pant leg most of the time. My parents were very concerned, thinking that I might have autism. Even after starting to speak, I was extremely shy as a child. Everything seemed so loud and big and noisy.

I do have happy memories as a child, but the main thing I remember about being a child is just being overwhelmingly afraid. I remember wanting to have lots of friends, but also being afraid to talk to anyone lest people might laugh at me. Wanting to join the kids outside playing, but just being too afraid to.

As a teenager, I never dated or went to school dances. I was far more likely to stay at home and watch TV or read a book.

The worst thing was I knew my fear of people made no sense. Yet there I was, wanting to be social, yet for some reason, unable to be social. I was also convinced that I was the only person in the world with my problem, that everyone else was more social and therefore better than me.

I hated myself.

Then one day during college, I had an epiphany.

I thought, "OK, you're shy. Is this honestly the worst thing a person could possibly be? Really?"

I realized that no it wasn't the worst thing a person could be. There are things that are a lot worse. I realized that I didn't have to beat myself up for being who I was, and that other people aren't necessarily better than me automatically. Yes, I should work on my shyness, but I should also realize that I have a lot of positive qualities. I should realize that I'm never going to be the most gregarious person around, but that was fine. In fact, it was great because it was part of what made me me.

I've come to accept that, at least, I have some features of autism.

Which brings me back to this weekend.

I did get a chance to talk to a lot of my classmates, but there was a lot of time when me and my wife sat at a table by ourselves. I felt myself slipping into my old role of being a wallflower.

I was totally fine with it. I was there with the person who understands me better than anyone else in the world. I didn't feel envious, I was totally happy. A little unsure about what to do socially at times, to be sure, but (and this is the key thing here) not hating myself for that.

The happiness that comes with liking yourself for who you are can be hard-won, but there's very little in this world that beats it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jean Chretien's Order of Merit

So our Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, has decided to make former Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, a member of the Order of Merit.

This is the highest honour the ruling monarch can give to anyone. It has been given to various luminaries like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. It is considered a personal gift from the monarch. Only 24 living people can be a member of the Order of Merit.

I think I share the feelings of many Canadians when I say:

"What the hell?!?"

Normally I have a lot of respect for our Queen, but her nomination of Jean Chretien to this Order of Merit tells me that she didn't have very much of a clue of what happened here in her Dominion between 1993-2003.

Let me refresh her memory.

In 1995, if it hadn't been for the votes of some English-speaking neighbourhoods in Montreal, this country would have split in two, his non-leadership being a major cause.

His government's response to this led to one of the biggest scandals and misuse of taxpayer's money in Canadian history.

His government signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, conveniently exempting Ontario, but expecting oil-rich Alberta to abide by it no matter how much it would have hurt Alberta economically.

All this while keeping the grand Liberal tradition of alienating almost everyone west of Manitoba, and souring relations with our largest trading partner.

I understand she and Mr. Chretien quite liked each other as friends. I do also respect the fact the Mr. Chretien spent the majority of his adult life serving his country. In my opinion, however, Mr. Chretien as Prime Minister was, too much of the time, dangerously inept. So to elevate him to such a high level of esteem is quite disproportionate.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Twitter?

I don't Twitter.

I'll never Twitter.

I guess I just don't understand the value of it. Why on earth would I need to broadcast to a bunch of people what I'm doing right now?

If I want you to know what I'm doing right now, I'll tell you to your face. I promise.

Actually, in general, I don't get the value of the social networking sites. I started a facebook account several months ago that I virtually never log into. All I've ever done is acknowledge friend requests from people I recognize.

It's not that I don't value friendship. I value my small group of friends, I just don't feel the need to have lots of friends online that I've never met in person.

There's also a small part of me that's just a wee bit contrarian. Whenever something is immensely popular, there's part of me that instantly dislikes merely because of its popularity. Some small part of me says, "There's no way that deserves to be this popular.", even if it really does.

Anyway, there's the reasons that you'll never see me on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I don't have any particular reason for posting this right now. There's nothing that has provoked this post, I just feel the need to say this.

I've been a Christian for almost 3 years now. Before that, I was, at various times, an agnostic and an atheist. But since becoming a Christian, I feel like I've been on an amazing journey.

I've often reflected on what the Cross means. I think of not only the pain of it for Him, but also his shame and humiliation. The crowds hurling insults at him, spitting at him, taunting him. The whipping that laid his internal organs open to exposure. The nails being driven through his hands and feet. His crown of thorns digging into his skull. So much pain, so much humiliation, yet he thought not once of himself. He could have avoided this, yet he went to the Cross willingly.

The most amazing thing about it, is that he did this for me.

I did nothing to deserve this. There is no way I could deserve this. Yet he did this anyway.

He loves me that much. And I could never earn this love, his love is freely given.

In response to this...I feel it's only rational to respond to this love in some way. I know that I don't deserve what he has done for me, but still, it inspires me to want to do something about it.

It inspires me to be as much like Him as I can be.

That's what I try to do every day.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

July 3 - Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. BC Lions

Let me say first off that I'm a pretty big Roughies fan, so I'm very happy my guys won 28-24. I just thought I'd share my thoughts on the game last night. You can watch the highlights here.

One...I don't know if it was first game of the season jitters or what...but hanging on to the ball seemed to be an issue for both clubs. There were 15 turnovers this game, and 48 points scored off of turnovers.

Two...I was really quite impressed with Darian Durant, Saskatchewan's new number one QB. At no point did I feel like he was losing his composure, even when his offence turned the ball over to BC. I also think it's great that coach Miller has decided to stick with one guy as the number one QB. Last year, there were a few guys in that spot and I just don't think that worked at all.

Three....I do wish the Roughies had held on to the lead a little better. They were up by 18 points at one time, if it hadn't been for one BC receiver dropping the ball at one point late in the 4th quarter the Lions would have come back and won.

But overall, I'm happy with what happened and I'm looking forward to one week from today when they'll play against the Argos in Toronto.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hello again after a very long, long time. I've decided to start blogging again.

But the focus of this blog will change. It's going to be more thoughts and ramblings about life in general, and my life in particular.

It occurs to me that I've never really introduced myself, or if I have, it was such a long time ago that I really should do it again.

I have been married for 2 years to the most wonderful woman on earth, who I will thenceforth call "My love". We have suffered the pain of miscarriage twice, and I mourn the loss of our two children everyday. In fact, I've posted a link to my wife's blog.

I work as an Accountant. I've worked in the accounting field for over 20 years.

The thing that I consider to be the most important fact about myself, as you will undoubtedly be able to tell by the posts I made years ago, is that I'm a Christian. Me and my wife both attend a Lutheran church.

Over the last three years, I have formulated a few beliefs about love and marriage that I want to share with you. Me and my wife were big fans of the television show, "Jon and Kate plus 8", key word being were. The tragic unravelling of their marriage in public has made us permanent non-fans. What broke the camel's back was the last episode we watched where they basically said they were divorcing for the kids.

I feel I should tell you about how both me and my wife have arrived at a common perspective on marriage. She is the child of divorce, my parents will be celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary this year. From these backgrounds we've come to this perspective: You don't divorce for the kids. You WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE for your kids. Divorce is preferable to staying in a loveless marriage, granted, but there is a third option, rebuilding your love. Marriage is work, but the rewards far outweigh the effort.

Having said that, I realize the stresses on their marriage were enormous. The stress of raising 8 children, the TV show, book tours, travelling all over the country, etc. must be hard. This is why it was so important for them to work on their marriage, to put each other first.

There is something that really struck me in that episode. They both said that the children were the most important to them. I know it sounds good when parents say their kids are the most important things to them in the world. But honestly, since the parents' relationship is the foundation of the whole family, a person's spouse should be considered more important than the children. It really should. A person really should consider their spouse's needs and wants as the foremost things that must be met.

Now of course, children need more of Mom's time and effort than Dad does, and vice versa. I just think that Mom and Dad's needs of each other come first over the kids, even if that only means a few minutes a day. He's worth that, and she's worth that.

You put each other first for the kids benefit.

Now I realize that me and my wife don't have kids yet, these beliefs are still more theory than practice. But's a theory we agree on and will do our best to put into practice if and when God blesses us with children.

P.S. I did read all of Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation", and although I agreed with a lot of what Mr. Harris said about Christians, but almost nothing about what Mr. Harris said about Christianity.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The first part of my review of "Letter to a Christian Nation"

Sorry for not blogging in such a long time!! Life got really rather busy for me the last few months. Anyway, I've started a review of Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation", once I'm done I'll post a condensed version of the review at Amazon.

I gave this book two stars instead of one because it does make some good points about some Christians. But I feel Mr. Harris overreachs at many points, and also displays ignorance about Ancient Near East culture.

A couple of points to start off with:

1. I found it incredible that this book critiquing Christianity did not deal with the Resurrection of Christ at all. Christianity makes a historical claim that the Resurrection of Christ was an actual historical event. The Resurrection is the central belief of Christianity. If that tomb wasn't empty on that Sunday morning, then Christianity is false. If that tomb was empty for some naturalistic reason, like Jesus only swooned on the cross, then Christianity is false. Mr. Harris did not deal at all with Christianity's historical claims surrounding the Resurrection, this makes it very difficult for me to accept this book as a good critique of Christianity.

2. I feel that it is very important to understand the socio-historical context of the Bible. For example, I agree that on a surface reading Deuteronomy 22:13-21 seems barbaric and uncivilized. However, if we read this passage in the context of an ancient society that was constantly on the edge of survival, a society that needed to be certain of the paternity of all citizens for the purposes of inheritance, a society that therefore needed to impose such strict laws for its own survival, maybe this passage wouldn't seem so barbaric. Since our survival as a society doesn't depend on being able to prove the lineage of every person, we deem this passage as "the vilest lunacy". But taking this passage in socio-historical context, there might still be a worthwhile moral message, that people shouldn't put seeking out their own pleasure when said pleasure puts their family's survival at risk. As one prominent Internet skeptic has put it:
“I do think that a sort of default skepticism about supernatural events is reasonable--which would, of course, extend to such events in the Bible. However, if someone wants to actually commentate specifically on the Bible, they had better think about whether they are qualified to do so. I generally try to refrain from expressing an opinion where the Bible is unclear, unless I am citing a resource. The bottom line is that the Bible is an ancient and complex document which is impossible to fully understand simply by sitting down and reading it. One could memorize every word of scripture, but it still won't be properly understood until it is placed in the correct socio-historical context. I suggest that any non-scholar who wishes to criticize/commentate on the Bible ought to either announce their amateur status up front (ala Isaac Asimov) or rely heavily upon citations.”

3. In order to be a reasonable critic of the Bible, it not only requires some degree of knowledge of the socio-historical context of ancient Hebrew culture as stated above, but also knowledge of philosophy, history, ancient literary genres, archaeology, ancient languages, etc., etc. I feel this is only being reasonable given that

a)the Bible is a collection of 66 books representing different literary genres, everything from poetry, biography, allegory, etc, and

b)the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and

c)the Bible was written by about 40 different authors over the course of 1600 years in which society did change and evolve.

I’ll grant that Mr. Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation” is just that, a letter, there wasn’t the space to delve into these factors very deeply. I haven’t had the opportunity to read Mr. Harris’ earlier work, “The End of Faith”, perhaps he addresses some of those issues in that book. But this letter should have shown some recognition of these issues, and it doesn’t. This is a flaw of the book, in my opinion.

Now on with my review.

I agreed with everything Mr. Harris said on the first page, although I will say as an annihilationist, I don’t believe Mr. Harris will spend an eternity in the torments of hell, but that his soul will be destroyed. Mr. Harris says, “The fact that my continuous and public rejection of Christianity does not worry me in the least should suggest to you just how inadequate I think your reasons for being a Christian are.” Well this is would be all well and good if Mr. Harris went on to show an adequate understanding of my reasons for being a Christian, but he betrays an absolute lack of understanding of those reasons when he says this two pages later:

“Consider: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian.”

I had no idea that Muslims believe that God rose Muhammad from the dead. No, a Muslim’s reasons for being a Muslim are completely different than my reasons for being a Christian. I’m certain a Muslim’s reasons for being a Muslim are just as compelling in their mind as my reasons for being a Christian are to me, but to say that they are the “same” is just ignorant. The reason why I don’t lose sleep over whether or not to convert to Islam are simple, I’ve considered their claims and rejected them. I can’t prove that Allah isn’t the one true God, and so I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong, but having considered the claims of both religions, I made what I feel is a rational decision to become a Christian, and it’s a decision that I’m comfortable with. Having said this, I’m on a pursuit of truth, I’m not interested in forcing myself to believe things that are false.

I agree where Mr. Harris says questions about morality come into play when our actions can affect the experience of other creatures positively or negatively. But then he betrays his lack of knowledge of socio-historical context here: “Admittedly, God’s counsel to parents is straightforward: whenever children get out of line, we should beat them with a rod (Proverbs 13:24, 20:30, and 23:13-14). If they are shameless enough to talk back to us, we should kill them (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, Mark 7:9-13, and Matthew 15:4-7). We must also stone people to death for heresy, adultery, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, worshipping graven images, practicing sorcery, and a wide variety of other imaginary crimes.”

Here’s a place some CONTEXT is needed. First, Christians believe that Christ has taken the punishment for sins, therefore under the new covenant with God through Christ, we are not to enforce any punishment at all. Second, as far as the Proverbs sayings our modern culture obviously beating a child with a rod would be extreme, but since in ancient times a child’s disobedience put a family’s survival at risk, maybe it’s a little more understandable?

By the way...Exodus 21:15 doesn’t refer a child “talking back” to his parents, but attacking them physically. Leviticus 20:9, which is quoted in Mark 7:9-13, and again in Matthew 15:4-7, refers not to a single instance of a child’s temper, but rather a child wishing harm or imploring nature to bring harm to his parents.

Mr. Harris quotes Matthew 5:18-19:

“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He says that Jesus is endorsing the entirety of the Old Testament Law, therefore we should be stoning people for working on the Sabbath., etc. The problem here is that Mr. Harris wrests this passage from the preceding verse which, once again, gives it context, Matthew 5:17:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” What does Jesus mean here? He is simply saying this....he came to fulfill the Law’s requirement for punishment for sin. He fulfilled that punishment for all humanity on the cross. But the Law still exists!

More later.