Five hundred and eighteen years ago, on February 7, 1497, a Dominican priest named Savonarola, conducted the “Bonfire of the Vanities” in Florence, Italy to destroy what he called the excesses of humanity – in other words, objects such as books, art and the like that did not meet with the lifestyle of poverty and righteousness of the Christian lifestyle as he saw it. Ironically, around this time, the civilization of in the West – as in Europe – was rediscovering ancient philosophy, mythology and culture from Greece, Egypt and beyond, which had been destroyed by the barbarians which had taken control of Europe close to a thousand years before. For Savonarola, it seems, he preferred the Dark Ages, where man was easily controlled and manipulated, as opposed the Renaissance, where man became enlightened. Today, we are blessed to beyond beyond such trivial matters in regards to having books and art, or so it seems.
I do not have all the facts, nor do I have some inside source of information – I am no journalist, yet I have word of mouth, and in this case my wife and friends for fountains of information. In Providence, RI, and now it appears beyond in other Rhode Island towns, we have a case where literature is literally going to be thrown away because it has become irrelevant. The other night my wife came home, from our local neighborhood library, which is part of the greater Providence Community Library system, which in turn, part of the Ocean State Library system, saying they are getting ready to throw away books. I looked at her in mild shock, and she said, “Yeah, everybook that has not been check out in three years, they are going to throw away.” Again, I was shocked. I assume they will put some of these books on the “free table,” where interested people can take these books home, but I know, at least in my own neighborhood library, they will not all fit. And throw away! Not try to give them all away, or announce it, or even try to sell them for much needed money (I assume they need money, they advertise how to support your library), but throw them away.
I realize this is not as grand as Florence or barbarians invading, but to throw away books, any books, when the whole purpose of libraries is to be a haven for books and a resource for the public, to me, is an outage. Also, we are not just talking “irrelevant” books, but books from authors such as Anne Rice – an author still publishing award winning best sellers today – and Tolkien, which gave us classics like “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy. Even so, if these authors were not on there, if it was just books on certain American cultures, or a cookbook, it is still throwing literature away, throwing away a resource that for many may never be available again. These are not just books, but they are historical pieces of art that are worth more then throwing in the dumpster.
Maybe it is not a big deal, maybe I am over reaching in saying it is disgraceful, however, I was taught a reverence for the written word that will not allow me to remain silent and just shocked within. What happens when a young man or woman, needing to reference Tolkien, can now only find his popular books at the library, instead of being able to dig deeper. What happens when someone has read all of Anne Rice’s novels, except that elusive one no longer sold on Amazon.com, but is stuck, because the local library threw it away. Well, that someone want find it in a library in Providence, and apparently now in the library in Newport, RI. I do not presume that these libraries are being overtly selective, and I am sure they have their own “very good” reasons for this purge of literature, I cannot find any value in any excuse.
As a former (and still lover) of history and culture, the irrelevant status given to books that simply have not been checked out over a three year time period is disgusting to me, it infuriates me that an institution can simply mark something as worthless because it has passed too much time sitting in one spot. Popularity, should not be the judge of literature, if it is, we stand to lose all but what is truly vain.
If my father was correct in his beliefs, then right now he is celebrating his 61st birthday with other saints and angels in Heaven. Of course, I seriously doubt they use earth years to tell time, but, in earth years, it is his 61st birthday today, March 18, 2015. Most people knew my father as a pastor, or later as a priest and bishop in the Charismatic Episcopal Church, I knew him simply as Daddy.
Yes, religion and Christianity played huge parts in our families life growing up, and still does today. Church was life… not going to church, we lived it, every day it seemed, especially once my dad took on the responsibilities of a bishop. But church did not totally define my dad, at least not to me, and I have many things, beyond my faith, to thank my dad for.
#1: Science Fiction
Star Trek and Star Wars… hell, anything with “star” in the title… Stargate, Battlestar Galatica… familiar things on T.V. Without a doubt, I’d probably still love all of these without my dad watching these things and sharing them with me, however, my dad loved science fiction and he passed that love on to me. My own children now are getting heavy doses of the same stuff. They watched (well, Katherine, John and Karl) the majority of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis with me… and they love “Captain Carter” and “Teyla.” They adore Star Wars – they have seen all six movies, mroe then once, and watched the Clone Wars cartoons… remember, the oldest, Katherine, is only 5. The boys have light sabers and pretend to be Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi. The glue there eyes to the T.V. if Star Trek comes on, or anything with ships, aliens and weird guns. Don’t worry, I haven’t exposed them to the reboot of Battlestar Galitica yet… not because it is too violent of course, but because its not longer on Amazon Prime :(. Like with my kids… where my wife has to be my “check” with what Ilet my own kids watch, my dad was the same way (He took me to see Terminator 2 in the theater… I was 10 years old).
I could go on and on on how my dad pushed sports, particularly baseball, but then you might wonder how I came to love baseball and other sports. My dad followed the Atlanta Braves – yes, even when they sucked – like a religion. He had calendars of the schedule, had all the stats, etc, etc. He also loved University of Georgia football – and when both me and my brother Jake became “Dawgs” ourselves, he was very proud. He loved to watch golf and tennis… and though, personally, I have a hard time watching tennis, because I watched so much gold with my dad, especially events like the Masters, and the British Open, I can sit for a weekend and watch golf. With my kids, its racing – they love cars and things that go fast, and on Sunday afternoons, if I turn the race on, my three oldest will sit there, just like with SciFi, glued to the screen. Baseball and football are to boring for them (ironic, I know), but I am sure they will get there in time. My dad gave me a love of sports, and that love, like with science fiction, is being passed on to his grandchildren.
#3: Video Games
People who really knew my dad knew he liked to play video games, specifically the role playing game series Final Fantasy – they only one he never did actually beat was Final Fantasy 12, which he restarted twice 9from the end of the game) so he could get the Zephyr Spear… yes, my father was a dedicated and patient man when it came to his Final Fantasy. One of my favorite picture of my dad is of him sitting in his chair with a Playstation 2 controller in his hands. I would sit for hours, sometimes into the wee hours of the night on weekends, watching him play games like Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Illusion of Gaia, and Dragon Warrior/Quest, reading the guides for him, telling him where to go, and simply just watching him play. In turn, he’d watch me play Legend of Zelda, sports video games, and also the RPGs that he loved to play as well, giving me advice, and telling me where to go. To this day, i still buy every Final Fantasy game that comes out (getting one today actually FF-Type-0), because I know that there is a chance my dad would as well. I have to make sure I get the collectors editions too… and now that I know how expensive those things are, I realize my dad must have really, really liked these games, and not just the games, but the artwork and all involved as well, because he typically got the collectors edition games and guides as well. His grandkids here in Rhode Island love video games as well… from watching me play Final Fantasy – or as Katherine calls it, the “Chocobo Game” – you would have to know Final Fantasy, to playing the original Super Mario Bros. game (yes the original) – well, at least just jumping up and down and running to the first hole after getting past the Goombas jsut to fall in. John would fall asleep watching me play Destiny – much to the disapproval of my wife – and when I still had to “farm” for materials in the game, all my kids would point out they would see “spinmetal” or “spirit bloom” on the screen. Yes mom, they play the “Putty Game,” though they still haven’t figured out the controls quite yet :). Again, another thing my dad gave me a love for which I love to pass on to my children.
There are many other things my dad gave me love for, but I think the most important thing to me is that he didn’t just give the love for these things to me, its that I get to pass these things on to my own children, and I understand why my dad enjoyed sharing these things with me and my brothers (and sister) so much. Its a generational thing… and its a daddy thing. My father was a great man, a very smart and wise man, and he is remembered for a lot of things. From his two hour long sermons, for his love of God and church, for his fast driving (he passed that to me as well), for his smile and his laugh (yep, I got that as well, and I think John II has it too), but its the things that he shared with just us and me that I remember and miss the most. I wish I could have seen the latest Star Trek with him, and I wish he would be around to see Star Wars in December. I wish I could call him and ask him how he thinks the Braves will do this year, or what he thinks about the new Final Fantasy – and though he isn’t her in the physical to see or play, I know he is still in my heart and still with me. I can see him in my children, and I can’t wait to continue to share his love, and now my love, for these things with them.
Happy Birthday Daddy!
Jesus wasn’t okay with believers in Him being rich, in fact, he said if you wanted to be saved, sell all your worldly possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Him. He threw out the money changers in the Temple because they were ripping the Jews off for items they had to have according to their beliefs. Jesus Himself was not rich, nor did He have money, in fact his family was so poor they couldn’t afford to give him a proper burial. Beyond Jesus, all of his disciples who came the apostles all walked a very poor life, totally dependent on those they met. So did the early Church fathers… in fact, many spoke against being rich, as if greed was not simply enough, but being rich WAS being greedy – For holding on to money (the only way to get worldy rich) was to deny it to ones brother or sister, harkens back to Jesus when he spoke of those who gave to Him, but not directly to Him, and to those who refused to give to Him by not giving to those in need. It wasn’t until Constantine the Great, by using Christianity for his own ends to gain political power, “imperialised” that money, or power even, became an issue. Money always corrupts, which in turn means wordly wealth always corrupt. It makes men above other men, even if they don’t mean to be. To have is to deny to another. If one is blessed to be prosperous in some way, that blessing is given as a means to enable others, but in the end, Jesus Himself said blessed are the poor, not once did he say, “blessed are the rich.” No one needs to live beyond their means, nor does anyone truly need to have means beyond one another. Capitalism is an oppression that for seem reason a large part of Christians have embraced when all it does is cause us to be more and more seperate from one another. Anyone who believes capitalism is a gift from God, or even God’s economic plan, is ignorant, and obviously has not read the New Testament, which had believers share everything in common so no one lacked for anything. In today’s “church,” there are far too many people who lack, and there are too many people who have way more then they need. Jesus said that the poor will always be with us, true, but that is more of a service to us then a problem, for it gives those of us who are not poor to help those in need, thus fulfilling our own faith in action rather then just saying we believe. However, instead of grasping this as a matter of faith, we have shunned the whole, and taken a part as a token, to make it appear that we really care, when more often then not we don’t. The apostles did not sell the Gospel, nor did they charge admission, nor was there a charge to download the newest epistle, rather, they sent letters, to their own detriment, to cities where believers gathered and hung on everything these men of God wrote and said. They didn’t travel to and fro in luxurious caravans, they went, many times in chains, with only the clothes (and sometimes the lack of clothes) on their back. They didn’t ask for the latest camel model with the deluxe blue-ray player or gps because they needed to reach people across the known world, they went simply by faith. When Paul talks of running the race, he is reminding his followers, and himself, of the life he left behind – the life of a scholar and warrior, a life of wealth and probably fame, for a life of poverty and certain death. Paul didn’t set up a tent and sell his many letters, saying, “You want to be prosperous, you better buy my book!” Instead, he freely gave his word to all who would hear, and to many who wouldn’t. If the apostles were alive today, they would not be writing books to sell, they would be bloggers, spreading their message for free. If we want to reach the poor, we must be like the poor, and we must be able to share in their poverty, otherwise we will be just another charity giving them a handout. They will appreciate it, sure, but we will never truly reach them. If we want to reach the rich, we need to be their exact opposite, and not only that, but be happy and so satisfied in our poverty, that our love and happiness shines through all of the apparent problems we have. We are told, do not lay up riches on earth, for they are physical and will pass away, but lay up riches in heaven. It is not enough for us to be good people, to give a helping hand, or to speak a good message, we must live the life Christ intended for us. Being good, giving a hand, speaking the gospel is not enough, we must live it. If we are to be poor in spirit, which is to allow God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. if we are to be wholly dependent on God our Father, we must put away the Old Man, the man of sin, the man of the world and all of its vices, wealth included, and put on the New Man, the man of righteousness, and that man, as the Holy Father, Francis, has not only said, but demonstrated, is poor in the world.
I don’t want to fit in. There, I said it. I don’t want society telling me what to believe, and on the same not, I don’t want to infringe on the beliefs of others. Just because society is telling me to go one way, doesn’t mean I wont walk in another direction. It doesn’t mean I am right, doesn’t mean I’m wrong, it simply means I am human. This doesn’t give me the right to discriminate against other who believe differently, it simply means I want to be respected for my beliefs, and in turn, respect others for what they belief, I don’t respect the belief, I respect someones ability to belief.
Should beliefs be disregarded because they are antiquated? I don’t believe so. People believe in many things, some seem traditional, others liberal, the important thing in this is to simply believe in something. Is someone less humane for believing one way or another, again, I don’t believe so, the important thing, in being human, is simply to believe.
Now, with that being said, I am a believer in Christ – I don’t believe government, or any man made institution holds the answer or the keys to moral relevance. However, these institutions are the boundaries in which we find ourselves as humanity. There are laws I don’t agree with, yet, I find no law in this country (the United States) that forces me to go gainst my personal structure of belief. No government or institution is FORCING me to sin by following the law. Unfortunately, people do live in countries where institutions force them to chose, I am blessed not to live in one of those countries. Whether or not I support gay marriage or not is not the issue, no one is forcing me to marry a man. Whether or not I am pro-choice or pro-life is not the issue, no one is forcing me to have an abortion. What is the issue is whether or not I am allowed to believe one way or the other, and whether or not I chose to discriminate against those who believe in a different way then I do.
Christ did not come into this world to condemn it… key, the world has already condemned itself. He came to this world to save it, through love and self sacrifice. He didn’t discriminate against those who held different beliefs, nor did he hate those who hated him. He loved them, and in the end, forgave even those who put Him to death. Without love and belief, no one who calls themselves a Christian can expect to walk in the salvation Christ came to bring to the world. Without these things, we become no better then the pharisees who taught the law and belief through fear. God does not bring condemnation, humanity does, this is why I believe that society struggles to find a fairness and an equality in all things – it is trying to bring a balance to an imbalance that has existed since sin came into the world through its own nature.
I do not fault the world for being the world, nor do I fault humanity for being humanity. They will be what they will be, they will always search for a salvation that will not, and cannot ever be, final and fulfilling. What I do fault is the secondary nature of bringing humanity and the world into our own, as believers in Christ, operating procedure. I do not expect the world or humanity to ever respond in love and true tolerance, but I do expect Body of Christ to respond as the Head did. That does not mean “accepting” sin or immorality, but on the contrary, loving those, who like us, are sinners