Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Beach

You're 14, on vacation with your parents and your sister, who's eight and very annoying (though if pressed, you'd admit to loving her, but not around your friends). You're old enough to rate your own puptent. Freedom! You wake early, smelling the trees around the campsite and also the beach nearby. This is your favorite beach in North California, because the evergreens march almost down to the beach: pines, with an occasional coastal redwood. Underneath the trees, you sometimes find blackberry brambles; a few of them have delicious sweet berries that stain your fingers. Outside, as you pull your pants on and your shoes and socks, you see tendrils of fog curling through the boles and branches of the trees. Fog! Coming from the high desert, it's a great rarity. You don't realize yet that some people would rather live in the unremitting desert sun.

Nobody else is stirring as you make your way down the trail to the beach. You can barely see the ocean through the fog. Glorious! You can hear the waves breaking; there's no wind as you start walking south, to the left down the beach. You stay just above the line of wet sand, looking down for shells as you walk. You love the ocean, but you don't like to get wet in it. Your sister can spend hours in her bathing suit running through the waves and shivering with pleasure--but not you. You enjoy swimming in the private pool your aunt takes you to, and you swim well, but there's something about the ocean, the great Pacific Ocean. . . .

The fog thins as you walk down the beach. You are headed for one of nature's most fascinating displays: great rock areas of the beach with large, permanent tidepools. A few people are already out, looking down into the pools. The tide is out, so viewing is good. As the sun rises and the fog leaves, you can see farther down into the pools, some of which are ten or twelve feet in diameter. They have seaweed growing in them, in various colors, and sea anemones--large ones--gently waving their tentacles. Small fish swim lazily through the seaweed fronds. Some of the pools seem quite deep.

A little later, as the sun gets a bit higher in the sky and it warms up some (though it's high summer and not really cold), you walk farther down the beach, away from the tidepools and people. The land rises behind the beach, forming a small cliff. Boulders begin to stud the wide strand, buried partway in the sand. Some of them are huge, ten feet around perhaps, though half-buried in the beach. A whole field of them stretches for hundreds of yards. The average one sticks up two or three feet above the sand. Smaller ones the size of basketballs are in between the big ones. You are just about ready for some exercise. And here comes your parents, walking your sister between them. An audience!

You warm up by running slowly and easily down the beach, away from your family, hopping from boulder to boulder in your tennis shoes. You have to watch out for the patches of green, moss-like growth on some of the rocks. You've actually slid off a few of them, though never hurting yourself. Your family is at the beginning of the field, and you're several hundred feet down the beach. You're ready to start your run. You start off fairly slowly, hopping on the smooth colored stones. You soon reach full speed. You're no track star, but you'd like to see one of them do this. Speed and oxygen merge into one exhilirating rush as you aim for your family. Your mother is holding her hand over her mouth (you can hear her southern drawl: "For heaven sakes, Tom!"); your sister is shouting encouragement and jumping up and down; and your father is grinning! Life is good as you fly off the last boulder and land in the sand in front of them, arms spread wide.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Angels and demons

I use the title of Dan Brown's novel, which is being released as a movie by the Howard-Hanks team, because it leads directly into our subject: Gnosticism. More specifically, I wish to discuss the barrage of novels, tracts, and movies that deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Belief in the triune nature of God is central and essential to Christianity, to the Way. All other religions, cults, and variants of Christianity deny Jesus' role as the second Person of the Trinity. He is not a created being, an illuminator, a teacher, or a guide: He is the Son of the living God, an aspect of the Godhead, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Of course He illuminates, teaches, and guides, but with the authority and power of Deity. He is the only Way to the Father; none may enter the Kingdom of Heaven save through Him. One can separate His sheep from the goats by asking the simple question: Who is Jesus? There is only one answer.

One cannot enter our favorite (and only) bookstore, the Barn of No-Bull, without seeing a book about the Knights Templar, Rosslyn Chapel, or the Priory of Scion. They all seem vaguely Gnostic and they all deny Christ's divinity. The favorite scenario goes somethinglike this: Jesus is conceived and born in the normal fashion. He shows great intelligence and wisdom beyond his years growing up. He finally takes the reins of the Jewish revolutionary movement, but he realizes he must disguise his ambitions in a messianic cloak and fakes his own death. He has already married Mary of Magdala, who, pregnant, escapes to France or wherever, gives birth, and establishes a secret "royal" line, which is finally rediscovered in the Twentieth Century. The Catholic Church and/or some secret group tries to cover up this "heresy" for selfish reasons.

There is no credible evidence for this fantastic conspiracy hypothesis. Brown's "scholarship" has been shown by many real scholars to be false and bogus. Some of the books raise interesting points: Why, for instance, does Scotland's Rosslyn Chapel, established in the early Middle Ages, show representations of New World plants such as corn, well before Columbus' voyages? I, for one, think that a lot more went on back in history than we realize. The evidence, though, for Jesus' crucifixion, death, entombment, and resurrection is powerful and convincing. If it is a lie, a lot of people, starting with His own apostles, have lived and died for that lie. I believe history pivots around that virgin birth.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


We are under attack, people. Whatever your beliefs, however you slice life, there is obviously a concerted effort to deprive us of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happinesss". Since I believe that the spiritual precedes the physical, the master plan of attack is implemented by the "Enemy". This is the collective name for the fallen angels, led by Satan (the Devil), the slanderer and accuser of we humans. Satan was possibly God's own archangel and led the worship of Him in Heaven (his name was probably Samael; "Satan" is a title). Through pride he was cast out of Heaven along with a third of all angels. Satan seduced Eve, the mother of all humans, and caused the Fall of Man. Ever since he has gone about the world, which he considers his domain, corrupting and destroying any humans he can. He plans our downfall and co-ordinates his army of fallen angels (demons) to oppose God. Though he was defeated by Jesus' resurrection, in his insanity he cannot stop. This is all explained in the Bible, in various books, culminating with a flourish in Revelation, the last book. The last surviving Apostle, the elderly John, was given this great vision of the end of all things. Like Genesis, the first book of the Bible, Revelation is indispensible for an understanding of God's plan for us. Some "Christians" seem to find these two books figurative or irrelevant. They do so at their peril.

Satan's master plan, founded on four great lies he told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, has never really changed. The Flood (the third great event in our history, after the Creation and the Fall) interrupted his strategy, but didn't change it. Satan has only two objectives for us: to keep us from loving God; and, if we do, to render us ineffective in carrying out God's work. All historical events revolve around these two poles: to serve God or to serve ourselves--hence, Satan. Through the millenia the faces and circumstances have changed but the real battle has been the same. In these last days, at the end of time, Satan's tactics are two-pronged. On the one hand we have the socialists and extreme liberals, who would deprive us of our individual liberties in favor of the state, for our own good. On the other hand we have the Muslims, who are willing to kill us to save the world; they tolerate no opposition, according to their own scriptures.

The two poles of the Enemy's plan seem seem disparate, indeed irreconcilable. If you examine the overall goals of the Enemy, however, the jihadists and the socialists are aiming for the same scenario. They both want a world where there is no opposition, because the state is everything and everyone. If there is only one choice there can be no choosing. The nanny-state and the caliphate are the same. Both are theocracies; and in both, the ends always justify the means. One need only look at World War Two. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the spiritual leader of Islam, was a regular visitor to Berlin, consulting with Goebbels and Goering on the "Jewish Problem". Both groups had the same objective: the rooting out of Judaism and, ultimately, of Christianity. The Muslim leader got along well with the Nazis. After all, Satan was the spiritual leader of both.

Friday, April 10, 2009

My First Car

Moby Dick, "The Great White Whale", was my first car: a 1964 Ford Custom. He had a 250 c.i. straight six, with a one-barrel carburetor. There was enough room for me to get in the engine compartment, if necessary. A three-speed column shift completed the drive-train. After the second time the shifting tube in the steering column broke, I had a Hurst shifter put in on the floor. Sometimes the linkage got hung up, necessitating a wrestling match with a tire iron under the car. The ignition had points (as did the voltage regulator!): tuneups were an art, done as much be ear as eye ("If it pings, back off the distributor!"). After 150,000 miles, a mechanic friend declared Moby to be "Perfectly worn out". He rebuilt the engine and we got another century out of Moby.

Moby seemed (by today's standards) to be huge, until I compared him to my friend John's Cadillac: a '62 convertible, also white, with fins, that clocked in at over twenty feet. A true land yacht. You could almost see the bow-wave when you cornered. Moby's trunk was big enough to camp in (this was when the trunk was bigger than the hood). Inside, he boasted two bench seats and plenty of leg room. A we used to say, seats six or sleeps two. There were even two seat belts in the front. My father figured I couldn't kill myself if I tried. He was right. I inherited Moby in '66--I was 18. He had been the family battle-wagon for several years and was just broken in. I was the load-master and could just about make his tail drag.

When I started attending concerts "Down Below" (sounds like Hell!), Moby was the steed of choice. Five or six of us would pile in, rolling joints and swigging from quart bottles of Cuervo Special. I was accounted a steady driver who didn't become too incapacitated and didn't sleep too much, although midnight trips back from the Forum were sometimes mysterious, with involuntary lane-changes and other late-night phenomena. I usually couldn't hear too well--my ears would ring for several days after some concerts.

Moby accelerated like an arthritic tortoise. Some of my first conscious prayers were to keep from being squashed by trucks when entering the freeways. How I longed for the belchfire V-8! With gas three gallons for a dollar, we didn't give a damn about mileage. After I got married, we decided to leave Gomorrah-by-the-Bay and return to Lancaster, or as my son calls it, the Mojave Triangle. I sadly decided to leave my faithful steed in S.F. My wife had a German Opel (or Offal). It was my first European experience--but hardly a love affair. Siempre viva! Great White Whale.