The King, to the Poet (A Poem)

The King, to the Poet

Something happened, when no one was looking.
Quietly, politely, we tore it all down–
Ages old, majestic and mighty, we tore it down to build something new.

Shiny and new.

It was a tapestry once, that told a story around which we built our lives.
It was a mighty whole, a single fabric, built of myriad mysterious pieces.

With the blessing of all (or all but the fringe) we took it apart.

We took the shiny pieces and the pretty pieces and the useful pieces
And put them to work,
Doing our bidding (we once did its), and serving us in strength.

We marvel then at what our lives have become,
All built of artificial fibers and synthetic materials.
Appropriated. Misused.

And what of that old rag, that ancient tapestry?
It’s tatters now, of course, torn to shreds and threadbare
All that’s left behind.

And those same who plundered it now mock it for all the things it lacks.
For all the holes, for all the inconsistencies and flaws–
For gaps, that they had made.

There are gaps, and holes. Places where things once were,
Where things shiny and things pretty and things useful used to be.
It’s not the rag that’s torn, though.

The single piece is shattered, scattered, but its fragments still as strong.
Alas, they no longer grow as one.

You see, it was a living thing. It breathed the life of man.
We killed it, for our own ends — butchered it, for our wealth.
We took its intellect, to make us wise.
We took its heart, to learn some sort of kindness.
We took its soul, to give us more than life.
We took its might, its powers, its strength to change the world, and we made the world we wanted.

We still have all the pieces, and look how much they change our lives.
We killed the thing to get them, though.

We could start anew, of course. Some have tried.
We could make a new fabric, and start the ages-long process of giving it life,
Weave in the first of many threads, and make a gift to our descendants.
We’re a world of scavengers, though.
We’ve made our lives out of plundered parts now, and we’re not about to stop.

Start another if you want. It can be done.
But I’ll tell you this, my prophecy and sigh:
They’ll watch,
And they’ll point and laugh,
They’ll criticize everything that is not what the old thing was.

Then they’ll take everything that’s good, and mock you all the more.

God and Greatness: The Writing Process, and Censorship

My older sister Heather has started reading Sleeping Kings, and she somehow stumbled across this website (and pity to her for that), and she read and responded to my post on The DaVinci Code (something none of you regulars were brave enough to do!).

That conversation was here:

I started to reply to her comment, and in my reply I said some things that I wanted everybody to hear, so I’m making a new post instead of a comment.

Now, in response to Heather’s direct questions, I have this to say: don’t ever feel guilty about writing something inconsequential. My complaints against The DaVinci Code were based on the fact that he wrote something extremely consequential and treated it as though it weren’t. It is hard to go too far in that direction (pretending your stuff matters).

In fact, I think the most important element for a writer is to care, which you (Heather) obviously do.

There are writers who write just to play with language (think Alice in Wonderland), or just to tell an interesting story. That’s okay, as long as you’re writing insignificant things (or things clearly established as fictional, which is the difference between, say, Kate and Leopold and The Patriot). The DaVinci Code goes out of its way to seem real, while playing extremely fast and loose with the base elements of people’s worlds (as one would expect from fantasy).

Mainly, it’s important that you, as a writer, try to write responsibly. Sometimes you’ll do a good job of it, sometimes you’ll make mistakes. Both aspects are important to your learning process (and, as a direct result, to your eventual potential to do good).

Please don’t misunderstand me. Every story should be interesting. Most of them should be entertaining. Those aren’t inherently bad things, but when you’re writing (or reading) just to get that feeling, it becomes like eating just for the taste (and ignoring the far more important aspects of nutrition).

Like anything, though, the learning process is not the same as the master craft. My advice to you, now, is to focus on the stories you most want to tell, for whatever reason. Every single page you write at this point benefits you in a dramatic way. As a writer, and as a person. Writing, no matter what the topic, is a process that involves examining the world you live in, finding your place within it, as well as the place of your topic, and trying to understand and communicate. These are the most basic elements of human existence, and the foundation of human society. So, yeah, I realize I’m a writer and this sounds self-aggrandizing, but the very process of writing makes a person better at being a person.

Not necessarily a good person. That depends on what you’re writing, and what you’re thinking, and all of that.

Now…as to that. Heather asked me specifically which stories to tell, what lessons to teach. And, again, my answer for someone just starting to write is, “Anything that interests you enough to keep writing about it.” Once you’ve gotten past that, though — once you’ve learned to commit yourself to writing in order to get something accomplished, then the process of choosing which story to tell is no different from choosing anything else you could communicate in any other medium. On this point, I’d like to mention something Milton once wrote.

Milton (of Paradise Lost fame, and the author of the bulk of our religious imagery and mythology) became involved in a massive political debate on the topic of censorship. He wrote a fairly well-known (to Lit majors, that is) essay on the topic, which he published as part of the debate.

I should mention that he was an extremely conservative Christian. He held fairly extreme opinions on the idea of obscenity, and it’s safe to say that he was on the “against” side. When the king began taking serious steps in support of censorship, though, Milton strongly opposed him. Milton was a man of considerable social influence at the time (so there was no chance his opposition would go unnoticed), and, yeah, this was that time in history when opposing a king was still a Very Bad Idea.

So Milton, a total prude of a man, risked life and limb to oppose censorship. His reasoning went thus:

* We, as Christians, believe that good is good, in itself, not just because of our belief and support.

* We believe that good is stronger than evil, that right will triumph over wrong.

* Therefore, any idea or message that is right should win out over a message that is wrong, in a state of free competition.

* It follows, then, that any message that cannot stand without our protection is not entirely right. If we have to force an idea (or protect it from attack or ridicule), then it is not of God. It is not right.

* It also follows that any message we know to be wrong should be exposed to public scrutiny, rather than hidden from it, so that the idea can be destroyed in free competition (or, perhaps, proven right in spite of our expectations). If the idea, freed from censorship, stands against our wishes, that means the idea is not as wrong as we wanted to believe.

* Right and wrong are not a matter of our comfort, or our preference. After all, Jesus said a lot of things that a lot of strongly religious people wanted to keep quiet. Part of the reason we believe today, is because Jesus’ ideas were able to stand the test of time.

Okay, I studied that essay about six years ago, and I’ve thought about it a lot since then, so I don’t know 100% how much of that logic was Milton’s, and how much of it is mine, derived from Milton’s basic points. I think it’s got a lot going for it.

One thing that I know he said, and that I cannot possibly overstate, is that — based on these other ideas — the Christian as a reader ought to strive to become exposed to absolutely as many ideas as possible, so as to learn about right and wrong, so as to test them. We earnestly believe that good will triumph over evil, and every time we try to protect good, to hide the right from the ravages of wrong, we deny our own belief — we show clearly that we don’t have faith in right’s rightness.

Journal Entry: A Fantastic Story Idea

Okay, I was thinking of this on the drive in to work this morning….

What if the patriarchs from the Old Testament were gnomes? Eh? Eh???

No, no, I’m not suggesting they were (but I would be, in the story). Little tiny gnomes who can reasonably live 800 years, and for whom the whole world flooding wouldn’t, necessarily, involve Earth’s very atmosphere catching on fire from the heat exchange. That sort of thing.

Could be fun. I’m thinking that they lived in the same region as the Hebrews, and interacted with them to some small degree, and that the scrolls Josiah (Josiah being a real-life big person) found in the temple were actually a transcription of the gnomes’ history, but he mistook it as his own people’s history.

Ooooh…that could be a lot of fun.

God: A Poem

He looked me in the eye, and said,
“If I’m going to Hell anyway, I might as well do it.”

And none of us has seen him since.

God and Greatness: Absolution

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about absolution — about sin in general, and the afterlife as well.

In my time, I’ve been a lot of different places on the topic of life after death. There was a long time when I felt like there was no NEED for a life after death — on a personal, individual base, the extent of your consciousness IS eternity, after all. I built up a big argument for it, trying to work my way around to “Live life to the fullest,” I guess, but it just doesn’t match with anything I believe, long-term.

I sort of outgrew that phase, without really replacing it with anything. I just settled back into default, I guess.

Then I started this blog, about a year ago, and sometime around a week after I wrote “The Magic Architect,” I really started understanding what I really believe these days.

(And I was already arguing the supporting points back at the very beginning, but it’s only recently that the pieces fit together into a big picture, y’know?)

So. What is salvation? What is grace? What about “neither height nor depth” separating us from God, and whatnot? What about Love keeping no record of wrongs?

I asked these questions before. You’ve seen me mull them.

Why would Jesus give up his divine life, so that we could walk a knife edge that we’ll almost certainly going to fall off? That’s a huge sacrifice for a pretty risky investment. We’re told he died to save us from everlasting death, not just to give us a fighting chance….

Me, I see people screwing up. People screw up all the time. Life is just a big string of terrible mistakes. Daniel asked me recently if I thought people ever really stop sinning, if anyone ever really overcomes temptation, and I said I’m pretty sure that happens when people die, and not really before.

And I don’t mean that as a pessimistic statement, and I don’t mean it as a snarky way to score a conversational point. I think Life is a kind of hell — or, to use someone else’s terminology (and I’m mostly thinking of Lewis here), a kind of purgatory. It’s not where we’re supposed to be, and it’s not something we’re good at, and it’s got more negatives than positives about it.

I think that (as I’ve said before) thanks to the gift of absolution, humans having to suffer through Life is a kindness. It’s an opportunity that we desperately need, to learn the important lessons without facing the eternal consequences for the little mistakes along the way.

I cherish Life, for this reason. I’m proud of all those people I see living it, really participating in the experience. Which is not say those going out of their way to make mistakes, in the hope of learning from them (or, to use someone else’s words again, those people who are “going on sinning so that Grace may increase”). No, I think anybody rushing blindly into folly after folly after folly without trying to learn from it is setting himself up for some long-term suffering.

But there are some people who try to really experience Life, who try get everything they can out of it. And let me tell you (as if you didn’t already know), living life boldly will result in mistakes, and missteps, and grand catastrophes from time to time. Living life boldly will result in sins, and addictions, and suffering (and, to make sure it’s real suffering, it won’t just be your own, but your mistakes will cause suffering to those that you care about). Living life boldly means that, from time to time, you will be viciously, horribly guilty.

And that’s where absolution comes in. We are not called to a spirit of timidity, but to a spirit of boldness. We could try to hide behind a Law, we could try not to commit sins, and we could commit a whole life to not being bad, but that would be — listen carefully — that would be a life wasted. That would be nothing learned. That would be all the pain of temptation rejected, and in the end you are where you started — you know what is wrong, and what is right. Hiding behind rules does not mature you, does not better prepare you for tomorrow, or for infinity.

To do that, you must come out from behind the Law and experience Good and Evil. You must enter into the actual knowledge of both, and choose Good. But doing so will leave you marked with all the filthy stains of your journey, all the wickedness you surrendered to along the way. By the time you’re in a position to choose Good, you’re too filthy a thing to do so.

And, of course, our God provided an answer. He paid a heavy price, but it was a price he was willing to invest in his children. Absolution. He invested Christ, not in the goodie goodies who avoid mixed swimming and run away from temptations (the older sons, as it were). No, he invested the blood of Christ in all those who have tasted everything the world has to offer, the Good and Bad, and who, having seen the fullness of what the devil has to give, are willing and able to reject it in favor of the kingdom. Those are the ones who will truly know the value of what they have obtained, and it was for them that the blood was shed.

All things are permitted to me, but not all things are good for me. Life…life is an opportunity to learn both halves of that statement. Get started.

God and Government: The Cartoon Thing

Have you heard about the whole Muhammed cartoon controversy? Every other blog in the world is talking about it as though everyone is entirely up to speed, but I can’t really trust you people to read the news, so let me summarize.

Islamic tradition (law?) holds that it is wrong to draw images — particularly cartoons — of the Prophet. This seems to be akin to the “using the lord’s name in vain” thing, but I’m no expert on Islamic tradition (law?). No, really.

Well, anyway, last December a small Danish newspaper printed a series of comics depicting the prophet, the most notable one featuring him wearing a turban that looked like a bomb. For some reason, it took a long time for anyone to notice, but sometime last week a lot of Muslim nations and organizations began creating a huge stir over it, demanding an apology and organizing a widespread boycott of Danish projects (that actually severely hurt several Danish organizations in a very short period of time). The government and the editor of that paper both offered a…sort of restricted apology, but then newspapers throughout Europe picked up the cartoons and started to run them in a show of solidarity for the little Danish paper, and for freedom of speech in general.

The argument seems to be this: that the Western world is not subject to Islamic law, and shouldn’t be expected to operate under it. Furthermore, that the Western media has long used political cartoons to attack Western political and cultural icons, as well as (of course) Christianity and Judaism. When “they” start to cause a ruckus over this, try to tell our media what it can and can’t print based on their religious doctrines, we have to remind them that most of what makes us separate from them is the sort of freedom that allows our media to print stupid political cartoons.

(That is, as I understand it, the basic argument in favor of the cartoons — not necessarily mine.)

And then, on the other hand, the big point is, simply, “Well, yes, sure, you can print anything you want in your papers, but why would you choose to print something viciously offensive to millions and millions of people?”

And whoever is asking that question has never really paid any attention to Western media….

But all of that is background. As I was driving to lunch yesterday, I was listening to a story on the topic, and I was thinking, “If I were a cartoonist, I would draw one showing Mohammed rolling his eyes, with a little chat bubble that said, ‘Stop killing people!‘” And I thought about it a little and decided that, for historical reasons, I’d probably go ahead and throw in Jesus there next to him, and the two of them together reprimanding their audience.

So that got me thinking that, really, it sounded kind of like a message incompatible with my own beliefs. The actual line running through my head was, “No religion has any good reason to go killing people.” That’s the line that got Jesus added in, actually. But, then, it comes across as kinda pacifist, which I obviously am not.

So, pondering these things, I came to this conclusion. “Every government has good reason to kill people.” It goes without saying, really. Doesn’t necessarily mean they will, or should (after all, there may very well be better reasons not to), but they’ve got a vested interest in making some people dead. Religions don’t. Religions benefit most from living people, although all of their offered rewards tend to be for the dead. It’s an odd situation.

But here’s what I’m saying: if the United States is in a war because of Christianity…that’s an atrocity. If the United States is in a war for territory or resources, well, that’s a practicality. Such wars have been the foundation of most every nation you could name today, the United States very much included. If it’s in a war to protect its citizens from an external aggressor (even, yes, preemptively), then it’s serving the interests of the citizens which is, in fact, a state’s first responsibility. States have good reasons to go to war, but religions don’t.

So, yeah, I stand behind my cartoon. Any decent Prophet would stand up in front of his followers, and roll his eyes, and just shout in exasperation, “Stop killing people!” He’d be right, too.

God and Greatness: A Maxim

When it comes to religion, your average scientist is a person who can ask “Why?” a thousand times, but call someone a superstitious fool for asking it a thousand and one.

Greatness: Biography (Part I)

There’s a very ancient custom (tradition, superstition, whatever you wish to call it), that orphans and foundlings must be treated with a special dignity. The story goes (or went, if you will) that the gods, whatever their names, have a surprising predilection for going disguised as men, and they certainly tend to get about a bit, and so you never quite know whether the adopted baby’s biological father is, in fact, biological. If you get my drift….

(Yes, I’ve been reading some Pratchett recently, for those who’ve read enough of his stuff to recognize the influence there….)

Ack. There’s something I want to write, something I need to say, and I’m quite sure that I’m not up to the task of saying it. I felt this way, several years ago, when I had to give a toast at his wedding…..

Listen, I have a lot to say about Human Greatness, and this glorious world crafted by God for the sake of humanity, and how even the bad comes out to good, in the end….

But it hurts when it’s someone you know, y’know? It’s painful and it’s scary and it’s really, really, really, bitterly unfair. And you want to scream and you want to cry at the same time. That’s what it’s like when Life happens. A baby is born crying, and for good reason.

(That last sentence is just about the most cynical line I’ve ever written….)

Look, Life is like this: it’s Man-made. It seems like a good idea, it mostly works, all the pieces fit together, and those who know how it works can really get it to do some amazing things. And other people have an astonishing tendency to just push the buttons, without really reading the manual, and it just works for them. They’ve got a knack. But with anything Man-made, you’re going to have some people who, no matter how they try, just can’t quite understand what’s going on at all….

I imagine that’s what the world looks like to angels. It’s fascinating. It’s beautiful. It’s just this overwhelming experience, full of boundless possibilities. But when you get down to the joints, down to the bendy parts, it’s gritty, and it breaks down just when you really need it to go….

I heard this morning that one of my oldest friends (or, in fact, one of my youngest friends, depending how you’re counting) has cancer. That’s the impetus for a thousand blog posts, I suppose. I don’t care. Let me join in the caterwauling. I need to talk about him.

I’ve known Josh for as long as I’ve been me, for any but the most general definition of “me.” I met him when I was six, in Claremore, among that great cloud of my-age friends that I stumbled upon when my family moved there. By the time I was seven, at the latest, he was my best friend.

His special genius was singing….

No, that’s not true. His special genius was smiling. He had so much fun, whatever we were doing. We used to laugh together at anything. Y’know how little kids play together? How they dream up an idea and together they go off into some other universe and just…play? Josh and I used to play for hours. I don’t remember really playing before I met him (but, then, I don’t remember much before I was six), and I don’t really remember playing after then, except with him (or on my own).

We used to talk about starting a singing group. Josh and me, and the rest of that cloud of my-age friends there at the Church of Christ on Blue Starr Drive. Yeah, me. Yeah, singing. Josh was that convincing….

The last time I saw Josh, he was smiling. Every time I can remember, he’s been smiling. And not because things were going great, when I happened to see him. He’s always been able to end up smiling, though, no matter what was going on…. To see something in the world around him, the world that is just beating and bruising and bewildering him — to see something in all that to laugh about, at least when he’s around friends.

I imagine that’s what the world looks like to angels. Life has not been nice to Josh. I missed all the pain, too. I haven’t been anywhere near him for any of it. It’s easy to feel guilty about that. He was my best friend when we were kids, without a care in the world, running through grassy pastures, pestering our siblings….

I moved to Kansas just months before everything went wrong with his parents.

Six years later, senior year in high school, I met up with him again. He came to live with us for a little while, and I got to know him again. Still smiling, still laughing, still this incredible boy. I was there when he met Julie. I made a very clumsy and (in its way) fairly rude rendition of his role in my life, by way of a toast at his wedding. I’m very concerned, writing this now, that I didn’t learn a thing from that experience….

Because life hasn’t worked right, for Josh. He’s so enthusiastic, so determined, so alive — so much more so than everyone I know — and for every bit of force Josh has poured into Life, Life has pushed back with equal and opposite, as it were.

He’s had an amazing life, already….

He made it on his own, when he needed to taste independence. He had a hard time of it, because he was young and, after all, making it on your own is a hard business. But he’s managed it more than once.

He had a beautiful and brilliant wife. I know how proud he is of that. Even if only for a while, that was an accomplishment. He’s got two beautiful sons.

He could sing like an angel. I tried a dozen times to come up with another way to phrase that, but it’s the best I can do. He could sing like a drunk, at times. He could sing like a troubadour at times. He could sing like anyone in AVB or Acapella, and I’ll fight anyone who’d say otherwise. He sang with passion, because he loved to sing. That he understood. Even when nothing else in the world made sense, when the Devil cheated and even God seemed to be up to something, music was straight and true. I remember how he poured all of himself into singing a single song….

He always wanted to sing for AVB or Acapella. That’s why I mentioned them up there. Elementary through high school, I remember how cool he always thought that would be. I imagine it would rank as one of his life goals, no doubt.

I found out this morning that Josh has cancer on his vocal chords. I guess they’re checking to see if it’s elsewhere, and to see what else can be done (or needs to be done), but, really, the whole story of Josh’s life is right there. He’s got cancer on his vocal chords.

It’s not fair.

Too often, when I think about Josh, I want to cry. I think of him as this big goofy smile, I think about all the happiness he has brought into my life, and when I think about how much pain has been in his, I want to cry, because life isn’t fair.

But this is too much. It’s like it’s aimed at him. Everything else is just Life, in the big, faceless, heartless manner of it, but this….

This is what I’m talking about. This is how Life is tailor-made to us. This is how God writes us into precisely the one story where we won’t be a bit part. No other promises but that one, it seems.

I hate to write this all, now, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I am writing this whole post on three short lines of information, a quick note from Mom. So I can’t say whether he’ll be well again. I can’t say what will come of this. I don’t know enough to make predictions, or guesses. I know just enough to absolutely hate it.

I was there at camp, when Josh sang for the talent show every year. I was there the year he found out Tony Brown had been hired by AVB, and Tony promised to mention Josh to them, keep Josh posted. I remember how excited he was, how much fun he had teaching me the bass line to “Keep Looking Up,” by Free Indeed.

I can’t believe how far away he is, now. I wish I could somehow be there for him. This is the third time I’ve felt that way, deep down in my heart, and each time it has been worse.

Say a prayer for him, if you can find it in you. Because he’s got to be scared now. Because he’s got to be angry now. Because it’s just not fair.

“Dear Lord, my Father and my King. Be close to Josh today.”

God: The Magic Architect

Once upon a time there was a Magic Architect and he was the best Magic Architect that had ever lived. The Magic Architect was able to build any kind of house or building just by wishing for it. Anything he could imagine, he could create, with just a word! His own home was a huge mansion, and it was filled with delightful things, but there were very few surprises there. Everything was simple, and beautiful — every wall, every room, every decoration.

Then one day the Magic Architect had a child! A beautiful baby boy was born, and the Architect was very happy, and very in love with his little son. As the boy grew older, he began to play with toys, and his favorite toys were little blocks. The boy would sit for hours, building, and the Magic Architect saw that his son, too, would be a Magic Architect.

(Continued in comments…because it is REALLY long.)

God: Interaction with the Father-King

One of the most compelling aspects of the Christian concept of God (borrowed, as it is, from the Jewish tradition) is the image of the Creator as a Father-King figure. This is not, by any means, an image unique to the Judeo-Christian religion, but its role within the religion is, at the same time, one of the most comforting and one of the most challenging aspects of the religion. The God-as-King image establishes God’s dominion over Man (and, in fact, all of creation), as an active and concerned observer. Meanwhile, the God-as-Father image establishes God’s direct relationship to Man, and this relationship gains its greatest strength in the tenderness of the relationship — God is portrayed as a kind and accepting Father, mitigating the distance of authority through his personal concern for individuals, and his constantly accepting (and even longing after) his children. Moreover, the teachings of –and, in fact, the very existence of — Jesus, supported by the letters of his followers included in the New Testament, establish these two aspects of God as a single, complete descriptor of his relationship to Man. This relationship clearly establishes God’s intent for Man, Man’s responsibilities toward God, and the proper manner of interaction between the two.

Although the New Testament sees frequent references to the “Kingdom of Heaven,” the God-as-King image within the Christian community derives primarily from his portrayal in the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of the Creator God, who built reality from nothing, forming it by the force of his authority. Man, a part of that Creation — albeit a special part — was likewise a creature crafted in submission to an all-powerful lord. Through the Covenant with Abraham, then later the establishment of the Law through Moses, God established a ritual-based relationship with Man, in which he clearly defined Man’s position as a subject of the King. The Old Covenant included rules and regulations that clearly showed the difference between Clean and Unclean, and revealed the vast distance between Man (the Unclean) and God (the Clean) — a distance that could be bridged through rigorous adherence to the Laws of the King, but these very laws emphasized the distance.

Christ, however, defied that distance when he prayed, “Abba, Father,” speaking to God as a little boy speaks to his daddy. God established, through the presence of Christ as well as through his teachings, that his intent was for a closer relationship with Man. Christ shows us an image of God that is not the tyrannical rule of a distant king, but the kind attention of a loving father. Jesus stresses this image with references to God’s providence, speaking of his concern for his children. This is particularly clear when he speaks of prayer, encouraging his followers to pray to God just as a child asks his father for something, and emphasizing that God will give in abundance. Of course, the greater significance of this image is not the change in God, but the impact it has on Man’s self-image — through Christ, Man is given the opportunity to see the divine within himself. The distinction is no longer between Clean and Unclean, but between Adult and Child. While Man is still not-God, it is not a difference of being, but of becoming — that is, Man is not inherently not-God, but rather not-yet-God. God testifies to this in two ways: the perfect life of Christ shows the capacity of man to live like God; furthermore, in Christ’s death, God offers perfect forgiveness to Man, dispelling the constant attention to Cleanliness that maintained a distance of degrees from God and replacing it with a system of Absolution that brings Man, in one step, into God’s presence.

Christ does not abandon the old image of God, however, and neither should Christians. Although Christ goes to great effort to establish the God-as-Father image, he frequently refers to the Kingdom of Heaven, and so reinforces the authority of God. Rather, once he has established the God-as-Father image, he returns to the God-as-King image to show the significance of Man’s adoption by God. Although it can be found throughout the New Testament, Paul states this concept most clearly in the book of Romans, stressing how God-the-King — that is, the very Creator God, who holds dominion over all Creation — has not only shown loving concern for Man, but has brought Man into his inheritance, establishing him as “heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ.” Through this act of adoption, God made obsolete the Old Covenant, the system of rituals and Laws by which Man defined his relationship with God. Instead, Christians are all promoted to Priesthood, are all welcomed into the Holiest Place. As heirs of the King, Christians are welcomed into the Lord’s throne room, where before they came only with fear and trembling.

The relationship of Man to God expresses itself in the interaction between them. The God-as-King relationship demanded complicated rituals that reinforced the difference between God and Man. The very act of worship — an ancient term referring to the debasement of courtiers as they approached a king — has been done away with, replaced with a personal interaction that allows Man to approach God directly, to speak with him as a loving, caring audience. And this honor is extended not to some (as the old Priesthood implied), but to all of the Children of God — that is, to all Mankind. And with that change in relationship comes a change in responsibility. It is no longer the role of Man to recognize his difference from God, and live according to it, but to recognize his proximity to God, and live in accordance with the gift he has been given. It is not the call of the Christian to live as one condemned, but to live as one given life. Moreover, it is the responsibility of every Christian to recognize the great wealth that is his inheritance, and to spend it responsibly. It is not enough to recognize that God is better than Man, it is not enough to recognize that God has shown his love for Man — rather, a Christian must recognize that God has made Man like-God, and therefore live as though he is already a Prince in the Kingdom of Heaven. This recognition is, at the same time, one of the most comforting and one of the most challenging aspects of the religion

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