“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good; oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood!”     -Eric Burdon

Ladies (and Gentlemen), it turns out I am no Jonathan Swift. My last post, “Men Unite!” was my first attempt at satire, and it looks like a failed attempt. Satire is defined as a literary technique in which the author ridicules a weakness in society for the purpose of changing it. Jonathan Swift was a master at it, nowadays think: “The Simpsons” and “The Daily Show.” The problem with my essay was that it confused too many people, and it was hard to see my main point. If the essay leaves you confused, it’s not likely to change any hearts for the better. If you focus on the last two paragraphs and the Peter Kreeft quote at the end, you should be able to see my true purpose for the essay.

The hearts I was trying change belong to men, not women. I was not trying to bring women down, but rather to provoke men to rise up and be what I believe God intends them to be. I was inspired to write “Men Unite!” because in my observation, a significant portion of the male half of our species has been increasingly shirking their responsibilities as spouses/partners, as fathers, and even as human beings. The essay is really a call for them to stand up and be real men. If there is any criticism of feminism at all, it is with the way fictional female characters are often portrayed in the media these days, but even with that I think Hollywood means to just make more money playing off of male fantasies. I think that the female characters from the movies mentioned in the essay are unrealistic portrayals of women, and taken to an extreme can have devastating consequences on both male and female understandings of each other. Think about the boy who watches the female heroine beat the tarp out of six men at the same time; will the man he turns into think twice about beating up a woman who threatens his pride? Or the teenager who sneaks up at night and “watches” Sex and the City, which is not considered to be porn, and determines that it is just as common for women to release their sexual tension the same way men like to, so he is unconcerned about his date’s feelings and any “consequences” she might have after hooking up with her. True, it seems that some women are that way, but go to any college campus and see the troubling results of the “hook up” culture. These girls think they’re having fun at first, but the fun doesn’t last too long unless they numb the pain by getting wasted every weekend. At least that’s an outside observation from a man who was stuck cleaning up their puke, hearing their gossip, and hearing their tears as a UD coed-dorm custodian for six years. (It’s one of the methods I used to work my way through college).

The fact is women and men are wired differently in the brain/soul. We are as different mentally as we are physically. Now, that is not saying that men and women do not have the same capacity for intelligence! With the statement, “We have generations of history that proves men are intellectually superior to women, so this can’t be an issue of man lacking the ability to rise to the occasion. I had to discover what the cause of this mental impotence could be,” I was trying to be sarcastic, but was not able to fully communicate my tone in the essay. I was actually trying to mock the ridiculous assumption men had for years that because we are (in average) physically stronger, and were typically the hunters and providers as a result, that meant we were smarter. I assure you I believe that men and women have the same intellectual capacity, and as such should be given equal rights, equal opportunity, equal pay, and should only be judged on the merit of their individual skills, talents and abilities. I believe that men and women are different, not unequal. Ideally our differences should complement each other. In other words, both have the same value and both have important things to bring to the table and both should respect what the other has to offer. A marriage should be a partnership. I have no problem sharing the dishes, sharing the laundry or sharing anything else with a woman (and I love to cook!). I have to do it all myself now anyway! It is between the man and woman in the relationship to decide how they want split up the duties of life and marriage and parenthood if they decide to take it that far.

Since we are on the subject, I would like to take the opportunity to speak of parenthood; I believe very strongly that the best possible situation for a son and a daughter is to be raised by a mother and a father in a healthy relationship. Both genders of children need both genders of parents for the most possible smooth transition into adulthood. This doesn’t always happen the way we would like, and God gives us grace, but we shouldn’t hide the truth that a healthy mom and dad is the ideal parental situation for kids just to save the feelings of those of us who are doing it alone for whatever reason. Some parents are forced to go it alone through tragedy; some choose to go it alone because they and/or their partners have revealed a high degree of irresponsibility, but I can tell you from first hand experience that being a single parent is HARD! Anyone who tells you any different is either mooching off his/her parents too much, or is disconnected from reality. I’m not saying a single parent can’t be successful, I’m just saying a faithful partner would make life a whole lot easier. Statistics show that the majority of kids raised in broken homes underperform their counterparts in almost every way. Most of the time (but not all) it’s the man who flakes out and skips out on his woman and kids. Most of these kids (but not all) grow up to be emotionally damaged and disconnected with a greater potential to do the same thing to their kids and the cycle just repeats itself, but like ripples in a pond their influences grows wider and wider, and like a cancer it spreads through our society.

The truth is I cannot really comment on the female experience, because I’m a man. However, as such I am disheartened to be lumped into the same category with some of my “brothers.” There are still plenty of good and honorable men out there; I have the honor of calling many of them my friends, however, some of the males I mentioned in my essay do not deserve to hold the title of “man.” They are at best, adolescent boys, at worst animals without reason or conscience being led by their groins. As a teacher, it breaks my heart to see so many boys heading down that loser path and to see so many girls lower their standards and end up teenage mothers or with multiple abortions before they graduate or drop out of high school because they think that’s all that men have to offer. Because no one taught them how to respect, love and honor others, let alone themselves. It is simply overwhelming. That’s what really had me all riled up. I tried to diffuse my anger with humor and sarcasm, but unfortunately, it seems that most people who commented completely missed the humor, and I blame that on my lack of writing skills. In the future, if I ever decide to write satire again, I will be sure to get my English teacher cronies to give me the thumbs up or thumbs down before I publish it for the world to see! Thanks to Stephanie and company for being woman enough to call me out; I am still learning! Thanks to those of you who read my blog, and for those of you who found “Men Unite!” first, please take a look at some of my other work and you will find my true heart.

God Bless!

Pete

”The two most ridiculous errors about men and women are unisexism and male chauvinism. The unisex feminist says that women and men are not different in value, therefore they’re not different in nature. The male chauvinist says that men and women are different in nature, therefore they’re different in value.” -Peter Kreeft

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“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do; One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you…”
                         -Nancy Sinatra

In 50 years women will rule the world. I first noticed this disturbing trend while teaching one of my honors classes. As I looked around during a debate all I could really see was soft skin, big bright eyes, and hair flowing from all angles of the room. Each side took their stance and began their arguments with poise and grace; the pitch of their voices rose higher and higher as the debate raged on. Pastels and perfume crowded my senses. The sugar and spice estrogen in the room was so thick, my head started to spin. 

“Where are all the boys?” I wondered. I had completely lost track of the debate. I didn’t know which side was winning; I didn’t care. All I could think about was why wasn’t I hearing nary an adam’s apple among all this talking? Of course there were a few males bedecked about the room; but none of them seemed to have an interest, much less an opinion, about whatever human issue was the focus on this unit’s debate. Were they silent because there was so few of them? And why were there so few males in an honors class anyway? Upon closer inspection, I found that not only were there less males in my honors classes, but the majority of the females outperformed every one of them. In each class the top student was a female every time, and she was usually ahead of the males by a significant number of points. I raised my concerns in the faculty lunch room and found the trend was happening in all subject areas!

We have generations of history that proves men are intellectually superior to women, so this can’t be an issue of man lacking the ability to rise to the occasion. I had to discover what the cause of this mental impotence could be. I interviewed several of my male students and the conclusive evidence is as simple as it is disturbing. They were just lazy: “But Mr. Richardson, I don’t feel like doing that much work!”  “But why should I worry about it? My mommy does everything for me anyway!” “But I don’t have time to do any work! I have to play Madden and World of Warcraft!” These young men were adamant that their time was somehow used wisely and they shrugged me off as some old curmudgeon who was outdated and antiquated. Women who are dissatisfied with their male bosses taking credit for their ideas, and their male coworkers making more money for less work need not be frustrated much longer. They need only wait for this generation of VPs and CEOs to retire or die.  There will be few males, if any, competent enough to take their places.

Who is to blame in this disturbing trend of male incompetence? Obviously not men! The feminists have taken the feminine out of female, and as a result men are left emasculated. What started as liberation has become full blown revolution! It started subtle, but women have slowly been taking over for decades now. It began with an infiltration of the universities. While most men were out doing physical labor and fighting in wars, women slowly began to over-populate the institutions that shape the next generation of world leaders. I remember an incident in the 90s on the campus of University of Delaware when I ignorantly committed a heinous crime against women. I was exiting a dormitory and I held the door open for the person behind me. She grabbed it out of my hands and snapped, “What? You think I’m too weak to push open a door?!” She muttered expletives as she walked away. I was dumbfounded. I was frozen in speech and in step. Women have crossed the line of gaining equality with men to becoming exactly the same as men in everyway. Think of Angelina Jolie. The truth is, girls that kick ass are sexy. Guys line up in droves to see this female action hero of the new millennium, but gentlemen, what are you going to do when your woman is able to kick your fat couch-potato-ass? Are you ready to be the mansel in distress? Are you ready to be dominated and tied to all four corners of the bed? Perhaps I’m overreacting: Only men watch those movies anyway, you’re probably thinking, chick still just dig chick flicks! Not so anymore. Take a break from the Xbox 360, and flip through the cable listings. Look at the Lifetime Channel: “Television for women, by women.” The sappy chick flicks are steadily being replaced by Resident Evil and similar movies with a heroine that is as hard and bad ass as any man ever was. Take a look at the content of the popular series, Sex in the City. If you could stop paying attention to Kim Katrell’s boobs for a minute you will see that these chicks are just men without penises. They live out every male’s fantasy as they move from lover to lover without consequence. No more girls crying at the bedside, they are the one’s sneaking out in the middle of the night these days. No more worries about inconvenient babies in the age of easy access abortion! But what if she wants a baby? Consider Jennifer Aniston’s new movie, The Switch.  What’s the point of getting a man involved in the first place? Kids don’t really need a dad anyway. They just sit around, drink beer, watch sports, play video games, and search online porn (What? It’s not cheating, if there’s no physical contact, right?). Gentlemen, how did we get to this point? It is not an easy pill to swallow, but I may have the answer.

Consider this: Single Moms and Sugar-Ma-Mas. Gentlemen, while you thought you have been riding the gravy train, the fact of the matter is that women have gotten used to living without your help. Single Moms have had to learn to cope and survive without any help from “dad.” They have found out they can have successful careers, and even though daycare is raising their children, it’s better than dealing with some inconsistent bum who doesn’t show any of them any affection anyway, or worse, spends his time abusing the ones he supposedly loves. But some guys still know how to “treat” their women. They got game where it counts and they make their women feel like natural women for at least 10 minutes at time. They take pride in all the Sugar-Ma-Mas they acquire. More and more these men are becoming dependant on their Sugar-Ma-Mas. These young boys spend all day smoking weed and playing Call of Duty instead of discovering their own call and stepping up to their own duties. They think they live the thug life, but they wouldn’t survive without the naïve and generous resources of their multiple female partners. The truth is, men, you simply aren’t needed anymore. What is the result of this disturbing trend? If nothing is done to turn the tide, I predict that within one to two generations the male species will be reduced to slaves and pets whose only real value will be for grunt labor, physical pleasure, and sperm donation to keep the earth populated.  

But gentlemen, before you punch a hole in the wall, or lose yourself in a stupor of alcohol, or begin to passively aggressively ignore your partner, fear not! I have a solution! I have spent much time observing the situation and there is only one course of action that can be taken. Women have spent the last half century learning to how to fill the manly roles you abandoned, but they still have one fatal weakness. They still are not immune to emotion. Men, the secret is simple. Talk to them. Ask them how they feel, and really listen to the answer. Women will let you into their deepest darkest secrets if they sense they can trust you. But to listen, you must be present. Tell your homies you gotta go. Get off the streets, stop dealing drugs and get a real job. Show your woman you can be relied on. Turn off you Xbox and do your homework. Begin to work your way back into the universities. Learn the pride and self-respect of accomplishment. Learn the art of Chivalry again; regain your strength and manhood. Use it to protect her and not to abuse her; open up the door for her and pull out her chair. She secretly loves it, but fears giving you that kind of power. Show her you can be trusted with power by being man enough to share that power in equality: Be vulnerable with her. Show her you will love, honor and respect her for who she is and not just use her for what she can give. Take back the children you spawned and be a father to them. Teach them to be responsible adults. Teach your sons how to respect themselves and how to respect women. Teach them how to love a woman and not just use her for a cheap orgasm. Teach your daughters how to love and respect their future men. It is a simple task: just be a man that your daughter can love and respect. Show her how she should expect to be treated by her man through the way you treat her mother.

Gentlemen, with these simple steps we can turn back the tide and restore balance to the universe. Only you can accomplish this deed! Only you can make the difference! Only you can make the change! The only way is to be there for your children so you can influence them the right way. The only thing that should stand between you and your child is death. Think about it. A day where every child has a father and a mother who loves him and teaches him how to give instead of take. Every child living in security knowing that both parents who conceived her have her back and will encourage her to reach her fullest potential. It is possible, but only if today’s men step up.  

“It seems to me that it is men more than women who today have to become knights and honorable. If enough honorable men stand up, that’ll be a quiet revolution. That’ll produce stable families and stable children who will take over the world.”  -Peter Kreeft, http://www.worldmag.com/articles/16886

Peter L Richardson
8/16/10

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”  The Gospel of John 6:51-56

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Gospel of John 1:1

A while back my son woke up earlier than usual and he caught me reading my Bible in the early hours of the morning.

“Dad, I know the Bible is important, but why do you read it everyday?” he asked. “I mean, seriously, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s in it by now!”

I was glad he asked, but he took me off guard and I found myself giving him a knee jerk answer that was more religious doctrine than truth, “Well, son,” I began, “the Bible itself teaches us to. In the Old Testament, God says that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ The Bible is God’s Word, so we literally need it to survive spiritually, just like our physical bodies need food on a regular basis to survive.”

“But why everyday?”  He replied, “Don’t you learn enough from church every week?”

“It’s like this,” I said, “church is more like a weekend feast or party. We can go more than a day without food, but we are weaker without it. It is the same thing with what God teaches in his Word. If we only fill up once a week, we lose strength throughout the week. We need a daily reminder of the right way to live, and the more you read, the better you’ll be able to understand Sunday sermons, or witness to friends who are seeking or challenging your faith, and even to judge false teachings. When Jesus told us to pray for ‘daily bread,’ I think he meant more than just food.”

“Oh,” he pondered for a moment, “Well, speaking of food, I’m pretty hungry, can I get some pancakes?”

And that was the end of that conversation. I’m not saying I told him anything wrong, but I stopped short of the genuine reason why I read my Bible everyday, and why it’s the first thing I do after I get out of bed. 

Many people see the Bible only as a book of rules to live by, full of stories about people who are just examples of what we should or shouldn’t live like. They consider the Bible to be a blueprint of how you are supposed to live your life: If you just follow these rules then you should get good results and end up generally happy. I agree to an extent, but if you stop there, it really doesn’t matter what religion you follow. If your goal with Christianity is simply to live a good life and follow the rules the best you can, then you really don’t know what the Bible teaches, and your faith is stagnant, dead and useless.

Consider this. Think about a historical figure you admire and respect for whatever reason. He could be a fierce warrior, she could be a gallant queen, or maybe a simple person of good character who was in the right place at the right time and changed the course of history. Many of these people have written their thoughts down and published them; many witnesses of their time have written their testimony of when they met so and so. The more we admire a person, the more we seek to read about them and want to get to know them. The Bible, at its simplest level, is a document about a Triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is His proof of existence. It is His thoughts about philosophy, psychology, government, love, and life in general. It tells the story of how he interacted with the world in the 6,000 or so years of history it covers. In it, this God claims to be Creator, and he tells us how he expects us to act and teaches us things about faith and forgiveness. How is this book proof he exists? How do you know Julius Caesar existed? Or Plato? Or Homer? The further we go back the less reliable the witness, right? But let’s take this analogy a bit further. Let’s say one day an ancient library is uncovered, and someone finds letters from your favorite historical figure. Amazingly, these letters are addressed to you! How could this person know about you before you were born? This is what the Bible is in addition to a Rule Book, or a collection of stories and poems; it is a letter from the God of the Universe to you. It is a letter He has written to all of his children. He wants you to know who you are and what your heritage is. He wants you to discover what the meaning of life is and what your individual purpose in all of it is. You may ask, aren’t these letters still just rules to live by? What makes them so personal?

Consider this. Think about a woman who loses her husband in war. What do you think her greatest treasure will be? It will be his love letters to her, the things he left behind that reminds her of the bond and connection they once shared, and even still share. Jesus gives us the metaphor that he is the groom and the church is his bride. It is a classic love story of the knight in shining armor riding on a white horse to save the damsel in distress from the evil dragon, except in this case the dragon thought he killed the knight. But our Savior is not just a great man who died for his beliefs or a cause that was greater than him. No, our Savior’s death was the cause he came to fulfill, because he was the only one worthy to take it on, and the only one who could defeat the very death he allowed himself to endure. Our Savior has risen from the grave and is alive and well and longing for the day he can be reconnected with the bride he loves so deeply. When you open your heart to it, the Bible is a collection of love letters God has written to humanity, to his children. When you study the words of God, it is like studying the desires and thoughts and words of your lover. A man in love will do anything to please his woman; he knows what kind of flowers she likes, he knows the way she takes her coffee, he knows her pet peeves and seeks to avoid them. It just the same with God. He already knows us with an intimacy to the core; he longs for us to know him. The more we read his Word, the more we learn of him. Just like a woman falls deeper in love with a man who proves to know her, and seeks to please her, when we actually follow God’s word and trust him and seek to live righteously, it brings us to a deeper intimacy with him. But this is still not the deepest level the Bible offers us. Letters are good, but without experiencing the man behind the letters, you can’t really get to know him. You can’t have true intimacy with a book. There is more God’s Word has to offer.

Consider this. The Bible is more like instant messaging than letters from a distance. The Bible is the Living Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This means that we can interact with scripture: we can question it, seek deeper understanding, and ask for greater wisdom. How is this possible? You cannot talk to a book. But this very book teaches us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Gospels teach that Jesus Christ is the very Word of God that spoke creation into existence, that raised Lazarus from the dead, and raised himself up, and yes, that inspired the prophets, priests, poets and apostles that physically wrote down the books of the Bible. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 5:17).

When you read the Bible, you are actually interacting with a Person. It is a two-way conversation. The words you read are coming straight from the Lord; they are his thoughts, desires and hopes he longs to share with you. And your response is instantly known by him. If you scoff at him, he will draw back, not in fear, but out of respect for your individuality and free choice to do so. You will not be privy to deeper revelation. If you seek to follow his advice, he will strengthen your spirit and resolve; if you seek more revelation he will quietly speak to you. When you sit with the Word of God open, and read the words on the page, you are literally sitting with God. It is a relationship as much as the one you have with your wife, your kids, and your best friend. You can speak to God just the same. Consider when you spend time with others; does everything you say have to be a request? Don’t you tell your wife things about yourself that no one else knows, simply to share your heart with her? Don’t you ever sit quietly with your kids, or better yet, play with them, and there need not be words, just the sharing of experience? Don’t you ever just joke around with your best friend, just for the fun of it? God longs for you to share yourself with him and for you to let him inside of you. Sometimes reading the Word will result in more wisdom and maybe even inspire a teaching or word for someone else. Sometimes we will get comfort in tragedy; a word of encouragement can literally feel like a hug from God. Sometimes he will give us direction for a certain circumstance or situation. Sometimes, and more often than not, it’s just a simple conversation that can be full of joy and laughter; it is about spending time with each other and getting to know one another. As Creator, He knows all humans beings inside and out, but he does not force us to know him; he gives us free will. The depth of intimacy between you and God Almighty depends on your desire to know him. He calls us to seek for him. He created us to long for truth, and only he can provide that truth, because he is the Truth. The revelation of the great mystery of the ages is simple: God loves you and wants you to love him back. Now the response to that should radically change your life, but the Truth itself is simple to grasp. That is why many men and women who consider themselves wise by the world’s standards never find him, they can’t accept a Truth so plain, and likewise, why many more simple men and women have discovered the profound mystery of life, and sleep in peace at night.

This why Christianity has been called: “a relationship, not a religion.” Instead of just following a group of rules and doctrines that have been passed down over the centuries, a true Christian has a genuine interactive relationship with his God. The Bible is a key part of that relationship. It is through the Bible that we learn the language and character of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).This takes time, but just as with any other relationship, the more time you spend with a person, the more intimately you know his/her mannerisms, patterns of speech, type of character, etc. Having knowledge of the Bible will guard you from being deceived by other voices disguising themselves as God (or some form of wisdom), including your own.

This begs the question, “What about those people who don’t have access to a Bible?” Obviously, they will lack wisdom and intimate knowledge of their Creator, but they can still have a relationship with God. The Word frequently says that creation declares the glory of God, and the Apostle Paul makes the argument in Romans that the combination of nature’s splendor and the moral law of right and wrong that is written in everyman’s heart (in other words, his conscience), reveals the existence of God, and they should seek to know him through him that revelation. It is a mystery we cannot understand in our current fallen state (at least the understanding has not been revealed to me), but God says “If you seek for me, you will find me” (Deuteronomy 4:29 & Jeremiah 29:13), and Jesus later says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Throughout the ages, men have longed to know truth; what they are really seeking is Jesus. I believe Truth-Seekers who are not yet Christians are closer to God than many in the church who claim to know him. The Bible says, ergo God says, “If you seek for me you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” For the seeker who is honest and genuine, God will make the path to the Truth, to Jesus, clear in some way.

Additionally the question must be asked, “What about the thousands of people who claim the mark of Christ but don’t really seek to know him?” Their Bibles and Christian paraphernalia are on display for all to see, but a close inspection reveals a thick layer of dust. Those who just consider the Bible to be a book of rules and guidelines and nothing more can fall on either side of the narrow path. Either the rule of law becomes so strong for them they loose all compassion for others, or they, in their lack of knowledge of God’s character for want of relationship, pick and choose what rules and doctrines aught and aught not to be followed. They refuse to admit sin and repent of it; therefore, they try to manipulate the Word to fit their human perception, rather than let the Word renew their mind and bring them closer to the divine. As the Apostle Paul says, “These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom…but they lack any value…” (Colossians 2:22-23). These men and women who come to church week after week and honor God with their lips but not their hearts are in for a shock at the end of this age. Unless they change course, they are destined to hear from our Lord, “Get away from me, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). To put it in human terms, it is like the parent who makes no effort to know his child and suddenly is shocked when she ends up pregnant or in jail; it is the husband and wife who sleep side by side night after night, but never locked together in love, and one is shocked when the other suddenly leaves or is caught cheating. With no communion, there can be no intimacy. With no intimacy, there can be no real relationship. With no relationship, there is no salvation. 

So the simple answer I wish I gave my son is this: “I read the Bible everyday because I want to start my day spending time with my Creator and Savior; I love being taught by my Heavenly Father, and I long for personal intimacy with the Lover of my Soul. It is not a task; it is a joy and an honor. I am pleased to be with him, and it is time well spent.”

Peter L Richardson
8/11/10
*This one’s dedicated to Angie, a fellow lover of God’s Word.

For skeptics and doubters that the Bible has any validity at all, both historical and spiritual, check out the 8/15/10 teaching, “How can the Bible be trusted,” from Pastor Dan Betters of Stone’s Throw Church:

http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/stones-throw-church-audio/id379274171

http://www.stonesthrowchurch.com

The Mind Forged Matrixes

August 10, 2010

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.
     -William Blake, “London” 1794 AD

“What is truth?” –Pontius Pilate, ~33 AD

Each one of us lives inside the Matrix. We are all born into a world, a place we cannot define, a place we do not understand. We come into this place with a certain amount of programming already installed. We are born with characteristics, natural inclinations towards likes and dislikes, certain abilities, and certain weaknesses. Then we are given information; we are taught what is right and what is wrong and how to be good subjects. In order to survive, we must learn what it is we should believe and not believe about this world we are born into. Yet this Matrix is not a computer program, it is not an elaborate deception made by evil machines who long to rule the world. The Matrix is our Ideological State Apparatus: The reality we are born into, the world of ideas that we inherit from those who have gone before us. The French philosopher, Louis Althusser, who coined the phrase, Ideological State Apparatus (ISA), teaches that our ideas are given to us by society; in other words, our understanding of the world and our beliefs are simply a result of what time and place we were born into. Society dictates what is good and bad and we are being good subjects if we follow whatever the norm is, but if we deviate from the norm in anyway, then society will brand us bad subjects. On the surface level, I agree. However, this theory reduces our existence to something less meaningful than I would ascribe to humanity. If our ideas, our understanding of reality, and our values are simply mental Matrix’s, “mind forged manacles,” if you will, then everything is completely relative. There is no truth. There is no center. This theory is unacceptable to me. Of course, we are then confronted with: “What is truth?” There not sufficient time to tackle that in this essay, but I can say, along with the X-Files creator, “the truth is out there.” How do we know this? Simply because the X-Files is so popular, because of all the different ISA’s that exist and have existed and will exist in this thing we call life, this understanding of reality. We are programmed to search for truth; we are created with a longing in our hearts. Our spirits, if I may speak bluntly, long to find and know our origin, our creator, our purpose. If truth is relative, then whatever ISA anybody was born into wouldn’t matter to him or her. Yet, look at how many “bad subjects” we have breaking out of what has been given to them as reality, as “truth.” Man is searching for meaning in life.

Despite whatever Matrix we are born into, whatever ISA we inherit, we are not forced to accept our mind forged manacles. We have the ability to learn and to grow; we are able to make choices that affect ourselves and those around us. The consequences of our choices reach much further then most of us would like to believe. For better or for worse, we shape the world around us. We often like to blame our problems on a God we claim does not exist, yet whatever it is that created us, whatever programmed our basic instincts and abilities, also gave us the gift, or sometimes the curse, of choice. Free Will is the bottom line. At a certain point in life, any man or woman who seeks to do so is able to move beyond his/her ISA and begin to shape the reality around that surrounds everyone in his/her sphere of influence.

In the movie, The Matrix we are in the meeting room of Morpheus and Neo. Morpheus is about to disrupt Neo’s understanding of reality. Neo is about to discover the truth. Morpheus asks Neo if he believes in fate. Neo’s reply is, “No, because I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.” There is high irony here because Neo is, in fact, fated to be “the One.” Yet also we are about to discover that in reality, Neo is incubating in some pod along with the rest of the majority of humanity. He has no control over the fabricated world that is before his eyes. Yet he is in control of his mind. It is a paradox of a truth we are faced with in our own reality. We are all given talents and resources, some more than others, which shape our life and give us purpose. Yet how far we carry out what we have been given to add to the world is up to us. We are fated to certain paths, yet we decide whether or not to follow the path. Even within the Matrix Neo heard the calling in his heart; he was the one who decided a career in computer programming; he was the one who decided to stay up late into each night searching on a computer that didn’t really exist for some truth out there; he was the one who decided to follow Trinity to Morpheus, and he was the one who decided to take the Red Pill. The choices he made shaped the world around him. He even shaped the “reality” within the Matrix. 

Our reality is real. We are organic, everything dies ands rots and gives nutrients to the earth; we spill our seed into each other, both plant and animal, and more of us are born. What separates man from plants and the rest of the animal kingdom is our higher consciousness, our ability to reason, to act out of self-will, in essence, to make choices. Trees grow and even the most intelligent of animals only live out of instinct. You can train a dog to be very faithful, but it is acting out what it’s been trained to do. Other than pro-create I don’t believe that humankind will ever be able create this kind of higher consciousness; what’s called Artificial Intelligence. But what if we could? We have often fantasized giving machines the ability to think for themselves, yet we always end the story in some kind of disaster. In He, She and It, Marge Piercy creates a cyborg through her characters Avram and Malkah. Yod was the tenth attempt for a successful cyborg; all other attempts had failed. It is interesting to note that Avram worked on his own with the previous nine, but it wasn’t until Malkah’s input, and her feminine side was added, that a successful conscious was able to be made. We are born from a man and a woman joining together, Yod was in a sense, Avram’s and Malkah’s son. If there is any good example of being brought into an ISA, it is with the cyborg. Here is a full grown, fully conscious individual that has had downloaded into it all the information its creators wanted it to have and programmed it to act the way they wanted it to act. It has been made for a specific purpose, and, the best news is, if it decides to become a bad subject, a certain code can be spoken, or a button pushed, and it’s destroyed! But Yod surprises everyone. He is able to think past his tasks and what he’s been programmed to do. He is able to learn and to grow as a person, to make choices of his own free will. He is even capable of love, as his relationship with Shira represents. It is not an Ideological State Apparatus that keeps Yod in his place and experiencing the world with even more freedom, but it is a Repressive State Apparatus in that Avram has the ability to destroy him at any moment. Yod finds a way to overcome his state by self-sacrifice. Yod makes a conscious judgment based on moral beliefs he has developed as a result of his own experience, and with his death he ends the possibility of the making of anymore like him; a person owned, a slave. He valued this act as more important than his or Avram’s life. It was a decision he made on his own. Is this not the cause of rebellion in countless Repressive State Apparatus’s—oppressive governments—which have gone too far to infringe upon human rights? Yod was a revolutionary. His actions changed the course of history. He shaped the world around him. How more so, we as real-live-individuals, not cyborgs neither characters in a novel, how much more are we responsible to change our world? To search for truth and discover what is right and what is the right thing to do? We have suffering in the world, yet we have the capability to change our course by the choices we make.

When we are confronted with truth we have two options: We can either accept it and deal with the consequences or ignore it and continue with business as usual. Truth is revelation. When something we have been ignorant of is revealed to us it usually provokes some kind of response. The majority of “subjects” remain ignorant to the state of affairs outside of their personal lives. They are content, so they are unconcerned. They move about day by day accepting whatever ISA they are given; they are happy in their Matrix. These people are simply ignorant of the truth. It is those who are confronted with a revelation of what reality is, and yet they choose to remain in ignorance, who are the true “bad subjects.” They are aware of a problem, yet they have not the strength of mind to fight for what is right and bring freedom and salvation to whomever may be enslaved. To be in ignorance is a shame, to choose ignorance is a complete lack of character. This is Cipher’s character in the Matrix. When the truth is a hard reality, is it better to ignore it and stay in a comfortable zone? Some would argue so, but Cipher takes it a step further and chooses to sacrifice his crew and what they believe in for his own personal comfort, a chance to return to the ignorance of the Matrix. This is what many of us do in life. It is often good to escape into novels, movies and many forms of entertainment, but how many of us live our lives through them? How many of us choose to spend time with people who don’t exist rather than our own families and neighbors? Our society offers us a variety of Matrixes that we gladly receive in order to stay ignorant. They are safer; the less intimate we are with others the less risk of pain they may cause us. In He, She and It, Piercy describes the area of the Glop, a futuristic third world slum. It is a place, much like our present day slums, full of corruption and violence. The solution for many of the Glop’s residents is to use Stimmies, a type of virtual reality that is purely escapism. Stimmies numb the pain of real life as the user literally experiences life vicariously through others. Yet there are those who are choosing to organize the Glop and fight against the corporations who are abusing them with their power. Which is better? To live in a fantasy world or to live a difficult life well and bring good to others in the process? 

The only good option with truth is to confront it and deal with the consequences that it brings. It is each person’s responsibility to find truth out, and when the revelation comes, to act on it. True good subjects do what needs to be done to bring others to truth and free them from deception. Once Neo is freed from the Matrix, he becomes aware that Morpheus thinks he is “the One.” He is supposedly the fulfillment of a prophecy made that one will come to set the human race free from the machines—an awesome responsibility. However, the oracle tells Neo that he’s not “the One.” But in an attempt to save Morpheus’ life, Neo discovers new abilities he has within the Matrix. In a radical revelation of life inside the Matrix, he believes the concept: “There is no spoon.” He grasps a kind a faith that enables him to manipulate the false reality of the Matrix. His mind is freed from its manacles and he is able to see the Matrix for what it is. He is able to radically shape the programmed world around him with seemingly supernatural abilities. When Neo questions the prophecy that he is not “the One,” Morpheus responds with, “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”

We fulfill our destiny not by being told what it is, but by simply making the choice to live our lives to the fullest extent. Neo didn’t act out of a belief that he was “the One,” but rather rose to the occasion and did what he considered the right and best thing to do; he was willing to risk his own life for his friend, for what he thought was best for humanity. Only then did he discover his true potential, and once he gained confidence in who he was, he flourished under it. Cipher never realized his full potential. He chose ignorance instead. He died in his fight to return to “bliss,” yet his personhood had already been sacrificed.

We can be given guidance along the way, oracles and such, but it is only by truly living out our lives, that we will reach our fullest potential. We are born with talents and weaknesses, we born into different circumstances in life: some very negative, some very positive. Yet there comes a time when we reach a place we can choose and decide to break free from our mind forged manacles. We can honestly look at our ISA’s, judge them, and discern where they need changing. By our choices we change the Matrix which we live under. This affects the Matrix of everyone else around us. If we choose to live our lives to their fullest potential and do right, we will disrupt “the mind forged Matrixes” of all our neighbors. Our very existence will confront them with truth. But it is their own choice whether they will remain ignorant, or let the truth set them free. As Morpheus told Neo in his training, “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”

Peter L Richardson
12/16/2002

Works Cited:

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological Sate Apparatus .” Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays . New Left Books , 1971.

Piercy, Marge. He, She and It . The Ballantine Publishing Group , 1991.

The Matrix. By Wachowski Brothers. Dir. Wachowski Brothers. Warner Brothers . 1999.

Freedom Outreach: A ministry of caring relationships among friends in the city. Passion for Christ. Compassion for People. Period.

Playing in Riverside.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

It all started with Rachel Coates: “You should volunteer for our Easter  Party.”

“But I don’t do little kids,” I said, “I’m called to teens and young adults.”

“Still, you should come and help. These kids are awesome.”

I felt the usual immediate satisfaction of serving God; after all, “it is better to give than to receive.” However, it was a slow progress for these kids to work their way into my heart. Because of a faithful few volunteers, a few of the kids who were at the party were actually regulars at our church service. It only took one time for us to meet before they would run up to me at church with joy and ask to sit with me during worship and to make me play with them after the service. Eventually, one of them asked, “How come you don’t play with us during the week?”

Freedom Outreach is an organization based at Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Volunteers from the church and community have the opportunity go into the projects of Wilmington, Delaware, including Riverside and Southbridge, once a week and play with the children in the neighborhood. The goal is to simply build relationship with the children on their turf, the places where they call home. Freedom Outreach also organizes bigger events like holiday parties held at the church, and Vacation Bible Schools and annual barbeques held in the neighborhoods. Once leaders in the organization build relationship with the children and their families, they are invited to a session at Camp Josiah in Port Jarvis, New York. The church partnerships with the camp and some members of the church sponsor individual children to help pay their way to camp, and the kids also help raise money for themselves through fundraiser like carwashes. One major goal of Freedom Outreach is to mentor the children until they are teens and then train them to become mentors themselves.

Building castles at Camp Josiah.

Becoming a regular volunteer for Freedom Outreach was pretty tough for me at first. The kids were tugging on my heart, but I had my own children to worry about, and I thought for sure with my busy schedule, the Lord would let me off the hook. But between the Lord and the kids working on me, I moved from just helping out with special events, to going up to play with the kids in their neighborhood on a weekly basis. God quickly began to bless me through it, but not in a way I expected. Between my job as a high school teacher, and working on my masters in an attempt to earn more income for the future, and helping to raise two boys as a single dad, life was full of stress. However, here was two hours a week I could just play with kids and not think about anything else. Instead of having one more thing on my schedule, playing with the kids in Riverside became a break that I looked forward to each week.

The kids have also kept me humble. It was hard to complain about American lower-middle-class frustrations when I got a weekly dose of the realities of poverty these kids face. Some have moms and dads in jail or on drugs or even both. Some have parents or guardians who are struggling to do their best for the kids they love, but they just can’t get ahead of their past mistakes. Either way, most of these kids have been exposed to, and even been victims of, the darkness of mankind’s soul way too early in life.

Because of the environment they live in, they can often be very challenging, but it is amazing to discover the childlike beauty that is still in action in even the most hardhearted of the children. When I see the wonder of imagination and the magic of their hearts at work in them, it enables me to have greater compassion for my at-risk students, only a few years older, when they act out in my classroom in anger and fear. I know these students once did not feel the need to smother the magic that is still hiding within them. When I see the courage these kids need to face life every day, it teaches me not to judge their adult counterparts who came to age living in the same fear and neglect. Despite the many disappointments these children experience, I can still see hope glimmering in their eyes, and after a time I have felt the genuine love that some of them have come to trust me with, and I came to realize what loving your neighbor truly means.

When I spend time in the city, John Wesley often echoes in my brain: “But for the grace of God, there go I.” For what is God’s grace to us were it not for the people he has sent into our lives to be his hands and feet and even his mouth? If more kids and even adults can learn there is a better way of life, a road to freedom that our God teaches us, the cycle of poverty can be broken in their families. Many Freedom Outreach kids are growing into mature children of God, and it is a blessed thing to be a witness of; however, many more still seem to slip through the cracks. It is hard for seed to take root in concrete and asphalt; however, when the seed is watered by love and truth from a caring person; the stone can erode and crumble into ground soft and tilled, and God can create miracles that cause roses to bloom.

If you would like more information regarding Freedom Outreach, or would like to support the ministry in anyway please go to:  http://www.vcfbarn.com/service/freedom-outreach/ 

Peter L Richardson
7/9/2010