Occasionally people stop in here and check up on the site. One guy even left me a message even praising a short story. So where are all the updates?!

Well. Mostly over at SuperversiveSF.com and Castalia House, lately. Anything that I write scifi-wise for a blog will probably be on one of these two sites, but The Badger Contemplates will remain for when I feel like railing against some sort of theological of philosophical error, and also maybe to hawk my wares.

Speaking of which, I’d love it if you’d check out a couple anthologies I’m in:

God, Robot might be best described as Asimov and Aquinas having a debate about how to program robots.  A fix-up novel written by several different authors, including the fantastic John C. Wright and his wife L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright. My story, “Felix Culpa,” is a direct follow up to JCW’s story, and now one of my squealing fanboy dreams has come true. If you need more recommendations, we’re pulling 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Check it out and leave us a review!

Between the Wall and the Fire is a collection of Superversive stories about the importance of family. My tale, “Negev,” follows a rabbi on a dying Israeli colony world as he struggles with the loss of his wife to disaster and the imminent loss of his son to a faction of posthumans. People frequently cite this as one my best stories.

Do Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep is progressing. I sent it off to my editor a few weeks ago, and he called back a few days later with a heap o’ work for me to do. Which is good! Everyone who has ever worked with him has praised his editing skills and told me to trust his judgements. Also, I get Castalia’s head editor, a privilege which apparently puts me in such august company as John C. Wright.

Starbucks, Micropersecutions, and the Church’s Embrace of Victimhood.

I was listening to The Art of Manliness‘ podcast about microaggressions and the victimhood culture at the gym yesterday. Pretty fascinating stuff. I can’t really hide my contempt for the psychology that produces people who whine about every little thing that goes on because it makes them feel uncomfortable or “unsafe.” Suck it up and deal with it. Face your demons and grow into something stronger than they are.
Except, about forty minutes, it hits me: First world Christians are just as bad about this, assuming that we didn’t invent the stupid problem in the first place. Every time I turn around the American church is being “persecuted” in some new manner or another, and while I believe there are probably some genuine instances of it here and there, most of what we face is not a persecution per se. It’s inconvenience. It’s a stupid law. It’s a country that doesn’t share our values.
Now, I’m not saying we should stop trying to influence the culture, or that, say, we shouldn’t take the fight for our values personally, but man. No one has imprisoned my family members lately. No one has forced me to pay a tax, convert, or leave town because I’m Christian. No one has beheaded anyone I know in less than six degrees because I’m a Christian. The only Bible smuggling I know of is OUT of America and into other countries.
That red cup? That’s not the war on Christmas. That’s not a fight to remove the name of Jesus from our society. It’s minimalist design from a company that has nothing to do with the faith.
Guys. We really need to suck it up and start dealing with this. We are ridiculous. We are laughable. You want to talk about persecution? Remember how Saul hunted down Christians before he became one? Remember Rome, when Christians were fed to lions for fun? Remember the persecutions of Diocletian, which were bad enough they created a schism in the church? Remember how 21 men were lined up on a beach last year and beheaded because they were Christians?
Bully Proof Windows

Bully proof windows and people that support me.

This persecution complex we have: STOP IT. What’s going on right now with this whole Starbucks cup thing tells me that we’re no better than the emotionally flimsy students at Oberlin who needed Play Doh and cookies to hide from a speech with uncomfortable and challenging thoughts. Churches are not and should not be “Safe spaces” where we can be protected from the big, scary world out there. Where we don’t have to think about it. Where our hurt feelings are soothed with flannelgraphs and ethically sourced charity coffees in cups that say JESUS on them because, you know. We love our Jesus.
But apparently our Jesus is so weak and pathetic that we have to protect him from micropersecutions. (I wish you could hear the contempt in my typing when I type “micropersecutions. It’s even worse than “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings.”) Dude died a terrible horrible death so that he could kick death in the junk and liberate humanity from death’s grip, but we have to make sure his name is on EVERYTHING, so let’s tell that barista that our name is “Merry Christmas” so that it’ll get a mention of Jesus in there! What does that accomplish, besides annoying the poor barista that probably just had an entire pastoral staff roll through and do the exact same thing? Doesn’t it strike you as taking the Lord’s name in vain? Just a little?
Are we not stronger than this? Braver than this? Can we not look a little bit of cultural ambivalence in the eye and say, “You don’t care about my faith. That’s cool. My faith cares about you. Why don’t you let me buy you a coffee and we’ll talk about it?”
Now. I have a paper that I should be writing, but I had to get this crap off my chest.

Final Push

It’s been a long while– more than a month, and I apologize for that. I’m making the final push on the back half of Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep, and my time to post between that, my wife, and seminary is mainly nill. Although, I did just spend a couple of hours talking about the Hugo Awards, Sad Puppies, and Science Fiction with L.Jagi Lamplighter, John C. Wright, Sci Phi Journal’s Jason Rennie, and others. If you’re interested, here’s the youtube of the Google hangout:

Any prayers you want to send my way for decent grades and good writing would be appreciated!

How hateful: (Or, Embracing diversity by simplifying it.)

So back in the book of Leviticus, God instructs the Hebrew tribes in the way that they’re to live their lives. There’s been more than one kerfuffle over passage from the books of the Law (of which Leviticus is), but there’s at least one that echoes a sentiment we can all get behind: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Lev 19:34, NIV)

Love those who are different and strange, and treat them justly. It’s a verse we don’t always see brought into play in conversations these days, which is a shame. It’s both profoundly wise and one of those things that the Israelites later forgot, only to have God spend a lot of time harping on them through the prophets.

It’s also inclusive.

I’ve written before on the perversion of social justice that’s becoming pervasive in a lot of circles. About how it’s become a machine of hate, not love. Exclusion, not inclusion. A woman by the name of K. Tempest Bradford illustrated that very same point earlier this week when she challenged people to stop reading works by “white, straight, cis male authors for one year.” Later on, she specifically suggests skipping Christian authors.

All this is predicated on the fact that she read a lot of stories she didn’t enjoy. Which is cool. We all do that, but as Larry Coreia notes, normal people just go find something else to read when that happens.

But that’s not the way of those who understand social justice and diversity in this modern perversion. Having lived as the “other,” the foreigner, they choose to other those that they don’t like. In the name of social justice, they’re unjust. In the name of diversity, they lop off a portion of the diversity.

Now, I have a horse in this race. I’m a white, straight, cis male author, with a novel coming out this year and at least another couple of short stories. And maybe that’s what’s bugging me. We all have our own struggles, and this woman would cheerfully shut out mine because of the circumstances of my birth, among other things. I don’t appreciate that. Ms. Bradford has a dozen stories or so listed on wiki, so she should know how hard it is to sell a short story.

If you want to branch out in your reading, awesome. Go for it. But branch out all over the place. Embrace diversity, genuine diversity. Read the people you disagree with. I do; it’s enlightening. Sometimes, they make awesome things regardless of how you feel about their politics or religion.

There will be no list from of authors I will not be reading. There will be no rationale behind my choices, save for “I like stories from this person” or “I don’t like the way this person writes” or maybe “It doesn’t sound interesting.” It will be without hate and rancor.

And lastly, a challenge: Ms. Bradford: I invested the time to read some of your work, even though you’ve lobbed a grenade of hate at my camp. Invest the time in mine. Is it really that traumatizing for you?

Catholic Scientists

The learned John C. Wright has, for those who believe that Christianity, and the Catholic Church in particular, are at war with science and reason, has compiled a list of notable scientists who are also Catholic clergy. I’m curious, of course, about Protestant contributions to science, but there are a couple thinks working against such a list:

  • We’re a contentious bunch, apt to deny the legitimacy of each other’s faith over silly theological quandaries. (Practically speaking, and I say this as a theologian that loves argue about this stuff, the extent of God’s foreknowledge does not matter when it comes to the way we should live our lives.)
  • It’s easier to spot a priest or religious than a Protestant. Y’know, all those funny collars and robes and stuff. (I kid, I kid.) Although Catholic priests and members of religious orders are usually more obviously apart from the world than the Catholic laity and a good chunk of the Protestant clergy, for various reasons.
  • Protestants have Ken Ham. have sometimes decided to die on hills that don’t ultimately matter. Oh heck, we have Ken Ham.

Anyways, at some point in the future we’ll talk about faith and science a little more here. And Ken Ham. And unlimited foreknowledge vs Arminianism vs molinism vs open theism vs Young’s Theory of Many Worlds Open Theism and the Shaping of History Like a Universe-sized Topiary. But for now, I’m heading back to Buddha’s Dream.

An update of sorts.

I really, really want to make this blog into something people can follow. Building my brand and all that, ahead of the publication of my novel. Thing is, between work, seminary, family life, and writing said novel, I’m super busy. (Half the week, I leave the house at 6:45 AM and return at about 9:30 PM.)

We all go through seasons in life, and some are busier than others. This is one of the busy ones– the busiest, I think, that I have ever experienced. I’m not complaining, mind you. I haven’t been bored in weeks. But I could certainly use any prayers that one feels like throwing my way. In return, have a free chunk of Buddhas Dream of Enlightened Sheep, coming from Castalia House this year:

“Now,” I said, “I’m aware that this is not the most subtle or least embarrassing way to go about this, and I’m well and truly regretful for that, but I’ve had a rough night and I’m going to have a hell of a lot of paperwork to fill out, so please don’t anyone make it worse by getting ideas. I’m in a shootin’ mood.”

“Ellison, is it?” the old woman said. “I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re obviously not someone with the right set of permissions. Our identities were randomized for privacy.” She tilted her jaw upwards and smiled a little. She was good at haughty, and it looked like she’d had plenty of years to practice.

“Jeez, lady,” I said. “There are brown dwarfs brighter than you.”

Hestia smiled behind her hand. The old woman didn’t see it or didn’t care. She was busy turning pale and wobbling unsteadily. You see that sometimes when folks find themselves staring down a bakufu­ authentication certificate. Allergic to being caught.

RIP, Origa.

I’m not the world’s biggest otaku these days (I don’t have the time, and there hasn’t been a ton that’s grabbed me since the moe invasion) but I’ll make no secret of my love for the medium. There’s some wonderful scifi ranging from “soft enough to spread on a bagel” (As TvTropes describes Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann)  to real-world hard (Space Brothers, which gave me the surreal chance to see George Bush International Airport, a place I’ve spent a lot of time, in animated ). One of those luminaries is the cyberpunk series Ghost in the Shell.

It’s not without its flaws. Animated nudity isn’t terribly offensive to me, but I’d have preferred less of it in the first movie. (It was the 90s. It was a boundary pushing time for anime.) But it’s an interesting world, full of life and fascinating questions and if there’s a true heir to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it’s probably Ghost in the Shell.

I don’t know much about Origa, the Russian woman who sang the opening for Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, provided vocals for FFXIII-2, and collaborated with the beloved anime composer Yoko Kanno. But what I heard from her was lovely, and brought me joy over the years. Her voice will be missed.

The Babylonian Captivity of the Human Race

One of the biggest difficulties in Christianity is understanding the events of the Bible in context. We– myself included– tend to apply our the Bible to our life situations willy nilly, without any real understanding of what was going on at the time.

Exhibit A:

	And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” 
Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

(Isaiah 6:8 ESV)

We love this verse. We use it to drum up support for the cause du jour and rarely ever stop to look at what God says in response to Isaiah’s willingness to take up his call:

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

	“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
	keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
	Make the heart of this people dull,
		and their ears heavy,
		and blind their eyes;
	lest they see with their eyes,
		and hear with their ears,
	and understand with their hearts,
		and turn and be healed.”

(Isaiah 6:9-10 ESV)

Isaiah’s call was to be ignored.  I’m not trying to be a downer here, but it illustrates my point: Context changes things. (And really, what better way to prove a point during Advent than Isaiah?)

For those of you not in the know, the Christmas season, according to the way churches have traditionally reckoned the year, does not actually begin until December 25th. For four weeks prior to that, we are in a season called Advent.

Growing up, I came from a church that didn’t follow that calendar, and I had no idea what Advent was. I knew that Advent meant the coming of something, and I knew that it meant I got to open a little door on a glittery calendar every day (or every third day, since I had to share with my sisters -_-) and procure a tiny little chunk of Christmas-themed chocolate.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Advent is the Lent to Christmas’s Easter. You don’t get a lot of people giving up something or fasting during Advent, but it’s a somber time. A low key time. While the rest of the world is singing “Joy to the World” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” during December, churches that keep Advent won’t be singing those songs until Christmas day, typically. What you’ll find instead are songs that are more in keeping with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Listen to the song. It’s not really all that cheerful, despite the refrain of “Rejoice! Rejoice!”

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

We’re not rejoicing for a salvation accomplished in this song; we’re begging, pleading. We’re seeking our ransom.

The terrible, horrible thing about taking things out of context isn’t that we’re going to lose the fact that Isaiah was to spend the next few decades ignored, it’s that we lose the impact of the movement of God in history. All too frequently, we take the life of Jesus out of context, and understandably; it was 2,000 years ago, and “messiah” meant something very different to the people of God then.

Or did it?

Messianic expectations– the desire for liberation from oppressive foreign rule– really came to the Jewish people after Israel had been shattered into two separate kingdoms, Judah and Israel, and then stomped over by various foreign powers. Towards the beginning of the sixth century BC, Nebuchadnezzar dragged thousands of Jews out of their homeland to serve in Babylon. Eventually, The Persian Empire swallowed the Babylonians several decades later, and as it turned out, they weren’t terribly fond of slavery, so they let the Jews go home and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, though they were still beholden to Persian authority. In the fourth century, Alexander the Great came through and swept up everything in his path, including the Persian empire, and after his early death, his conquered lands were divided amongst his generals, the Diadochi, or “successors.” These generals became kings, and ruled their various lands, pretty much up until Rome became ascendant. The Maccabean freedom fighters managed to overthrow their Greek kings in the second century, but that freedom lasted for about a hundred years on the nose. Civil war broke out, and eventually got so terrible that the Jewish people actually invited Rome to come put an end to it. Rome did, although not quite in the way they wanted; they came through, conquered the place, violated the temple, and the independence of Israel was finished for the next 2,000 years.

O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

Look at that context. Can you imagine– the Israelites were the chosen people of God, meant to be the center of a theocracy that would be a just and holy rule over the world. Can you imagine having that expectation of divine rule shattered? Can you imagine being conquered again? Your temple, the holiest spot in the universe, because the Creator has deigned to dwell there, being profaned and violated? And God didn’t even bother to strike the general that marched into the Holy of Holies dead, as he did for merely touching the Ark of the covenant in the past?

Can you imagine how broken you would feel?

The reason why all this went down is because Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain. They were supposed to be a shining beacon of justice and mercy in a world that was far more cruel and violent than the world we know today, but time and time again, they turned their back on God and his commandments until God plowed them under.

Which, really, is the story of humanity. We were supposed to walk with God, to live in community with him and with each other. We failed. We screwed up, and we turned our backs on God. The exile that Israel faced in Babylon, and the subsequent centuries of foreign rule, is an illustration of the human condition. Stupid decisions were made, and now we, like they, are under foreign rule.

Our place in the history of God’s creation is a little bit better than theirs. Our savior has come and gone and in his wake, things changed. But that change isn’t finished, and God’s redemptive story is still ongoing.  The world’s still broken, still waiting Emmanuel’s return and the final healing of the world.

The next time you hear “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” take a moment to really listen to it. To empathize. To look forward to the end of the Babylonian Captivity of Humanity.

O Come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.

Terminator Genisys

I’m back! Sort of. Passing along a trailer, which actually looks fairly entertaining, even though I’ve never been the biggest Terminator fan.

I might actually have to dig up the old ones and give them a watch at some point.

Status update!

I feel like I should post something, but the next week or two is gonna be a busy stretch for me. I have two papers due next week (an exegesis of Daniel and a paper on the liturgical calendar) and my writing group this weekend, so I’m busting my butt to get a chapter of Buddhas Dream out for them to tear apart. We’ll see you on the other side of finals, or the next time the Spirit moves me/someone says something colossally stupid, whichever comes first.

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