Rappin’ With Rick

The Role of Music

We only planned on staying for a couple of hours. We ended up staying until they pushed us out the door. We were exploring what we discovered to be the number one attraction in Phoenix, the Musical Instrument Museum.

We were given headphones, and told to begin in the African section. Each display contained examples of the instruments used in that particular country, and the video gave us a taste of what it was like. We ended up spending too much time in Africa, and had to rush through Europe and North American.

The stated mission of the museum is to foster “appreciation of the world’s diverse cultures by showing how we innovate, adapt, and learn from each other to create music—the language of the soul.” And Marilyn and I quickly noted that much of the music did have an integral relationship with the religions of each region. Others have noted that as well.

I recently read that the Taliban, while not formally banning music, has been stopping performances and destroying instruments. Augustine noted that arts and music kindle desire which finds its home in God. Apparently the Taliban is afraid the God that music opens the heart to is not always the god they want worshipped. The question we must ask ourselves is are we letting music open our hearts to God?

God told Job that the morning stars sang together when He laid the foundations of the earth, and in Revelation we learn that the four living creatures and twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang a new song. Psalm 22 prefigures much that happened on the cross of Jesus, and the writer of Hebrews paraphrases verse 22 by saying “In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.”

I trust that will be true of us all on Easter Sunday morning.

God Bless, Rick

Tranquility Over Tyranny

Twice, in the past couple of weeks, I stumbled upon a quote from C.S Lewis that I had never read before.

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

The first time I read it, it introduced an article on the “nanny state” and mask mandates. The second time it prefaced a chapter in a book that details the relationship between government health agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. I was once again amazed at the relevance of something written years ago to the state of affairs we find ourselves in today.

Whether one would consider the mandates we’ve been under for two years oppressive or not, we have all no doubt found ourselves wondering what the most Christian response might be to all we’ve been told to do.

Paul made it clear in Romans 13:1 that we are to be in subjection to the governing authorities, and Peter told us in I Peter 2:13-17 to submit ourselves to every human institution, even specifying governors. But he also said we are to act as free men, and to not use our freedom as a covering for evil. So what do we do?

We don’t know what’s in the heart of those who issue mandates, but Isaiah did note that in his day there were rulers who were companions of thieves and loved bribes, (Isaiah 1:23) and declared woe to those who enact evil statutes (Isaiah 10:1).

Maybe the best thing we can do is pray for those who are in authority as Paul instructed Timothy to do, and strive to lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (I Timothy 2:1-2)

God Bless, Rick

The Machine Stops

I recently bought a copy of The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster. It’s a short story originally published in 1909. I learned of it, of course, in Touchstone.

It’s the story of a woman who lives alone in a comfortable pod underground, as do everyone. The surface has been rendered uninhabitable, but technology meets every perceived need at the push of a button. All are connected to a worldwide apparatus, and people can see and speak with one another by looking into a glowing round plate. She has a virtual audience of thousands with whom she shares her thoughts.

She’s very content, until she hears from a son who had been taken as an infant to a public nursery, and then placed in his own pod on the other side of the world. He wants her to come for a visit. She can’t understand why, but makes the trip.

In a meeting with her son she learns of his brief escape to the toxic surface with a respirator, and his feeling that the only thing that is really living is the Machine. Such thinking is heresy to his mother who worships the Machine. She can’t wait to get back to her pod.

Some years later, as the Machine is dying, they are briefly reunited. Then, when it stops, crawling over the bodies of the dead, he gasped, “Quicker, I am dying—but we touch, we talk, not through the Machine.” He then kissed her, and said, “We have come back to our own. We die, but we have recaptured life.”

The article in Touchstone closes by noting, “Forster wanted to offer a counterpoint to claims being made by the technological optimists of his day. His ability to imagine things like Zoom, Skype, and Instagram, and his insights into the potential dehumanizing effects of Machine Culture ought to inspire some serious contemplation. As we climb out of our Covid haze…let us realize the great gift of face-to-face communication.”

I would also add that it might do us all good to take an occasional break from dependance on our machines.

God Bless, Rick

Rick’s Reading List

The title seemed a little weird: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, but the first sentence really drew me in. “The origins of this book lie in my curiosity about how and why a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: ’I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.’” By the time I had read the first two chapters I knew I had to order a copy for myself, and one for Matt.

Kevin Lasley had loaned me a copy of Is Atheism Dead? by Eric Metaxas, which is an excellent book that makes it clear that in light of scientific and archaeological discoveries only someone who is intellectually dishonest can still be an atheist, and I thought he had also loaned me this one. But while telling Matt how excited I was about the books I was giving him for Christmas, he told me he had loaned the second one to me…at Thanksgiving no less! So, in light of my less than pristine memory, I better tell you about this second book before I move on to a third.

The author is Carl Trueman, a highly regarded professor and church historian. He notes, “At the heart of this book lies a basic conviction: the so-called sexual revolution of the last sixty years, culminating in its latest triumph—the normalization of transgenderism—cannot be properly understood until it is set within the context of a much broader transformation in how society understands the nature of human selfhood.”

Then, after sharing how 20th century philosophers have noted the reimagining of the self (who we are and why we are here) and our culture, based on an atheistic foundation laid in the 18th and 19th centuries by Rousseau, Marx, Darwin, and Freud, and brought into the mainstream by influential poets, he offers advice on how the church should respond to the challenges we face today. In short, we must maintain a commitment to biblical sexual morality, and be a part of a community that believes and practices it.

If you want to know more, I’ll loan you a marked-up copy.

God Bless, Rick

Christmas Bells

Bonnie recently mentioned how much she enjoyed still seeing Jack’s picture on the bulletin board. It’s there along with pictures of Nancy Montgomery, Joe Carter, and Jim and Mary Sexton. We lost the physical presence of all five within the last year or so, and their absence is keenly felt. Especially during the holidays.

I recently read that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was likewise feeling the loss of a wife who died in childbirth, a second wife who died when her dress caught fire, and worrying about a son who was clinging to life after being wounded in the Civil War when, during the Christmas season, he wrote “Christmas Bells.”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familial carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

An empty chair at the table, gifts no longer shared, and an empty stocking are painful reminders of lost loved ones. But the gift we received on that first Christmas brings with it the promise that if the babe of Bethlehem is received as our mutual risen Lord, the separation is only temporary. The tears we shed will one day be wiped away, the wrongs we suffered will be made right, and peace will actually become a reality.

Longfellow believed that to be true, and reminding himself of it, went on to write one more verse.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Merry Christmas & God Bless, Rick