Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What's Really Bothering Larry Flynt?

[Sarah Palin] knew from the first month of pregnancy that kid [her three-year-old son Trig] was going to be Down’s Syndrome. It’s brain dead. A virtual vegetable. She carries it to all these different political events against abortion, she did it just because she didn’t want to say she’d had an abortion. How long is it going to live? Another 12, 15 years? Doesn’t even know it’s in this world.

Larry Flynt in an interview with Johann Hari, Independent, May 27, 2011

Larry Flynt

Let’s leave politics aside. I want to look at the bigger picture here. I don’t even want to bring abortion into this. I haven’t been able to get Larry Flynt’s sickening statement out of my mind since I read it.

Flynt, if you’ve never heard of him (lucky you), is the producer of hardcore pornographic videos, the publisher of numerous pornographic magazines, including Hustler, and a self-described free-speech advocate (because nothing says free speech like downloaded porn).

Here’s the curious thing. Flynt wasn’t asked about Palin’s son Trig in the interview. He freely, without a hint of reluctance, gave his opinion on the child. The subject of Trig must have been eating away at him for some time for that comment to fly out of his mouth "a propos of nothing," as the interviewer notes.

Of course, this is the man who, in the same interview with Hari, describes his first sexual experience as that of having intercourse with a chicken when he was nine years old. He so injured the chicken that he had to kill it afterward. (Hari asked him if he felt sorry for the chicken. "What?" Flynt replied. "No. It was a chicken.") Obviously this "advocate" has been deeply disturbed since childhood.

So what’s really bothering Flynt? Does little Trig’s presence on Earth actually distress him? I’ve thought about this, and I think, when you get down to the nitty gritty, Flynt can’t stand the thought that someone chose life and goodness over death and self-interest.

Goodness to Flynt is like Dorothy’s bucket of water to the Wicked Witch of the West—and this is especially true if that goodness becomes public. Thus Flynt thinks that Palin is carrying her child to political events to make a political point. It would never occur to him that Trig, as her child, belongs with her, just as her other children do. He doesn’t think like that. He needs to grasp for explanations outside decent, loving behavior.

Goodness is an affront to Flynt. It is a mirror, and he doesn’t like what he sees in it. Somewhere in his shriveled soul, he knows the depths to which he has sunk. How can someone choose to give birth to a Down syndrome child? It must bewilder him. For his own peace of mind, he has to see that choice as something other than an act of love. He’s not capable of such an act, so in his mind no one else is, and if they appear to be capable of it, it’s a put-on, a ploy.

In Flynt’s upside-down world, he’s not the problem. He’s a freethinker, a crusader, a wise-cracking guy fighting for free speech. No, the problem is women who knowingly give birth to mentally or physically challenged children. Or believe in God. Or believe women should be treated with dignity. How weird are they?

So Larry Flynt calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). He marinates in the battery acid of a life lived poorly, the knowledge that there are people out there who choose light over dark gnawing at him. I’m not sure he could live in his own skin if he didn’t ridicule decency and goodness. And in the end, that makes him a man to be pitied.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Yang Caizhen Is Free

Good news on Yang Caizhen, the Chinese Christian woman who was imprisoned in November 2009 for organizing a prayer rally at an illegal "house church" in Linfen, China. Prisoner Alert, a ministry of Voice of the Martyrs, received word late last week that Caizhen was released from prison in February, several months ahead of schedule.

Prisoner Alert’s press release on Caizhen states: "Praise God that Chinese prisoner of faith Yang Caizhen was released from prison in February. Mrs. Yang Caizhen has been ill and in the hospital several times since her arrest. She was released due to her illness. She is reported to look very fragile. Please continue to pray for her as she recovers. Pray also for her husband, Yang Xuan, and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang, Yang Rongli and Zhang Huamei, who were arrested at the same time as Yang Caizhen, and who remain in prison."

Christians around the world protested Caizhen’s imprisonment, sending 544 emails to Chinese government officials and an astounding 1,821 letters to her prison. People in churches across the United States prayed for her, Christian news services worldwide picked up her story, bloggers wrote about her and the Linfen church, videos about her were posted to YouTube, and tweets decrying her treatment spread across Twitter.

It was a drumbeat of faith the Chinese government could no longer ignore.

For background on Yang Caizhen, see here for my original post on her and here for an update.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Guest Blogger Amy Maddox

I’m happy to welcome my friend Amy Maddox as guest blogger today. Amy is a talented writer who is working on her first novel while raising a husband and three children. You can read more of Amy’s thoughts—and see photos of her artwork—on her own blog, Something Deep and Witty. Without further ado, here’s Amy.
For the record, writing is art.

Of course, a lot of other things are also art: music, photography, painting, movies, sewing, gardening, cooking, crafts. The list goes on and on. And when I’m in the middle of making a lampshade (more on this later), it’s easy for me to understand that I am creating art. After all, I have glue and scissors. Aren’t glue and scissors prerequisite tools for art?

But writing? When I’m in the middle of it, I forget that it’s art. I read other people’s writing and can see the connection clearly. But when I’m doing it, I doubt. I struggle to find the words. I type, I delete, I stare into space. But just so we’re all clear, writing—even your writing, even mine—is art.

But back to the lampshade. I recently made one for my office. It was a long, sometimes tedious project, but I am very proud of the results. I’m proud of how nice the shade looks, for the money I saved, for the incredible blessing of having an office to decorate after months of unemployment. But I’m also proud of the expression of myself that is in the shade. In the process of reflecting on the project, I found myself wondering if I love the lampshade.

I don’t actually love the lampshade. It is, after all, an inanimate object with no soul. But there is also something of the eternal in this lampshade because I made it. There is something of the eternal God in me, both because I am created in his image and because he has redeemed my brokenness, and so because of the great care and time I put in making the lampshade, and because it is an expression of the art that is in me—art that is ultimately from God—there is something good and eternal in this shade, this art I have created. And so I guess it’s more accurate to say that I love God, but part of my love for God is reflected in the lampshade. He and I created it together. His expression of beauty and art, and more, his patience and care and grace, are all built into this silly little shade. So if I say I love the lampshade, really what I’m saying is that I love the art that God has created in my life.

I feel much the same way about writing—the writing that is, after all, art. In the same ways I used fabric and glue and thread to create art for my office, I use pen and paper (or, more likely, keyboard and screen) to create art. The lampshade is so much more than the sum of its parts, and so writing is so much more than just the words on the page. It is passion, aspiration, faith, doubt—the sum of the human experience can be expressed and understood in writing just as it is expressed in other types of art.

And ultimately, art is good and speaks to our souls because it expresses something of the eternal. This is the power of writing, of singing, of things we create that words cannot express. We are made in his image, all of us, and something of Elohim, the Creator God, lingers in us. But we who are redeemed—and whose art is redeemed—have a special privilege, a special responsibility. As God created, so we create. As he penetrates the soul with the word, so can our words be used by him. Writing is an act of faith-ing, of speaking, of yielding, of wielding. Our art can show life and light to the world.

And so, God—whether we actually use his name or not—uses art as a revolutionary force. A friend of mine recently said on her blog, "The heart can be a wall. But if you put hinges on a wall, it becomes a door. And culture [or art] is the hinge. What a revelation to me, the culture-lover! No wonder I am so in love with culture–it has opened up my heart to God."

When I was young, I enjoyed the hymn "How Great Thou Art." The words stirred my young soul, and my mind gave image to the timeless words:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art . . .

The problem was, I didn’t understand archaic English at that age. When I sang "How great Thou art," I thought we were telling God how great his art was. Look at the worlds he’d made! Look at the stars! Hear the thunder! That’s some impressive artwork! It wasn’t until later that the truth hit me like the aforementioned thunder. "How great Thou art" really meant "How great you are!" I felt so silly and childish.

But, oh, isn’t it the deepest truths that sometimes come from little children? In the intervening years, I’ve returned to that original understanding and come to appreciate it, and God, and my own creativity, in new ways. And so when I sing, however infrequently, that old hymn, I choose to think, How great your art is, God.

And how great our art can be, too.

For more on creating art with our words and our lives, see Emily Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. She has been writing about art all this year.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A Christmas Card in April

I like to take my two dogs for a walk in the cemetery near my house. If I get there early enough, I can let them run off leash for a while, and they love that. A month ago, while Sophie and Cooper were chasing squirrels and leaping over headstones, I found a creased and red-stained Christmas card in the grass. There were no headstones in the immediate area, no indication of where the card had come from. I opened it. The words inside were heartbreaking: “Merry Christmas in heaven. I’ll love you forever. I miss you so much.” It was addressed to a man and signed by a woman (I’ll call her Margaret).

About thirty feet from the card, I found an envelope, also stained red. The front of the envelope read “To My Dear Husband.” I imagine the stain came from a Christmas wreath with a red bow—such wreaths were everywhere in the cemetery, even in early April. Snow and rain had leached color from the bow onto the card. Someone had torn open the envelope, removed the card, and tossed them both to the wind. And for some reason I found them. I’ve been praying for Margaret ever since.

So why did I find the card? If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have said it was coincidence. Forget the fact that if I had arrived in the cemetery just one minute later, the wind, which was wild that day, would have blown the card far from the path I always walked. No, like any sensible twenty-first-century woman, I would have invoked coincidence.

But ten years have passed, and I’ve learned something: To believe in coincidence is to deny God’s infinite creativity. Coincidence is the product of a withered imagination. It reduces God to something more manageable in our minds.

Imagine a God who, on a windy day in April, would send a tattered Christmas card blowing my way. Who would allow one of His children the privilege of praying for another of His children and thereby have her take part in the Great Dance. Who would bless my simple walk in the cemetery. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Still, some people prefer chance to a wily, artistic God. There’s safety in coincidence. For one thing, coincidence absolves us of responsibility. If coincidence sent the card my way, there’s no reason I should pray for Margaret. For another, coincidence turns God into a cosmic couch potato with little interest in His creation and no stake in how events play out. We hardly need bother with a God like that. He has no claim on us—and sometimes that’s just the way we like it.

Was God surprised that I took the card as a sign to pray for Margaret? How could he be? Did Margaret need prayer? Yes, I think so. And knowing how I think, the God who controls the wind sent the card my way. Only the unimaginative would call that coincidence.