What happened in Aurora, Colorado last week was evil and horrific.  I can’t imagine the depth of the pain for the families who lost loved ones or who were innocently in that theater that night.  The following [slightly edited] perspective from a Denver blogger, however, caused me to pause.  In fact, my planned post was actually scrapped, as we humbly attempt to focus on finding some kind of good and pure and right…


At Columbine, I have seen this before. But not up close.  As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain with several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Littleton Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22 year old woman from my church, Petra Anderson (pronounced Pay-tra). Petra went to the movies with two young friends who are biking across America.  You and I have been inundated with news about what happened next. A joyful movie turned into bloody, unbelievable chaos. Petra was hit four times with a shot-gun blast, three shots into her arm and one bullet which entered her brain. This a bit of Petra’s miracle story.


… A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned, because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain—if she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed…


If you have lived any of your days in a hospital waiting room, you know how long the enduring process is. It has a woeful pattern to it. Sit. Walk. Grab a drink. Sit. Walk. Answer a phone call. Sit. Walk. Hug someone. Sit. Talk to the FBI. Sit. Pick at the food. Sit. Walk. Go down the hall, but not too far because you’re afraid to miss something. Back. Hug. Pray. Sit. Sit. A picture of a five year old waiting for next Christmas from January 1st comes to my mind. FOREVER. Only this feels worse: a heavy forever, with no promise of presents, Santa, or good news at the end.


After the waiting drags for over five hours, tired doctors and nurses spill back into the room, one or two at a time… The doctors update us: “It went well, and she’s recovering now. We found very little damage to the brain, and got the bullet out cleanly. It went better than we hoped for… Something might still go wrong. We just need to wait and see if she makes it for the next 48 hours.”


Tears and thank you’s abound. We are so thankful for these men and women. We hug. Everyone hugs. Then, round two. Sit. Wait. Pray. Fully dressed people cuddle into small snails and try to sleep on the floor. Some are shuttled to a room donated by the Holiday Inn across the street. Thank you, Lord, for every little thing. We sit. We pray. “We’ll understand better tomorrow.”


Petra is moved back to ICU. She looks, surprisingly, wonderful. With a small hole in her nose, and her arm wrapped, she almost looks uninjured. She is medicated and sleeping when I come to visit her on Saturday. I sit, talk, and pray quietly with Kim amid the darkened room, lit by glowing medical screens and power switches. Nurses, like quiet soldiers posted on guard, come in, march attentively through the machines, and go out.  These men and women really care. Finally, one of the surgeons comes in to check on Petra. He has had some sleep, and looks more like a movie star this time. As Petra sleeps, he retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions.  The doctor reads the perfect script, as if he is on Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fills us in on the miracle. Honestly, he doesn’t call it that, he just uses words like “happily” and “wonderfully” and “in a very fortunate way” and “luckily” and “we were really surprised by that.”  Kim and I know a miracle when we see it.


It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear.  Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.


But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself.  Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed.  The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.


As he shares, the doctor seems taken aback. It is an odd thing to have a surgeon show a bit of wonder. Professionally, these guys own the universe, it seems, and take everything in stride. He is obviously gifted as a surgeon, and is kind in his manner. “It couldn’t have gone better. If it were my daughter,” he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, “I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.” He smiles. I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy. In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.


While we’re talking, Petra awakes. She opens her eyes, and sits up, “Mom.” Movie-star doctor spins to grab her, to protect her from falling. The nurse assures him she’s been doing this for a while. He talks to her, and she talks back. He asks questions, and Petra has the right answers. “Where do you hurt, Petra?” “All over.” Amazed, but professional, he smiles and leaves the set shaking his head. I am so thankful for this man.


Petra is groggy and beat up, but she is herself. Honestly, I look worse before my morning coffee. “I’m thirsty,” she proclaims. “You want an ice cube, honey?” Kim replies, “Please.”  Wow. She lays down, back to sleep, a living miracle who doesn’t even know it yet. Good flowering out of the refuse pile of a truly dark night. “Thank you, Jesus,” I whisper.


Petra, you are amazing. Kim, you, too, are amazing. I am so proud of you both. But God, you are in a league of your own. (Duh.)


Respectfully — and in quiet awe…



[Reprinted from “Celtic Straits” by Brad Strait]

Colorado killings

In moments of tragedy, we grapple for answers.  Pained by unspeakable shock, we seek solution.  “We must fix this,” we demand, “So it never happens again.”






Never again.


Sorry, friends, but I’m a little struck.  I’m struck by this feeling that “we” are so capable, that we’re capable of “fixing.”  We think we’re so in control.


“How could he do this?!”  How could a 24 year old man, James Holmes, described as a “brilliant science student” — reportedly planning for months — ravage through that theater Thursday night, mercilessly murdering the innocent?


We grapple and seek once again.  “How could he do this?” 


We’ve heard some of the articulated reasons…


“He lost it!”

“He’s just off inside.”

“He’s insane!”

“Must be a chemical imbalance.”

“He thinks he’s the Joker!”


We’ve also heard the early instant fixes…


“Take action now!”

“We need gun control!!”

“Tougher gun laws!”

“Stop the violent video games!”

“All movie theaters must have electronic screeners… restaurants, too!”


As witnessed above, in tragedy, we’re tempted to rush to both judgment and solution.  Why?  Because otherwise we have to admit that evil exists.  What James Holmes did Thursday night was evil.  It was wicked.  There are few other ways to authentically describe it.


The inherent challenge for us then is that no legislation or philosophical explanation can eradicate wickedness.  We can’t simply “fix it.”  Hence, what can we do?


We can fix our thoughts on what is good and pure and right…


We can focus on the victims… the young man who dove in front of his girlfriend, shielding her from the bullets… the 6 year old girl… the newlywed… the young female sports reporter… focusing on their innocence.

We can focus on the community… how people work together…  support one another… law enforcement… leaders and politicians…  focusing on what we have in common instead of this divisive crud.

We can focus on a God who knows far more than us… humbling ourselves… recognizing we can’t possibly have all the answers… focusing on the comfort that only an omniscient power can provide.


This post doesn’t offer any answers.  It also doesn’t answer any “why’s” or “what if’s,” and it certainly doesn’t provide a so-called solution to the “problem.”  The Intramuralist simply suggests that  wickedness isn’t something we can “fix.”


Finally… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — think about such things.


Yes, we would be wise to think of them.




i see dead people

Funny thing about dead people.  They can’t talk.

Funny thing about us.  We talk about dead people.


Remember the deceased can’t talk nor talk back.  They can’t respond to the words we say nor the impressions we have.  They can’t affirm what’s right nor correct what’s wrong.  Hence, I wonder what they’d say…


Thinking back over the years… what would John F. Kennedy say?  By most historical accounts, it seems an inspiring sense of optimism evolved via JFK’s leadership.  There was something contagious in how this charismatic, young politician spoke… how he dreamed… how he challenged…


  • “To whom much is given, much is required.” 
  • “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.”  
  • “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”


Yet after only an approximate 1000 days, JFK died in his political prime.  While for some this prompted increased reverence, romanticism, and historical rewrites, there’s much the public learned after Kennedy died.  There were reports regarding affairs with multiple women.  There were reports of serious health ailments and prescribed drug usage for those problems.  There were questions as to how the medications impacted his infidelity.


I wonder what Kennedy would say.  What was intentional?  What did his wife know?  What would you tell us if you could speak?


More recently, what would Joe Paterno say?  Among the NCAA’s winningest football coaches, Paterno led Penn State and contributed significantly to academic life, donating over $4 million to the State College campus.  There was something unique in how this career coach spoke… how he motivated… how he challenged…


  • “Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.”
  • “Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”
  • “It’s hard for me to explain. I don’t have an ego. I’m going to work to give these kids a chance to win. If we win, it’s theirs.“


Yet after 46 years as the Nittany Lion coach, Paterno’s former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested on 40 counts of child sexual abuse over a 15 year span.  While Paterno passed away this past January, investigations continued at Penn State.  There are now reports of conspiracy and cover up.  There are questions as to what the coaching staff and administration knew.


I wonder what Paterno would say.  What did he know?  What other motivations were relevant?  What would you tell us if you could speak?


And finally, 3 days ago, Steven M. Covey died.  Covey wrote the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Unlike JFK and Joe Paterno, there is no residual scandal; hence, I think I know what he would tell us if he could speak…


  1. Be Proactive.  Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind.  Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals.
  3. Put First Things First.  Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency.
  4. Think Win-Win.  Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood.  Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you.
  6. Synergize.  Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
  7. Sharpen the Saw.  Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.


Personally, I like #5 best.  We could all work to understand a little more…  especially understanding dead people… especially not assuming we know all.




‘fair share’

As you know, the Intramuralist attempts to be a voice of wisdom.  We are not a partisan site nor share any intentional partisan perspective.  One of the challenges each of us face, however — and dare I suggest, it’s also a challenge we are tempted to ignore — is when we agree with a politician on one issue of primary, passionate importance, we tend to accept all other articulated advocacy as equally wise and true…


… like the passionate pro-lifer who never even flinches at the casualty of war…

… like the the passionate union protestor who cares not if promised pensions burden a municipal budget…


In other words, we are willing to forgo wise perspective in one area, if a politician advocates for the issue or policy we are most passionate about.


Like taxes.  Taxes?!


Taxes schmaxxes!!  Ok.  Not my favorite subject.  Too heady.  Too much.  I’d prefer to fall prey to another aforementioned challenge we’re tempted to ignore.  I believe, however, that a basic understanding is significant.  Humbly bear with me…


As some of you will concur, when initially attracted to the inspiring message of then candidate Obama, I was shocked at his explanation on tax policy, especially in regard to capital gains taxes.  As referred to frequently amidst these posts, Obama advocated for higher capital gains taxes, admittedly netting less revenue, on the basis of “fairness.”  At the time, I thought he misspoke; multiple supporters also seemed to think he misspoke.  Interestingly, no less, “tax fairness” has evolved into a re-election promise.


So dismissing all partisan hats — ‘love him or hate him,’ so-to-speak (although I would never advocate “hate”) — let’s examine the wisdom of this so-called “fairness.”


Pres. Obama has announced his desire to increase taxes on those earning more than $250,000.  In addition to the rhetorically included “millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy 1 or 2%,” this includes entrepreneurs and small businessmen, whose financial capital often surpasses that nominal amount.  So what’s “fair”?  What’s the “fair share” for each of us to pay the federal government?


According to the IRS, current “shares” equate to the following:


  • Top 1% of earners net approx. 17% of total national income but pay 37% of total federal income taxes.
  • Top 5% of earners net 32% of total national income but pay 59% of total federal income taxes.
  • Top 10% of earners net 43% of total national income but pay 71% of total federal income taxes.
  • Bottom 50% of earners pay approx. 3% of federal income taxes.
  • Also, approx. $100 billion is “refunded” to earners who pay nothing due to tax credits which do not consider amount paid.


So we find ourselves with 3 logical, non-partisan questions…


(1) How much is one’s “fair share”?


(2) Is there any amount which is too much to pay?


And (3) If a person pays nothing, what causes that person to care what the federal government spends someone else’s dollars on?  In other words, if 50% of the public contributes zero to federal income taxes, will they care if the government spends responsibly and wisely?  Ah, great question.


While the Intramuralist will always advocate for caring for the least of these, I am also concerned about creating a national state of dependence.  I’m reminded of another question; which is wiser:  giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish?  … feeding him for a day or equipping him to eat for a lifetime?  Which one fosters dependence?  And which one affirms the man, prompts him to grow, and propels him to far greater achievement, by which both he and those around him will one day benefit?


What is fairness?  That everyone should pay more?  That everyone should pay some?    Is it simply a clever election year promise hoping those 50% will turn out and vote?  I don’t know the right answer.  I do know, however, that many suggest “the rich can afford it.  They can afford to give 40% of their income away.”  But affording it is not the right question; the question isn’t even if it’s fair.  The question is if it’s wise.





With rumors rampant regarding Romney’s vice presidential selection, the Intramuralist has keenly decided that perhaps we should have our say.  The latest candidate to emerge among not so silent whispers is Condoleezza Rice, an indisputably brilliant woman, whose foreign policy credentials cause most past and current leaders to pale in comparison.  Hence, while Ms. Rice would be an admirable choice, with my tongue somewhere near my cheek, I thought some other candidates deserved, well, at least, minimal consideration…


And the Veep nominee is…


Steven Tyler or Jennifer Lopez.  Now that both are exiting “American Idol,” with their influential experience as judges, they are competent at cutting persons who don’t perform up to par.  They’ve had to concisely, publicly share truth — utilizing compassion yet never sacrificing accuracy or honesty in the process.


Katie Holmes.  After the dissolution of her marriage to renown Scientologist Tom Cruise, Holmes seems better equipped than most to discern the wisdom in matters of faith.  She now has actual experience in separating church and state.


Any of the Kardashians.  They’re comfortable being in front of the camera, a daily routine for all vice presidents.  Granted, not all of their public soundbites have seemed especially sensible or coherent — but unwise outbursts have not been a disqualifier.


Hillary Clinton.  The current Secretary of State has seen her negative reputation drop in recent years.  In fact, this observer has long wondered if a primary motive for placing Clinton in the cabinet was something in the “keep-your-friends-close-but-enemies-closer” category.  Many have clamored for the former First Lady to be on the actual ticket; this just puts her on a slightly different side.


(And speaking of a Clinton…)  Chelsea Clinton, Barbara Bush, Jenna (Bush) Hager, or Jeb or George P.  If another Clinton or Bush was actually on the ticket, it would give their opponent a little more to run on.  It may or may not be a logical basis to run on, but logic is often less important.


Bill Gates or Donald Trump.  While their oral and haircare approaches differ significantly, both are less tempted to spend someone else’s money.  The Intramuralist, for one, appreciates that greatly.


Kayne West, Brad Pitt’s mom, or Gov. Chris Christie.  While each may vary in political passion or persuasion, none of the above are challenged to say what they mean and mean what they say.  I, for one, would find that trait incredibly refreshing.


LeBron James, Nicki Minaj, or Joe Flacco.  The NBA star, singer/songwriter, and Ravens QB have each claimed either to be “king” or “the best” at their profession in the past year.  Sometimes in politics, it seems, we don’t get “the best.”  Then again, often those who serve portray an image in which they think they’re the best.  Hence, each of the above would bring increased interest to any ticket.


Roger Goodell.  The current NFL commissioner works among very talented persons who at times possess egos that potentially soar.  While being efficient, fair, and responsible, Goodell recognizes that the owners elected him, and thus, he is always held accountable — never forgetting the need to submit to those who actually placed him in office.


Back to the actual ticket…


Only 3 years ago, Roger Goodell invited Condoleezza Rice to address NFL owners at their annual meeting.  Included in her comments, she said, “I am prepared to answer any questions on Russia, the Middle East, advice for the draft, the zone blitz, and why no one should ever run a prevent defense.”


Goodell thanked her, playfully adding that he was pleased “when you were busy three years ago when they selected a commissioner.”  To which Rice responded, “It’s true, when I was talking with the Russians and … the Iranians and Venezuelans, your job seemed like a pretty good one to me.”


Hence, this current events observer is rooting for Roger or Rice.




tupperware, etc.

And then there was this…


“Michael Salman, a pastor from Phoenix, Ariz. who was fined and sentenced to jail, began serving his 60 day sentence on Monday.


Salman was found guilty of code violations for hosting Bible studies on his 4.6 acre property. He has been holding the Bible studies for 7 years. He was ordered to 60 days in prison and three years probation and was also ordered to pay a $12,180 fine.

He believes he was criticized for his religious faith and insisted the City of Phoenix would allow gatherings for poker or football…


‘They’re cracking down on religious activities and religious use. They’re attacking what I as a Christian do in the privacy of my home.’


Salman and his wife made a YouTube video which can be seen arguing their cause and how they violated codes no more than their neighbor who happened to have a lot of cars in his driveway and even on to the street.


The Phoenix prosecutor’s office said the violations were not about religious freedom, but about zoning and proper permitting. A lot of the dispute is whether a building in Salman’s backyard is a church or not.  City says yes, Salman says no.


Salman has fought the battle in court but has been ruled against many times, most recently in 2010 where the court stated that the state is not prohibiting him from running a church or worship services at the location, but rather the state just requires Salman to abide by proper fire and zoning codes.


Michael asked for prayers as he left his wife and kids Monday morning to begin serving his sentence at Maricopa County Jail.”


So where do we go with this?


How do we wrestle with the wisdom and/or lack of it?


Truthfully, I don’t know.  While this is seemingly one of those issues where pre-engrained opinion only becomes more affirmed, our perspective is limited.  We do not know all the details regardless of the passion of our opinion or the depth of our curiosity.


Some will cry discrimination.  The authorities are only enforcing the law because Salmon is a Christian.


Others will encourage ignoring that Salman is a Christian.  Laws are laws.  Zoning is zoning.  Let’s take the faith out of it.


Yet I wonder if we would “take the faith out of it,” so-to-speak, or overlook the primary purpose of the group’s meeting, if that group was…


… the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

… the National Rifle Association?

… the American Association of Retired Persons?

… the International Gay and Lesbian Association?

… the Council on American–Islamic Relations?

… the National Football League Players Association?

… or, the International Tupperware Alliance?


(Ok, so I was kidding about the Tupperware.)


Friends, from our limited perspective, it’s difficult to discern the wisdom of the enforcement in Phoenix; it’s even more difficult to discern the wisdom of the law.


But can we “take the faith out of it”?  Probably not.





In case the development somehow escaped you, climate convenience has recently, prominently returned to the news. “Climate convenience?”  Have you not heard of such?


My apologies; allow me to clarify.  What we now call “climate change” was once called “global warming.”  When society didn’t logically connect colder winter temperatures to the Earth’s supposed “warming,” the term was altered from “global warming” to “global climate disruption” to the now politically correct “climate change.”  Hence, the Intramuralist has arbitrarily decided to shorten “global warming/disruption/climate change/currently-most-convenient-name-to-call-it” to “climate convenience.”  (If I was in a more playful mood, I might suggest supporting scientists adopt the “a-b-c” tropical storm naming system; that way, they could have the names poll-tested ahead of time…  lest I digress…)


With the west’s wildfires and midwest’s heatwave — along with home and electricity loss, which tend to garner a bit more passionate attention — climate convenience advocates have utilized a seemingly more emboldened voice…


“Look out the window right now, and I think you can see climate change in action.”


“What we’re seeing here really is a window into what global climate change looks like.  It looks like heat; it looks like fires; it looks like this kind of environmental disaster.”


“Hard to believe that some still want to deny this.”


Now lest you believe the Intramuralist toes any partisan bent, allow me to state primary points previously penned:


  1. Experts disagree on whether or not the Earth’s temperature is rising.
  2. Many stand to profit by promoting their perspective.  And…
  3. Those on both sides of the debate have often spent more time criticizing opposing voices than objectively pursuing the truth.


So friends, allow me to be a voice of objectivity.  Note:  I am not a scientist.  But then again, most of those who boast a passionate opinion are also not scientists; too many of us simply adopt the opinion of the likeminded.  The Intramuralist believes such is a faulty and potentially foolish approach.  Hence, here is the challenge with climate convenience:


Most science omits any acknowledgement of God.


Now prior to prompting any blood pressure to boil, hang with me for a moment.  The Intramuralist made this comment elsewhere recently and was immediately trampled upon for perceived foolishness.  One man argued that it’s incomprehensible that “scientists are asked to accommodate the language preferences of religious folk.”  That man did not comprehend the point.


I am not suggesting that climate convenience is true.  I am also not assuming that climate convenience is false.  My goal is an objective pursuit of the truth.


In order to objectively pursue truth, we — and the scientists — need to ask if the presence of God has anything to do with the data recorded.  We need to ask if a divine power has any potential role in ecological changes.  Fascinatingly, students of historical scripture are aware of the countless environmental consequences based on the behavior of mankind.  Thus, my concern is whether as a culture we are humble enough, wise enough, and submissive enough to ask the question:  what could God have to do with it?


That’s hard for us.  As long as we omit any acknowledgement of God we can continue to assign blame wherever expedient without examining individual or national behavior.  We can continue to criticize opposing voices and assume we know truth.  We can also continue to simply yet passionately adopt the opinion of the likeminded.


We would be wiser to be humble and submissive… being good stewards of the planet… in objective pursuit of the truth.




‘is it a cult?’

With divorce proceedings pending for celebrity couple, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, the Intramuralist has noticed one thing the media is not very skilled at.  (If you immediately mumbled “objectivity,” you would be correct — although such shall be saved for another day.)  The media — in all of its immediacy and intrusiveness — is not good at reporting on religion.  “How do we say this?  How do we slant this?  What exactly should we say?  Do we even know what it is?”


As many star watchers are aware, Cruise (although he once desired to become a Catholic priest) has been involved with the Church of Scientology for over 20 years.  Holmes, raised Catholic, converted to Scientology shortly after the couple began dating.  One roundtable reporters’ discussion I observed recently was rather amusing, opining on how their church may impact their divorce…


“Scientology?  What is it?  Is it a cult?”


There was a slight pause, until the discussion leader awkwardly suggested it’s definitively not a cult because the federal government has declared it appropriate by allowing tax-exempt status.  Sorry, I’m tempted to jump on a drippingly sarcastic tangent, noting how the government makes a plethora of declarations; I was also unaware that the government trumps God as the discerner of pure religion.


Avoiding the tangent, no less, the media stumbles when reporting on religion.  Do they not wish to offend anyone?  In addition to the colloquial “TomKat,” known scientologists include John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Greta Van Susteren.  Will Smith has often advocated their cause.  And both Sonny Bono and Al Jarreau experimented with an alliance.  These are seemingly ethical people.


The question, however, is not whether or not Scientology is ethical; the question is if it’s true.  Allow me to share a brief factual explanation in regard to what the Church of Scientology teaches…


Created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the mid 20th century, scientology is a self-seeking religion, teaching that each of us are “immortal beings” who have forgotten our “true nature.”  Scientology is “knowing yourself, life, family, the universe, friends, the spirit, the world, and God.”  Sounds fairly wise.  Let’s continue with more facts…


Hubbard called himself a “celestial mediator,” claiming to have been an enlightened person who had acquired knowledge that no other person has ever possessed.  He then used the acronym MEST to represent the material, energy, space, and time of our universe.  He argued that MEST is the product or projection of a vast number of spirit creatures called “thetans” who became bored with a non-material existence and decided to emanate a universe to play in.  Over a long period of time, these “thetans” forgot that this reality, this universe, is a product of their own design, and they began to perceive it as being real.  According to Hubbard, this “agreed upon” reality is not the product of a self-existing creator God who exists outside of the cosmos as the Judeo-Christian worldview teaches, but is instead an illusion and a barrier to overcome in order to advance as an individual.


And one more fact…


People who have left Scientology (reportedly now Katie Holmes) claim that it teaches a “back-story” to the current human condition, but only those who have attained the highest levels within the organization are given access to the information.


Hubbard’s story goes something like this… 75 million years ago an evil leader called Xenu decided to eliminate the excess population from a galactic confederacy consisting of 26 stars and 76 planets (p.s. where’s Han Solo?).  With the help of psychiatrists, he tricked billions of people into submission and exported them to the planet Teegeeack or Earth.  The paralyzed victims were stacked around active volcanoes in which hydrogen bombs were placed.  According to the story, the bombs were detonated and the disembodied souls or “thetans” were captured and brainwashed into believing in the existence of a God and the devil.  Hubbard blamed the evil Xenu for planting the ideas of Catholicism and the image of crucifixion into the minds of the hapless “thetans.”  This process also deprived the “thetans” of their own sense of identity, resulting in their clinging to the few physical bodies that remained after the explosions.


Hence, back to the media’s questions:  “How do we say this?  How do we slant this?  What exactly should we say?  Do we even know what it is?”






[Note:  Information from Wikipedia, Probe, and the Church of Scientology International was combined and quoted in this posting.]

a changed world view

Save for our summer guest writer series (coming in August – fire up!), rarely do I allow this space to be solely consumed by someone else’s words.  The following perspective was too significant to ignore.  With brief editorial commentary, here are the words of Eric Allen Bell, a filmmaker recently banned from blogging at the “Daily Kos” because of contradicting their desired perspective.  Bell was originally an outspoken supporter of the proposed construction of a 53,000 sq. ft. mosque in Murfreesboro, TN.  He was covering it for a documentary to be entitled “Not Welcome.”  Here are his initial remarks…


On the outer edge of town, off a small country road, there was a large parcel of land, right next door to a Baptist church, with a big sign that read, “Future Home of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.”  Over the past 6 months that sign had been defaced twice.  Once it was broken in half and another time the words “Not Welcome” were spray painted over it…  Having not been much of a fan of Islam or Christianity or religion in general (and that’s putting it mildly) I saw this as something of a David vs. Goliath story – with fanatical Evangelicals bullying a peaceful Muslim population, which had been in the community for over 30 years without there ever being any trouble. 


Bell was a meticulous observer, watching the innocent advocates, the obnoxious opposers, even the media who promoted the issue…


CNN breezed through town and produced a quick hit piece painting all of the mosque opponents as uneducated rednecks and the Islamic community as everyday people who were being wrongly persecuted… [it] was called “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.”


Bell was convinced the Muslims were wrongfully targeted… until…


I could not believe the cartoonish way in which those who opposed the mosque were making their case.  I felt like I was on the right side of this thing – absolutely certain.  But in fact, I was wrong…


I went home to Los Angeles, showed my 25 minute short version of the documentary to some distributors and backers… And sure enough someone said they would back the completion of the movie.  It was decided that the focus would be on “the enemy at home” that being what we were calling “Apocalyptic Christianity” …  The Murfreesboro issue was to be used as something of a jumping off point to take a look at the expanding influence of the End Times Evangelical lobby in the United States and how they use their influence to manufacture consent for the bombing of oil rich Islamic countries and to influence policy on social issues.  The theme would focus on the problems we have in America, with our own religious lunatic fringe, rather than on a peaceful group of non-Christians who just wanted to build a place of worship…


But something kept nagging at me on a gut level.  Something about all of this didn’t quite feel right.  The Arab Spring, which I supported, started to degenerate into the Islamist Winter, and I grew more and more concerned.  I flew back to Nashville to shoot a conference on whether or not Islam was conducive with Democratic Values and on the way to my hotel room I learned that my cab driver was from Egypt.  I asked him how he felt about the fall of Mubarak, a dictator worth over $70 billion dollars while so much of his country was living in poverty and he told me he was concerned.  Concerned?  Wasn’t this good news?  The cab driver was a Coptic Christian and he told me that he feared for his family back home.  “If the Muslims take control, and they will, it will be very dangerous for my parents and my sisters.  I’m scared for them right now.”  After that conversation, I started to pay more attention to the news coming from the Islamic world in the Middle East.


Over the coming months I watched as the Muslim Brotherhood gained political power in Egypt.  I saw that cab driver’s worst fears come true as Coptic Christians were attacked by Islamic mobs.  I saw Tunisia institute Sharia, the brutal Islamic Law.  After Libya fell, the Transitional Council also instituted Islamic Law.  The nuclear armed Islamic government of Pakistan arrested and punished those who cooperated with the United States in killing Osama Bin Laden.  A woman under the Islamic government of Afghanistan faced execution for the crime of being raped.  Similar news stories emerged from Iran.  A man who typed “there is no god” as his Facebook status in Indonesia, the largest Islamic country in the world, was arrested for blasphemy.

Several Muslim men in England were arrested for handing out leaflets to Londoners demanding that homosexuals be executed by hanging for violating Islamic Law with their lifestyle.


And it struck me.  Even though these angry townspeople in Mufreesboro, TN had not articulated their concerns very well, they were only half wrong.  I remember meeting Frank Gaffney and interviewing him in front of the courthouse and asking him if he really thought that the peaceful Muslims here actually presented a real threat to America and he said no.  That caught me off guard so I asked if he really thought it was a credible threat that a community that makes up about one percent of the United States population was just going to suddenly rise up one day and try to take over the country and force Sharia Law onto all of us.  Again he said no.  Then he told me I was asking the wrong questions.  He suggested that I was only looking for answers that would support the conclusions I had already arrived at…  


It was at this time that I went to my backers and told them that we were not making an honest documentary… It was critical that we also show the very real threats that exist within Islam.  We needed to show that what is happening to these small communities of peaceful Muslims in America are the exception to the rule.  I wanted to show what happens to countries when they gain a Muslim majority, how women are treated, that homosexuals were executed, that free speech did not exist, that the forced Islamic Law was not consistent with Democratic Values… the response I received was, “Eric you are starting to sound like an Islamophobe.  We don’t want to make a movie that promotes fear.  Let’s just stick with the existing plan, okay?”


With objective research, Bell says the series of events “changed my world view.”  He attempted to educate his employers, having worked for the Daily Kos and Michael Moore among others, but they refused to even consider his fair-minded attempts.  They only wanted to support the conclusions they had previously arrived at.


Has Bell thus become a conservative?  “Not really,” he says.  He’s still opposed to the invasion of Iraq; he doesn’t care for Bush 43; and he supports gay marriage.  But he’s also pro-life.  Bell even still supports the right to build the mosque in Murfreesboro.  But he no longer believes that Islam is a peaceful religion; and he will no longer be part of a biased media that refuses to report otherwise.





(Intramuralist note:  Bell’s account was edited here due to space considerations; for a more complete perspective, see his article entitled, “The High Price of Telling the Truth About Islam.”)

one huge question

A great discussion occurred at the ballpark yesterday.  In one of those slow moments, hoping to teach our children well, one young person asked one huge question…


“What does it mean to sacrifice?”


Ah, terrific question!  She has heard the word often in today’s culture…   “shared sacrifice”…  “a sacrificial lamb”…  “sacrifice bunt”…  “sacrifice fly”…  “hard choices and shared sacrifice”… “all must sacrifice.” 


And then one seemingly discerning parent chirped in, “I don’t think many today have any comprehension of what it means to sacrifice.”  Touché.  Hearing the word and knowing what it means are two totally different things.


Man cannot sacrifice that which costs him nothing.



Sacrifice…  what it is…


An offering of something precious.  Precious.

A giving up of something for the sake of someone else.




What it’s not….


An offering of something worthless.  Worthless.

A giving up of something for one’s own sake — i.e. for publicity, attention, or “impression management.”




What today’s culture often acts as if it is…


Something we expect of someone else.



At this point in our fans-in-the-stands conversation, with now multiple adults chiming in, I suppose our one young person may have been overwhelmed, but to her credit, she listened attentively for a final question, confused with culture’s overuse of a word that made little sense…


“So what’s the opposite of ‘sacrifice’?”


A short pause and then…









Hence, all the Intramuralist offers this day is one simple question in response:

Which is more prominent in today’s culture…  sacrifice?  … or indulgence, entitlement, and expectation?


I wonder what the long term impact is… indulgence without consequence, entitlement in place of individual responsibility, all arguably, while feeling entitled.  I wonder how the prominence of such self-focused, guised virtues affects people and policy…


Perhaps that discerning parent was right.  “I don’t think many today have any comprehension of what it means to sacrifice.”   Hearing the word and knowing what it means are two totally different things.