Better than a Casino

Reading Time: 9 minutes

I met Steve in the office of the scoliosis treatment center where my daughter has been for the past three weeks. I drove down to the Bay Area last Friday and surprised my wife Gloria and my daughter Rebecca. At times during the day, Rebecca was on a table or chair in traction, and there is little to do, so I was sitting in the front office working through their magazines when Steve walked in. I was reading a Popular Science magazine while my wife was out running errands and waiting for Rebecca. Considering she was the one who had been with Rebecca for the three weeks, I had little to complain about.

Steve sat down across from me, and one glance told me he has had a difficult life, and little had changed in his 60 or so years to make things easier for him. When he got up a couple times, he was hunched over and obviously uncomfortable standing straight up. I would estimate his age to be well into his 60’s, but as many of you know, it can be difficult to judge someone’s age correctly when life has been hard on them. Then again, if you have face lifts, nose jobs, tummy tucks, lyposuction, and botox, you can shave off 20 years, but he was not dressed as someone who could afford such luxuries.

I would guess his favorite color was probably green since he had on green pants and a green button up shirt. He only used about 1/2 his buttons and exposed plenty of white chest hair to match the unkempt white thinning hair up on his head. His eyes were dark, lost even. Under his eyes were circles and discolored bags of someone who does not get enough sleep for months on end, or is in chronic pain, maybe both.

oldmanI continued reading my magazine, but our eyes met and we traded smiles. After a few minutes of quiet, when I was just about done with my article on the differences between men and women found within the brain, (differences I was planning on exploiting that night since I had not seen my wife in a week), Steve asked me, out of the blue, if I felt the economic recovery was going well.

I lowered the magazine, looked at him for a moment and could tell he was waiting for a response. He had a pleasant smile on his face and seemed genuine about the question. I replied that I was not impressed and thought it was weak. He responded with a comment President Obama had supposedly made a few days ago, that over 150,000 jobs were created by the government. I told him I had not heard that, but I did not think the government creating jobs was the answer. I asked him where the money came from to pay for those government jobs. He looked at me without answering, so I answered for him, explaining that the average citizen who works and pays their taxes, provides the income for government to hire and expand.

We chatted a few more minutes and the topics revolved around making money. At one point I asked him if making money was the most important thing in life, and Steve replied, “No, of course not. Loving others and sharing that love was the most important thing.” I was glad to hear that because he had gone on so long about money and how to make money, I assumed the all mighty dollar was his god.

He dropped that topic and asked me if I had heard of fish stores. I asked him if he meant tropical or salt water fish stores for hobbyists. He said yes, and went on to share with me that a friend of his, who owns one such store, has had a tremendous increase in sales in the past few months. Two or even three times the income he was doing six months ago. Steve also shared with me that he called sixteen large nation wide tropical fish stores and all of them were seeing an increase in sales. He spun that topic right back to money.

I told him that was good news, and could be an indicator that the economy was improving, but I would look at more than how many tropical fish people are buying. I then shared that I taught in a rural area, and that for years schools in our small counties have been suffering from declining enrollment due to the lack of jobs. I explained families have been moving out of the area for years because they can’t find work, (unless of course they own a Tropical Fish store). I explained to him one school where I had taught, closed down because of declining enrollment.

He just listened, but then asked me if I had heard of Scientology and Juliette Lewis. I did not know Lewis, but I asked him if he meant the Scientology founded by Ron Hubbard and the religion Tom Cruise believes in. He said yes, and named a few celebrities who believe in it, and how it has helped them. I asked him if he had experienced that same kind of help. He replied, “Yes, of course!” and told me that one Scientology book he read cured his vision problems. He explained as he read the Scientology book, he took off his reading glasses and he suddenly realized he did not need them any more. Steve then told me about another book that improved his hearing by 60%. I then asked him, “If these books really work, how come they are not flying off the shelves and selling millions of them?” He said they were selling, and they could not keep them in stock. He said not long ago he personally sold 160 of those books himself. I expressed doubt about how well they worked and asked him if he had ‘evidence’ that supported the claims he was making.

Steve then shared three Scientology books he had read which helped him “immensely” in his life. One book he said greatly improved his marriage and that his relationship with his wife was better than it had ever been before. Another book he read improved his health, and finally a third book had the secrets to making money. He went on to explain about the hundreds of courses you can take which will improve your life, and gave me examples of people he knew that were helped by these books.

I nodded, listening to him, and then considered him for a long moment. I noted his lack of a wedding ring, his stooped posture, unhealthy look, and his lack of designer clothes or shoes. I asked him, “So these three books, one on marriage, one on health, and one on making money have all improved your life?” Steve sat forward, misreading my question for interest or belief in what he was sharing. He said, “Oh yes, more than I could ever say. People just don’t understand how much they can help you.” I held up three fingers, “So your marriage is going well. You are making lots of money, and you are here in this office because…?”

He was put off for a moment, and said something about how much his relationship with his girl friend had improved. I am not sure what happened to his wife. He went on to say that, “Just the other day my sister gave me $160 for no reason. Just gave me $160 for no reason at all. I have lots of money.” I was not sure if the 160 books he had sold were some how connected with the $160 his sister gave him, but I did not ask.

Steve then went on a tangent on how some others he knew had been saving money, and they had over five thousand dollars saved under their bed. He never really addressed my last point about his improved health and why he was in the doctors’ office. He then shared with me that one book brought back his memory and that he used to own six planets and a space ship. I regarded him for a long moment and realized he was quite serious. It was at that moment, while I was trying to decide if any conversation with Steve was worth the effort, that my wife walked in. I stood up, thanked Steve for the conversation and took my wife and daughter outside.

Scientology was founded by Ron Hubbard, who was born in 1911. As my sister-in-law put it, he was a failed science fiction writer who invented a new religion. Calling it a religion is a disservice to actual religions; cult is more apropos. According to Hubbard, our existence, or material realm, was invaded some 60 trillion years ago by thetans. The thetans have been separated from their previous knowledge, but can regain their lost knowledge. Many of Hubbard’s followers recalled past lives on other planets through a series of reincarnations over trillions of years.

Reading up on the basics of Scientology sounds like a 1950’s science fiction novel. Thetans were brainwashed by Xenu, an evil dictator from another planet. When humans died, the thetans left their bodies and traveled to implant stations. From the implant stations, thetans were put in capsules and returned to earth to inhabit infants. Hubbard apparently visited one. This incomplete story and history of Scientology has been referred to as ‘Space Opera’. Attempting to make sense of the Scientology history is difficult to say the least. If you are interested, visit the Wikipedia page and scroll down to Narratives and civilizations.

After his failed attempts at writing science fiction Hubbard served in the U.S. Navy and was the captain of two ships, but was removed from those positions because he was incapable of commanding.

In the 1950’s, Hubbard complied many ideas he wrote about in his science fictions novels, and published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Shortly after that, Hubbard renamed it Scientology and declared it a religious system.

Quoting the Scientology web site, “Unlike religions with Judeo-Christian origins, the Church of Scientology has no set dogma concerning God that it imposes on its members. As with all its tenets, Scientology does not ask individuals to accept anything on faith alone. Rather, as one’s level of spiritual awareness increases through participation in Scientology auditing and training, one attains his own certainty of every dynamic. Accordingly, only when the Seventh Dynamic (spiritual) is reached in its entirety will one discover and come to a full understanding of the Eighth Dynamic (infinity) and one’s relationship to the Supreme Being.” 1 What of those who cannot afford the training and materials as they progress upward was the first question I asked after reading this.

Joseph Hopkins asked the same when he wrote, “Another liability of Scientology is its utter lack of social concern. It could hardly be criticized for this omission were it to abandon the pretense of being a religion. But to pose as a church, while neglecting the responsibilities of a church in the community, nation, and world, is reprehensible. Scientology offers society nothing except an expensive and highly dubious method of psycho-therapy, the goal of which is self-improvement, self-mastery, personal-happiness. The door to salvation is shut to those who cannot afford to pay the price of processing.” 2

By the 1960’s and 1970’s, Hubbard had a fleet of ships and followers, but they were denied port access by Britain, Greece, Spain, and several other countries due to questionable activities. France convicted Hubbard of fraud, and he secluded himself in Southern California. He was also a conspirator in an international scheme to destroy all records that put Hubbard in any kind of negative light. His wife, Mary Sue, pleaded guilty in this activity, (it came to be known as Operation Snow White), which had hundreds of agents in the Internal Revenue Service, (IRS) and other government agencies working to purge and clean Hubbard’s records. 3

2 Peter 2:1-3 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”

Much my conversation with Steve revolved around money, and the making of money. Steve mentioned several friends that were successful due to their reading of the Scientology books that held many secrets about making money. Scientology has thousands of books covering hundreds of topics. Each book or course you complete takes you to a higher level of knowledge and that much closer to regaining what you have lost. No, this process is not free.

Unfortunately, Scientology, like many cults, take more than just money. Frankly, I would put it in the same ranking as a gambling casino. Look at any casino add and you see white teeth, smiling well dressed, healthy looking people. Walk into any casino and you see a very different story. Gambling casino’s sucks money from you while offering riches, hope, happiness, and opportunities of success. People who are addicted to gambling destroy their lives, and the lives of their family. Scientology offers much the same, riches, hope, happiness, success, and one better than a casino: a promise of salvation for the money you spend.

1 Timothy 6:7-10 says, “ For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Sources:

1. Scientology.org “Does Scientology Have A Concept Of God?” Scientology. Scientology.org, 2014. Web. 22nd March 2014.
2. Martin, Walter. “The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. 1992. Print
3. Reitman, Janet. Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion. New York: First Mariner Books. 2011. Print

Quail Hunting

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Keith and I had worked the quail into a valley outside of North Fork and were walking down on opposite sides, keeping one eye on the quail, and one on each other. Keith and I had hunted together for years and knew quite often what the other was going to do, even if we could not see each other. We also knew the terrain, since his family had 60 acres outside of North Fork for many years. We both had walked countless miles in and around his property since we were boys. We also fenced large portions of his property and knew the area like it was our back yard.

We had already bagged one or two out of the covey and were hoping to get several more. The small valley they were running down ended in a bit of a rise and then suddenly went left from my prospective. I had lost sight of Keith once or twice, and had just spotted him again about 40 yards away. I waved and he waved back. Suddenly some quail broke between us and he did something I had never seen him do before. He abruptly raised his shotgun, then tracked the quail without shooting, right across me. Had his shotgun been beam of light he would have run the light right across my figure. I instinctively ducked and squatted, irritated he would have done something so stupid since he knew I was there. What I did not realize was, he did not wave at me a moment ago, but had backhandedly shooed away a fly.

I stood up a moment later, ready for some quail to break near me. Keith was motionless and I could see him clearly, I assumed he saw me too. Then some quail broke between us again, and again he raised his gun tracking them right across my path. I did not squat down this time, but he was going to hear about it in a moment. The very second the beam of light would have been on my person I saw, then heard the blast of the shotgun. I can still remember the fraction of a second delay from what I saw, to what I felt, then heard. It felt as if someone took their finger and flicked it hard on my right brow, which was accompanied by the sound of a very small pebble bouncing off a window pane. I was startled and raised my hand to my head. It came away with blood and I felt something on my face. I looked down and blood was streaming into my hand.

I dropped to my knees and called out to Keith that I had been shot. He hesitated for a moment and called back, “Where?” I hollered back, “In the head!” Moments later I heard crashing through the brush and he was there beside me forcing me to look up.

Head wounds bleed a lot. On top of that, we had been hiking for quite a while and our hearts were pounding so it looked much worse than it was. A small BB had entered my brow and gave me a small tear which was bleeding profusely. Keith took my hand, then one of my fingers, and pressed it into my head. He said, “Hold it there, I am going to get the truck.”

Our day of hunting was over, and after going to a local retired doctor, then the hospital in Fresno, no one was able to find the BB and remove it. My brow had swollen and it was like hunting for a pebble in a thick sirloin steak. I still have it today, and on occasion, I tell the story to my students who want to feel the BB which has settled in a place right below my right eyebrow. Had the shot been 1/2 inch lower the results would have been much more painful and traumatic as I undoubtedly would have lost my right eye.

This shooting was an accident, but the majority of the shootings that take place in the world are deliberate, often with fatal results.

It takes three things to kill someone with a gun. The gun, the shooter, and the ammunition. The problem is, too many focus on the gun and the shooter with little thought to the ammunition. Many of you may have noticed that ammunition has been hard to find in the last couple of years. Some people think that since the government can’t take our guns away, (2nd Amendment rights) that ammunition has become the target that is left. What good is a gun without ammunition? But that is not the type of ammunition I am talking about.

Have you ever considered the ammunition of media? The ammunition that removes the value of human beings. The ammunition that creates hero’s out of villainous, self serving characters. The ammunition that teaches morality is determined by the culture, and the culture says, if it feels good, do it. The ammunition that says sex outside of marriage is OK, but ignores the millions of unwed mothers and millions of aborted children. The ammunition that tells boys that to be a man, they have to get drunk and have sex. The ammunition that reduces women to targets of pornography, and victims of graphic, horror filled, sexually explicit movies.

Tony Stark and Katniss Everdeen could not offer the same return investment of the 2013 horror film, Insidious. It bagged 160 million with only a 5 million investment and took the top spot of profit for investment in 2013. The Conjuring, another horror film in 2013, made 316 million and it also offered an excellent return investment beating out the Avengers and Catching Fire dollar for dollar. Millions made just so people can be entertained by watching explicit, horrific, fear and suffering. And that is just the horror film industry, to say nothing about other questionable genres.

Malcolm Muggeridge said, “It is difficult to resist the conclusion that 20th century man has decided to abolish himself, tired of the struggle to be himself, he has created boredom out of his own affluence, impotence out of his own erotomania and vulnerability out of his own strength.” 1

Fridrich Neitzsche, one of the most famous philosophers in the 1800’s declared, God was dead. He also declared that when we realized God was dead in the 1900’s it would become the bloodiest century in history. It did, offering more bloodshed than the previous 19 centuries combined. 2 Neitzsche recognized the danger of a Godless society and knew what were were capable of.

Most would say a person is free if they are able to do what they want. But others, took it a little deeper and added that true freedom would be those that are free to do what they want, when they could have done otherwise. Philosophers call this the CDO condition, or Could have Done Otherwise condition. 3

Every day we make a choice when we could have done otherwise. The unkind thought or comment. The lazy attitude or behavior. The fantasy that becomes a flirt. Where you mind goes, your body will follow. If you think your thoughts, attitudes, and fantasy’s are harmless, you are purchasing the ammunition of our current culture. I am far from perfect, but I recognize what the culture sells us in the rack just before the checkout stand at the grocery store. If I am going quail hunting I don’t purchase a box of .45 caliber bullets.

J.P. Moreland shared in his book, Love Your God With All Your Mind a story of DARE (a program designed to help children say no to drugs) graduation. The sixth graders were to each read a short paper which stated why they would not do drugs. J.P. Moreland leaned over to a couple next to him and predicted that each student would give a ‘self-interest’ reason for not doing drugs. When the presentation was done, sure enough, each student gave reasons for not doing drugs. Each reason benefited them personally. In other words, each student said drugs would ruin their grades, their chances to excel in sports, their health, etc. Not a single student said they would avoid drugs because of a virtue, a duty, some moral compass, or to honor God. 4

Children who are raised to do good only because of the way it would benefit them, are missing out on a much greater good. The above reasons for not doing drugs are a good first step, but children, and some adults, need to take it to the next level. For all the good Jesus did, none of it can be ascribed for self-interest. We would do well to move beyond our own bubble and consider family, community, and God for reasons to do otherwise. Morality is not subjective. It is not founded on the whims of the individual, nor is it founded on the popular opinion of the current culture.

To kill someone with a gun you only need the shooter, the gun, and the ammunition. To kill morality, you only need to sell the ammunition, and the world is inundated with ammunition. Ammunition that will satisfy every conceivable vice within human nature.

James 1:19-22 says: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Sources:

1. C, Manny. “Extinct Brontosaurus” Manny is Here. Mannyishere.blogspot.com 27, Jan. 2006 Web. Mar. 11 2014.
2. Zacharias, Ravi. “Responding to the times, Part 1 of 2.” Let My People Think Broadcast. December 6, 2013. MP3
3. Koukl, Greg. “The Final Days of Jesus.” Stand To Reason Broadcast. February 25, 2014. MP3
4. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God With All Your Mind. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2012. Print.

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