The Good Giant

I know; Fathers’ Day is over. For a few weeks, we thought a little more about the man who first gave shape and color to our world, who gave us one of our first images of our self. Perhaps it was an image of something precious, to be treasured and protected, or… perhaps not.

It’s a risky thing to be born into a world of giants, to be so powerless and fragile. It is also a fearsome thing to be the giant to whom a child is given. There are so many ways to fail and to forget, so many things you must surrender if you are to become the good giant, the one who carves out of the hard world a soft, safe place for your child.

Our father was our first hero if he was any father at all; awesome in size and strength. We reached for his giant hand and stared up into his face and hoped to see a smile, some assurance of his love. It is a picture woven into the world, repeated in the experience of every child: our weakness cast upon another’s strength, our desperate need for someone’s mercy, the beauty and necessity of compassion.

Christians recognize in this the careful design of a Creator who built a universe to help us know him, who placed on human fathers the frightening responsibility of having almost godlike power over their children. It seems a terrible risk, and some men prove it so. But, for many more, becoming a father is a door to redemption, an invitation to choose godlike love over our natural gigantic ambition.

I love these pictures because they show what happens when we accept that invitation. Day by day, our pilots practice the beautiful art of Fatherhood, using their strength to care for people who are not strong. We hope to emulate, in our small way, the greatest giant of all, who laid down his life for his friends, and the one Father who is truly good.

-2019, with Wings of Mercy. (HTTP://

Fortunate Ghosts in Forgotten Machines

It’s funny how this works. You float through the scene like a ghost. Your legs must be working because the picture keeps changing. Your hands flit in and out of view; reaching, holding, typing. You don’t stop to calculate the angles required of your joints, the proper contraction of your pupil, or the six muscles that aim your eye. It all just works. Without batteries. Without software. Almost without thought.

It’s a lucky break, to say the least. Start with a dead planet, then – bam! – it springs to life because, of course, that’s what dead planets do. A simple creature morphs into increasingly complex and elegant creatures until it ends up like you because, of course, that’s what simple creatures do.

Except they don’t. For many years, brilliant scientists in expensive laboratories have been trying to make dead things come to life. But they can’t. And they can’t make a simple creature change into a complex creature, or into a different kind of creature (or find evidence that this ever happened).

But luck, we are told, can easily do what scientists can’t. Welcome to the religion of the modern world.

Someone will object – will say that Darwin’s theory of evolution explains that. But it doesn’t. Natural selection can only select something that already exists. And if it exists — the theory claims — it was produced by a random mutation. And if it was random, that’s luck.

I’m not saying our admiration of luck is bad; just that we’re not very consistent. When we’re sick, we don’t ask for a referral to the luckiest surgeon. If we want a new car or house, we don’t look for the luckiest engineer. We don’t think luck can do complicated things.

Except, of course, really, really complicated things, like designing the human being who performs the surgery or the verdant planet upon which our house will sit and our car will drive. Somehow, luck can easily do those complicated things.

If you find a horseshoe in your garden, no one will believe it was formed by luck. They will only believe it’s luck if you find an entire horse. No one thinks luck can compose a painting, but we’re assured that it can easily compose a painter. Luck can’t design a computer – merely the mind that designed the computer.

Such is the faith required by our modern religion: To know from experience that luck builds nothing, yet to simultaneously believe that it built almost everything. To believe that art and music and beauty and kindness – that every longing of our hearts — came from nowhere and mean nothing.

Yet we are surrounded by wonders. Our amazing, automatic bodies. The incredible diversity of elegant creatures, so naturally sustained by this beautiful planet. The fact that we can think about these things and wonder what they mean.

These wonders require an explanation that luck does not provide.


“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven… he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else… so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

-Acts 17

If Only

‘If only,’ I think for the hundredth time… If only my pitching arm had lasted a little longer, or my teeth had been a little straighter, or my conversation more funny. So many things that might have been if only I were different.

It’s very near the heart of life, this longing to be more, this suspicion that it would matter. And the suspicion is probably true. Our circumstances often hinge on smaller things than these.

But this raises a question we hardly have words to discuss.

Somehow, the sum of our attributes and circumstances – however thoroughly and sensitively we perform this calculation – does not add up. The result is real and important, but the most real and important thing has been left out.

We all know this, or our world would be a different place. We would choose a spouse as we choose a vacuum cleaner, and friends as we choose a refrigerator. We would not care who someone is, only what. We would love them for their size and shape, their capacity and color.

If this seems a poor way to live, consider our national discussion. We are told to do this very thing, to blur the distinction between who people are and what they are – to sort them by the features of their bodies and overlook the features of their souls. We are told that changing our body changes our identity. We are told that what we are is who we are, and none of this is true.

In fact, we cannot change what we are. We are born into a particular body – its genetics and appearance, its potential for strength, and for weakness. We are born into a place and a time. We are born into a family. These things are real and important, but they are not our identity. They are the shape of our world but not the shape of our soul.

Of course, I am saying the obvious, but only because we are asked to forget the obvious. MLK hoped his children would be judged “not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,” and this is the obvious good we are asked to forget – that we are, above all else, a soul with a particular shape which we have chosen, moment by moment. That shape is who we are and, in a just society, how we will be judged.

On this anniversary of our nation’s founding, it’s still true that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” That’s a strong foundation for a just and peaceful society, even on Earth, where our attributes and circumstances are – and will always be – highly unequal.

Children For Sale

A new movie makes the astounding claim that “God’s children are not for sale.” That’s a nice thought, but, of course, it’s not true. Children are for sale and have been for some time.

More than 50 years ago, our nation decided that children are not people – with natural rights and value – but property to be managed as others see fit. And so, if children are now being offered for sale – kidnapped and forced into prostitution – one might ask if this is so different from our long custom of allowing children to be destroyed or sold for spare parts.

Slavery is slavery. The identities and injuries of the enslaved do not matter, only the appetites of their owners. If we don’t like what slavery does, we must bring an end to slavery.

But first, we must ask if we want slavery to end, and the answer might be No. Our culture is rooted in its principles, no less than the culture of the old South once was. We want to decide who has value, who is a person in the full sense of the word, and who we will not protect.

There is nothing about the sexual enslavement of children that requires a new principle. It’s not worse than abortion and infanticide; it’s just harder to look at. It’s just the shock of, for a moment, seeing ourselves in the mirror.

If we don’t like what slavery does, we must bring an end to slavery, and this will require a revolution as profound as America’s first revolution. It will begin with the humble confession that everyone is created with equal value and endowed – not by the State – but by our Creator with the right to life and liberty.

Our founders understood what we have already forgotten. The children of God are not for sale, but the children of Man generally are.

The Death of Irony

The changes sweeping across America are not, as some claim, the birth of a new ideology but only the death of an old irony. Our normal was abnormal, and having euthanized the irony that made us, we finally fall into line with the predictable, immutable, heartbreaking trajectory of nations.

There is nothing new happening in America, only a return to Earth’s sad and ancient normal. Here, as in most places and most times in human history, some people are not worth protecting.

Who those people are depends on the topic. Women, for example, are not protected if they wish to compete against other women or use a shower or restroom without male observers. Peaceful citizens are not protected if this might unfairly burden criminals. Business people are not protected if their property is burned or looted for a good cause. Children are not protected if they are unwanted, or wanted for the wrong reasons, or if their confusion can be made to serve a political end.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with such people and nothing unreasonable in their desires; they just find themselves on the wrong side of arguments that powerful people want to win.

And their misfortune is not surprising. It has always been that way on Earth, where some people matter more than others.

Which makes the American experiment all the more astonishing. Our nation started with a very unearthly idea, bucking the system, claiming that “all men are created equal” with “inalienable rights endowed by their Creator.”

Those who demand a separation between the state and religious expression want us to forget that the formation of America really was a religious expression – a dramatic reversal of human tradition, rooted in the otherworldly premise of God’s concern for every person.

This was the irony that made us: the conviction that power is given to protect the weak and authority is not a prize but a responsibility – an irony most clearly expressed when Jesus, a person of unlimited power, “laid down his life for his friends,” especially those friends whom important people considered “the least of these.”

The changes sweeping across America have a common effect and share a common aim. They narrow our vision and reduce our independence. They dictate our understanding of the world, often in contradiction to our own senses. They restore to its normal beneficiaries the sad and ancient use of power.

If the vision of citizens known and loved by God made us long to soar like the American eagle, the current vision would make us content to hover like drones, awaiting our controllers’ next instruction.

It will take some time to erase the old American vision because, of course, the vision is true. God loves people and made us to be free. God gave us reason. God gave us a sense of justice and morality. Our founders’ unearthly vision for a free society in which every person has great value turns out to be normal after all, though fatally inconvenient to those who love power.