Remembering Wisdom

I’m a Christian. So why, one might ask, am I not denouncing something most folks enjoy: like demon rum or Bingo? Or playing the Grinch for Halloween? (October 30, 2017; October 31, 2016; July 10, 2016)

Or enjoying a friendly pint with the boys, but adding my voice to the ensemble ‘prophesying’ the purported perils of fantasy and imagination? (July 16, 2017)

Or at least stalwartly refusing to learn anything we didn’t know before the 18th century.


The answer’s pretty simple. I’m not that sort of Christian. I’m a Catholic. By choice.

I signed up as an adult, a few decades back now. The decision meant changing a few opinions and assumptions, but not many.

I still enjoy science fiction and fantasy stories, and think jack o’lanterns are fun.

Thinking that they ward off evil spirits would be a bad idea. The jack o’lanterns, that is. I’ve yet to meet someone who sees them as anything other than holiday decorations, so I figure it’s a non-issue where I’ve lived.

My alcohol intake is nearly zero, but I don’t think Carrie Nation made sense. Drinking in moderation isn’t a problem. I wasn’t doing the “in moderation” part, and found that cutting out was easier than cutting down.

I’ve never had ‘Bingo fever.’ If that had been a problem, I hope I’d have had the sense to see that the problem was in me.

A reasonable solution would have been to stop spending so much time and money on Bingo, or whatever was out of balance in my life.

Ignoring family, work — and God — in a tireless crusade to stamp out Bingo? That’s a daft idea on several levels. And another topic. Topics.

Besides, I’ve said it before. Sin and Satan are real. But Holy Willie is a terrible role model, and “sin” isn’t what some folks seem to imagine. (December 4, 2016; November 21, 2016; November 13, 2016)

“God’s God” and Other Opinions

“God’s God, I’m not.” Neither is Aristotle. In the image of God is another matter. I’ll get to that later.

“God’s God, I’m not” is hardly an original idea. Many folks have said the same thing.

But it’s not the only possible opinion.

Shirley McClain said “I am God” back in 1987. That was in her “Out on a Limb” miniseries. I’ve got options galore for responding to that.

I could denounce mainstream entertainment. Or do a Dylan Thomas and rage against old ideas refurbished and reissued as New Age beliefs. Both seem like a waste of time and effort.

The way I see it, we’ve got a surplus of folks raging and ranting. Not so much supporting what they believe, as attacking what they don’t. I keep an eye out for nuggets of reason in the slurry, but that’s about it.

About Shirley McCain’s “I am God” thing, I don’t see myself that way. I hadn’t seen the mini-series, or read her earlier book. And don’t plan to. I did, however, see what someone who wasn’t ranting said about it.

My understanding is that she made her daft-sounding remark after realizing that folks should “assume responsibility for their own karmic destiny.”

Instead of going ballistic over “karmic,” I’ll remember that someone was talking about personal responsibility.

I can’t reasonably argue against that, so I won’t. Moving along.

Memento More, Carpe Diem, and Flying Saucers

I don’t see movies, television, opera, or one-act comedies as inherently evil. They can be fun, which I also don’t see as basically bad.

Pleasures, in moderation, are fine. What’s tricky is learning moderation. Tricky for me, anyway.

I see a measure of wisdom in memento mori and carpe diem. (October 8, 2017; November 11, 2016)

New Age isn’t all that new these days. As a major cultural influence, I think it’s going the way of enthusiasms for Velikovsky, ancient astronauts and flying saucers.

I have, however, briefly touched on New Age beliefs, along with swooning Saints and ham sandwiches. (July 2, 2017)


An eager Christian I knew in college told me that science fiction isn’t Christian.

Fair enough. “Pilgrim’s Progress” and “Brave New World” don’t have much in common, apart from having obvious messages. But that’s not what he meant.

He told me that Christians shouldn’t read science fiction.

Nobody should. According to him. I suppose he was trying to save my soul, since he knew about my eclectic interests.

I saw his point.

He quite correctly noted that many if not all science fiction tales depend on thinking that humans can decide what we do, and have considerable control over this world.

That, according to him, wasn’t “Christian.”

This was in the Swinging Sixties, when a great deal of published science fiction took the old ‘lords of creation’ attitude.

The ‘60s cultural thing doesn’t quite match the calendar decade. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 is a plausible start, with 1974’s Watergate scandal as a grand finale. And that’s yet another topic.

The current ‘fear and tremble before Mother Nature’s might’ attitude isn’t much of an improvement. But quite a few folks saw that as more of a hippie tree-hugger thing in those days of yore.

Defenders of American values rebuked excessive love of nature and other newfangled ideas.

They had a point, and hid it well.

I think more folks would have taken them seriously, if they weren’t also preaching the perils of “Bewitched” and men growing beards.

I don’t recall anyone condemning the prevalence of polypropylene furniture. Odd, that.

The eager Christian was a ‘Bible believer.’ So am I, the Catholic variety.

My Bible includes books edited out of most American versions. I see that as a ‘plus’ for being Catholic. I also like having access to millennia of accumulated wisdom.

That doesn’t make me better than others. But I think it helps me see more than my culture’s outlook enhanced by my own opinions. (November 5, 2017; October 29, 2017; August 20, 2017)

One of the counter-cultural values we have, or should, is seeing knowledge and this universe as good things. (March 26, 2017)

Giving God credit for what we see, and our brains, makes sense. So does remembering that God sees this wonder-filled universe differently, and likes it.

“For he gave me sound knowledge of what exists, that I might know the structure of the universe and the force of its elements,”
(Wisdom 7:17)

“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
“But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.
“For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.
“How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?”
(Wisdom 11:2225)

“Dominion” and Awesome Responsibilities

The most stalwart guardians of 19th century ideals were still defending the barricade when I finished high school.

But by the ’60s, most folks were at least starting to realize that the Victorian ‘lords of creation’ attitude left a huge mess.

The problem isn’t just environmental and ecological damage.

A fair number of folks assume that pillaging natural resources is a core Christian value.

I don’t agree, but see where they get the idea. It’s right there in Genesis. Sort of.

We’ve got “dominion” over this world. The problem, as I see it, is that too many Victorian Christians apparently read Genesis 1:26. Period.

“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
“God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.”
(Genesis 1:2628)

What I see in the rest of Sacred Scripture doesn’t encourage smug self-satisfaction.

“God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.”
(Genesis 1:31)

“The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”
(Genesis 2:15)

“Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, let the land, too, keep a sabbath for the LORD.”
(Leviticus 24:2)

“Look, the heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the LORD, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it.”
(Deuteronomy 10:14)

“What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?
“Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”
(Psalms 8:56)

“A psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it.”
(Psalms 24:1)

Taking Genesis 1:26 and Psalms 8:5-6 out of context, I could argue that Western Civilization’s upper crust had the God-given right to plunder this world’s resources.

Or that it doesn’t matter what we do to animals. Folks on any rung of the social ladder can get that wrong.

I can’t. Won’t, more accurately. I could, in principle, abandon facts and reason, along with Catechism of the Catholic Church 373, 1938, 2402 and 2415 through 2418.

I’d also be obliged to ignore the universal destination of goods. That’s the idea that private property is fine: if we remember that we share this world with everyone else. (Catechism, 19371938, 2211, 2213, 22372238, 24012406, 2415, 2456)

That doesn’t strike me as prudent.

I don’t know how many Victorian industrialists actually said that God gave them this world, or believed it. But the attitude was, I think, there. And almost impossible to miss.

Taking the mess left by that lot in light of Matthew 25:1430, I really don’t feel smug about humanity’s awesome power — and frightening responsibilities. Happily, using our brains is an option:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Remembering Wisdom

  1. Anni Harry says:

    I prefer the notion that “God gave us free will.” That includes keeping up with what we choose to indulge in – sometimes, the “off limits” things that other Christians denounce can bring us closer to God.

    Thanks for the provoking thoughts!

    • Indeed. Free will lets us decide that making sense matters: or not.

      I’ve suspected that it’s easier – maybe – to make and memorize a list of stuff to do and stuff to avoid. For some, anyway. Remembering that I should love God, and my neighbor:and see everyone as my neighbor – that’s a whole lot easier. Only three closely-related items to memorize.

      Easier to memorize. Actually doing it is a work in progress. Thanks for taking time with your comment. I appreciate it, and the trains of thought they start.

Thanks for taking time to comment!