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Neighbors

September 29, 2006

…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

My husband and I live in a neighborhood, the sort that has a row of houses along both sides of a street, most of which have front lawns, homegrown landscaping, driveways with cars: a modest vignette of an America hanging on, not quite gone bad, not quite apace with the brain-industry neighborhoods. We raise grapes and a few fruits and vegetables. It’s a good place to raise securely cooped chickens and an indoor Cat.

We have neighbors.

A neighborhood romance recently bloomed. I understand this relatively insignificant event better from something Pastor Bill Downing said in a sermon I listened to on sermonaudio.com, and from something R. L. Dabney attributed to the French sensualistic philosopher, Condillac. Not that I had to understand the impulses behind this romance; but its observation was unavoidable, its characters indiscreet, and it might as well trigger some sort of useful thought.

The girl next door with the nose hook and other devices of facial penetration, took up with the fellow across the street with the solidly tattooed neck, and is now the girl across the street. The axiom prevails: People find each other.

What drew these young people together besides raw proximity? I think their hardware and self-illustration advertise a world view better than any singles ad in The Stranger could. I believe they actually share the notion that they have sin that requires expiation, and they agree that God is not whom they want to expiate their sin. Pastor Downing makes this point about skin marking, and it all makes so much sense.

Ye are the children of Jehovah your God: ye shall not cut yourselves… De 14:1

Why not? I can think of three reasons: God said “no;” because the unbelieving Canaanites did it; and because God does the expiation for sin, not man for himself, and cutting inflicts pain, and pain, to a primitive mind, atones for sin.

Christ’s pain led to the atonement for sin in the world, but our personal pain is not redemptive; it is sanctifying at best, and then only if it is God’s Spirit who is doing the sanctifying. Absent the Spirit, pain is pain, and self-inflicted pain is irrational under any philosophical scheme.

So, the rejecter of God is not unaware of his state of sin; he is driven to other means–however futile–of its expiation.

So, these kids are advertising that they are not the children of Jehovah God. (These are not sentimental military tattoos, guys.) And they enjoy power they believe comes from themselves. His truck stereo can vibrate houses down the street. They likely enjoy shocked looks, and stare through people who greet them.

Dabney nails the underlying power struggle between man the sensualist and God: the sensualists believe that their experience is the “only real power of the human soul.” (Robert L. Dabney: The Sensualist Philosophy, Naphtali Press, 2003, p. 28). So, the kids are also, perhaps, thinking on some level that they are doubling their fictive power by coming together. Maybe two of them together can outrun God’s reprisal. (Why do I doubt this is the substance of their conversations?)

I think God gave us sensual powers to experience and enjoy his glory as manifest in his Word and in his creation, including each other. And our experience is subject to his revealed law. Sometimes there is pain, but we are not told to seek out pain. We are to glorify God and enjoy him forever, and we glorify him when we honor him as he reveals himself to be.

The kids across the street possibly understand their destiny if they continue to reject God, and possibly believe they can actually prepare themselves for it. Perhaps their self-inflicted markings are dress rehearsals for hell. If they can endure hours at the tattoo or piercing parlor, maybe hell will be old hat.

But if they don’t know God, they don’t know the depth of their depravity, and they know nothing of the real hell. They are players in a road show that will never make it off our little street. Their rehearsals will be in vain.

Fill their faces with confusion,
That they may seek thy name, O Jehovah.
Let them be put to shame and dismayed for ever;
Yea, let them be confounded and perish;
That they may know that thou alone, whose name is Jehovah,
Art the Most High over all the earth.
Ps 83:16-18

…And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth Mt 24:51.

4 comments:

Victorbravo said…
There are thousands of ways to try to get atonement. This one seems to be gaining ascendancy while the intellectual method seems to be in decline. The odd thing is how desparately the body piercing crowd wants everyone else to think they are normal.Why would a rebel want to be accepted? Because, I think, even in rebellion, the image of God drives people to seek that primal unity.
8:47 AM  
Mrs. B said…
Yes, I have this haunting fear that our neighbor will run for the U.S. Senate or something. But intellect might be limiting even there.
8:59 AM  
ted said…
Do pierced ears count? I ask because I really didn’t think along these lines when I got it done many, many years ago, and it didn’t really cause any pain either…
5:16 AM  
Mrs. B said…
Point fairly taken, Ted. I have pierced ears myself. I had it done because non-pierced earrings hurt and pierced earrings don’t. So I won’t plead to the sin of marking, but I will fess up to the sin of vanity.
8:02 AM  
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One Comment
  1. Miss E. permalink
    February 6, 2007 12:28 pm

    I have just read with interest your article about your pierced and tattood neighbours. In fact, I only came across the site because it appeared whilst I was looking for a suitable place to get another piercing. It seems to me that you have judged your neighbours far too quickly, purely based on their appearances. As someone who has many piercings myself, I don’t consider it a sin in any way, shape or form. Instead, I view it as beautiful, and I can assure you that every one of my piercings is for myself only, and not for any reaction or ‘shocked looks’ from anybody else. It seems to me that, perhaps, if you got to know your neighbours, they might just turn out to be lovely people. I’m sure that I am not acting against God in asking you to try not to judge others by their appearance, and try to love your neighbours as you would yourself. xx

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