Wondering

wondering:

Did John the Baptist wear his clothes of camel hair into the river to baptize people? Did the crowd complain about the lingering smell of a camel-sized wet dog?

wondering about my decision:

Sitting in chiropractor’s waiting room. Waiting rooms are where armies of germs hang. I had determined not to pick up a magazine. Who knows who has been flipping pages with diseased fingers. Two kids, ages 6-8, enter. Overactive is a good word. Climbing on chairs. The girl announces that her younger brother never showers. He responds with nasty words that young siblings enjoy using. I started it all with my, “Hi guys. How’s it going?” The girl came to sit next to me and engage me in conversation. She reminded me that she and I are alike—“We both have to wear glasses.” Then she picks up a magazine and offers it to me. Moral dilemma! I told her my glasses were dirty and I wouldn’t be able to read well. She tutored me on glasses hygiene.

The lady said, “Dean, room 2.” I excused myself and the girl held up her hand—to give me a high five. Hard choice! Dilemma! Dilemma! My priority was to affirm those kids, especially the kid who selected me to be her friend. I looked at her hand and saw (gift of discernment) exactly 11 million germs wanting to get on me. I used a diversionary move. Wondering if I should have sacrificed my health and touched her hand? I still don’t know, but I sure don’t feel good about my decision.

seeing and wondering:

Looking into the deeply gray day, I recall a southern writer saying, “The problem with Yankees is cloud cover. Anyone going that long without seeing the sun undoubtedly needs a front-end alignment.”

wondering and hearing:

The man Jesus healed in John 5:1-15 had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus healed the man, the Greek word therapeia is used. Heal—therapeia—the foundational word for “therapy.” Teacher Rick Remmer says this is the Greek word used 90% of the time to describe Jesus’ healings. He also says that therapy suggests cooperation with the therapist is required. That is why Jesus said things like, “Stretch forth your hand.” “Get up and get going.” The result is healing—cooperating with the healing and healer which is the act of faith.

Remmer says the enlarged meaning of the word “whole” means he got his life back. “Do you want to be whole?—Do you want to get well?” “Do you want your life back?”

I’m wondering how old the man was. Was he 38? Had he been an invalid all his life? Or, did he remember when he could walk and care for himself? Was he an invalid resulting from a work-related injury? If he was an invalid from birth, getting his life back meant he would only be a younger version of his dependence on others. Jesus was offering the life/purpose God originally planned.

I’m wondering if the invalid saw himself as invalid?

I’m wondering where I can find a front-end alignment.

©2020 D. Dean Benton   Wonderer, Writer, Witness

TRUST

The Pew Forum which tracks culture and social trends in the USA sought to find who and what Institutions do Americans trust. Who Do We Trust? July 2019 they published their research. Americans trust…

Author & speaker Stephen Mansfield reported this to ask if there is a crisis or an extremely close election, who or what institution will provide leadership? Who would the American People trust to provide answers and solutions?

At the center of any Democratic Republic is the ballot box. Peaceful transition following a free election sets our Republic apart from the non-free nations and governments.

Congressman Adam Schiff said that unless Congress removes Donald Trump Americans cannot trust the outcome of the 2020 election.

Scientists…83% of Americans trust scientists most.

Military           …. 80% (+/-)

Clergy                  61%

Journalists       .…55%

Business leaders…43%

Supreme Court     38%

Politicians…       36%

Newsman, journalist Bret Brier asks,

“So does this mean voters should never trust the vote anymore? They can only trust lawmakers to decide when a President crosses the line to get kicked out—& What qualifies to kick out that President? And only those lawmakers can do it? Not voters? Ever?”

Who do we trust? Who do you trust? Which of the institutions can we trust to provide wise leadership? Socialism/Communism says the government only. Democratic Republic says,

THE PEOPLE!

In every society there are 7 Spheres of Influence:

  1. Family (household and social sphere)
  2. Religion (including church sphere and spirituality)
  3. Education (k-12 and universities?)
  4. Economy (business+finance/science and technology)
  5. Politics (government sphere—all three branches of government)
  6. Media
  7. Celebration (arts+culture/entertainment/sports)

If you do not see them in that list, you will need to place the military and medicine.

If The People do not trust any of our institutions—the institutions that speak for us through representation—to whom do we turn for public leadership we trust?

If I were conspiratorial I would wonder if there is a planned attack going on. (Re: Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis) First destroy faith in institutions and then sow doubt as to the worth or the trustworthiness of voting–bomb the ballot box.

Friends will say, Trust in God. I do—that is where my primary trust is placed. But God has placed us on the Earth and made us stewards, given us dominion. That means God’s Kingdom People are to be influencers (not controllers) through our individual voices and institutions.

Rebuild The Trust

Reference: Who Do We Trust, Stephen Mansfield, Stephen Mansfield Podcast.

©2020 D. Dean Benton—I am Dean. I take responsibility for this message.

 

RECEIVE & STEWARD YOUR FUTURE–2

My preceding blog, Receive and Steward Your Future, needs clarity. A man in a seminar thought I was talking about profit when I talked about prophet. He thought the seminar was about investing in the market. No, it is prophet—an integral part of Jesus’ Kingdom. Segments of the Church understand and organize leadership around the 5-Fold Ministry which comes from Ephesians 4:12-13:

The purpose of the five-fold ministry is, “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Apostle Paul says God has blessed the church with Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers. Most scholars tend to list the last two in this list as “pastor-teacher.” They recognize that they are separate offices, but connected. Pastors teach, but not all teachers, pastor.

Two kinds of prophets: one foretells what is going to happen. The second forth-tells. Much like a mentor or a very good coach. There is more to say about this, but I’m centering on the forth-tellers who ask questions and make observation such as, “Have you ever thought about being an accountant?” Or, “I see in you a gift for teaching 4th-graders. Does that resonate with you?”

“You can speak in tongues, but I want all of you to prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14.)

A prime example is found in Princess Diana. Minutes after I posted the first blog in this 2-parter, Carole and I watched NBC’s Ann Curry moderate and interview several people close to Princess Dianna.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/princess-diana-remembered-1037081155672/

There is no doubt that the negative “prophets” in Diana’s childhood and then in her marriage are linked to a horrible life. She was called “thick” by her family. She was Abandoned, Abused, Forsaken by her husband and Betrayed. Notice in the videos  heavy bangs over her forehead and eyes behind which she appears to hide. It was not until a speech mentor volunteered to help her learn how to speak in public that she heard a “prophet” speak positive descriptions and words into her in a way she grasped. Notice her hairstyle and lifted chin, thereafter. Few people will deny for any of us that such negative appraisals will damage us long term. I’m talking about intentional speaking our “future” into us–not palaver, but real assets not immediately visible to us.

You do not need credentials to speak into someone’s life. I don’t know if that speech coach is a Jesus follower, or if he is filled with the Spirit. He is a human speaking into another human. (The limits of this needs more thought.)

We are at the big question: What if no one “speaks into you?” What if you have no neighborhood prophet who invests into your future?

Esther Fleece Allen was a fast-rising leader with Focus on the Family. She had been adopted as a child, abandoned by her father. Twenty-years after that total abandonment he reappeared unannounced and began to stalk her. She collapsed under her early life abuse and the negative input as an adult. I don’t remember hearing about any earth-moving encounter for her. She found healing and guidance through Scripture and interaction with God The Father.

Type Catalyst Podcast 540 Esther Fleece Allen into your computer search engine for the interview.

I’m thinking that most Jesus Followers are best served in finding our next season. Prophesying a legitimate encouraging or instructive word is not an attempt to control. I think it is an important Kingdom function.

Author and marketing guru, Donald Miller, asked Carol Aebersold, creator of “Elf on the Shelf,” if she felt this was her calling. She replied, “For this season of my life, it is.”

For This Season, It Is

©2020 D. Dean Benton—writer, wonderer, witness

Receive and Steward Your Future

An International preacher/teacher received a vision which he shared with his partners. A leader, pastor and close friend affirmed the message:

“This is your future

This is your vision

This is your assignment”

The words of that friend dovetails with “God speaking a word into you” or a person speaking a word “over you.” The agent is often someone with authority (to you) who affirms what God has already highlighted in your heart or mind. It may be someone saying or intentionally “speaking” something to you that you’ve hardly given a thought, but something is sparked or ignited in you.

You know that a negative word spoken over or into someone is crippling. A prophet (Office of prophet or an informal statement) can underscore or empower people onto a Kingdom trajectory.

When Apostle Paul says, “I wish that you would all prophesy,” (I Corinthians 14:5), he is not hoping that every person would predict the future, but Jesus followers would speak or affirm a person’s future.

I have spoken words like that to many and absolutely always want to do it more. I only remember saying prophetic words in a public event once. I stopped preaching and spoke over a friend. He has been in trouble with the law and in relationships ever since. I don’t regret speaking. But I could have gotten it wrong. That raises an important element in this discussion: receiving and stewardship. The first step is for the person hearing the statement to consider if the Holy Spirit is saying the same thing to him or her. What are others saying? (Be careful here. It is your vision.)

Pastor Bill Johnston says:

“…being prepared to receive and steward the fulfillment of our promises.”  

From a digital employment application: “You must sign this document to officially accept our offer.”

The two words “receive and steward” lit up centers of my brain and soul in a manner that had not been before. “I accept that, I receive that!” Stewarding is personal preparation to cooperate with God’s plan. It is your future, your vision, your assignment. If so, what must you do to prepare? Luck most often comes to those who are prepared.

One of his peers spoke to him about an issue Johnson had been seeking God to clarify. Johnson tells us how he responded:

“I took that word, wrote it down, and began to declare it over my life regularly.”

Page 144 Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, Destiny Image Press 2007)

Johnson was faithful in pursuing that prophetic word for ten years. It is fully operational today.

Receiving and stewarding:

“So how do we steward what’s been given to us? We use the tools we’ve been given to contend for the promises and desires that God has birthed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Johnson)

Perhaps, the man over whom I spoke, didn’t receive the message, did not pursue the message or did not contend with negative human voices or with the devil who stole, killed, destroyed (John 10:10).

Lots of in-house language in this post. I will clarify and talk more to your questions.

Consider, Discern, Receive, Steward, Contend, Declare.

©2020 D. Dean Benton—writer, wonderer, witness

2020–Ready?

New Year’s Eve 2019

Listening to a John Eldredge podcast. He says don’t take the Christmas décor down, listen to Christmas music until Epiphany January 6. His message is don’t rush from Christmas to New Year’s. (“Well! We got that done and survived! Next?”) Then the question: What are you going to do for soul-care during the days in between? What am I going to do? It’s New Year’s Eve! I’m behind already!

The anticipation stirs some dread and uneasiness. We better get this year right or Western Civilization is in the dumpster. The November, 2020 day looms like a tornado siren that is stuck on “Take Cover, now!”

Carole does a tasteful job decorating.  I like it.  I woke up this morning expecting the tree to be packed away for another year. (You do know that if I get up in the night to go to the bathroom, she jumps up and makes the bed.) So when I told her that Eldredge suggested décor and carols should remain she smiled—“Well that’s not going to happen!”

The Ransomed Heart leadership uses these days to ask God what message He has for the New Year. What word? What theme? What Scripture or phrase? Having heard God direct, they pray into that revelation or guidance and adjust soul-care into His direction.

What his team has to say feels like a solid message. Preparing for 2020 seems important. Like…

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you (Psalm 32:8).

The link will take you to the podcast I referenced:

https://www.ransomedheart.com/rhplay/podcast/between-times

 

©2019 D. Dean Benton   I wonder as I wander

Potpourri @ Rats, Elves,Guerrilla MBA

Want to know how to get a rat addicted to cocaine? Dr. Jordan Peterson knows. He says rats are family oriented and have assignments to fulfill. One of Peterson’s peers says rats play with their siblings and will laugh. She found the rat would laugh when she tickled him/her on the belly with a pencil armed with a green eraser. The laughter is discernable when the recorded interaction is slowed a bit.

Rats are too busy and occupied to mess with drugs unless they are isolated from their pack, swarm or the official name for a rat group—Mischief.

Dr. Peterson sees news for humans in that rodent’s experience and warning.

Are you acquainted with “Elf on the Shelf”? Chanda Bell is the primary creator of the book and with her husband, mother, sister and brother built a huge business. If you are an entrepreneur, have family members interested in business, a podcast from Donald Miller Storybrand is inspirational and helpful at an MBA level wrapped in laughter:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/179-chanda-bell-believing-in-the-magic-of-your-mission/id1092751338?i=1000459734249

The capsule of Ms. Bell’s mission and how the family went from zero expertise to…

When Chanda Bell’s family sold 5,000 units of the “Elf on the Shelf” book and doll in its first season in 2005, they knew they were onto something. With 11 million elves now in homes around the world, they were right. But that success didn’t happen overnight. Hear on the podcast how this family bootstrapped their beloved family tradition into a cultural phenomenon without the help of publishers and corporations — and what we can learn from their enduring success and unique company culture. If Chanda and her family can do this with a fictional story, imagine what you can do with yours. Listen now!

Rats, elves, family rituals have been part of soul poking related to purpose and calling. I’m working on “Seizin’ the Season” again. Using Psalm 37 as biblical base with Ruth and Naomi as guest personalities.

Thought you would want to know.

©2019  D. Dean Benton      Writer and Wonderer

 

Mole People

Living in abandoned subway, railroad, flood, sewage tunnels, and heating shafts, several stories below large cities are communities of homeless called “Mole People.” Questions come to mind. Do the communities send foragers to the surface for food? Do they work? Bathrooms? Baths? Are these peaceful places where families live? What about light and heat? Do these Mole People get any natural light or suntans and if not, how do they stay alive, let alone healthy?

John Quincy Adams initiated an excavation project to dig to the center of the earth where he believed mole people lived. John Quincy was not a crazoid, so I wonder what tools he proposed to do the digging.

About the time I learned about Mole People, I ran across reports that there is an increasing demand for Catholic exorcists to fulfill the increasing requests for exorcisms.

Jordan Peterson writes in 12 Rules for Life (Chapter 6—“Set your house in order before you criticize the world”), what he has concluded about teen mass shootings. To understand more clearly that these young men have a problem with reality, I listened to the Jordan Peterson Podcast of November 1, 1987 recorded in Cambridge, UK. Peterson uses all the words we use in describing a demonized person. When we name the places: Columbine, Sandy Hook, (and seemingly dozens of other killing zones) we conclude that the killers appointed themselves adjudicators after deciding humans do not deserve to live.

Peterson talks about ideas that are hundreds and thousands of years old, but “are alive” and take on the form of personalities that can and do take dwelling places in people—the indwelt become possessed and then empowered and motivated by those ideas. Those ideas take on flesh which inhabit humans like sub-personalities. You mean like Mole People living six stories below the surface of our souls—mind, will, emotions?

Look at the words Peterson uses: possessed, dwelling places, inhabit, sub-personalities, possession. The very words we use to describe humans influenced or controlled by dark spirits. It helps me to think of personified dark spirits and dark territories and geographical zones. I think dark spirits attack us or become part of lives through:

  1. toxic ideas that capture people,
  2. spirit entities: singular demons on assignment and groups
  3. institutionalized hatred, malice and behavior toward marginalized groups.

Activities, behaviors, feelings, worldviews where the dark spirit world manifests:

  1. Hatred, (violence as a subset of hatred, racism),
  2. Confusion about reality, not knowing who to trust-who is telling the truth,
  3. Nihilism-death mindset
  4. The Jezebellian spirit may be the controlling spirit of our age, at least influential.

My family has been questioning how to pray against what we discern attacks or attempt to take control of people, cultures, nations and institutions in Western Civilization. Jesus said and still says,

“I am the way, the truth and the life…John 14:6.

When hatred is pervasive, we know hatred is not God’s way, so we pray, “Jesus is the way and I speak His way into the hatred to dispel and replace. Jesus is Lord, therefore hatred is commanded to leave. Jesus “way” is not limited to a roadmap to heaven. It is instructive for a way of life that enriches persons and communities.

Who is telling the truth? Who can we trust? This Truth may be about correct doctrine/belief, but it is also about discerning the source of debated reality and where it will lead. “I speak/project Jesus’ Truth into the spirit world and into cultural business. (7 Mountains of influence)

Many historians, futurists and students of “now” say we are living in a death culture. Abortion, suicide, hopelessness, murder and killing what God intended and intends. “I speak Jesus’ life into the places where demons, spirits, principalities and powers are designing death missions.”

Ephesians 6:12 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

What are the weapons we are to use? Picture praying an arrow of Jesus love projected into specific clusters of hatred. Pray an agent carrying Jesus way into a culture fragmented by chaos. Think about a syringe administering Truth into a glob of confusion—no foundation of Truth. That is done through speaking God’s Word and your command: “I pray into this (place) a perception of Jesus’ Truth.”

©2019 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer

I welcome questions and clarifying comments

Helpful resources on this topic:

Peterson and Eldredge are very helpful in explaining.

The Jordan B Peterson podcast—iTunes—“Set Your House in Order” Nov 3, 2019

John Eldredge–Ransomed Heart http://feeds.feedburner.com/ransomedheartaudiopodcast Prayer sessions 3 &4.

 

In The Shadow of the Lady

Across the Hudson River in New York stands Liberty Tower where the Twin Towers stood.

Across the Hudson in New Jersey, is Liberty State Park. Close to The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, two memory walls with names of those who perished in the Towers on 9/11 and an old railroad station and relic rails to points beyond the city.

Having experienced all of that and paying attention to the people probably making assessments of the impact 9/11 made and makes which were similar to mine, I listened to the languages. Voices from 360 degrees were not native to my ears, nor did some clothing match mine. I felt something.

These are not my people.

They were no threat to us, some even acknowledged us. Most were doing what we were doing. If this country is a melting pot, for many generations, this was where the first glimpse of the pot would have been. We have a DVD study of the Italians coming into and getting off the boats at Ellis Island. The immigrants expressing gratitude to be in the new land—the place of the American Dream. Yet in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty I was aware people around me were not my people. I didn’t know what the word “have a great life” sounded like in their language or what the pursuit of happiness looked like to them.

For us to be Americans—brothers and sisters—where will that happen if even in the shadow of common national symbols we are not “people”?

To be a people we must have common language, common experiences, common histories and appreciation for each other’s heritages. The Speaker of the House talked the other day about being a common people—Americans all. But we are not and that is part of the fractured core of our current culture. We have no common culture. Where can that be built, experienced and cherished?

At my wife’s mother’s funeral dinner, we had family from North Dakota sitting at the same table with family and friends from New Jersey. The mixed sounds were fun to hear and decipher. The other evening we ate supper in an Italian restaurant—no franchise!—a village restaurant where the hostess greeted some with hugs and kisses. I watched people and wanted to go to their tables and say, “Tell me your story.” I wanted our professional waiter from Greece to join us and tell me his story. He has been our friends’ waiter for a long time—but I don’t know his story.

We went to a favorite tavern for afternoon lunch and another mix of languages, belongings and greetings of which I knew none. But I was fascinated. But sure not my people—yet.

I went to Jr. and Sr. high school with kids who were not Baptist like I was then, whose parents and grandparents spoke different languages. When they began to talk to each other in native tongue, which I sure didn’t understand, I knew I was not their people. I was an outsider and afraid of stepping across some opaque line that would prove it.

The Founding of this nation has filtered all of this as we have viewed New York City skyline at midnight and then closer. By the time the Constitution was debated and then written, there were many dialects and languages and places of origins. From many came one. How? Common challenges, common goals, common beliefs and common meals that excelled the differences and they became a people.

It was called an experiment. America still is. Being a member of a tribe is different than belonging to silo tribalism. Becoming a people—Americans—requires having something in common and learning to enjoy the cultures learned around common tables. Bagels, baklava, Swedish meatballs, I like them all. Just waiting for an invitation.

©2019 D. Dean Benton—https://dean@deanbenton.org

Emotional Support Resource

Friends traveled to the West Coast on concert tour. Upon arrival, they were notified the lady’s mother had died. Plans were made to fly the singer’s wife and teenage son home and he would finish the tour alone. He says it was his first tour alone. That tore open  memories.

We were a several days out on an extended tour of Fla., Ga., S.C. with two multiple-day meetings, and several one-niters. We got word that Carole’s mother needed open heart surgery. I put Carole on a plane in Nashville and began my own first solo tour. I had done solo concerts when the women were sick but this time I was ALONE.

Most of the accompaniment tracks were in my keys –or with scrunched eyebrows could be—and I was the preacher/teacher. The truth is that Carole brings a dimension to a seminar or concert larger than her voice. A pastor evaluated us: “Dean does a good job, but when Carole is in the meeting—it’s dynamite.”

All I had with me was separation anxiety. The meetings went well. I got into a groove blending an eclectic sound of country to southern gospel to inspiration and big band. We recorded some songs with background singers and some we sang back-up. I certainly had a full sound. Some dynamics surfaced that I had not experienced before. My own emotions and spiritual sensitivity gave an edge to the words in messages and tears will sell a song.

We made plans to meet up in a close city as soon as Carole’s mother got home. Those plans changed because Carole had severe bronchitis before her flight home which would not yield to meds or prayer. As I recall, my wife saw 8 doctors prior to and on the trip from Iowa to Nashville. Stressed! Carole’s mother did well. Our daughter had pregnancy-related complications which sounded terrible. I wondered if I would ever see loved ones again.

On that tour, people told me stories. I was involved in conversations that still astonish me. People spurred my faith. After a concert in Waycross, I was changing into travel clothes in the men’s room. Hanging my dress clothes over the stall walls. A man in the next stall said encouraging things to me about the evening: “… for sure God has you where He wants you….” I laughed and thought “Yeah, in a toilet?”

Two or three weeks into the tour, I was drained and very scared. I went to the Macon Mall to visit a large book store. I read a medical book about Debi’s affliction and the possibilities put me close to the edge. I couldn’t do anything to fix anyone or anything and it was as if I were on a different planet. I have cried in bookstores, but I sure didn’t want to lay on the floor clutching a medical book in the fetal position. I had to do something with the adrenalin; I walked the halls of the mall.

In my journey, I found a pet store. There was a fluffy puppy. The clerk said it would be okay if I held the dog so I did. He cuddled into my neck, sloppy kisses and expressed delight. For a few minutes, that pup was an angel aware. Far more than an emotional support companion. I do not know why I didn’t buy the pup. Window sticker probably.

I pray God will release resources and His best people to minister to my friends in this tough time. And to you. (I have no dog resources, but I know someone who can supply up to six kittens per client.)

Ten days later I picked Carole up in the Columbia, S.C. airport. “Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

©2019 D. Dean Benton—Writer, Wonderer, best with my wife.

More travel stories and emotional support animals are in my books listed on website: dean@deanbenton.org.

Possible cause of generation-wide anxiety

I’m taking Brad Lomenick’s observation seriously. Lomenick is one of America’s most influential among young evangelical pastors. He was asked, based upon what he was hearing from his interaction with pastors across the country, the needs and opportunities for the local church. He answered:

  1. Anxiety, depression, suicide, mental health,
  2. Retail religion
  3. Loneliness

Those are multi-generational needs. As with all ministries we must be tuned in to the next generation. The Millennials and GenZ are called the most anxious, depressed and lonely in history. If we are to connect with them, we will have to understand their bruised emotional health and the loneliness. The above list makes me a bit nervous. Given my own experiences and life-journey and interaction with the two younger generations, I do not want to trivialize pain or simplify solutions. There are several reasons we are anxious or depressed. Anxiety is our go-to when there is something missing in us.

The day after hearing Lomenick I contemplated making a down payment on a mall and I read the next chapter in Self-Renewal by John W. Gardner (1963).  Gardner’s “next chapter” spoke to what I had been mulling over. It seemed like a God-word about generations living in a culture where religious liberty is at stake and two generations have grown up watching faith, institutions, belief systems and religion moved out of the public square and is denigrated from several quarters. What is the collateral damage? Consider…

“Man(kind) is in his very nature a seeker of meaning. He cannot help being so any more than he can help breathing or maintaining a certain body temperature. It is the way his central nervous systems works.

“In most societies and most ages, however primitive they may have been technologically, man’s hunger for meaning was amply served. Though the religions, mythologies, and tribal superstitions with which the hunger for meaning was fed were crude and impoverished, they did purport to describe a larger framework in terms of which events might be interpreted.

“With the arrival of the modern age many misguided souls conceived the notion that man(kind) could do without such nourishment. Under the beneficial of a benevolent modernity, the individual was to have security, money, power, sensual gratification and status…. He would be a solvent and eupeptic Walter Mitty in a rich and meaningless world.

“But even (or especially) those who came close to achieving the dream never got over the nagging hunger for meaning.

“(We) have throughout history shown a compelling need to arrive at conceptions of the universe in terms of which (we can) regard our own lives as meaningful. (He and she) want to know where they fit in the scheme of things…how to understand how the great facts of the objective world relate to him/her and what they imply for his/her behavior. A number of philosophers and scientists have told him/her sternly they must not expect answers to that sort of questions, but he/she pay no heed. He/she want, in the words of Kierkegaard, ‘a truth which is true for me.’ (Man and women, boys and girls) seek conceptions of the universe that give dignity, purpose and sense to their existence.

“When he/she fails in this effort, they exhibit what Tillich describes as the anxiety of meaninglessness—‘anxiety about the loss of an ultimate concern, of a meaning which gives meaning to all meanings.’ As Erickson has pointed out, the young person’s search for identity is in some respects this sort of search for meaning.

John W. Gardner was a teacher, social scientist, a member of the President’s Cabinet as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and other posts. He concludes the fruit of the search is Meaning, Purpose and Commitment. To fail to have the personal and social tools to grasp personal meaning and purpose to have found nothing worthy of commitment alerts the mind “to anxiety, to depress,” to quake in the fear the core of our being is missing an essential moving part.

The Founding Fathers as a group and in individual statements say that a free society depends upon religion, virtue and morality. When they speak of the necessity of religion, even the atheists and secularists were talking about finding meaning, purpose and making steadfast commitments.

Ethan Allen told the story of his friend meeting President Thomas Jefferson on his way to church.

“Which way are you walking, Mr. Jefferson?”

“To church, Sir, “the president replied.”

“You going to church, Mr. J. You do not believe a word in it.”

“Sir,” said Mr. Jefferson, “no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has ever been given to man and I as Chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning, Sir.”

For Jefferson it may have been a utilitarian activity, while for others they were acts of worship, penance and spiritual practices of hearts occupied by God.

Could it be the denuding our culture of religion has produced inevitable anxiety, depression, and a sense of cosmic loneliness? True for all, but most pronounced among the young. Is the nihilism and emotional upheaval of our age the result of having tools of discerning purpose and life meaning carved away?

If we talk about one person’s anxiety or depression we can consider individual personal assault. But talking about an entire generations’ malady calls for different causes and considerations.

And if you have one conspiratorial nerve in your body, you can see the godless enemies have done a good job. That is why the current battles about religious liberty are so heated and why they matter.

Anxious about meaninglessness and lack of adequate tools? Tillich is onto something.

©2019 D. Dean Benton—a wonderer: Want to buy a mall? Start something? Ask questions?

I listen to several podcasts that may benefit you. I have no agenda—these interest me and feed my soul. Go to my website: https://deanbenton.org/ and link to “Ricochet” on the home page.