Concentration Camps

Rosie O’Donnell recently made the claim that “there are over 100,000 concentration camps in nearly every state.” Wow! Who knew? I’m sure glad Rosie pointed this out. I just might have to contact my congressperson.

My question is this. Who are they keeping in these camps? Rosie pointed to another statistic that there are 10,000 to 13,000 unaccompanied migrant children. Apparently, these kids aren’t in the camps. That would amount to ten camps for every child.

The Rise of Anti-Semitism

With the current rise of anti-Semitism in this country, maybe the Jewish people are secretly being shuffled off to these clandestine camps. I have my doubts, but Rosie seems pretty certain the camps aren’t empty. Maybe someone could check on that out.

In a totally unrelated event, the leaders of Iran have diagnosed President Trump as being “retarded.” This, I’m sure will come as a shock to the sixty million voters who cast their ballots for him in the 2016 election. On the other hand, there are a lot of other citizens of this country who’ve been saying the same thing as the Iranians. This would cause me to believe that the Iranian leaders are bucking for U.S. citizenship. They may as well. It seems like everyone else in the world is trying to get in here, too.

Then there was the video of Jussie Smollett that was recently released by the Chicago Police (I also love their other TV show—the one on NBC). In the video, Jussie greets them with a noose around his neck. He claimed he never took it off because he wanted them to see what “they” did to him. There’s nothing like a live demonstration I always say.

In light of all of these crazy occurrences and more, I’m inclined to ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?” As is occasionally asked, “What is this world coming to?” (Pardon the dangling participle…) The place is becoming a madhouse.

Only One Good Answer

I can only think of one really good answer for all of this. We have seen these sorts of things in history. In toto, they are manifestations of Biblical proportions. As Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters once proclaimed, “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!” I am referring to the Book of Judges.

In Judges 21:25, it is written, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” In other words, people did what they darn well pleased. I”m guessing they said what they darn well pleased also. This brings me to our own day and age.

We live in a time when people appear to be acting out the Book of Judges. They say crazy things. They do things with no rhyme or reason. Plus, they often double down on their insanity. People only do such things when they think they’re right. The KJV rendition of “as they saw fit” is “that which was right in his own eyes.” Apparently, you don’t have to BE right, you only have to think you’re right.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Go Google Yourself

Someone once told me that I should Google myself every once in a while just to see what people are saying about me. I suppose that’s good advice. You never know what might be floating around in cyberspace about you. The fact that Google has become a verb is a little scary, but I actually do it once in a great while—when I think about it.

I did this recently and was rather surprised as to the places I showed up. My books were being advertised by Target, Cokesbury, and Barnes and Noble (to mention a few). My face, in various forms, is plastered all over the place. I even seem to have a presence on Pinterest of all things. It’s nice to be loved.

I Was a Tad Startled

One shocking revelation, however, was a notice that read, “David Zuchelli has court or arrest records at…” I must say I was a tad startled when I saw that. I hurriedly checked it out to see if there was another Dave Zuchelli hovering around out there somewhere who’s been giving us all a bad name. As it turns out, they were referring to yours truly. Oy vey!

Upon closer inspection (in other words, I took the bait and clicked on the link), it seemed to be an advertisement for someone to delve into their personal, public records (or someone else’s for that matter). It seemed a bit specious to say the least. The advertisement implied that I belong to a political party, am a sex offender, and have been evicted. (None of these things are true by the way, just in case you were wondering.)

One of the more fascinating items on the ad was the fact that they sported a meter to indicate my reputation score. The day I first ran across this baby, I was rated at a 2.60. It didn’t indicate what that meant, but the meter recorded it as “fair.” This was on a scale from bad, to not so bad, to fair, to good.

I’m Improving

I have to admit I was a bit concerned that my rep was rated as merely fair. Just to be sure, I checked again today and I was up to a 2.76. That was still in the fair range, but at least I’m improving. (But I’m wondering what I did in the past couple of days to up the ante.)

After several clicks, tedious waits for the site to accumulate records, and rising anticipation, I came to a screen that said my report was ready. All I had to do was give them some of my personal info and the report was mine, embarrassing as it might be (they actually used the words, “possibly embarrassing”). They already seemed to know too much about me, so I didn’t give them what they wanted. If they’re so good at finding stuff out, they can unearth that info as well. I’m not going to help them. If I don’t say anything, maybe they’ll think I’m dead (Revelation 3:1).

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Threenager

A little girl stayed at our house last night. She’s pretty smart, but she happens to be our granddaughter, so I’m a bit biased. Still, I have to say, I’m always amazed by some of her pronouncements. She’s a laugh a minute—as long as she’s in a good mood.

Like everyone else, however, she has her moments. It’s in those moments I understand the label her mother (our daughter) laid on her recently. She called her a threenager. When three-year-olds act out like teenagers, it can be rather mortifying. To make sure I knew what I was talking about, I checked my trusty Google machine.

On an Hourly Basis

Sure enough, there it was. The Free Dictionary defines threenager as “a three-year-old child who displays the moody rebelliousness stereotypical of teenagers.” The person writing the definition added, “Now that my daughter is a threenager, I have to deal with temper tantrums and meltdowns on an almost hourly basis.” Our granddaughter doesn’t implode on an hourly basis (at least not in our presence), but I can see how that would devolve into the term, threenager.

It’s rather amazing how a three-year-old can take over an entire household. I’ve often noticed how, when our daughter and son-in-law show up at our door, we seldom we even say, “Hi,” to them. Our attention immediately goes to the threenager. She’s too cute to pass up and too magnetic to allow us to move on to someone else. I hope the adults don’t feel too neglected.

When I was checking out the web, I noticed that there are t-shirts for these little divas. Each one proudly announces that the little tyke is a “Threenager.” It doesn’t stop there, however. There are articles about handling threenagers, how to cope with them, and why they act the way they do. The Huffington post sported an article on the “10 Signs You Are Living With a Threenager.” It’s quite a humorous article if you’re not living in that situation.

Constant Fear

The first sign was very telling. It said, “You live in constant fear of how to cut the shape of their sandwich or toast. Do they want triangles today, rectangles, squares? And when they do tell you, they change their mind right after you cut it.” ‘Nuff said…

After reading the article, it occurred to me that parents of a threenager are vacillating between periods of bliss and moments of living hell. This must be great training for something, although I’m not sure for what. It does seem to be a good reason for the oft-quoted line about being a grandparent. “Grandchildren are your reward for not killing your own kids.” It’s much easier being a grandparent of course because, as we all know, you can give them back at the end of the day.

Jesus once said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I’m guessing there were some parents present muttering, “Let him have them!”

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

It’s All About Me

I had some free time, so I headed to Costco. I would have gone to a closer, smaller store, but the things I needed were best found at a place like the local big box store. As it turned out, I was able to get what I wanted, but not without a little aggravation.

As I successfully pulled away with my purchased booty, I decided that the name of the establishment should, “It’s All About Me” or maybe, “The All About Me Store.” If you’ve never visited one of these places, you probably know exactly what I mean.

Parking Rage

It all starts when you pull in and attempt to wrangle a parking space. There are never any available spaces close to the entrance, so naturally, everyone fights to get as close as possible. This results in a certain amount of road rage (or in this case, parking lot rage). In northern Virginia, everyone circles the lot like vultures zeroing in on some carrion. If two people heading toward each other in opposite directions spot someone loading their car, everything stops. They come to a halt, put on their turn signals, and try to out wait the other.

I was engaged in this sport several years ago thought I had won. The other guy was so angry he was obviously about to have a stroke. I told him off and let him have the space. Looking back on it, I’m embarrassed about the whole situation. But, in my heart, I know I was right.

I’ve changed my tactics now. Instead of looking for the closest space to the entrance, I try to get one next to a shopping cart stall. At least that way I won’t have far to push the empty cart once I’ve downloaded my goodies. An extra bonus to that is the fact that I can get out of everyone’s way a tad quicker. Plus, I can look in my rear view mirror and watch the action as two cars head for my space. It can be quite entertaining, although escaping is sometimes a harrowing experience in itself.

Rudigant

Of course, the parking lot escapade is merely a warm-up for what occurs within the large four walls. This is where “It’s All About Me” really takes effect. Everyone seems to think they own the aisle into which they have just turned. If they’ve been there for more than a minute, look out! All bets are off. This is where rude meets arrogant. Rudigant is what I like to call it. Whatever you do, don’t head there on a Saturday afternoon. I fear for you if you do.

As I think about my experiences there, it seems to me that many of those Costco-ites are probably Christians. We usually don’t act like it when we’re there, however, because successful Costco shoppers are certainly not humble. Jesus said (several times) that the last will be first and the first last. I’m not sure, but he might have been thinking ahead to Costco shoppers.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Theological Elitism

“The (insert denomination) Church, the one highly educated and wealthy outlier, continues to reject homosexuality largely due to the influence of its poorer, less-educated, and non-white members abroad.”

The previous statement was recently found on Twitter. Don’t bother looking for it. It has since been deleted. I suspect the reason for the deletion was the realization of how the Tweet came across (if not actually intended). Unfortunately, this attitude is one that is often held by many of our theological elitists.

I’ve seen this attitude displayed in many places through scads of people. It seems the more we know (or we think we know) the easier it is to cop such an outlook. Knowledge is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, it’s also true that “a little knowledge can be dangerous.” In this case, it’s dangerous to the health of the church.

It’s Not the Same Thing

A lot of seminaries, for example, pride themselves in their high standards of academia. That can be a good thing. I attended such an institution. There was a lot of learning going on in that place—including my own. But there are times when academic knowledge gets substituted for the knowledge of God. It’s not the same thing.

If it were, only the highly intelligent and deeply educated could attain salvation. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the aim of Christ. Sure, he was all about educating the masses (see Mark 1:35-38). It was his mission above everything else. But educating them to the Good News wasn’t his way of elevating their status. It was an introduction to the means of salvation.

The opening Tweet would have us believe some grossly misled ideals. It more than implies that a person of color who may be poor and less educated cannot understand the will of God. Regardless of how one may feel concerning the issue of homosexuality, it is unconscionable that someone’s Biblical understanding is limited by the circumstances indicated in the Tweet.

Denying Their Own Principles

The Gospel is free. The poorest and most ignorant among us can hear it, understand it, and follow it. Jesus made sure of that. If someone takes a stance that is in opposition to our own, it doesn’t give us the platform to announce that their position is based on their skin color or social status.

People like those who made this statement are denying their own principles. It’s those very people who would stand up for people of color, the poor, and the uneducated as being oppressed (or at the very least, denied opportunities to succeed in life). Yet, they turn these ideologies on their head when they point elitist fingers at their “lowly” brethren.

It causes me to wonder how the illiterate of the world can come to a knowledge of salvation. They can’t even read Scripture. Yet I’m guessing they, somehow, make it through without the rich, educated, white folk coming to their rescue. Having learned how to read, I seem to remember a statement that says, “The last shall be first and the first last.”

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Man in the Attic

I recently ran across a fascinating news story. Apparently, a fourteen-year-old Tennessee girl fell in love with an eighteen-year-old man. That, in and of itself, is not the fascinating part. It gets better.

When the girl’s parents discovered the attraction, they forbade their daughter to see the young guy after the happy couple attempted to run away together. True love was not to be thwarted, however. Unbeknown to the teenage girl’s parents, the young man took up residence in their attic. There was a door to the attic in the young girl’s bedroom closet, and he would sneak down every evening to (ahem) visit her.

Arrested and Hauled Away

I’m not sure how long this arrangement lasted, but in my mind, it was doomed to be relatively short-lived. One evening, the girl’s mother came home to find the young man standing at the top of her stairs. Instead of running out the front door, back door, or through a window, he retreated to the attic and refused to come out. Eventually, he was arrested for trespassing and hauled away by the local gendarmes.

Not surprisingly, it has been reported that the man “has mental health issues.” If he didn’t have them prior to living in an attic, he certainly contracted them during his stay. Depending upon what sort of attic it was, it couldn’t have been all that conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Since the door to the attic was in a closet, I doubt it was a finished room with all the amenities.

It appears (at least for now) that the young couple’s hearts are destined to be broken. Broken-heartedness is a common human condition has been around for a long time. You may remember the story of Romeo and Juliet. That, of course, was a tragedy; but at least it was fiction. People with broken hearts have recourse, but many of them aren’t thinking straight enough to realize it.

Understanding the Broken Hearted

The book of Psalms has been around since the time of King David of Israel–circa 1000 BC (or BCE for you modernists). The psalmist realized that the Lord understands the broken-hearted. Furthermore, that same Lord binds up their wounds. Sounds like a plan…

The problem, of course, is that we have no way to bind up a broken heart. To have a broken heart is an emotional thing. There is no heart surgeon alive who can take care of that syndrome. Psychologists and psychiatrists, try as they may, can’t do it either. It’s a malady that goes beyond human understanding. We can diagnose it, but that’s as far as it goes.

If the psalmist is correct (and I assume he is), the best physician for the condition of the broken heart is the Lord Himself. We can try to help alleviate the situation, but seeking God in prayer seems to give us the most direct access to the cure. I guess it stands to reason. God created the human heart—He’s the best one to take care of it.  

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

I’m Sure of This

“Of this at least I am certain, that no one has ever died who was not destined to die some time.”—Augustine, Chapter 11, City of God.

Occasionally, one has to state the obvious to make a point. Augustine is revered as a saint, a thinker, and a theologian. Yet, even he could not be sure about everything. Still, there are many who come across as all-knowing. I’m sorry—they’re not.

Augustine of Hippo

Years ago while sitting in a church history class, I listened as the professor touched upon the thought and contributions of some of our twentieth-century, Christian theologians. As he did so, he mentioned one of my philosophical heroes during a startling statement—startling to me, at least. He said, “I wish I was as sure of anything as Francis Schaeffer is of everything.” Schaeffer was, indeed, pretty sure of himself; but at least he never sounded arrogant about it. I wish I could say the same for others.

“It’s Just Not Biblical”

I remember once speaking with a colleague of mine about a current theologian. He made a comment I never forgot. He said, “His theology is really tight, but it’s just not Biblical.” I suppose the opposite can be said of others. Their theology is really Biblical, but it’s not very tight. In other words, it’s not very well thought out.

Then, of course, there are those whose views are quite Biblical and extremely well thought through. They have spent years getting to the point at which they’ve arrived. Their journey has taken them to a place where they’re comfortable (both intellectually and spiritually). Yet they find themselves at odds with others who have done the exact same thing and landed at a very different position (both intellectually and theologically). It’s a conundrum we Christians have to deal with on a daily basis if we’re serious about our convictions.

The question always comes down to a simple question. Who’s right? Which of us has mastered Scripture, reason, and Biblical interpretation to the point that we can ascend the throne of correctness? After all, someone has to be right, don’t they? If they’re spot-on, everyone else is spot-off. Well, not so fast.

All Our Gyrations

I’m guessing, despite all our gyrations and well-meaning postulations, none of us is entirely accurate in the final analysis. There’s a verse in Romans (3:4) that states, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” I’m taking it a bit out of context here, but it strongly implies that God is the One with the truth. In our human frailty, we do our best to discover and live that truth. But our best efforts inevitably fall short. We’re left with imperfect understandings and biases as guidelines to serve a perfect God.

Fortunately for us, I’m pretty sure He understands our plight. We’re all sinners trying to be led by a sinless Spirit. Maybe we need to come before Him humbly with a prayer similar to the Publican’s, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Raccoon Effect

It’s not totally unusual for presidents of these United States to start trends and fads. For instance, when I was a kid, John Kennedy inspired fifty-mile hikes. I never jumped onto that bandwagon, but I remember it well. Theodore Roosevelt inspired the Teddy Bear. Washington and Lincoln seem to have pushed us toward honesty.

Recently I’ve noticed a new trend as I’ve been watching the news on television. It’s no secret that President Trump is sometimes derisively called the “orange president.” That term is a thinly veiled reference to his fake tan (not to be confused with fake news). I don’t know how fake his tan happens to be, but he definitely exudes a certain orange-ness from time to time.

Basking in the Sun

Along with the tan is what I call the raccoon effect. We’ve all gotten this upon occasion. It occurs when you wear sunglasses (or something else to block old Sol from your eyes) while working, tanning, or otherwise basking in the sun. I often get it when I’m riding my Harley.

President Trump definitely sports the raccoon effect more often than not. He looks that way so often, I don’t notice it anymore. But recently, I’ve become aware that the raccoon look seems to be catching on. While watching a recent show, I saw it sported by Andrew McCarthy (former Assistant U.S. Attorney). That might not have had much of an impression on me if left to itself. But in an ensuing commercial, Pat Boone showed up to hawk some pain medication. He, too, was displaying the raccoon effect. One other guy—a political figure—looking like the Prez wasn’t out of the ordinary. But two in the same half hour from varying backgrounds? That might be a movement.c

Frankly, I hope this isn’t catching on. It’s just not a good look. Of course, I’m no one to talk about good looks. My lovely Bride often makes me aware of that. Still, there are better things to emulate than the raccoon effect.

An Interesting Trend

There was an interesting trend that was mentioned in the Old Testament. It seems that a bunch of pagans made a habit of cutting themselves until the blood gushed. For some reason, this seemed right to them. They felt that their god would respond better if they made a fuss, shouted, and spilled a little of their own blood.

One might think that this was a passing fad, but it was so prevalent that the Lord had to make a provision against such behavior. He said, “You are the sons of the Lord your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.” (Deuteronomy 14:1) Some trends are harmless, I suppose.

Hula hoops, pet rocks, and fuzzy dice seem to have left no lasting effects. Cutting oneself might be a bit beyond the pale (in fact, it might leave you pale). Like mullets and tie-died bellbottoms, I kind of hope that the raccoon effect will fade away (pun intended). Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Human Ipecac

I was watching a news-commentary show recently when I heard a remark that made me do a doubletake. The commentator referred to someone as “human ipecac.” I’m not sure if you’re aware of ipecac, but many parents have had to use it.

I first ran across it when one of my sons ate a whole bottle of Flintstone Vitamins. Apparently, they’re quite tasty, and he decided to make an entire dessert out of them. When we realized what he had done, we called the Poison Control Center. They said he’d probably be okay, but just to be safe, we were to go out and buy some ipecac.

We Stripped Him Down

As per instruction, we stripped him down, put him in the bathtub, gave him the ipecac, and kept him moving. Wriggling around in a small bathtub is not the easiest thing to do, but little kids can manage it. Sure enough, in a few minutes, our bathtub was filled with chunks of Flintstone Vitamins. It was a little disconcerting to see the colorful remains of Fred, Wilma, and the rest of the gang. Nevertheless, our son was detoxified.

So that was my one and only experience with ipecac. I had never heard of it prior to that incident and never had occasion to use it again. Thank goodness. Still, I never forgot the name of the stuff. Who could forget “ipecac?”

When I heard the commentator refer to someone as human ipecac, it brought back images of Barney and Dino parts floating in our tub. It was clear she was strongly implying that the subject of her derisive statement made her sick. I was turning green just thinking about it.

Do I Make You Sick?

I don’t know if there’s another human being hanging around that literally makes you sick. I have to say I can’t even think of one in my life. There have been a few over the years that came close, but none of them actually pushed me over the proverbial edge. Maybe I’m just lucky.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John the Apostle, there’s a church that made Jesus sick. He said that they were neither hot nor cold, so he was inclined to spew them out of his mouth. That’s not a pretty picture—even for the Bible. Yet, there it is. Jesus wants us to be on fire for him (figuratively speaking, of course). Lukewarm doesn’t cut it.

The particular church that was serving as human ipecac for Jesus was Laodicea. They were patting themselves on the back because they had earned great wealth. Apparently, Jesus wasn’t impressed. He, in fact, referred to them as “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” Since they had a lot, I assume he was speaking in spiritual terms. He went on to tell them they could have spiritual riches if they would turn to him and, presumably, catch fire.

When I think of my relationship with Jesus, there are a lot of things I’d aspire to be. Human ipecac isn’t one of them.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

A Human Reaction

When is an angel not an angel? When he’s a human. Cyclist Miguel Angel Lopez was competing in the Giro d’Italia when a fan collided with him during the race. Lopez was knocked off his bike, and by the time he got back on, he finished two minutes behind the leader.

The spectator, who was running along the road, had bumped into another fan and bounced off into the path of Lopez. If Lopez had simply grabbed his bike and immediately continued the race, he may have fared better. As it was, he took the time to confront the observer (who was now somewhat dazed at the curb and leaning against a guardrail). Lopez slapped the man across the head. Then he took another swing and knocked the man’s hat off.

Some Weren’t so Kind

Lopez later apologized, but others weren’t so kind. Lopez’s team director, Giuseppe Martinelli, said, “I’m only sorry that he didn’t give the spectator some more punishment.” He added that, “He deserved it for what he did.”

I don’t know much about bicycle racing, but I’ve always wondered why they allow onlookers so close to those bikers. It seems to be a recipe for disaster. This, of course, is not the first time such a collision has occurred. I’ve seen footage of similar (and worse) things happen where more than one bike went down.

I’m guessing the fan was in the wrong, but the whole incident brings up a point that has always intrigued me. People get away with things in sports that the normal guy on the street could never do. Try walking up to a guy on the street in front of a watching audience, slap him across the head, and knock off his cap. There just might be some sort of recrimination for that move.

No Punishment

The governing body for the race said there would be no punishment for Lopez because they deemed his rage to be a mere “human reaction.” Well, yeah… There are human reactions of all sorts for myriads of reasons. Lots of them are punishable under the law. Most judges don’t let criminals off because theirs was simply a human reaction.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not calling Lopez a criminal. I’m sure he is a nice guy who simply got caught up in the moment. As he put it, “I was full of pure adrenaline.” I would imagine he was. I’d be a tad torqued off if someone knocked me off my bike as well—even if it wasn’t during a competition. However, I hope I would be somewhat restrained—particularly if I thought it was unintentional.

There’s a famous passage of Scripture which says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19) The problem, of course, is that we don’t often stop to think about that in the heat of the moment or in the rush of our adrenalin. Even worse, we probably don’t trust God to enact the revenge we’d think is appropriate.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]