Category Archives: Culture

What is going on here?

Help me to understand. I simply do not understand how tearing down society and culture helps. Why would any person willingly destroy property simply to make a statement of belief? When does violence, destruction, mayhem, infliction of pain become justified to make a point? What I don’t understand is the motive behind these acts of common indecency.

The motive of those who would seem to actively tear down something has to be skewed in some way to say it is OK to protest violence with much worse violence. If it is to bring awareness to injustice, you have made your point. Yes, there is injustice in our society. Yet to inflict even more injustice is simply without merit.

I am a Christian. I am commanded to love. No limitations, no restrictions, no lines in the sand where you can step over and I will not love you. What I ask is that you look at your own lives for injustice, hate, bigotry, racism, and before you make your case. Jesus said not to judge that you may not be judged in the same manner. Are your awareness actions anything like what you want to accomplish? Do you want to be treated like you are treating those about you? Jesus would ask you to make sure your heart is right first. THEN make your case, in a logical, unemotional, thoughtful way and I will listen. Throw away all the catchphrases and sound bites, all they do is stop the discussion. Don’t call me names and fill your protest with pre-conceived ideas about me. Present to me your solutions to the injustice which carries no inherent injustices themselves, and I will try to everything in my soul to work toward that solution.

In the meantime, stop with the violence, destruction, mayhem, and infliction of pain to make a point and which does not include a solution.

God the only judge of character.

It is going to happen whether we like it or not. The presidential election. It has been touted as the most important in this or last century. It is discouraging to contemplate the two candidates running for the highest leadership position in our country. Both and neither seem to check all the boxes for me. Never-the-less, the election will be held, and someone will be in the white house for four years.

In the middle of the sometimes heated discussions of politics, we are distracted from the headlong ubiquitous degradation of America’s moral foundation and fundamental liberties. My inclination to discover what their vision is for the future and vote for that future. I want to do my civic duty. My vote is not about the personal values of the candidate but the change or lack of change for our country.

Yet there are many within the church who strongly disagree about one or both candidates. I have heard some will not vote, out of protest. Others condemning anyone one not seeing it the way they do. Others explicitly state their mandate is only to vote if it does not compromise their Christian witness whatever that means. And others say, “If you don’t vote you are not Christian.”

My thoughts here are from my study of the Bible. Both candidates profess the Christian faith. Where is my responsibility to include in my criteria for voting the genuineness of their Christianity? Where does it say a criterion of who is the best leader in this time of turmoil, pandemic, and social unrest, be based on my judgment of Christian their character? I can’t find it. Judge as you would be judged.

Our political decisions may well lead to discussions and even to outward persuasions, but I will not judge. That kind of Judgement is God’s and I am not looking for a job. I Cor 4:5 states that Jesus will judge. It is for him alone to bring to light what is now hidden and to commend or rebuke. So my friends, let us “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear] with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Let us not dismiss our own faith by doing anything else.

Why?

In my later years have been accused of being a little over inquisitive. I ask questions which cause seeming discomfort to myself and those who I ask. Asking why is the measure of my quest.  I can look up the how; there is always a video on YouTube to show me that.  I can weigh all the factors like my bank account and my calendar to determine the when.  I can even analyze the best person to do the how.  But when it comes to why, that question is different. 

Why? Why? Why? Any statement of fact can well be answered by the dreaded “WHY”. I was never satisfied with the, “because I said so,” in response to why I needed to clean my room. There is always a question in my mind. I can be annoying if you are the victim of most of them.  I am a curious sort and want to know everything: its origin, meaning, cause, and consequence. It can be profound or mundane. I have asked the great questions of life (or so I think) and also the base queries about ordinary stuff.

My why today is about the motive of those who express themselves in response to those around us.  It has been called peer pressure, or crowd think, or herd mentality. Why do we seem to want the acceptance of everyone around us even it may cut at the edge of public morality and personal ethic?  Why loot a store just because someone else broke the glass in the first place.  Why go along with the crowd and carry signs of solidarity with those who know little about? Why complain about the amount of cows that are in danger of being slaughtered when your own ox in the ditch (to use a biblical expression)? Or like Jesus said why worry about the speck in the eye of someone else when you have a log in your own.

I will keep asking why.  And if you don’t want to answer, Why not?

Malady of social distancing!

I have simply don’t understand the person who, by choice, have used the either a television or the internet to be the primary vehicle for spiritual renewal.  Just in these weeks of social distancing, I find myself loosing my enthusiasm.

I learned a new word today, “acedia”. It means a state of listlessness, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s position or condition in the world. In ancient Greece akidía literally meant an inert state without pain or care. It is taking a nap in the sunshine instead of personal bible study.  It is making the statement of, “once a week is enough to satisfy my soul” or “I go to church on Easter and Christmas” or “I’ll will use the internet as the filler of my soul”.  Thomas Aquinas once said of acedia as a “sadness at an interior or spiritual good.”

So how do we avoid acedia?  We have thousands of distractions in our lives.  Every one would pull us imperceptibly away from what we should be doing. First, simplify your surroundings; activation of your will to turn off some of the things which distract.  Second, covenant to persistence; I know what I have to do and I will do it.  Third, set time limits; I will work on this task, effort or deed for a set time.  Fourth, set task accomplishment steps; you can’t do it all at once, break each down. Lastly, celebrate small victories; take a moment to feel good about getting it done.

He has risen

Tomorrow on Easter, I will not be going to a church building and celebrate with fellow believers. Easter will look very different this year. I feel a little sad and disturbed.  Easter is the biggest day of the year for Christians. 

I love the big event. Churches around the world pull out all the stops for this special day.  They do special music, everyone is dressed up, we usually see the biggest crowds, those who don’t usually attend show up, there may be an egg hunt on the lawn, the preacher will have his sermon refined to a fine point and rehearsed to a place where he could do it without notes.  It is a wonderful day in the controlled chaos that is called Easter. All in the hope of a spiritual breakthrough for someone on the edges of the church. 

I’m sad that it won’t be happening this year. Or at least not in the way that I’m used to.

Yet then I must take a step back and come to the realization, Church is about more than the big event happening at your building. It’s about the big event that happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when it was discovered that there wasn’t a body in Jesus’ tomb.

This is a time of social distancing and face masks.  For some, it is a time which, “the Church has left the building.”

There is a valuable truth to be comprehended here.  When the Church is forced not to meet together there comes to us a lesson.  That lesson is: the church is not a building, WE ARE THE CHURCH. Church isn’t an event you go to. It’s a people you belong to.

So as you gather around your blue tinged screens, watching a message or two, please remember and set your hearts on the founder. A founder who came out of the grave on the third day.

HE HAS RISEN.

HE HAS RISEN, INDEED.

The domesticated Church

In the last 250 years the United States has changed drastically. This change is an antithesis what our country was founded upon.  The very idea of a nation that could and did have the right to believe what they ever they like was one of the best ideas of the Bill of Rights. Our nation has changed. It has changed from the idea of freedom of religion to freedom from religion.

The very idea a nation can survive in a culture where there is a choice between religion and no religion at all was simply crazy thinking in the beginning of our nation.  Our dependence upon the divine was built into every thing our nations was built upon. Belief was the basis for our total identity. It was not what was possessed it what was believed. A mandate to believe in something was required in oursociety. There were few atheists or agnostics.

There was no duality in the early years of our republic.  Religion and life were inextricably tied together. It changed in small little steps. Now we live in an age that would separate Faith and life.  The default mode is to see faith as simply an escape from the madness.  Carl Marx is now seen as correct when he was quoted as saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Christianity or any belief is seen as a crutch. And we have fallen for a dualism.  The life of the everyday has been segmented from the life of faith.  It is much like a plate of food where the mashed potatoes are never allowed to touch the peas. 

This dualism attitude says it really doesn’t matter who is in control: Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communist, Secular Humanists, Green, Libertarians.  The secular can go ahead and run the world.  Let them run the country as long as those who believe can have their little piece of heaven.  As long as Jesus is there in the believers little corner of life, all is well.  Jesus can be well scheduled, secluded, private and quiet.

If one would try to invade the other’s space, whether the world into faith or faith into the world there is anger.  Any attempt to join the two is seen as revolt of personal rights.  Today, there is a separation worlds because there is no possibility of co-mingling of authority.  The world would say the only authority is man.  Faith says the only authority is God.  They don’t mix well. 

Christianity in the west has become like a boxing ring. Christians in one corner and the world in the other.  And if each is in their respective corners all is quiet.  The Faithful, if they stay in their corner they are ignored by the world.  The world is equally ignored in our prayer closets and our pulpits.  Until one or the other makes a step to meet in the middle there is no reaction.

This duality of life is almost satisfying.  There is little motivation to step out to the middle of the ring. To enter the battle place to fight the good fight.

A Christian nation is a good thought.  It gives the average churchman solace of purpose. It is an acknowledgement of rightness of God.  It is good to be a part of something that is well accepted.  There is even a group called the Religious Right that has influence on the culture of the West. They have made an imperceptibly small nudge toward the center and the other corner calls foul.  Foul because the world not only wants its corner but the middle too.

Those in the corner act Christian.  As long as our corner is not invaded by the world, if the world does not take our tax deductions, If the world allows us to occupy a corner or two, then it is good. And this corner keeping attitude brings with it an expectation.  Not a faith expectation to change the world, but an expectation of something in this life.  It is an expectation in which each generation will have it a little better off.  We will live longer.  We will have all the food we need.  We will be able to go wherever we want. To be treated fairly.  In a Godly nation we will have the best healthcare, the best lifestyle, the best leisure opportunities.  This Nation which stamps on their money, “IN GOD WE TRUST”, comes with it an expectation of being better off than the ungodly nations.  In doing so we have lost the bigger viewpoint.  It is all about the battle.

We have developed a form of Christianity to support this concept of prosperity.  It has become a Christianity which is acceptable, comfortable, secure, and prosperous as seen by the other corner.  This corner Christianity that looks at our uniqueness, our personal goals, our own needs, our own wants, our own preferences, our own prosperity.  We have nice churches, nice chairs, nice heating and cooling, good lighting, the best music, and short messages about other people.

There is no call to be an alien, a traveler, or a selfless soul on a journey. It is an attitude of arrival.  Heaven on earth. And we are good with that. 

We get angry if the world doesn’t treat Christianity as something that is not normal.  The church has become comfortable.  And all this normalcy, this duality is destroying our relationship to the real Jesus.  The world has domesticated the church.  I don’t want to be a comfort seeking, entertainment addicted, survey craving, approval desiring Christian.  I can not stay in my corner.  I don’t want to waste my life just fitting in.  I want God.  And I want God to be the authority.  I want God to rule my life. No duality. Just primary. I want God in the whole ring.

Christmas

As we come to the celebration of the birth in a manger of a Messiah King, each of us must look toward our own spiritual needs.  Pie, and drink may well satisfy the physical. It is not the satisfaction the dusty soul seeks.  It is a sweet well of cool water that flows and urges us to drink of the Well of Life. It is not great intellectual knowledge of the great things of man or even God, but the very person and presence of God.  Some would well say restore the Christ in Christmas.  Instead I think there is a greater need to restore Christ in Christians.  This yearning after God has never completely died in any generation.  There have always been some that have looked beyond the Santa Clause hats and grossly decorated trees and insisted on reading the story in the Bible of the reason for beginning and end of Christmas. Please my friends and loved ones, take time this week to read Luke Chapter 2 verses 1-20 for your own and perchance around that aforementioned tree, read it to the those you love and care for the most.

Merry Christmas

Restoration of AWE

Christmas has changed since I was a child.  The four of us kids slept in the same room and Christmas was always a special time.  If you looked carefully through the vent you would see into the living room to view the Christmas tree.  All decked out with both homemade ornaments a whole lot of tinsel.  Mom and Dad would never put our presents under the tree until the night before.  The anticipation for the big day was palpable. The change in this experience of Christmas is a change in expectation.  Kids submit there “have to have” list and expect the parents to come through.  The guess work is all gone. There is no awe.

It could well be that Christmas now starts almost a month earlier during the Thanksgiving celebration.  With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it seems so contrived and commercialized.  It feels like the day after Halloween the Christmas commercials begin. I try to hold Christmas at bay in my mind until after Thanksgiving.

In a world drowning in trinkets and knickknacks, reruns and plastic, people are hungry for the real thing.

The celebration has become an event.  Big difference. One is filled with awe and expectation, and the other is just one more milestone to mark off the calendar.

At the heart of the celebration is not a tree and presents.  It is not Santa and red-nosed reindeer.  What it is and what will instill in my life the rightful place of awe, is to understand it is about a single gift.  A gift given freely by a man almost 2000 years ago.  It is a gift that met a need of my life for redemption. It was a gift that was both revelation and reconciliation.  And He did it for me.

I don’t believe there’s a formula that helps overwhelmed, sometimes jaded, struggling-for-a-new-Noel-angle members to reclaim our lost wonder. I just know that when I don’t have it, I can’t fake it. And in a world drowning in trinkets and knickknacks, reruns and plastic, people are hungry for the real thing. So I’ll keep fighting for wonder, and if you battle with me, we’ll have something great to bring to Christmas.

Questions are better!

Answers are often wrought with criticisms, dubious jumps of logic, and sometimes outright lies.  Answers are always are based upon the assumption of truth. It comes with the assumption and expectation of the holder as being true and therefore for true for everyone. The Issue is we do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. Our truth is not the same as anyone else’s truth.

Whereas questions are always honest, seeking and hopeful. Questions answer doors, renew discussion, build up ideas, create self-examination and most important they are most personal. Questions seek, questions try to understand, questions expose.

Answers are the temporary stopgap to questions. Answers are temporary responses.  Answers are subject to changing of accuracy and shift of decay over time.  The answers need to be reformed, remade and reevaluated as the self, community, church, and the world changes.  

God is found in questions not in answers.

Fertile soil of life

Chesterfield wrote that “without a good moral soil, art and reason will never flourish.” As I look around me, whether in politics, art, music, reason, discourse, conversation and culture, it is all about self. The culture today is one of no central moral soil.  We have no real moral compass that allows art and reason to find a home.  Without an environment of living for more than self, there will be no great art, no great discourse, no great progress, no great furtherance of life.

I just don’t see this infertile soil of morality today nurturing the best things, the progressive things, the living things that makes life worth the living.  Trying to live in a culture where what ever is good enough, is nothing more than a life of just getting on.  It is a life of pure pragmatism.  It is a life without hope. It is a life of what ever works.  There is little trying to make things better.  It is a pragmatism which settles for the moment and never for the possibility of future.  It is a place where majority ideas and thought patterns become the new norm. Further, this new norm changes from day to day.

Our culture just follows along, just staying a step ahead of the slowest.  Never excelling, never having a thought of our own. The mantra says, “What ever works for you must be good enough for me.”

I read some parts of social media.  The idea for a place to share your thoughts and ideas is a great concept.  But it has become a place of redundant re-post after re-post.  No new ideas, no sharing of who we really are.  All shares are of things or ideas of others that agree with you; fully expecting by taking the effort to post something at all is making the assumption that someone might be persuaded to think like you.  There is no critical thinking, no trying to learn of the person behind the pretty head shot picture.  There is no effort to learn more or to understand.  It is all being more impressive and thought provoking by posting someone the common drivel of some one else. There is no discourse for understanding. “If you don’t agree with them, that must be your problem. 

Meaning, purpose, commonality, adventuring spirit, an ever pushing ahead is simply not tolerated. And heaven forbid if I disagree with your post.  “Don’t do that, it offends me.” If you are going to post an idea of someone else you need to be able to defend that position, not to sit in the corner yelling, “I don’t love you anymore mommy.”

All that remains for our unthinking pragmatism is a comfortable existence of being OK.  No excellence, no reason, no meaning, no purpose, no excitement, no zest, no reaching out, no life but the status quo.  In the end, in doing only what works for you in the moment, will result in the discovery that it simply does not work for you.  Your life becomes a habitual malaise. Contrary thought is condemned.  Finding the reason for action becomes just too much work.  Purpose becomes, “just getting along.”  Life is nothing more than “safe spaces” and political correctness. It is a place where everyone gets a trophy.  It is an environment where equal rights become a demand for equal results.  There is no place for excellence.

It is only in finding more than self, more than the status quo, more than just getting along, more than pragmatism, more than being politically correct, more than being the perfect mediocre.  It is only within the eternal does the temporal find its relevance.  There is nothing without that eternal compass, that fertile soil seeded with the eternal which gives life more meaning.  IT is not things, or posts or the number of likes.

It is an eternal environment, not a temporal temporary that brings life.  It is only in the eternal that you ever really live.  Why?  Because it pushes us onward, one step at a time, toward the better way.