Innovators, Mass Producers, and Marketers, it's in our blood. If it doesn't work one way, we find another way, another route to "Get er' done!" We inherited this drive for excellence and abundance from men like Henry Ford who had the desire to get an "auto-mobile" in the hands of every American across the land. So he churned out the Model T on his patented 'assembly lines' and his dream became reality for millions. Ray Kroc gave us cheap-n- tasty burgers till we were blue in the face; and Steve Jobs, like a modern Prometheus, captured fire and put it into our hands. Innovation, Mass Production, and Marketing, its in our blood.
What happens when you take American ingenuity & industry and apply it to the task of "Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" Innovation, Mass Production and Marketing: we have creatively figured out how to manufacture Christians down to a science. Over the years through collective collaboration the church has continued to tweak & experiment with the Gospel, with the goal staying the same, "Keep turning out new product as quickly and efficiently as possible."
THE REVIVAL YEARS: American ingenuity was first brought to bear on the process of evangelism (spreading the gospel) in the mid 1800's and early 1900's through revival preaching and " The Sawdust Trail" of the American frontier. Men like Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday and later Billy Graham invented new methods of broadcasting the news of Jesus Christ while implementing persuasive "emotional tools" to churn out decision after decision. "Praise the Lord, we had 45 men and women come forward. Praise the Lord, the young people's group had 17 accept the Lord as their Savior. Praise the Lord, 18 elementary kids raised their hand to be saved from Hell. It's been a good Sunday for soul winnin'." The Gospel at that time was packaged in a crisp formulaic message that was easily understood and could quickly move a hearer to make a decision for Christ. The Gospel was like selling a bottle of elixir at the fair, "Come and get it and your life will be changed; be warned, rejection of this heavenly product condemns you. If I were you, I would want to avoid red, hot, burning hell fire...wouldn't you?" The contract was often signed by walking the isle up to the alter, kneeling, praying and signing up to get baptized to seal the deal. Later revival revisions implemented phrases like, "With head bowed and eyes closed," or "raise your hand and we will bring someone to you," or "fill out this card and we will contact you." American innovation done quickly and efficiently, and often taking no longer than an hour message to get you into heaven. Once a person accepted, the new Christian was turned into something resembling the Model T, conformity was required. All men were to have the same haircut, women must wear dresses, sing only acceptable hymns. And to keep your new car running in top condition you needed to be to the shop "Church Building" twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday. This was clear and direct proof you were a "genuine" Christian product.
THE "STRIP MALL YEARS: Innovation never stops...bigger, better, always with the promise, "You can have it your way." And the Gospel was not immune to this wonderful American sales pitch. So around the late 60's & early 70's as car makers turned out cool new Corvettes, Mustangs and El Camino's; churches started morphing and changing to cater to the modern new Christian consumer. We have more styles than a plain ole' revival (fundamentalist) church, what would you like? Cooler music? More programs for your kids? Funnier preachers? Coffee shop and couches? As they say, "The customer is boss." And so just like a strip mall where mom shops at J C Penny, dad at Sears, and kids at the Gap, church had to offer more. One principle in the 1980's that caught on like wild fire was the "Homogeneous Unit Principle": it was the cool new church growth teaching that people like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers. In other words, if you really want to spread the Gospel, do what appeals to a certain demographic. If you want a white church, don't have too much clapping. A black church, grind out the gospel organ with a hootin-n-hollerin sermon. You want to reach the "earthy & organic crowd" play Indie music with lava lamps, and talk about being missional. Over time some people became embarrassed by the truth that the "most segregated time" in America was Sunday morning; so their new church was going to be purposely mulit-cultural (not realizing this too was another store in the mall). Americans know how to innovate and attract the crowds so well, that during this time Mega-Churches (Shrines for American Innovation) became the norm...the happening thing...they were the glory of American Enterprise.
THE MEDIA YEARS: Innovation is on the move again, jumping on the fast track of the digital information age. It is an enhanced form of "Have it your way," but this time all it takes is the 'click of the enter button' on your computer. Pick your preacher, choose your topic, find the cool rapper who hates religion but loves Jesus. You have a group of people but no pastor? No problem: find one you like and show him on a direct feed TV and then go out to Starbucks. The American Gospel once again has changed clothes and is still spreading. This new experiment in ingenuity has just gotten off the ground, I wonder where it will go, it should be exciting...maybe the world will be won with a wildly creative You Tube video put out by an enterprising wonk living in his mom's basement?
The American Soul is a wonder to behold, when we put our heads together we really can "Get er' Done!" But how often do we really stop and ask, "Has our desire for efficiency, snap decisions, mass marketing, and creative innovations hurt the Gospel's effectiveness to transform lives? Has it been 'all too human?" This Sunday we are going to look at how the very first followers spread the word, and promoted the Gospel. I have to tell you, after studying it a while those first believers really were not too impressive, they seemed to lack creativity, innovation, and slick product packaging - - they really didn't seem like Americans at all.
I wonder, that may be good thing?
Some verses of scripture have a way of jumping off the page because they seem to be asking for the reader either to believe the impossible, or live impossibly. One such verse for me is found in Romans 16:19:
"I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil."
In America, 2014, this request is extremely tough, because evil is so appealing, so smart, so pervasive, and "Oh, so genius!" There is a subtle belief in almost any human endeavor these days that evil is the ingredient in giving something more of a "mature & adult" taste. Like adding a little hot sauce or jalapeno pepper to bring out more of the flavor of your chicken wings; evil when applied makes life and the living of it a little more interesting and cooooooool. The campy Christian production is campy precisely because there is not enough evil added for the cultured critic to enjoy; everyone needs a seedy back-story or sensual romantic fling to sink his teeth into, the more nakedness the better. It is evil that gives the cinema, journalism and even the upper realms of the business elite that certain "edge" or "dangerous" quality for something to truly become successful.
I remember in my early years of walking with Jesus, I didn't know it at the time, but I was still highly influenced by evil's genius. It took a theology class on the topic of "depravity of man" to show me just how polluted by it I was. In my class there was a very nice man who had a hard time believing that mankind, by nature, was irreparably damaged outside the regenerative help of Christ. "There had to be some good in man?" he opined. Well after class he and I went out for lunch and I began to spin hideous tales of evil I had personally witnessed and even was a part of in my past life. As I told them I could feel this inward taste of delight, satisfaction and superiority arising in my gut because I knew that I possessed knowledge of a certain kind that he did not. I had secret insight into evil that I thought made me a little more, "cultured, experienced, and dangerous" than my poor naive seminary friend. After our discussion I walked home feeling good about all the wonderful sordid stories I bestowed upon my fine young padawan.
That night as I kneeled and prayed, God clearly revealed to me my rotten heart...he showed me how sick, and not cool, my thoughts were. "Chris, are you taking delight in doing things that KILLED MY SON?" "Chris, don't ever brag about those things that caused the hammer to nail the precious hands of my Son to a cross." I was broken. Evil deceived me. It deceives us all.
"Dude, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!" Ha, ha, cool.
"Hey, I wouldn't recommend anyone go watch half the movies up for Oscars; but I can handle them because I am one of the few that understands real art, literary theme, method acting, high brow culture. I am mature."
"Why do people have such a hang-up with swear words, they are just words? A way to express these pent up existential feelings of angst...it's more about how it is emoted than what the words actually mean. Raw emotion expressed, it is just sounds, you are applying meaning. So lighten up and enjoy my edginess."
Evil is genius at getting us to ridicule the beauty and nobility God wants us to see and live our lives by.
To be innocent of evil is "to not be in possession of it; not to want it, desire it, or be proud of it." The best way you can tell if you are innocent of evil is if you sorrow rather than sneer when evil is watched or talked about. When you cringe instead of cynically smiling at the horrible. When you want to run and rid yourself of it rather than investigate and learn all you can about it.
Evil may be a genius, but it's brilliance is to play you for the fool!
Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?" (Prov. 1:20-22)
Great question: "How long, Oh simple ones?" I think the appropriate answer to that last question is, "For a very, very, very long time." That is why I cast some tasty bait into the cyber sea, two celebrity names that I know are always trending, thrown out like minnows for the simple ones to bite on to. I am testing a theory..."I believe American homes & culture are raising simpletons 25 times the rate as the production of the wise." To prove it, I picked two of the top media darlings just to see how many hits I get on my Blog. (I was going to put Rebecca Black out there too, but I just couldn't stomach it and I don't want to get hate mail). I know it is wrong to go fishing for numskulls, but I am trying to prove a point.
Deep down I want people to read my blog, that is one the reasons I write it. If people don't come to read, I figure than maybe I need to either write better & deeper, display a little bit of more insight, or consider picking up another hobby to better myself, like playing Parcheesi with my youngest daughter. I have only been doing this for two months and I want to get better. So as I mentally wrestled with how to improve, I decided to check which posts in the past two months got the most hits so I can find out what it is that brings people in to read. Well, I found something that saddened me (I should have saw it coming):
There is a direct correlation between number of hits on a post and silliness.
And the more biblical and serious the subject, the more people stay away. Far and away the most read post on my blog, in just two months time, is the one about the song "Jesse's Girl." I don't think people hit on it for the possible intriguing & heartfelt discussion as much as we are drawn to the banality of pop culture. So that is why I threw Brad and Miley out there. I want to see how easy it is to catch some foolish fish.
So, you may be wondering at this point in the blog, "If I am reading this than that means Chris is calling me a fool?" No, I am simply wondering why we are drawn so easily to things that are so silly? Why do we care about things that are eternally so insignificant that we will spend most of our lives using our brain cells thinking, talking and browsing to look for more of this trash? I ask it to myself, "How long Oh simple Chris will you love being simple?"
Even Alec Baldwin, a frivolous celebrity in his own right, is beginning to ask these same questions toward the media where he once took center stage in. In his farewell piece in the recent New York Magazine he has decided to stop being a public celebrity because it is killing his life, "They want clicks, I get it. They’ve gotta have clicks for their advertisers, so they’re going to need as much Kim Kardashian and wardrobe malfunctions as possible." He hits it right on the head. -- we want clicks, traffic, tweets, friends -- and the quickest and easiest way to do that is to dumb down! The "Tonight Show" has figured this out, more silly SNL skits with Fallon and the less talk and discussion, the better. It gets more hits.
Christians, can't we do better? Aren't we supposed to think? (Romans 12:1)
I know, I know, you would love to talk about it, but something is pressing at the moment. You are going to have a date night tonight with your spouse and you need to check theater times: THE LEGO MOVIE IS HERE! YAHOOO!
It is a strange season in life for a father when you know more about cartoons, toys and Disney movies than about almost anything else. I do not miss those days. In fact, I think I have been a little damaged from some of the stuff I have repeatedly watched over and over again with my kids; especially the original "Alice in Wonderland."
Have you ever really watched that movie? I'll bet Mr. Caterpillar wasn't the only one who was puffin on the hookah pipe -- the person who put that movie together must have been smoking something too?
And speaking of that Caterpillar, he continues to haunt me to this day. His incessant questioning of Alice is what creeped me out the most, "Whoooooo are You?"...puff...puff. Alice replied, rather shyly,"I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar sternly."Explain yourself!"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir" said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."
"Who are you?" ENOUGH ALREADY!
You know, the more I think about it, maybe the reason this question haunts me so much is because it is a vital question for all of us to answer: "Who are you? Really?" This same question was directed to one of the greatest men who walked on this earth, John the Baptist. In John 1:19-28, he is confronted by a group of painfully serious men, the Pharisees; and they ask him, "Who are you?" John was making them mad because he had the nerve to confront & baptize people who were already considered part of God's covenant family. It was proclaimed as a baptism of "repentance" - something which pushed the Jewish leaders into a slow boil rage. So in their anger they wanted to know who gave him the right to turn the nation upside down. Who in the world John do you think you are?
He answered them very bluntly: "I know who I am, and who I am not."
FIRST - THE "I AM NOT'S" (We would do well to adopt these opinions for ourselves as well)
1) "I am not the Christ." John was no Messianic Savior, he knew it, and he wanted no part of the hero worship of himself. John knew he could not save, he had no right to rule over others, he was not the answer to every man's needs. And you know what, neither am I, and neither are you! Did you know people often forget that?
2) "I am not The Prophet." John was not the authoritative oracle of God. Moses predicted a man would come who would carry the very words of God by which all men will be called to account. John knew he was not that man, and he knew his words weren't the final word. There are many people running around these days forgetting that "they don't have the final word."
3) "I am not Elijah." This is a tricky one. Old Testament prophecy (Malachi 3:1 & 4:5-6) said a messenger would be sent right before the Lord appeared. Jesus said John was the man in Matthew 17:12-13. But Jesus is coming again, and the real Elijah will precede him. Commentators like to say, "John came in the 'spirit' of Elijah, but he would never presume to be Elijah himself." Humility never presumes upon importance, nor wants it. How about you?
SECOND - THE "I AM'S"
1) "I am a Voice." John knew his role, to proclaim truth and persuade people. He sees himself only as a servant to bring about God's will: wanting, compelling, pleading for people to turn! Sadly, my voice is often quieted by the civilized & sophisticated side of me who has bought into the lie of "Share the gospel and when necessary, use words." Ohh, it's always necessary!
2) "I am a Baptizer." I like how the commentator Frederick Bruner puts it, "I just do human work with human means, so if anything divine or significant happens through my ministry, it will be because the One whom I herald chooses to use my ministry." Often ministers think holy things are happening because the cadence on their voice changes, incense is wafted, or an icon is painted. They are only human works, human means - God is the one who brings life.
3) "I am Unworthy." Ouch! To unstrap the sandal for a human master was considered undignified for a slave to do - it was considered too demeaning, too low. But John is saying, "Unstrapping Jesus' sandal is way too above me. Too significant. I am unworthy." Yes, Jesus is my friend; but not a couch sitting buddy we joke with, not someone we let Will Ferrell slyly mock as Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights. "Oh, Chris, but it is so funny how he prays to little baby Jesus." Wait, did you just hear John? Unworthy to unstrap a sandal on my Savior, my Lord, & my God!
So in conclusion, "Who are you?"
You want a better world? Start thinking, acting and living like the person you are meant to be.
I am not a stalker, really, I am not! All I was doing was catching up on some Facebook traffic and I saw a very interesting post that I just had to read. Remember, Facebook is public domain and the whole world can see what you post - - so be careful.
Well, on this particular day a discussion caught my eye because the post was both very honest and well thought out. Here is the gist of it: A very caring mom was asking her teacher how she could help prepare her children for kindergarten; a great question. The teacher whom she highly respects said, "What kids need is the ability to hear and take no for an answer." The author of the post was rather shocked, "Kid's aren't used to hearing no at home, really?!?!?!?" And then her next comment is what got me really thinking, "How in the world do you live your life not telling your preschoolers "no"?"
From that question a fire-storm of comments was unleashed; there were moms who completely agreed with saying "no" while some others "focused on remaining positive, offer grace, try to avoid 'no' as much as possible, and foster obedience through personal interaction." All great ideas, but let's be honest, "no" is often the greatest expression of love a parent could ever use... Let me explain:
When my daughter Ginger was 2 1/2, she grabbed our cat by the throat, and with a swift movement of the hand, put a zip-tie over the cats head and around it's neck. Then, she started to tighten! Walking into the room, my instant reaction was, "No, no Ginger, let go of that cat." I grabbed the poor trembling animal and instantly cut off the zip-tie so air could once again fill it's lungs. The terrified cat then ran away to go hide under our bed for the next five weeks. Now, was I wrong for saying no? (And to all you sick cat haters... I am not asking you.)
I think "NO" was the only response love would take in that moment, and here is why:
(1) Love must rein in the works of ignorance. Just because your child wants to do something, maybe they are curious or full of pent-up energy; that never gives them the right to destroy what is beautiful. Love protects the beautiful from being damaged by ignorance.
(2) A significant boundary line was being challenged, and if not stopped, it could reinforce a behavior that could warp your child's soul. If I allowed my daughter to kill that cat, would she not grow callous toward precious things later in life? There was a kid in my neighborhood who liked to catch cats, dig a hole, bury them up to their neck, and then...well I won't say it. How did he get to that point? It's obvious, no one ever stopped him when he did lesser things with cats!
(3) I am my child's keeper! Jesus will call me to account concerning the things I taught and allowed in the lives of my children. God has given us a role as a parent that carries with it "authority & seriousness." If we never exercise these tools of the parenting trade, we will be held responsible by God himself! And not only that, as our kids grow up they will see no reason to respect authority & everything will become a joke. (If you want to read a book on this, "Shows about Nothing.")
(4) Wrong is plain wrong, and the word "no" makes it clear immediately!
As I pondered the question of "how do you live your life" not hearing no, I realized it is easy to ask this about pre-schoolers; but what happens to young adults and adults who rarely heard the word "no" from a loving parent? (And loving parent is the key to this question). Simple, reverse the four points:
(1) Ignorance destroys beauty: did you know marriage between a man and a woman was considered good in Genesis? Jesus said it was God's design in Matthew. Now, people have allowed curious wickedness redefine beauty and even shatter it's once wonderful visage!
(2) Boundary lines are broken all the time: Look at the title of this magazine article that went viral last week, "Model Stephanie Stephanie Seymour's Sexy Poses With Sons in 'Harper's Bazaar' Are Uber Creepy." Uber creepy? How about sick? But when boundary lines are crossed, it is nearly impossible to get them back.
(3) We no longer care about what God says.
(4) Wrong becomes right! We now live in a world where people who try to mind their own business, teach their kids how to have a beautiful life are being called wicked. Significant influencers in our culture like Richard Dawkins, liberal judges from the East Coast, and the majority of Hollywood, believe teaching your children standards of purity and faith is akin to "brainwashing." When you don't say no, evil thrives; and with stealth precision moves in to capture your child's heart!
A final question: Does God ever say "no" in the bible? Surely Jesus doesn't, he is the nice guy of the Trinity. Oh yeah, he did say something about, "Go and Sin NO MORE!"
I'll admit it, singing old hymns can be like wrestling with your brother: they sure do bring back lots of familiar memories, but after a while they can wear you out singing them. Occasionally, however, there are those hymns that can still stir the fire in your soul -- easy to belt out & packed with powerful lyrics. One of those hymns for me is the song, "And Can it Be" by Charles Wesley. I love how Charles expresses the poetry of redemption in his lyrics, but there is one line in stanza three that can be rather confusing:
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
Emptied himself? What does that mean? Is love the only divine quality he allowed the world to see concerning his Godhood; because being able to read minds, open blind eyes and heal a woman with an issue of blood was quite spectacular (Aren't those things only God can do)?
Well this Sunday in our John study we are going to be examining John's declaration, "The Word became Flesh." Scholars use a lot of fancy names to explain and describe this, with the chief among them being the "Incarnation." Incarnation means God becoming flesh, the Nicene Creed states it like this, "For us men, and our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and was MADE MAN." Think about that a second...How can the Creator of the universe clothe himself in human skin? And when he took on humanity did that change his basic essence as God, because as scripture teaches, "God is immutable, he does not change"?
Again, scholars have come to the rescue and have given us a word derived from the original Greek language, and called Jesus' condescension to earth the "Kenosis Theory." Kenosis means to empty; Jesus emptied himself of the attributes of divinity, and that is why Charles Wesley wrote his lyric. But this doesn't quite explain the actual reality of what happened at the incarnation and how Jesus lived his human life on earth. To expand the meaning another word to use is "veiled." Look a it like this...
The light represents the co-equal divine essence of the Son of God, and the paper bag represents the human body he was willing to take on, or like a pull-over to veil his divinity. Veiling suggests that he never gave up his full power, he only covered it with true humanity. And by the words "true humanity" it means Jesus became like us in every way, he felt the fragility of the human experience fully, just as we do: all the way from a babbling baby, an awkward teen, to a full-grown man. Jesus, the Son of God, understands!
As you get ready for Sunday's sermon, I have listed some verses for you to study and meditate on:
(1) Philippians 2:5-7 - "What did Jesus give up to become a man?"
(2) Hebrews 2:14-18 - "How much of a man did Jesus become?"
One last thing: The incarnation and Kenosis hasn't stopped; God's desire is to keep putting on human flesh by veiling himself in the lives of modern day people. And he wants to do this miracle through you (Galatians 1:15-16)!
The question is, will you let him?
(An informational side-note: I have decided to make more strategic use of this blog. Each week I will post three different topical discussions:
Mondays: A "current events" discussion. Our world is crazy & people seem to be unconsciously swimming in the flow of it's craziness. I want to help stop the current from drowning the integrity and testimony of true Christians.
Wednesdays: A "wacky Wednesday" discussion. I want to provoke people to think; my mind is weird and I cant stop it, so we will just see what comes out of it on Wednesdays.
Fridays: Sermon prep. day. I want to give you an opportunity to mentally track with the sermon, so I will give a number of theological, historical and philosophical underpinnings to the sermon so you can gain more insight on just how deep the bible goes.
So if you are willing, join me and my meanderings! Godspeed.)
Did you know there is a large contingent of people out there that are desperately trying to be liked by others? I think most normal people want others to like them, at least I do!
I am the youngest child of six, which to social experts means that I am a person who likes to have fun and wants others to have fun with me. I have learned how to get my older siblings to laugh and like me; I guess you can say I grew up being a "people pleaser." I have also been in the ministry for the last 22 years which also requires me to rub shoulders with every type of person imaginable and learned how to move them. So I guess you can say, I have picked up some tricks on how to "Win friends and influence people."
Do you want to be liked? I have got it down to a science, and I think you will find that my teachings are even more effective than Dale Carnegie's; with 2014 cultural relevance to boot. So here are the four main principles of being "liked"; follow them closely and everyone will love you:
C - "calm down." If you want to be liked, don't take life so serious; especially serious things. People do not like having the "bucket of cold water" always upsetting their fun. Debbie Downer is an unwanted party guest. What is the number one character quality a person is looking for in a mate? "Someone who makes me laugh." A serious person won't cut it, so CALM DOWN, have fun, and let the good times roll. As they say, "People may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least they are enjoying the ride." So to do this, just follow Israel's example in Jeremiah 6:14 and say "Peace, peace," even if there is no peace. People will love you for it! When talking have nothing to do with religion, politics, or morality. Just have fun.
O - "Offer your opinion on things that don't matter." To make up for your lack of depth on serious issues, be deep in trivial things. What is your favorite movie? You better know it and be able to express it, because that shows that at least you care about something. (Do you really want to seem smart, be intelligent when it comes to European films, you know the ones that win at the Sundance Festival?). Be serious about music: the more obscure the genre the better and cooler you will seem. Be serious about sports, be serious about the color of paint on your living room wall, be serious about the brand of beer you drink. People will be impressed. Be serious about the new make of car coming out, be serious about your golf clubs, or even be serious about your favorite TV shows, & make sure you have one that is risky and is featured on HBO. People like people who have something to talk about without feeling like they have to change their lives in any way.
O - "Open your mind to all things." Your friend likes to go to comic con dressed as a character from Dr. Who even though they are 48 years old and never talk to their kids....cool. You work next to someone that likes experimenting with mind altering drugs, narcotics, and any other kind of intoxicant...great, more power too them. You have an acquaintance that thinks Gandalf is real and has set up a shrine in his house to worship him - wonderful. Do you want to be liked? Then like everything...that is except for one thing, certain truth. Truth forms convictions, and convictions are what causes arguments and disagreements. So stay away from truth and truth tellers, they will spoil your night.
L - "Look the part." Image is everything, everything! The better you look the more people will like you. Buy the best, be up to date in fashion, hair style and fragrance. Worship your body, chisel it, sculpt it, photo-shop it, it is the only way others will worship you. Scripture is right, "Man looks at the outward appearance....(I think there is more to that verse, but I am not sure what it is, eh, oh well?)"
So if you take all four points, sum them all up, it comes out C-O-O-L! Be cool, be sexy, image, image, image. That is all that matters anymore, are you an attractive piece of meat?
If you are, you win!
Here is the scenario: Your wife is standing in front of the mirror, she is not happy about the way her new jeans fit, she turns and asks you the question that can get you murdered if you answer it wrong, "Do these jeans make my butt look fat?"
Now how are you supposed to answer that? "Yes honey, they sure do!" Or, "Goodrich might hire you to wear those at the next big sports event so you can advertise for them!" All women reading this are probably hating me right now. C'mon, I would have to be half imbecile ever to answer my wife like that. We all know there is only one right answer, "Babe, you always look great to me!"
Question: Is that an honest answer?
I just got done reading an article on Yahoo's home page about one of the top NFL recruits, Michael Sam, who openly admitted that he is gay. The writer of the article praised Sam's courage, and noted how the official NFL position is supporting him as well: "We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
The NFL said exactly what needed to be said so the social critics will be satisfied and stay off their back,"We admire honesty, courage." But do we really? In the same article an unnamed NFL player personnel assistant, gave his honest opinion about Sam's willingness to come out:
"I don't think football is ready for it just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
How do you think Yahoo and the media world liked that assistant's honesty? They called it, horrible and "patently ignorant, and it's pathetic that he'd voice that sort of bigotry while hiding behind anonymity." Wow, I wonder why this assistant was hiding behind anonymity? BECAUSE HE IS NOT ALLOWED TO BE HONEST!
As Billy Joel said, "Honesty is such a lonely word," precisely because some honesty isn't welcomed. You will either be called a hater, a bigot, a pathetic ignoramus or just plain horrible. Can I be honest about homosexuality? It is deviant behavior, it's just not right, by natural design it is not normal; and yet we must accept it and keep our opinions about it to ourselves. So, stop being so _________ honest! Here are two statistics just to consider:
1) 28% of homosexual men had more than 1000 partners: "Bell and Weinberg (two widely respected doctors in the field of human sexuality) reported evidence of widespread sexual compulsion among homosexual men. 83% of the homosexual men surveyed estimated they had had sex with 50 or more partners in their lifetime, 43% estimated they had sex with 500 or more partners; 28% with 1,000 or more partners. Bell and Weinberg p 308."
2) There is an extremely low rate of sexual fidelity among homosexual men as compared to married heterosexuals. Among married females 85% reported sexual fidelity. Among married men, 75.5% reported sexual fidelity. Among homosexual males in their current relationship, 4.5% reported sexual fidelity. (Sources:Laumann, The Social Organization of Sexuality, 216; McWhirter and Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop (1984): 252-253; Wiederman, "Extramarital Sex," 170.)
That is just the tip of the iceberg when honestly assessing male homosexual behavior. But no one is allowed to be honest about it.
One more scenario: Your son comes home from school and asks you, "Dad, is it O.k. for me to like boys like I do girls? My teacher said it is, and even went on to tell all of us in class how it is a very mature and healthy choice!" What would you say to him?
I was in dark state of mind: it was last Monday, my day off, I am a pastor, I do that! It was a depressing Monday, early February, snow was falling again, it was bone cold.
As I meditated on my past sermon, reflected on important personal conversations and nursed a Super Bowl hang-over (not from beer but from Doritos & pop), my wife and I pulled into Arby's to get an early lunch. While unwrapping a hot roast beef, a song came over the speakers: I knew it instantly with its cheesy guitar riff, yep, it was Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." It is the kinda song where the melody and lyrics make me want to pull out my hair:
You know I wish that I had Jessie's girl
I wish that I had Jessie's girl
Where can I find her, a woman like that?
It is the perfect stalker song. An ode to unrequited love, a sappy melancholy man wishing he could have another guys girl,"I wish that I could have...I wish that I could could.." ENOUGH ALREADY! And then my dark mind started thinking, "I wish that I had the money Rick Springfield earned for writing such a worthless song. I wish that I had money for all the worthless songs that have made it big (I was thinking of artists like Jay Z, Katie Perry, Lady Gaga...I wish that I had...) My dark thoughts plunged deeper: I wish I didn't have to struggle so much preaching while worthlessness rules on a global scale, schleps of every size and shape raking in millions. How does someone like Kim Kardashian make millions? Ah-h-h-h....I could scream!
I told you, dark thoughts on a cold Monday.
While finishing my sandwich, licking Arby's sauce drippings from my thumb, I had one more thought, "My only hope is heaven, all chips in." If there was no heaven I would lose my mind. Springfield's net worth is $12 million dollars, bad 80's hair and all, for cryin out loud, where is the justice? "I wish..." But wait, sanity returned, The words of another song filled my mind, Psalm 73:15-20:
When I tried to understand all this,it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
We pull out of the Arby's parking lot and turn on the radio. It's James Blunt, "My life is brilliant, my love is pure, I saw an angel, of this I'm sure..." Oh no, not another melancholy sappy stalker...turn it off! But, "I wish that I..." No Chris, no! A thousand times NO!
You have got it made, as Psalm 73 ends...
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
The last blog entry discussed the topic, "Why God Hides:" he is waiting, wanting us to want him. But have you ever realized that people hide too? With all the wonder & worry debated on why humans are lonely, alienated and are longing for community; people fail to notice, sad to say, most loneliness is self-inflicted. The way communication is modeled in the modern day American home is the primary culprit on why we are lonely, alienated and outside community. Sure, sure, electronic gadgets have a big part to play in our isolation, but I believe people go to their gadgets because gadgets don't hurt; especially compared to conversation with other human beings! What causes this hurt?
Sarcasm, the language that cuts like a knife.
Sarcasm is intended to be light hearted & funny, it is a way to say "I like you and you know everything I say is said in jest? You know I am just foolin', don't cha?" Do you really want to hear the truthful answer to that question, which no one will honestly give you because they don't want to be mocked further? Well hear it is, "No, I am never quite sure when you are joking or are actually telling the truth." So we have learned the half chuckle, "Ha, ha, you are soooooooo funny...(NOT!)."
Sarcasm cuts both the one speaking and the one being spoken to, and boy does it hurt (But you are a sissy if you say so).
How does it hurt the one speaking? It is easier to veil your heart with messages mixed of both humor and seriousness, than it is to be vulnerable and a person who cares enough to tell you the unvarnished truth. With sarcasm veiling becomes habitual. Fathers tell their sons they are "dorks, idiots and butt-heads," from a heart that kinda enjoys their son, but more often than not they are to play-down their irritation and maybe a simmering dislike for their son. What do you think a son hears? "Dad is kinda funny. Yeah, I know, I am an idiot! But... secretly I am not quit sure what he really thinks about me?" So when the son goes to school, how do you think he learned to talk to his friends? This is why teen-age boys talk like cavemen, "Ughh, me stupid, you stupider." It's easier to laugh with your friends watching You Tube than having a real conversation!
Tell me, when a son is really confused about who he is, where he belongs, or why he is getting arm pit hair, do you think he wants to face a barrage of sarcasm from his dad? No, so the son hides. And guess what, I haven't even talked about the heart of a daughter that perpetually craves the attention of a caring father. Sarcasm, however, keeps the daughter always at arms length; and it makes the arms of their boyfriend that much more attractive.
Sarcasm at it's core is a cheap way to win and be better than everyone in the house; it gives you the advantage to still be on top, to judge the motives and worth of the other by adding a little twist of humor to deflect the full blow. Paper cuts are small, they don't seem like much...but they sure do hurt like the dickens! And when one gets infected, it can really cause some damage. Oh how I long for one male friend to listen to me without a chuckle, a snide sideways smile, or a triumphant tone of 'been there, done that.'
In the meantime, hand me my iPad and headphones, I want to watch the radar.