“As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded... the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell.”
1 Samuel 4:5 & 10
Over the last few years I have come to the strange realization that I have been fighting a personal crusade against an invisible enemy, a very elusive foe. This enemy of mine, I believe, is a danger to all who want their walk with God to be real, authentic, and having a true connection with the Divine. I am writing this blog post for two reasons: (1) to identify who I think may be lurking at the door of your heart in order to lead you away from a true walk with Jesus, (2) to warn you to run to the solid ground of faith built on biblical revelation so you won't be found spiritually bankrupt.
This enemy is lethal primarily because she (I am borrowing from John Bunyan's allegorical method in “Pilgrim’s Progress” where he personifies an idea to make it more understandable) is so alluring and beautiful. She appeals to your sense of sight and sound for the purpose of arousing warm feelings in your gut; this feeling then convinces the heart that you have just experienced a “profoundly meaningful God moment” when it may be nothing more than an irregular heart palpitation or tear caused by a passing breeze. Or as Ebeneezer Scrooge says, “it may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. “
This compelling woman I am naming “Mistress Sentimentality.”
Sentimentality defined means, “excessive tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia. A sentimental moment is one which exhibits an excess of emotion which does not proportionally correspond to the situation at hand.” My personal definition of sentimentality is that moment when an “anti-intellectual fog descends on a person because their heart-strings are so moved by something they have seen, a thought they have contemplated or music they have heard. When under this cloud, a person is easily persuaded to believe that their experience is ‘clearly’ a genuine encounter with God regardless how illogical or embarrassing it is.”
Sentimentality is at it’s most dangerous when the emotions that are felt are exchanged for biblical faith. I hate how sneaky this woman is, and let me tell you why…
MY PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS
(Sentimental Roman Catholic Roots, Saints & Shrine) I met this charming woman when I was a very young boy. She always went to church services with our family, and while attending liturgical services, her fingerprints could be seen everywhere in the mass. She was the one who had us singing syrupy sweet songs to the Blessed Virgin Mary as we lit votive candles under a large and ornate statues dedicated to her. She was the one who transformed the voice of the priest as he performed mass where his whole cadence and prose would morph into an ultra-pious chanting that had the congregation believing he was speaking a new heavenly language.
She was the one who convinced me to wear medallions of saints around my neck believing I would be protected from evil spells and demonic catastrophes. One medal in particular was dedicated to my Patron Saint, Christopher. Mistress Sentimentality had me believing for well over 10 years that I was being protected by the strong arms of Saint Christopher because I wore his medal. I can remember looking in the mirror smiling that my golden necklace would shield me from bad guys hiding in bushes as I walked 7 blocks to elementary school. It wasn’t until I was 23 years of age that I read up on Saint Christopher and learned he was nothing more than a medieval legend, a story book character created by church leadership to help fortify the timid hearts of the Roman Catholic faithful.
Mistress Sentimentality wasn’t finished. The worst curse of all was when Sentimentality had my dear old grandmother completely deceived for most of her later years of life. Under the sparkle of rosary beads, giant life-like statues of saints, and a charismatic female prophetess; my grandmother moved with my grandfather to live next to a Shrine of the Virgin Mary in Necedah, Wisconsin.
This shrine was a complete charade, where residents were asked to tithe most of their worldly income and attend mass three times a day believing that Mary herself would specifically appear to this noble remnant of faithful followers. The only problem, it was all another ruse set up by you know who? I can remember seeing my grandmother wearing a white-lace head covering bowing over a cherished set of beads praying intensely while believing she was going to save the earth from nuclear war and fire and hail stones poured out on American cities. It was all a grand lie propped up and accompanied by the sound of organ music, flickering candles, and manicured lawns surrounding the shrine to Mary.
It surely was a beautiful place, but the teaching and community life was deadly. They controlled every waking moment of your day. When the prophetess was finally found out to be a religious fraud, my grandmother moved back to Ohio, but her hope had been crushed - - her false faith built on Sentimentality was smashed.
(Sentimental Sundays, Supertones & Shack) Watching this religious wreckage wrought from Sentimentality’s lies profoundly affected me. I wanted to know the truth, I was insistent, why did I believe what I was believing? Is something true because I cried a tear, or because the music I was listening to was hauntingly beautiful, or is reality what the Bible says it is? Scriptural corroboration became my new litmus test for everything I chose to give my life to. It is why I left the Roman Catholic Church in the first place. I will never forget a conversation I had in a college bible study. The priest leading the discussion was cool and relevant, knowing exactly what to say to get the students to like him and want to follow him.
A question was asked to him by one of the students, “Father, is hell real? If God is love how can he send anyone to hell?” Well coached by Mistress Sentimentality, the priest replied, “Hell really isn’t that big of a deal...let's not discuss something that isn't clear cut and has caused a lot of people distress just thinking about it. Instead, let’s focus on love.”
Tell me, how can hell not be a big deal?
Remember, Mistress Sentimentality has an amazing gift - she can downplay things that really matter through the power of a tear or warming a heart through a flowery word; which in turn gets you to focus on and believe things that are illusory at best and blatant lies at worst.
My desire for truth eventually led me into the ministry and so I began the living the life of a small-town baptist youth pastor. I thought leaving the Roman church would set me free from the influence of Sentimentality and her wiley ways - - but oh how wrong I was!
I found that she is everywhere!
She is present at the funeral services of people who never once claimed faith in Christ but somehow are believed to make it into heaven because of a mother’s tears, or a priest ‘s confident declaration, “in baptism you were buried in Christ, in death you will be raised in Christ!” She is present at special music presentations on Sunday when someone wants to sing a strange song or share an awkward liturgical dance or even a mime production that no one quite understands. Hey, if it is done in church and a relative in the audience is proud, God must be pleased, right?
Two incidents early in my pastoral tenure revealed Mistress Sentimentality in all her persuasive charm. One was the emergence of Christian Contemporary music: students believed as long as something was labeled Christian it meant it must be Christian and good. At a youth pizza and potato chip party a teen put on a tape of the group called the “Supertones.” At the time, they were a happening new Christian ska band, and the teens in my group loved jumping like crazy to their music. One extremely energetic song was about “Jesus suffering, bleeding on the cross, and bearing the wrath of God” which led many in the group to randomly form a mosh pit in the corner of the youth room. I asked the teens if they could try to find another song other than the death of Jesus as a basis for their mindless entertainment? “They said I was taking the music too serious and I needed lighten up.”
Miss Sentimentality just wants them to have fun, and hey, they were listening to a Christian band after all?
But aren’t there some things that should cause us to pause and reflect instead of party? Isn't there something sacred and set apart when we consider the suffering of our Saviour? Mistress Sentimentality doesn’t think so. “Smile and Rock on, use the cross for whatever thing you want: Music to dance to, cool t-shirts to make a profit on, or jewelry to add a little bling to your bounce. And one thing you must never do with the cross is let it confront you, break you, and change you. Mistress Sentimentality likes you to stay just the way you are.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the book the “Shack!” Oh boy, talk about Sentimentality’s ability of using raw emotion to cover over a storyline riddled with horrible doctrinal errors. But you best not say that to those “whose hearts have been touched by this profound, spell-binding story.” Doctrinal purity is not allowed to be discussed when Mistress Sentimentality’s book club is in session.
And to be on the safe side, I am not even going to mention “Shack” the movie. Mistress Sentimentality owns the rights to it!
(Theological Rot: Salvation, Sanctification and the Spirit) That leads us down to her most favorite playground of all, theology. This is where she is by far the most effective when it comes to fogging a person’s understanding:
Now don't get me wrong, there always is a place for strong emotion. In fact, God does stir our souls and arouse our delight. The difference between godly emotion and sentiment is tricky, that is why I needed to write this post. Sentimentality takes the will captive to do her bidding. Whereas, healthy emotion and feeling are servants to the intellect and will. Jonathan Edwards wrote a whole book on this subject called “Religious Affections” to help distinguish emotions that are produced from a righteous heart.
A final plea: Faith is designed by God to offer his rewards, promises and presence equally to all people. He has given us his word so if we want him, we all can approach him on level ground (2 Peter 1:2-5). God is no respecter of persons. The problem with Sentimentality is she makes people feel special and a cut above others when they feel heightened emotions. I have known whole second generations of families ruined by a parent who insists on Sentimentality being a sure sign of salvation. When a child doesn’t have as strong of feelings or doesn’t cry tears as easily as his parents it is often mistaken for a lack of faith.
My other grandmother was a very emotional lady. Whenever she talked about her religion it was often with such passion you were not allowed to disagree or point out when her convictions were not even biblical. She would gush over things that were not necessarily true. Sentimentality, when given sway, has tremendous potential to shipwreck faith and harden hearts to true emotions and feelings toward God.
So remember, “Oh, oh here she comes...watch out boys she’ll chew you up. Oh, oh here she comes...she’s a man-eater!”
“We are still paying the price for our abandonment of hypocrisy - in everything from family breakdown to drug spawned crime to the short-sighted selfishness and incivility that threaten to erode our institutions, wreck our economy and topple the pillars of our society. What, you ask, does hypocrisy have to do with it? Just this: the let it all hang out morality that crashed in upon us in the 1970’s accepts no standard, no morality, no code of behavior. The idea is that it’s ok to do whatever crosses your mind, as long as you don’t hurt anybody. Hypocrisy recognizes that the erosion of standards hurts everybody. It accepts the sanctity of societal standards, even while violating them.”
William Raspberry, “Open Marriage.”
“Were they ashamed when they committed abominations?
No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.”
Do you know where the word “weird” comes from?
No, not from your grandpa’s dentures sitting in the glass on the kitchen table, nor the neighbor who walks his large boxer dog while dressed in his boxers. It doesn’t even come from the dark, bottomless mind of a man like Rick Dolphin, my friend who enjoys dwelling near the razor’s edge of sanity.
Our society uses “weird” as a throwaway word - - but it once was used to describe a dominant worldview. Ancients used this word to explain how life operated behind the scenes of visible reality. Here is what the author C. Fitzsimons Allison says about the word:
“Before Christianity came to Britain, the pervasive idea that corresponded to personal destiny was the term, ‘Weird.’ This Anglo-Saxon term was near equivalent of the Greek term moira, the word for fate. If people drowned fording a stream, or died of consumption, it was their ‘Weird’ or fate, their assigned lot or fortune.”
“Weird” is meant to communicate that there is no benevolent force directing the affairs of men, we are left only to fend for ourselves in an empty, uncaring cosmos. Mr. Allison says that as Christianity spread across Europe and the English Isles, the Christian concept of Providence slowly overtook “weird” as the way the majority viewed life. People started with the premise that there was a God and He had everything under control: “This is my Father’s world.”
But over time, enlightenment philosophy started catching on and over-taking faith, where science, industry and the hubris of the educated elite replaced Providence. Needing the guidance of an all-powerful God was only for weak, superstitious people. Karl Marx, the great German thinker, viewed any spiritual curiosity as the machinations of a small mind, “religion is an opiate.” Listen to the psychologist Eric Fromm,
“If man gives up his illusion of a fatherly God, if he faces his aloneness and insignificance in the universe, he will be like a child that has left his father’s house. But it is the very aim of human development to overcome infantile fixation. Man must educate himself to face reality. If he knows that he has nothing to rely on except his own powers, he will learn to use them properly.”
So the consensus began to break free from these “infantile fixations” and decided once-and-for-all to ditch their their need for God. So, goodbye to the guiding hand of Providence, and now Progress and belief in the perfection of man is the new framework of the mature mind. Progress teaches that mankind is getting better and better through the help of the sciences, technology and government - - we can make a more perfect world without the need for any outside help.
We simply don’t need God anymore.
Or do we? I am not sure Progress means what we think it means? Listen to some of our progress in the last 30 to 40 years - - these facts were found by the Heritage Foundation as they gathered data conducted between 1960-1990:
C. Simons Alison quoting from a book called, “Getting Use to Decadence” cited this observation: "In 1940 teachers identified top problems with their students as talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running in the hall, cutting in line, dress code infractions and littering. When asked the same question in 1990 teachers identified drug use, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assault as the big issues.”
Hmm, I wonder, are we progressing? Sure, technology, computers, and even medicine has greatly advanced; but the darkness of the human heart has as well. Just yesterday, I was sent an article written by the Gospel Coalition asking this question of the Christian church: “How often, if ever, would you say the following activities would be cheating on a spouse or partner?” Here are some of the results for evangelicals:
• Going to a strip club without your partner (37 percent)
• Being emotionally involved with someone besides your partner (67 percent)
• Romantically kissing someone other than your partner (78 percent)
• Having a one-night stand with someone other than your partner (77 percent)
• Having regular sexual relations with someone other than your partner (82 percent)
Shouldn’t a Christian view each of those activities as cheating 100% of the time? But not in our day and age, because Progress and enlightenment thought (secularism) has so permeated our culture that even those who attend church believe God doesn’t matter (lead, guide, nor care). We have become just like God’s people in the book of Judges where “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Each of us has now become the “Captain of our own Fate.” Weird?
So let's talk about weird? I will mention a few weird things society now accepts as normal: The living Ken doll, is a man who has paid for well over 40 plastic surgeries just to look like the toy Ken doll. Bruce Jenner, an incredible Olympic athlete in his day, recently had his sexual organs removed so he could become a glamorous woman. A woman in England is fighting for the legal rights to marry her son. Students in Ivy League schools are now demanding University Presidents and Professors to be fired because they had their feelings hurt. Our government spends more time arguing about bathrooms and gender rights than they do about terrorism and a possible nuclear threats.
Our world has devolved back into the “Weird.” We have completed the cycle, Progress has devolved back to the beginning - “Weird” is popular again!!! If Progress taught us anything it is this, “Once you abandon God, you will lose your mind.” Weird, huh? Hopefully, people will wake up and realize they need God before we all start marrying our dog?
Speaking of dogs, I have to go for now, my Australian shepherd is waiting for me to take him for a walk in my kangaroo shorts.
Michael Scott to Toby: “Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.”
I am in the people business.
My job requires me to know why individual human beings are the way they are, and why they do the things they do. I am not trying to make money off of them, or sell them a product, but I am trying to lead them on to maturity in Christ. Paul says the pastor’s job is two-fold, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)
So my job is part theologian (a teacher of God), and part anthropologist (a student of people). And from studying many, many people over the past 25 years of ministry, I have learned something that I am sure will be quite a shocker…
People are strange! Jim Morrison was right after all.
It is very difficult to know why people do the things they do or why they are the way they are. Our society as a whole has become very petulant and monolithic when it comes to explaining human behavior.
By monolithic I mean people now tend to clump a certain gender or race into one group using over-simplified and silly characterizations to describe everyone in that group: “Men are insensitive brutes who only see women as sexual objects.” “Women are way too sensitive and use men only for their money.” “The white race hates.” “The black race takes.” “Asians can’t drive.” You see, our categories for each other are often so general they end up describing no one at all. I grew up with four sisters and to say they were all the same because they were all white, suburban women is laughable. I have never met four people so completely different and complex than my four sisters.
We also are very petulant - by nature people like to find reasons why the other groups that they are not a part of should not to be trusted and even castigated. We like to fight for our team and beat up on the other guys (oops, sorry ladies for using a masculine plural noun to describe all people), and we do this by constantly casting them in unfavorable light. Rarely do our descriptions of another group seek to uplift and praise. So we demean and ridicule because that helps our side to be the best. We are living in a very sad time because we no longer know people for who they are individually, but rather we now chose to see others only through political, racial and religious labels.
So then, if we are more than the labels assigned to us by others, who are we really? This is where we must listen and really take our time to be a learner of others. You may have heard a human being is the sum total of Nature and Nurture, which has some merit, but I am going to also postulate that each person also has something else that can't really be accounted for, but makes you who you really are: I call it “The Breath of God.” Theologians call this the “Imago Dei.”
I am white, I am male, I am 50 years old, I have rugged good looks, and I have above average intelligence and athletic ability, I have Germanic and Polish blood, I am of average height and weight, I can draw. However, I cannot surf, snowboard or sing an operatic arpeggio.
This is who I am genetically. I won't apologize for being a man, I can't be held guilty for having skin the color of a peach crayola crayon, I rarely cry at chick-flicks and you can't sue me for wanting to throw a football with my son in the front yard or tackling Jared Doty when I see him in the hallway at work. The urge to hit is in my blood.
I am the youngest of six children, I am a product of Northwest Ohio culture, I was incubated in a peaceful suburban neighborhood, I grew up eating a lot of pizza, I was a Roman Catholic altar boy, I am used to having a dog for a pet, I was raised in front of a television screen, I played sports constantly, and I learned to talk like Rocky Balboa.
These different experiences formed me and shaped me. Much of my dislikes and likes I learned from my surroundings and the different influences that I had no control over. Why do I like the Browns? Because I grew up in an area where they promoted and broadcasted the games every week, the neighborhood kids would play a version of “kill the guy” called “Pruitt!” Someone would have a football and yell “Pruitt!” - named after Cleveland’s favorite running back in the late 70's named Greg Pruitt - and then all the other kids would try to tackle the guy. I loved that game.
I learned how to treat women with respect and honor from my dad. He would not allow me to talk back to my mom, nor hit my sisters. I was taught how to talk politely and respectfully to older ladies and he never downgraded any women in front of me. He also discussed with me how looking at porn was not something mature men do, in fact he hinted that it was the simple minded men, like the ones who worked at the traveling carnivals, who let themselves be filled with that printed gutter trash. Maybe that is why I hate how progressive women accuse all men across the board of being misogynistic and lust driven apes. My dad was not, nor did he allow my brother and I to be.
All of this is Nurture, not Nature.
There is one more variable that we must include, along with Nature and Nurture, that contributes to forming an individual person as we know them. And in my opinion, this singular aspect dwarfs the impact of the other two - - but rarely will you ever hear experts speak about it. They have been conditioned to evaluate the human soul only by scientific or behavioristic models. But scripture says we are so much more than Nature and Nurture.
Imago Dei ("image of God"): A theological term, applied uniquely to humans, which denotes relation between God and humanity. The term has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein "God created man in his own image. . ."
Each of us was made by the creative genius of God. Psalm 139:13-17 hints to the idea that when God formed the person in his or her mother’s womb, he took his time. He was making a unique being, a one of a kind.
A one of a kind male, a one of a kind female. No one else is like you. If you are a man, there is no other male in the whole world quite like you. If you are a woman, there is no other female, even the ones marching at protests and rallies, quite like you.
God has made you unique. I personally believe you are the only one who can display that aspect of God only you carry. You are priceless because God specifically wanted you to be the one to display that which you can alone display. Quite literally, you are a singular masterpiece.
This is why monolithic groupings are so wrong. You are not to be known primarily by your gender or race, you are meant to be known for the person God uniquely designed you to be! If you are a female, you are meant to be known as more than just another female soldier fighting for a vague movement trying to win more territory for women’s rights. Whatever that means? You are a person made in the image of God himself.
When you are living as you have been designed to be, God will then be glorified!
I personally am so sick of our cultural penchant of labeling people with minimal descriptive terms. If you are a black man you are so much more than a black man. Stop settling for and adopting the position of victimhood others in your monolithic group are demanding you to take. You are more than that. Dont let progressive voices keep you under their bondage of multi-cultural labels.
I hate how people insist that sexual preference is one of the primary ways to identify a person. Why do we demand other people see us by who we are attracted to or who we want to sleep with? This is so shallow. Do you really believe God made you so having sex can be one of the most significant and defining activities you can participate in as a human being?
Aren't you made for more than that?
Last week I was reading a book and it asked the reader to think about the very first positive memory they had as a child. And memories from 9 millimeter films or video tapes don't count. What is the first good memory you personally really remember?
Mine was a strange memory...remember people are strange! I was around 5 or 6 years of age and I can remember buying a pack of bubble-gum cards from Wyandots pharmacy in Columbus, Ohio. The cards were not baseball or football cards, but they were Wacky Packages. These cards were made by Topps as collectible trading cards that parodied American consumer products. I was mesmerized by them and for some reason the cartoons and off-beat humor completely connected with me.
Was this interest in the unconventional a product of Nature, or Nurture, or was it just God’s way to make me as a person unique? I am not sure?
My other siblings sort of liked them, but I was hooked by them. Over the years the strange, the off-beat, and the creative visual image has always captivated me. I don't know why, but it just did. I really do think God has made me like that and I believe it has been a big part of how I communicate to others. I even think my unconventional bent is one of the assets God gave me as I explain the gospel; for the gospel is an unconventional message. It is meant to disrupt and challenge the status quo. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
Here is my point: You too are strange in your own strange way. God wants you to use your strangeness, or uniqueness, for his advantage (The Bible calls it glory). Stop seeing yourself as someone who is stuck in a label that the world at large is oppressing, or is against. If you are a woman, men are not against you. If you are black, whites aren’t out to get you. If you are a Christian you are not being overly persecuted.
Stand on your own two feet as Jesus made you -- the world needs to see the you God designed you to be.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
Today is Good Friday. The day Our Lord was crucified.
As a tradition my family use to be silent from noon until 3 to remember the price that was paid for our access into heaven. Noon to 3 were the hours he died.
Because of this I don't have much to write. It is a day to remember. Included in this post is a paper I love to go back to and meditate on. If you have time, read through it.
Jesus died today.
“She stared at me with eyes that were too bright and very dark, still taking it for granted that she was mistress of all she surveyed. I felt that awful pang of pity for the young, who are being taught either the world will lie down and roll over for them or that it may blow up tonight. So slight and frail and young and arrogant, defying the lightning...it seemed to me painful that so many of them had to go out into today’s deadlocks and dilemmas and disasters with nothing but a puny little worldly education, without strength of character or discipline or sword of the spirit in their hands.”
Tell No Man - Adela Rodgers St. Johns
Pepsi may have just produced the silliest commercial ever made, and online cultural critics can't stop talking and laughing about it. Even SNL, the lagging late night comedy show was actually funny for once as they masterfully spoofed the ridiculous commercial. One writer summed up the gist of the commercial like this:
“In the advertisement, titled ‘Live for Now Moments Anthem,’ Kendall Jenner ditched a photo shoot to join a group of attractive protesters in the street. The ad culminates with Jenner handing a Pepsi can to a police officer, who pops the top, takes a swig, and is met with inexplicable roars of approval from the demonstrators.”
Instantly a backlash was issued against Pepsi for using the young, white, and vain Kardashian prima donna to represent the progressive left and “Black Lives Matter” movement. Apparently, in the collective mind of the true protesters, Kendall Jenner really does not understand what it is like to be in the struggle like they are. She hasn’t suffered like they have. They believe she was just using their “just and important” cause to promote herself and make money for the giant evil Pepsi Corporation.
Poor Kendall, she was not ready for the media firestorm. As one source close to her writes, “She has been very upset. She feels terrible. She loves being a model. To get a Pepsi gig was a big deal. She was very excited. She never expected it to receive such backlash. She hopes people understand that she wasn’t involved in the creative process.” She is currently in hiding at her mother’s house.
Fighting for the cause is apparently tougher than she thought. Especially when those you thought you were fighting with and for are the ones fighting against you.
So if Kendall isn’t a qualified spokesperson for SJW causes - - who is? (SJW: “Social justice warrior" is a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics.”)
Madonna? Katy Perry? Ashley Judd? Scarlett Johansson? Beyoncé? Lena Dunham? Amy Schumer? Hillary Clinton? Students at Yale? Or maybe her father/mother Kaitlyn Jenner? Or why not Manny Gutierrez, the 25-year-old “beauty boy” who was chosen to be the first male Maybelline model?
If Kendall can’t be a spokesperson because she is pretentious and privileged, than I am not sure any of the other voices for SJW issues can either? In fact, most of the loudest protestors often are the most ill-Informed and privileged people in our society. Rarely do middle class “Regular Janes and Joes” have the time to walk streets with signs to demand for other people to do what they want. I find that the more you get involved with helping people the more you realize we are all alike - - distinctions like race, gender and economic status are not as significant as you may think.
(Scripture says, "all have sinned and fallen short." Romans 3:23)
We live in a time where so many of our children have been raised to believe they are the smartest and most capable generation who ever lived; when in fact, much of this confidence is nothing more than a fabricated social media “smoke-n-mirrors” ploy. Adela Rogers St. Johns so eloquently described the younger generation in the turbulent 60’s, and I think her description still applies: “So slight and frail and young and arrogant, defying the lightning...it seemed to me painful that so many of them had to go out into today’s deadlocks and dilemmas and disasters with nothing but a puny little worldly education, without strength of character or discipline or sword of the spirit in their hand.”
Defying the lightning is an apt description of how the social justice warriors of our day naively march on to fight windmills with nothing but utopian ideologies that are as sturdy as a paper bag. These ideologies are built on 3 faulty assumptions:
SJW promoters believe that this new utopia will thrive if we can just convince enough people to give up their superstitious beliefs in those things we once thought made for a healthy society: The Fear of God, the Nuclear Family, the Proper Roles for Husbands and Wives, Chastity, Purity, and Self-Denial. Now true human flourishing to the SJW must include absence of fear in the Myth of God, the Anything-Goes Family Structure, Shared and Interchangeable Roles, Sexual Freedom, Experimentation, and of course, unhindered Self-Gratification.
We are now blindly leaping into “a brave new progressive world” hoping to land on solid ground. (A real fool’s hope).
I am reminded of a woman I once knew who prided herself on her feminist strength. In the tolerant American High School she grew up in, she, loudly and frequently, raised her voice in class against the “repressive patriarchal structures” holding the average woman back. Teachers loved her spunk, she was lauded for her courage to speak her mind, but male students in her class avoided her at every opportunity for fear that she would label them as part of the world’s problem. (This didn’t help her when it came to finding a date.)
Her determination to see justice done in this “male dominated world” fueled her passion on into college and beyond. Ultimately she was convinced she needed to go help women in Europe and Middle East be set free from the bonds of domestic imprisonment and centuries of religious repression.
But Europe/Asia is not America. Traditions matter, adults expect younger generations to honor age and wisdom, roles in the home are respected, family is sacred. In one country with a strong Islamic tradition, she learned the hard way that you couldn’t just call men out like she was used to in America. People don't have patience for the arrogance of youth, you have wait your turn for people to even listen to your voice. And European Islam is no friend of progressive women. In other words, American warriors for justice don't realize just how good they have it here in tolerant America.
Needless to say, her utopian dreams collapsed under the weight of reality. She was personally crushed, ignored and dis-respected in the world outside of America's suburban bubble. She came home to America disillusioned. She slowly came to realize that the strong male leadership that she grew up with, the kind that doesn’t need to push its weight around like the feminists are now doing, was not such a bad thing after all!
In our silly celebrity dominated culture, progressive arrogance has blinded many to some very valuable virtues that once were prized and passed on by people of goodwill. There really are some tried and true patterns and traditions of the past that we need to reclaim.
I think Kendall Jenner’s humiliation is a perfect metaphor for the current SJW movement. These never ending protests have become more about image, coolness and making a name for myself than really producing any serious change and improvement in society.
It definitely is not about honor and respect.
Jeremiah said something profound we no longer ask, “Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” But as Jeremiah writes, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Defying the lightning may sound courageous and exhilarating; but if an actual bolt was ever to hit you, it would instantly become clear just how weak and helpless we all are.
My goal for this post is simple: Maybe re-examining traditional values is what we all need to do again? Giving God a voice in public square may do all of us some good? And I hope you will see that the cool new phrase, “History may leave you behind if you don’t change,” is nothing more than a stupid parlor trick used by progressives to get you to abandon values that for centuries have kept the fabric of society strong.
But if you don't care, go have a Pepsi on me!
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
Can there be beauty in deviant art?
Or does every painting need to be a Thomas Kincade masterpiece with other-world images of translucent light surrounded by unrealistic abundance and bucolic tranquility? Does every music piece need to be a Handel's Messiah that reaches heavenward to join in the unending angelic choruses of Hallelujah? Should stone sculptures only be relegated to express anatomical perfection like Michelangelo’s David?
Or is there something to be said for depicting the ugliness of the world as it is?
Yesterday, I got into a discussion about this with some good friends online asking these very questions. Is there any value in being honest about life’s brokenness through artistic mediums? Or should we ignore the evil that lurks in every person’s heart by displaying only beautiful things?
Is it wrong to show evil in all its vivid color?
I think it depends? I do believe there is a time and place for exposing evil, and shining a light on the deeds done in darkness. I think honesty is refreshing even if it is shocking; but I also believe we can cross a line when our art delights and glorifies in the evil that is daily destroying us.
In Luke 22-23, God uses dramatic catastrophe to expose evil. Luke describes and compares the final moments of the greatest man who ever lived to an innocent lamb led to the slaughter. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) Crucifixion is a hideous form of torture, it was meant to humiliate and crush a man. Jesus’ death is dark, depressing and brutal. This expose’ by Luke is almost too honest - - it is horrifying just how sick the human heart is.
Everywhere you look in these two chapters the shroud of death seeps in, there is not one noble human being surrounding Christ. He is left alone, hated, betrayed, lied to, patronized and abandoned. He is even sold out by a friend who is possessed by Satan himself. The dark angel finally finds the opportune time to murder God.
This is not a nice story at all, it is a blood-bath! Everyone and everything is exposed: Judas is hungry for money, the Pharisees crave power, Satan finally exacts revenge, the disciples want a position of prominence, Peter believes himself to be just as capable as Christ himself in fighting evil only to run away in cowardice. Where is the beauty? Nothing is praiseworthy.
Evil is on display for all to see.
God has a plan: In order to defeat evil, it must first be exposed. Redemption only comes after bondage; resurrection after crucifixion. The cross is meant to be the most brutal story ever told, as Isaiah describes it, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces.” He was beaten, stripped naked, spit upon, mocked and crucified -- hung up in bloody agony for all the world to see.
This work of art was God’s masterpiece. (Isaiah 53:10)
In his broken body, Jesus revealed to the world what human hatred looks like. He became sin, his flesh was turned into an artist’s canvas that exposed the blackness of our hearts. Jesus gave mankind free reign to do with him as we pleased, and people delighted in his demise, “Crucify him!” This was ugly, brutal and bloody-- but at least God was honest with us.
Catastrophe was God’s chosen way to paint to his glory. While exposing our darkness, God also showcased mercy. We would never know how much God loved us if Jesus didn’t allow himself to become sin. God needed to paint first with the deepest darkest brushstroke of black he could find so we could see just how bright the whiteness of his redemptive work is.
It is our hideousness that exposes his glory.
I watched a movie yesterday that many people would say a pastor has no business watching, “Mad Max:Fury Road.” This violent and dark movie was actually a very beautiful work of art. Max and his fellow heroine, Imperator Furiosa, battled an utterly repulsive apocalyptic warlord in order to rescue a band of innocent women caught up in the clutches of his evil tyranny.
The backdrop of the movie was painted in stark and shocking colors and the evil minions of the tyrannical warlord were depicted in grotesque monstrous forms. But it was on this hopeless canvas where the courage and strength of the heroes was clearly exposed. Redemption is all the more beautiful the uglier and darker the bondage is.
Maybe that is why we need dark art, because we won't really see just how beautiful God’s grace is until I know how twisted humanity can be?
As I add my final thoughts to this post I notice the sun is now rising on the horizon of cloudless blue sky. It means that much more because last week has been full of cloudy, nasty, depressing weather. Oh how I love the brightness of the sun. Would it be as beautiful to me if I spent spring-break in Florida?
Maybe darkness does have its place?