Eye hope this helps

Dear readers and internet bots,

I have been writing a post for the past month that I kept on writing, deleting, and re-writing. It was going to be about racism, marxism, Christianity, freedom, all that stuff. Then I realized that there are many people out there with (relatively) huge platforms that are already expressing my opinions on the matter, and with much more eloquence and prudence than I can muster right now.

The news has made me a hot little potato. I feel like I wake up angry and go to bed anxious most nights, and very rarely from personal life matters. It just seems like everything sucks, but no one can agree on why it sucks and how to change it. In fact, ways i can think of to make it suck less would be used as evidence for many other people on how it’s sucking more.

Eeks.

What to write during such a time as this?

I have only one tiny positive thing to say or recommend during times like these.

Look people in the eyes

This is probably what I look like these days.

That’s right. The only bright spots I’ve had recently in the public domain have been when I’ve made eye contact with some stranger and shared a laugh about something. I had an appointment the other day and the attendant woman cracked me up with a raunchy story, and then I bonded with the front desk lady over how long higher-education degrees take and was able to give her a word of encouragement. These little brief flashes of positive human interaction bolstered my spirits and helped me have a little less deep disgust and dislike for the general population. ( keepin it real!)

I’m sure this will come across very naive and over-simplistic to many, but if it impacts one person then that’s good enough for me. If you are currently depressed/anxious/angry/all the bad things right now, I highly recommend limiting yourself to consuming any and all news (including “news” from social media friends) to 1-2x a week, and try to stop seeing all people as disgusting potential carriers of disease and look them straight in the retina. And I don’t know, maybe try to be kind or something.

We are all being squeezed right now. The harder you’re squeezed, the more of what’s deep inside you comes out in your words and action. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of fear, violence, hostility – it’s not new, it was there all along. Just hidden. But let’s try to be optimistic and assume that there’s some admirable, great qualities deep inside people, too. Especially if you carry the spirit of Jesus within you, may the light and hope that’s inside you come out!

Are you guilty of righteousplaining?

There is a trend in the Christian community that drives me bonkers. It can be applied to an infinite number of ways, but it has the same logic structure.

  1.  I am a Christian.
  2.  I have thoughts.
  3.  Therefore, my thoughts are Christian Thoughts.

Note that the implicit extension of point 3 is that if you don’t agree with said thoughts, you’re not Christian. Or, at the least, you’re not thinking Christian thoughts. We’ve seen this time and time again with all sorts of issues. Whether it be the issue of suffering, immigration policies, war, poverty, Kanye West – just wait a day or two, and you will see a flood of articles written by pastors, music artists, and devo debbies who proclaim that they have searched the scriptures and come away unequivocally with what the correct Christian Response should be. This would all be well and good, if there weren’t an equal number of articles from different camps of Christians claiming they have the real insight into how the entire kingdom of God should respond to a particular issue. They all are, in effect, righteousplaining.

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This is where the chaos and confusion lies. People from all sorts of different nations, cultures, political ideologies, family structures, moral upbringings, intellectual strengths, and personalities are drawn to the character of Jesus. They make a decision to follow him, and usually get involved in a local church of like-minded people. They talk about their faith with those people, and how it influences how they see the world. Then, they begin to see these opinions and views as representative of Christianity. Then they feel bold and brave enough to righteousplain the Christian Response. Then Christians from other backgrounds get offended and outraged, because their faith is being represented and applied in a way that is foreign and offensive to them.

It’s a tricky thing, because our faith has very bold, well-defined tenets (e.g. love your neighbor) that demand action. But, different people have very different ideas about what those tenets look like IRL. For example, one camp might say “I love my children, so I would never strike them because that is a violent, aggressive act.” A different camp may say “I love my children, and if I see them tottering towards something dangerous I will smack the crap out of them to keep them from harm.” Both of these groups have heard and received the concept of love, but they have different ways of applying it.

So, in light of this, I advise against public proclamations that your response to the societal problem du jour is The Christian Response. Obviously, you are free to explain how your Christian faith motivated your current position, but I urge you against concluding that opponents are workers of the devil. In some issues, they just might be, but in some issues your opponents may simply be the tricep to your bicep in the body of Christ.

Let’s leave righteousplaining to Jesus! Woo!

 

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

My sister wrote a post that was similar in nature – check it out! WWJD: Who Would Jesus Diss

 

WWJD: Who Would Jesus Diss

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So apparently two full grown adults, who happen to be famous Christians, have some beef with each other. As far as I am aware, neither has spoken to the other personally, but rather they have referenced the other’s comments or platforms via public forums such as social media, interviews, and large conferences. And now the Christian community at large is all aflutter. I honestly would never have known who said what and when if not for individuals feeling the need to leap into the fray and declare their support for one and/or disdain for the other. Who is right? Who is wrong? Who is scripturally sound? Who is more Christ-like? Who sits on a throne of lies? Who smells like beef and cheese? Personally, my question is, “Who cares?” 

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Why are we speculating over which of the two is most likely to host Pancakes with Beelzebub? What exactly do we have riding on this?

What would be laughable if it weren’t so sad is how predictably the lines fall for the debate. On one side:

  • Posts IG pictures of a steaming mug next to a highlighted devotional
  • Cried watching The Blind Side
  • Almost certainly has a Live Laugh Love sign somewhere in their home

On the other side:

  • Likely have no idea what IG stands for
  • Typed up their treatise on why they support Person A on Microsoft Word, pausing periodically to consult their 36 volume, leather bound set of Greek-Hebrew concordances of the New and Old Testaments
  • Would never get a tattoo… but if they did, it would be a toss up on an upper arm portrait either of John Piper or St Augustine

I almost get the feeling that these two factions have been simmering in resentment towards each other and leapt on this opportunity to condemn those filthy sinners on “the other side”. In all likelihood, they could really complement each others’ strengths and weaknesses if they so chose. But where is our love for one another? Why do we feel the need to join into these camps?

None of this is to say that Christians can’t discuss and debate points of theology. It would be disastrous if we never questioned one another or dug into what scripture tells us. In my mind, there is a difference between discussing the merits of an idea, the scriptural accuracy of a specific teaching, etc., and gleefully condemning an individual, name calling, and self-righteous posturing. A prime example for the most current debate: “I can’t believe this scum sucking pig would dare to insult a fellow Christian! That son of a motherless goat!”

The individuals in this public conflict are just two humans. Our faith isn’t dictated by what they say or believe. Neither one of them is without sin, and none of us are, either. Why don’t we focus on the only one who is? Maybe we could spend more time reading what he said instead of someone else’s book or commentary. This petty squabbling makes a mockery of the church. Let’s stop rushing to divide ourselves by allegiance to a mortal teacher. Let’s look at the unifying factor among us and celebrate Him.

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Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship

Let me begin this post with a profound quote-*

Nothing in Christianity makes sense except in the light of relationship.

-C Gallo, 2019

The relational aspect of Christianity is the overarching story that ties all the aspects of the Christian faith together. If you try to understand any piece of Christianity without it, you will have misguided ideas of how Christian theology should be applied to your own life. Your faith will be stunted.

Maybe this was obvious to every other Christian, but for me it was a game-changer. I don’t want to overstate my own knowledge, but I have a good grasp of Christian theology. I understand the big stuff – the trinity, the fall of mankind, redemption, etc. I even enjoy getting into the weeds of more nuanced theology like eschatology** and predestination. But often, the more I pander to my brain the more my heart checks out. My faith shrivels.

How or why does the relationship aspect of Christianity matter to me?

Relationship gives life to my faith

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Christianity as a religion is boring, oppressive, and constraining. It is often harmful and can be used to exploit people. Christianity as a religion will not help you better yourself (for long). It will not give you warm fuzzies (for long). Christianity in terms of relationship, though…! The wildest but perhaps most important claim of Christianity that we claim to actually know – have a relationship with a spiritual being. THE spiritual being. It isn’t a neat and tidy abstract idea, and it’s not a flawless system of logic. It is [or should be] crazy and scary and exciting.

Relationship affects how I think about oppositions to my faith

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I sometimes encounter people who insist on badgering me about my faith. All of them look triumphant if I don’t have an instant answer to any of their misgivings about Christianity. They express dismay at my lack of open-mindedness and refusal to be in a perpetual mode of discovery. I will tell them something like “I’m not sure how to answer that, but this doesn’t necessitate me abandoning my faith ,” or “I’m really not in a place to effectively research every opposition or issue you’ve brought to my attention.” Some have implicated that they pity me a weak-minded, brain-washed child who won’t (or can’t) contemplate all the mysteries of my faith on a flip of a dime.

If they were challenging the conclusions of my last published research article, they would be perfectly justified in this attitude. Scientists should always be open to new discoveries and be the harshest, most vigilant critics of their own theories and data. But Christianity is more than a theory or data points. It’s a relationship. It grows. It involves experiences that build on each other. At some point, a trust is formed. Those experiences and that trust transforms the way you think about all new data.

For example, I have been dating someone for about a year.*** When we first started dating, if someone had come up and told me “I have good evidence that your new guy is a major flake and you really can’t trust him to do what he says,” I would have taken their words seriously. I would have launched an investigation into whether or not that was true. I would have considered halting all romantic activities until I settled whether or not I could trust him.

Now that we’ve been together for a while, however, it would be crazy for me to take them seriously. I wouldn’t waste time reevaluating every interaction my boyfriend and I had in the past year. I wouldn’t ask for us to take a break while I investigated. I wouldn’t even ask him about it. I simply know that they are wrong. Even if the person who told me that believed strongly in their statement, I would conclude that they misinterpreted his actions in the past. It’s not that I’m brainwashed or in denial of any potential flaws, but we have experiences together. At some point, a trust was formed.  I have seen him in bad moods and good moods, around his parents and around his friends, extremely sleep-deprived and well-rested, very relaxed and under an enormous amount of pressure. During all of this, everything he’s told me he would do- he’s done. Every event he’s told me he would come to- he’s been there. So it’s not that I’m stupid or blind, it’s that we are in a relationship. And the relationship itself has changed how I view any new information or perceptions any one else might have about him.

Just the same, I’m not going to approach all objections to God in a purely objective or abstract way. I can’t. That does not – I repeat, does NOT – make me a brainwashed buffoon.

Relationship affects how you think about being good

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This is probably one of the most misunderstood features of Christianity – the “good deeds” issue. It’s widely recognized that Christians should, in theory at least, be good people. Yet a major tenant of Christianity is that humans are already so deep in the pit of imperfection that no amount of good deeds could ever pull us out of it. So if we can’t earn good standing and we’re putting every single egg we have in the grace basket, what’s the point – why do anything good at all?

Strangely enough, I have found great insight into this issue from the movie The Breakup. In one scene, they’re having a huge fight about how the boyfriend Gary is never doing the good deeds that Brooke asks him to do.

Gary: “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.”
Brooke: “That’s not what I want. I want you to want to do the dishes.”
Gary: “Why would I want to do dishes?”

Gary would want to do the dishes if he cared more about making Brooke happy than he cared about making himself happy. He should do the good deed because he knows it’s something she cares about and would bring her joy – no more, no less. It’s the exact same thing with good deeds in Christianity. We don’t do good deeds to prove we’re better than other people, or because it comes easily to us, or because we think we’re earning some sort of spiritual brownie points. We do good deeds because we have reason to believe they are important to God and bring him joy – no more, no less.

I don’t think God wants us approach good deeds like, “Fine, I’ll help you do the damn dishes.” I believe he wants us to want to do the dishes.

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— EDITORIAL —

*Phraseology stolen from Theodosius Dozhansky, who thought evolution was the overarching story that tied all of biology together. ( “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light if evolution”). If anyone tried to understand any piece of biology without it, Dozhanksy claimed, they would have misguided hypotheses. Their scientific discovery would be stunted. This post isn’t about evolution, but I have a compulsion to provide the source of my thoughts. My deepest fear is getting caught in a scandal that involves accidental plagiarism. BUT I will say that if you are curious about how the Genesis creation story relates to current scientific thought on human origins, I highly recommend reading The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John H. Walton (amazon link here). It greatly influenced my thoughts on the subject.

**the ONLY reason I dropped the esch bomb was to be a Pretentious Pretentierson.

***No one knows for sure. It is currently a hot topic of debate by many scholars.

Signal to Noise

There are Christians, both throughout history and currently in countries like North Korea, who have been imprisoned or even killed their faith… even when they had very limited access to the bible — and sometimes almost no formal preaching. I remember hearing a story once about Christians (in China, I think?) who kept the faith through extreme persecution by passing around a shred of the gospel of John.
Yet here I am – feeling the need to almost constantly listen to sermons and worship songs, or read my bible and Tim Keller books, just to maintain a bare minimum affection for God. Why is it so difficult for me to believe when I have unprecedented access to the best sermons, Christian music of any genre, and theological books that have tackled some of the most difficult questions of life and my faith? And it’s not even like I have some tragic life to push through. Yes, I have disappointments and failures and mini-heartbreaks here and there – but all together, I have an absurdly blessed and easy life.

So what’s the deal — are these Christians inherently more passionate than spoiled little millennials such as myself?
Not to minimize the great faith of Christians who are persecuted or martyred, or make excuses for little ol’ me, but I wonder if – despite having an overall lower access to truth – something that helps set Christians in history (or Christians in other countries) apart from Christians like me is an enhanced signal (truth) to noise (deceptions, distortions, distractions).

Yes, I have an unprecedented opportunity to research and study the word of God, and connect with Christians all over the world. But I also have an unprecedented opportunity to binge on tv shows, drown in information from podcasts,  and be torched with opinions from wagging tongues all over the world. Noise, noise, noise.

Set in this context, the truth signal – although drastically increased – is still struggling to just blip above the noise threshold – which has also drastically increased. Technology has simply turned up the volume for everything – background noise and signal alike.

Well, lucky for me/us, signal to noise is a ratio. Which means I have more than one way to change the overall value. I can work on the ol’ denominator and make strides to reduce the noise. Go on “unplugged” walks without my phone, turn off the radio when I’m driving, set aside time to meditate and pray each day. Or, I can work on the ol’ numerator, and increase the noise. Listen to Ben Stuart podcasts during my commute, seek out mentors who speak nothing but hard yet joyous truths to me, commit myself to Christian community and actually *studying* God’s words. Or a radical third option would be to do both – reduce noise and increase signal! ⚡️⚡️⚡️

Technology isn’t inherently good or evil, and it’s here to stay. Yes, we can try to embrace the way of the Amish and reject it completely because it has the potential to bring harm into our lives. Or we can think of it as a tool that we can  harness for good, and discipline ourselves to avoid the drawbacks.

May we all do all that we can to keep the flame burning in our crazy, ridiculous, often-wicked-oriented hearts 🙂

 

Christian folk: You ain’t broke so stay woke

Some Christians seem to thrill themselves with repeatedly announcing that they are “broken,” and praise other Christians who are open about their own brokenness. Maybe Christians take on these disparaging adjectives to distance themselves from self-righteous bluster, or to stay humble (e.g. “I’m no better than you, homeless prostitute! #humble #blessed). I get that, I do. But ultimately, it’s complete nonsense. Here is why —

Uno – it’s not humility that’s spurring this “brokenness” talk, it’s usually a declaration of absolved responsibility. People know they’re screwing up and weak, but instead of making steps towards repentance, they want to make sure everyone knows they are so completely helpless there is no way they could have *not* made that terrible decision.

Duo – Christians are not supposed to take on our weaknesses as our identity. Even the field of psychology is ahead of the curve with this —

If a person recovers from or is recovering from cancer, do we refer to him or her as “being the cancer?” No, we do not, because we know that cancer is something that one can recover from and isn’t necessarily permanent. Many are hopeful that, as with the majority of cancer prognoses, the individual will eventually be cancer-free. What is more, the cancer does not define the individual’s existence while battling with the disease or after recovery.

When someone with mental illness is labeled as “OCD” or “bipolar,” there is that perception that being “bipolar” sums up his or her whole existence. We do not take into consideration the person’s actions (good or bad) because in our minds, our perception on the label he or she has been given is our basis. Even worse, the individual who is labeled often internalizes the tag to the point that they feel that their entire entity is summarized with it.

from an article edited and reviewed by psychologist R. Y. Langham, M.M.F.T., Ph.D Full length article here

This is not to say that we ignore our weaknesses. But we confess them to each other so that other people can exhort (what a great word!) us, and we can repent! I almost hesitate to use the word repent because it conjures up an image of a hypocritical, salivating evangelical preacher, but I love the word because it doesn’t just mean “feel bad about what you did” it means “to turn.” Repentance isn’t about feeling self-deprecating guilt, it’s about doing a 180. If we do emphasize our past and present weaknesses, let’s do it to emphasize the joy and hope that God has/will triumph(ed) through them (e.g. 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Trio – let me give you a list of verses in the biblio that talk about how broken– as in dysfunctional — Christians are.

 

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There you go. Good stuff.

But wait..

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed

– Isaiah 53:5

 

 

And [Jesus] took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.

– Luke 22:19

Wait, what’s that?! Jesus was broken… so that we could be broken, too?

Nah.

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

– Hebrews 10:14

Jesus was broken so that we even have the possibility of sanctification – aka holiness, aka NOT BROKEN. Not only did Jesus break so we don’t have to, but he didn’t stay broke either. So the “Omigersh I’m so broken” talk does not belong anywhere in the gospel narrative.

Broken is what we were. Let’s embrace who we are now, and start dead-sprinting toward the wholeness and function we were made for– through grace alone!*

⚡️⚡️⚡️

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

General notes

  • There’s a place for broken-heartedness, or being contrite — but I’m talking about broken as in dysfunctional. 
  • I understand to a non-Christian absolutely all of this is nonsense. That’s okay with me. I think it’s beautiful, and it’s super encouraging.

*1 Cor. 6:11; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Tim 3:17; Galations 3:3

 

C.S. Lewis outed as flamboyant vegan

C.S. Lewis is beloved among the Christian community for his allegorical fantasy fiction and strong apologetics for the Christian faith. Recently however, the Christian community reeled with shock at the content within manuscripts discovered in the back of Lewis’ work desk. Watson Button, who purchased the desk at an estate sale, explained dazedly “My wife and I expected to maybe find a rough outline for a new fantasy novel or something, but nothing prepared us for this.” What the Buttons discovered was an entire compilation of secret books expressing a wild devotion to health and veganism. For the sake of brevity, only the following titles and brief descriptions are given below.

Surprised by Soy

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Lewis describes the exciting twists and turns of his 3 month “meatless Monday” journey.

A Beef Observed

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A grave look at the meat production industry, and a call to action to stop cow genocide.

Mere Veganity

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Considered a classic among veganists, this book provides a powerful logical case for veganism that even the most avid meat lovers would be hard pressed to dismiss. 

The Lychee, the Rib, and the Hearth Stove

 

This epic novel follows the journey of three children who discover an enchanted hearth stove that sucks them into a world full of wonder and excitement, complete with a benevolent lychee and a sinister rack of spare ribs.

The Problem of Cane (Sugar)

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Lewis tackles the universal question, “Why am I craving gummy worms right now?”

The Dietician’s Cashew

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A high fantasy novel for children follows the story of a single cashew and his fight to be recognized as an alternate source of protein. 

Needless to say, the these books have left Christians to thrash wildly in a bewildering sea of questions. Is Lewis still a credible theologian? Are there latent messages in his fictional stories that may be perverting the minds of our children, leaving them vulnerable to vegan propaganda?  Can we trust a man who wouldn’t eat at Chick-fil-A?!

Only one thing is certain- we cannot simply say veganism is a fine diet to adhere to. No! Veganism is either the way to health, or it is utter nonsense. None of us- not one- can be indifferent.