Posted in Christian Faith

Everyone has a right to participate in the debate but not everyone should

Image from amazon.com

This is an excellent article on something that can be seen by anyone, every single time they go on the internet.

While I was reading the article the second or third time through I couldn’t help but imagine if it were written by a theologian, pastor, or biblical scholar rather than a political policy expert. The wording would have to be changed a bit but the intent and meaning of the author would lose no validity.

To make this point, here is an excerpt I have tweaked a bit.

In religion, too, the problem has reached ridiculous proportions. People in religious debates no longer distinguish the phrase “you’re wrong” from the phrase “you’re stupid.” To disagree is to insult. To correct another is to be a hater. And to refuse to acknowledge alternative views, no matter how fantastic or inane, is to be closed-minded.

How conversation became exhausting:

Critics might dismiss all this by saying that everyone has a right to participate in the public sphere. That’s true. But every discussion must take place within limits and above a certain baseline of competence. And competence is sorely lacking in the public arena. People with strong negative views on Christian faith, for example, get the basic tenets of the faith wrong yet fail to let their profound ignorance keep them from arguing as if they are noted biblical scholars.
This subverts any real hope of a conversation and it is simply exhausting.”

The author ends the article with a few points anyone who wishes to engage an expert in their field should take to heart. Most notably, IMHO, this point.

In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.

“In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible” is a great line and something everyone who enjoys discussion should take to heart.

Sadly, though, not enough people take their obligation seriously so we end up with stuff like this.

Not knocking Mr. Barker, per se, he could be a great guy and highly intelligent in many ways. But, regarding Christianity, it is painfully obvious that he has not risen above the baseline of competence necessary to have a rational conversation about the faith.

I love evangelism and answering honest questions people have about the Christian faith. What I’ve never understood however, and I’ve done it myself plenty, is why well meaning Christians participate in discussions with people with whom they know fruitful discourse is not possible.

Red Pen Logic with Mr. B does a great job of highlighting the profound ignorance in anti-Christian social media posts and I think that is a good thing. Having a conversation with people who put this stuff out there though is, as Tom Nichols accurately phrased it, exhausting.

*The author of the article, Tom Nichols, has also written a book with the same title I ordered this morning. If it’s as good as the article, it will be worth a read.

Also, here are a couple more things from Mr. B. a Facebook page I highly recommend.

Posted in Christian Faith

Love is Love

I have seen this sign (not the exact same sign but one with the same words) a few times where I live and it always makes me think.  

This is, of course, a sign supporting gay marriage and the message is, basically, if you love someone that is all that matters and no one should be allowed to tell you that your love is wrong or *shudder* sinful.

I get the sentiment, I do. And, for the record, I hate to tell people that their love is wrong. But, here’s the thing, the secular world does not understand love from a biblical perspective. Love is a great thing and I am happy for people who are blessed enough to be in love. But, love, true biblical love, does not tolerate evil and that is exactly what this sign says it should do.

First Corinthians 13:4-6 contains a list of several things love “does not” do. The final item in this list is that love “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Love loves the truth. Love does not love evil, or, as the ESV puts it, “it does not rejoice at wrongdoing.”

Corinth was an evil place with pervasive idol worship and rampant sexual immorality. The recently converted Christians in Corinth sometimes had a hard time shaking the old habits. One man involved in egregious immorality had been tolerated in the church (chapter 5), and the Lord’s Supper had been dishonored to the point of including gluttony and drunkenness (chapter 11). To combat these evils, Paul taught that love does not enjoy or “delight in” such actions; rather, true love finds joy in truth and righteousness.

In many ways modern day America is much like biblical Corinth in that we, collectively, tolerate that which God has specifically declared immoral.

Saying love is love is fine as long as we don’t distort the meaning of love and I think we have done just that.

*Image

Posted in Christian Faith, Fitness, food

I never talk about politics but…

Like most people (too many) still are, I used to be wrapped up in politics to the point it affected me emotionally and physically. And not in a good way.

In all seriousness, I spent nearly every waking moment either watching cable news or reading my go to political blogs. Even one blog which existed solely to point out then mock what people I disagree with politically were saying on Twitter. And the people who were persistent targets for this blog were not deep thinkers or people who had anything of substance to add to the debate but trolls, pot stirrers, and celebrities. And, get this, what they and their largely anonymous followers said seriously annoyed me. Utter idiocy and I was right there in the mix.

I liked to think I was pretty well informed and, to a large degree, I was. But, to what end? And at what cost? What I mean by that is this. Is focusing nearly 100 percent of one’s mental effort on politics, even if it’s a sincere quest to be informed, worth the personal cost in stress, loss of sleep, anger, and arguing all the time?

The answer for me is a firm no and I began to realize that a few years ago when a family holiday dinner was ruined because gun control monopolized the conversation to the point a few people came very close to throwing punches.

So I stopped. Not cold turkey, it was a process, but I stopped and almost completely. Not only do I never watch cable news, I don’t watch network national news, I read very few political blogs, and I never, ever talk about politics.

And my life has never been better.

That’s why I don’t understand about bloggers (religious bloggers for example) who put the disclaimer “I never talk about politics but…” at the beginning of clearly political posts. Not saying bloggers shouldn’t do this because I firmly believe they have the right. I do wonder, though, if they’ve ever thought about the benefits of not doing it. I mean, think of something else, anything else. Or, in other words, just don’t do it.

Fact is what people, even the most astute and well meaning people, say about politics isn’t new, won’t change minds, and, more than likely, will make you seem like an ill informed hyper-partisan who is just looking for an argument.

Also, for those of you who think being politically informed is everything, it isn’t. If you don’t believe that, ask yourself how being informed helps. Sure, being generally informed is a good thing but, beyond that, you are pretty much wasting your time.

And that’s why I occasionally put up posts about fitness rather than Christianity and life. Because, the way I see it, even the worst fitness post is better than a good political post.

Anyway, to make this post somewhat fitness-ish…

I am on the road for work this week and, as always, struggling not to eat mostly junk while I am gone. So, also as always, I was in the Atlanta airport yesterday, had two hours to kill before my next flight, and hadn’t had lunch yet when I decided I would opt for a smoothie instead of a burger or tacos. So I stood back, looked at the menu board, weighed my options, and decided I would get a peanut butter protein smoothie as soon as the young lady behind the counter stopped shooting the breeze with another airport employee. But when she paused her conversation ever so briefly to let me know they don’t open until 2:00 I made a beeline to McDonald’s and ordered a Number 1 with a Coke.

Yeah, I had the time and could have got 1,000 or more steps in if I was willing to search out a better alternative but Big Macs have always been a guilty pleasure of mine and, if I learned anything about eating better and exercise over the last 30 years of trying, it is that there is always tomorrow. There is usually some guilt involved but, “I’ll do better tomorrow” is a solid back up plan.

It’s not as good a plan as giving up on politics to the greatest extent possible to improve my general well-being, but it does make me feel better at least until the heartburn kicks in.

Posted in Christian Faith

I don’t know about you but I am not OK with pitiless indifference

Me a little older than 10 but the oldest picture I could easily find.

I’m not sure how old I was, maybe 10 or so. I remember laying in bed one night thinking about life and death. I know, heavy subject for a child but there I was.

Anyway, I was wondering what happens to people when they die and I could not wrap my brain around death being the end. On the contrary, I found the thought of being snuffed out, never to exist again in any form, absolutely terrifying.

Yes, I was young and didn’t fully understand life or death but, still, something about the vast empty nothingness that awaits us when we pass didn’t sit right with me. Pointless oblivion cannot be all that lies beyond. Again, I wasn’t sure what we could/should look forward to but I felt as if I knew in my bones that there was indeed something there.

I would like to be able to say I began a great spiritual journey the next day but, alas, I kind of just accepted the fact that there was something beyond our earthly existence and went on not giving it much thought for the next couple decades. I guess, looking back on it, I would have been considered an agnostic-ish deist if I had to put a label on it. I was absolutely certain there was some form of life after death and that there also must have been some sort of being overseeing it all.

Mostly, though, I didn’t care all that much because, save that one night, I never contemplated any of it much or very deeply.

But since I am now firmly in the faith, I often wonder about people who do contemplate such matters deeply and end up concluding that there is no God. people like Richard Dawkins, for example.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

Richard Dawkins from the book River Out of Eden

I get it, not all people believe and not all will. But I find the idea that the sum total of ones thoughts on life, death, eternity, and purpose can end at, “…no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” as terrifying as the thoughts I had as a lay in bed forty years ago.

Posted in Christian Faith, Fitness

Might not be right but I’m doing it anyway

For those of you who don’t know, I fell off the exercise wagon a little over a year ago and have been struggling to get back on ever since.

Actually, I wouldn’t call what I have been doing struggling because that implies that I have actually been actively fighting to get back. More accurately, I have been almost completely lacking in motivation. I’ve had moments, even a few three or four day streaks but, for the most part, gainz have been pretty much non-existent except gainz around my midsection.

Anyway, I am traveling for work this week and decided today (after two days of nothing but unhealthy eating) to get my trusty exercise bands out of my suitcase and get a workout in and, for some reason, I chose this one. Easiest thing since I found it in my suitcase (must have put it in there back when I was in shape) but a bit much for easing back in to it.

Good news is I went in with a do your best and forget the rest attitude which is good because, except for crunches, I was no where near the number of repetitions the workout calls for.

Since it is a solid routine though, it got me thinking.

I know this may fly in the face of conventional exercise wisdom but I am going to do this exact routine every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until I can do all the repetitions as well as doing some form of cardio on Tuesday and Thursday.

I don’t have pics or weight right now but I will post as soon as I can and follow up with after pics and weight when I have reached my goal.

That is, if I reach my goal.

Posted in Christian Faith

You will not find peace

You will not find peace in politics.

You will not find peace in social justice.

You will not find peace in financial security.

You will not find peace in affirmation.

You will not find peace in being a good person.

The only way to find true peace is Jesus.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Posted in Christian Faith

Jimi Hendrix? Never heard of her

A couple a months ago I was watching a sitcom called The Goldbergs. Can’t really remember the set up but in one scene two of the kids sang an Elton John song for their father and tried to pass it off as something they wrote. Not fooled, the father, who is a bit of a doofus, immediately said, “that’s Elton John.” “How do you know that?” The kids replied. “Because I live on Earth.”

The show was, of course, making the point that Elton John is such a big name that literally everyone on Earth knows who he is, even the old, and the uncool, and the doofus.

In the same way my mother and mother in law, don’t listen to classic rock and have never, to my knowledge, seen a Star Wars movie. I’d bet money, though, that they would both recognize Jimi Hendrix and Darth Vader immediately if I showed them pictures. Because, like Elton John, they are pop culture icons more so than famous personas and there are very few excuses to not, at least, have some basic knowledge about them.

I’ve been down this road, kind of in reverse, with my parents, years ago.

“Can I go see R.E.M. in concert?”

“Who?”

“R.E.M? The best band on the planet? How can you not know who they are?”

While I thought R.E.M. was the greatest thing going at the time, the weren’t a fraction as well known as Elton John so it’s understandable that old and decidedly unhip parents could be blissfully unaware they existed.

I mentioned that because for years I thought being in the know was a good thing but now I am beginning to believe being out of touch with dopey worldly concerns is more of a virtue than a personal flaw.

I don’t listen to anything outside of Contemporary Christian music or, occasionally, classic rock. I don’t spend much time on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter at all, I read only a select few blogs and websites, I rarely watch what’s popular on TV or see movies, and I shun celebrity news and gossip as if I will catch the plague if I even pay the slightest bit of attention. All with the dream of one day being as out of touch as Jase Robertson.

I was listening to an episode of the Unashamed podcast (hosted by Phil, Jase, and Al Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame) when Jimmy Kimmel’s name came up. I can’t remember the context but what I do remember was Jase mentioning that he’d never heard of him.

“Not possible” I first thought. But then realized it’s not only possible but admirable. Now Jase Roberson is my personal hero because he has achieved the level of out of touch with what’s going on with regard to culture that I aspire to some day.

Flash forward a couple of weeks after I heard the podcast and I believe I am making some progress. Just the other day, Trevor Noah came up in a conversation with a coworker.

“Trevor Noah?” I said.

“Never heard of her.”

Counting that as a win. And not even being curious enough to Google him as an even bigger win.

Image from amazon.com

Posted in Christian Faith, God

And what of the universe? Is it utterly pointless?

I was doing some reading for school the other day and I ran across what’s below by William Lane Craig. I understand quite a few people don’t believe in God but, I wonder, how many of those people ever think very deeply about the absurdity of life without God.

If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s trail, then what is the goal of life? Is it all for nothing? Is there no reason for life? And what of the universe? Is it utterly pointless? If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space the answer must be, yes—it is pointless. There is no goal no purpose for the universe. The litter of a dead universe will just go on expanding and expanding—forever.

And what of man? Is there no purpose at all for the human race? Or will it simply peter out someday lost in the oblivion of an indifferent universe? The English writer H. G. Wells foresaw such a prospect. In his novel The Time Machine Wells’s time traveler journeys far into the future to discover the destiny of man. All he finds is a dead earth, save for a few lichens and moss, orbiting a gigantic red sun. The only sounds are the rush of the wind and the gentle ripple of the sea. “Beyond these lifeless sounds,” writes Wells, “the world was silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives—all that was over.” [3] And so Wells’s time traveler returned. But to what?—to merely an earlier point on the purposeless rush toward oblivion. When as a non-Christian I first read Wells’s book, I thought, “No, no! It can’t end that way!” But if there is no God, it will end that way, like it or not. This is reality in a universe without God: there is no hope; there is no purpose.

What is true of mankind as a whole is true of each of us individually: we are here to no purpose. If there is no God, then our life is not qualitatively different from that of a dog. As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes put it: “The fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. All go to the same place. All come from the dust and all return to the dust” (Eccles 3:19-20). In this book, which reads more like a piece of modern existentialist literature than a book of the Bible, the writer shows the futility of pleasure, wealth, education, political fame, and honor in a life doomed to end in death. His verdict? “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (1:2). If life ends at the grave, then we have no ultimate purpose for living.

*Image from Amazon

Posted in Christian Faith

Just Because You Are Passionate About Something, Doesn’t Mean You Are Right

Several years ago I taught an online business law course at a large American University. Pretty good gig in many ways, namely, being able to make some extra money without leaving the house.

Going in to the job I had a few expectations but there are two things I did not see coming.

One. The quality of work the students submitted was no better than what one would expect from middle school kids. Granted, there were exceptions, but, for the most part, I wondered constantly how the majority made it through high school.

Two. I spent a significant amount of my time essentially telling students that their thoughts and feelings were not the same as the facts. For example, I would hear that what I was teaching could not be right because it didn’t sound right, didn’t seem fair, or didn’t make sense with such regularity I was surprised the few times a lesson went unchallenged.

I totally understand going into a class and learning new material, I have eight years of college behind me so I’ve been there myself plenty of times. What continues to blow my mind however, is challenging well established facts with feelings.

In another post I wrote.

Everyone has a right to participate in the public sphere. That’s true. But every discussion must take place within limits and above a certain baseline of competence.

Although college instructors are not perfect, they are, for the most part anyway, experts in their field and their teaching should be respected, not challenged with childish emotion and ill formed opinion. Yes, ask questions, ask for clarification, or ask for real world examples that may make the material being presented more relatable. But, “That doesn’t seem right to me so I don’t accept it” is not learning. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of learning.

Sadly, this college freshman behavior isn’t confined to the classroom but, instead, can be found all over the internet where Wikipedia educated “experts” strenuously challenge established fact with nonsensical claims all the time.

With regard to Christianity, this can be explained biblically with one verse. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Who doesn’t like challenging foolishness when they see it? I mean, I don’t because I’ve found that most foolishness flows from willful ignorance and belligerence so engaging with it in any way is pointless and exhausting. But I certainly see the appeal for some.

Problem is those who are perishing CANNOT understand Christianity in the same way believes do, it’s NOT POSSIBLE.

People can say they reject faith for any number of reasons that seem completely legitimate to them such as; they don’t see the logic in the faith, there is not enough evidence, the Bible is full of contradictions, they believe God is unloving or unjust, they don’t like the idea of eternal damnation, they have been hurt by the church, Christians are hypocrites…

But, at the end of the day, faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and without the gift, belief is impossible.