Ultimate Identity

So... some thoughts on Charlottesville, and the general situation in the country:

1) Racism (a key element of Neo-Nazism and the KKK) is wrong - Christians, don't ignore this fact simply because it's always on the Left's agenda.

2) Just because these people supported Trump and Christians supported Trump does NOT mean Christians should ignore the issue.

3) Just because a non-Christian theology cannot speak to racism does not mean we should not.

4) Just because President Obama overlooked Islam does not mean Christians should overlook Neo-Nazism (which yes, is as full a worldview/religion as Islam)

5) A "See how it feels?" vengeful attitude in the wake of President Obama's presidency is not how Christians ought to act.

6) Just because the Left may not act as Christians ought does not mean that Christians should do the same.

7) Christians should not address this issue with phrases like "The African-American population is oppressed" or "The Caucasian population is privileged", but rather "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female He created them." (Gen. 1:27) or "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." Colossians 3:8-11

Christians do not ultimately identify with the Republican Party. Christians do not ultimately identify with Donald Trump. Christians ultimately identify with Christ - don't get Him confused with the first two.


Men and Modesty, or a Clarification on Modesty Pieces

Good day to you, ladies and gentlemen!

I must, perhaps, rephrase my greeting, as the principle audience for this particular memorandum is the ladies. By no means, gentlemen, is it my desire that you remove yourself from the audience. Rather, I should like to attempt, in the most exceptional language possible, to convey a particular thought – ever present on the mind of my fellow gentlemen – to the ladies who may, or may not, be aware of our rather particular plight.

Ladies, I wish to address the issue of modesty, coverage, and accountability. In vain I have struggled, it will not do: I am aware that many a piece has been written on the subject (truly, the existence of this letter is a direct response to one such opinion), but they all fall short in addressing the real problems at hand. If you will indulge me, I shall attempt to explain our situation using examples from your very own Jane Austen.

This is a response, in part, to Miss Bailey’s piece “I Don’t Accommodate Uncontrolled Men”. (Though gentlemen, I must warn you should you proceed to investigate the article, as the cover photo prominently displays a lady who is hardly dressed). In this piece, Miss Bailey says, in essence, women are not responsible for what men do with their eyes and thoughts. She goes on to say that men should be able to admire and deem women’s bodies as attractive. Furthermore, she conveys that, since men can fight lust, they should; if they don’t, that is solely the concern of the gentleman, not hers. The predominant heart in the article is, in her own words:

 “I’m going to stand up and look that man in the eye and tell him… I have no sympathy for his struggles.”

If you are taking a turn about the room, do ensure that a fainting sofa is available, not due to the desperate nature of this elegy, but I fear this may be quite a lengthy discussion. Do not be alarmed at receiving this letter, but I must be allowed to express my opinion. At least on that account, I may defend myself. Now, once you are comfortably situated, allow me to recount tales from Miss Austen’s work, hopefully for both the education and the entertainment of all concerned parties.

I must confess, one of Austen’s most despicable character creations is that of John Willoughby. Perhaps even regardless of his most inexcusable past, his manner toward Miss Marianne Dashwood was most appalling. His appearance of honorable intention was most deceptive, and we are all duly heart-broken when we discover the disreputable character that he is. To lead somebody on, encourage them to have feelings that are not reciprocated, or to imply something false are villainous actions, to say the very least.

Women may, in the same way, lead on a man with her dress (or lack thereof): where Marianne was provoked into attraction through kind words and gallant deeds, men are quite often provoked by visual stimulation. While we are all most aware that the random bikini-ist on the beach has no intentions toward us, there is instantly an attraction on the part of the man; be this defined as biology, instinct, or other, it is a most common occurrence amongst gentlemen. While Miss Bailey claims to know such a man for whom this is not true, I have never met a man for whom this is not the case.

Now, should the man be able to avert his eyes, guard his thoughts, and not conjure up the image later? Indeed, this power is granted to Him through the grace of our Lord, but it is an intense struggle not to do so. Should Miss Marianne have been able to avert her attentions, guard her heart, and not conjure up feelings for John? A resounding “yes” ought be heard (and truly we wish that she had taken such a course of action), but it was a struggle not to do so. I am not removing the blame of the individual who, under intense pressure, caved to the temptation, but in the same way we would condemn John Willoughby for taking advantage of Miss Marianne’s weakness, may we not do the same for women who treat men as such by their dress?

As another anecdotal example, may I recall to your memory the scandal of Captain Frederick Tilney and Isabella Thorpe? Again, one of Miss Austen’s more vulgar characters, to say the least, Captain Tilney made it his mission to involve Miss Thorpe in scandal, to which she succumbed (and arguably, not unwillingly). Now, was Miss Thorpe completely capable of rejecting Captain Tilney’s advances? Indeed she was, and she is rightfully condemned for not doing so. However, let us not forget the object of her provocation, for indeed we condemn the captain just as much, if not more so, as an aggressor that encouraged Miss Thorpe to fall.

May I again reverse the roles here, if you will permit me, to make the point? While women may not be intending to fell young men (as Captain Tilney intended for Miss Thorpe), they may still do so through their dress. Now the young man is to blame for giving into the temptation to lust (archaic words, perhaps, but potent ones), but is the source of his provocation blameless? While she may have not sinned, was she not an accomplice?

Now, I should like to make a brief clarification. In both of Miss Austen’s tales, the provocateur was intentionally malicious. I do not believe that my sisters in Christ have such ill-will against her Christian brothers, but, unfortunately, the effect is the same, intended or not. For those women who do indeed dress to “catch men” or “show off sexiness”, I have a different address, but not outlined here.

Miss Austen’s anecdotes concluded, may I call two verses to mind, from which I may build a conclusion and a plea:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:8)

“But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak… Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (I Corinthians 8:9, 12-13)

In regards to the first verse, may I simply inform ladies of a very blunt fact: a man can sin just by looking. While Miss Bailey claims time and again that this is not a problem for her (may I first point out that she is not a man?), and that it therefore should not be a problem for all men, Jesus Himself recognized this as a very real and dangerous sin. Adultery was punishable by death, and that judgement could be incriminated by one lustful thought. Miss Bailey’s continual insistence about cultural conditioning leading to this weakness of men does not change the fact that men are indeed weak here.

Paying heed now to the second verse: Paul here speaks that actions (moral or even amoral) that can cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble is a terrible offense. This verse speaks about brothers in Christ when who are susceptible when their conscience is weak. May I be blunt? All men (whom the Lord has not called to singleness), regardless of age, spiritual maturity, or culture, are weak in this area of life, and always will be. Yes, some may put up a better fight through the grace of our Lord, but it is still a point of weakness that haunts every man. Miss Bailey’s attitude of I have no sympathy for his struggles could not be more contrary to Scripture, where Jesus says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Miss Bailey claims that our “conservative purity” culture has trained men to be guilty when seeing cleavage, curves, or other features of a woman’s body. Her claim is that, if conditioned differently, men could purely admire a woman’s physical form without fear of lust. To be blunt, this idea is total bunk – if that were true, clothing would eventually become obsolete and a command that Jesus Himself gave would no longer be relevant. We would have, in essence, evolved beyond a point of sin. The battle against sin is always a struggle, and changing the culture will not change that fact. Furthermore, this does not address the men who are still of the world, currently powerless against the enemy, unstrengthened by the Holy Spirit – they ought be considered helpless, as lust is not even considered wrong, and may, therefore, be indulged in with no regret.

The statement “cover up” or “dress more modestly” is not by any means an attempt at patriarchal control, body shaming, or the like. If I may speak with the utmost honesty, ladies: we as Christ-seeking gentlemen are all too aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings. We struggle with them when walking on a summer beach; we fight them during our daily gym visit; and many a “God, help me!” prayer is sent when trying to fall asleep and our minds wander. It is disrespectful to you as a daughter of God, it is harmful to us in our own relationships, and it is a blow to God to see our mental purity tainted. The request to cover up is not a demand for dominance, but a plea for mercy. Please do not answer our cries for help with “I have no sympathy for your struggles.”

In short, I hope that I clarified the original intent of pieces similar to this that, unfortunately, fall short of their desired intent. I do not excuse men (myself included) for falling; I do not say that we are not to ultimately blame for the sin into which we fall. May I ask, nay, beg that you grant us a boon: we are sinners; we struggle; we often fail. Do not treat our struggle with contempt or indifference. Please help us.

Post Scriptum – Gentlemen, this conversation is not over. I currently am devising a letter to you all in regards to this matter. Asking for assistance from the womenfolk is by no means an invitation to licentiousness. Prepare yourselves, as the next pieces will be much more personal, and – I believe – much more potent. I shall publish the letter upon its completion.

Post Post Scriptum – all, I do understand that, despite my best attempts at eloquence and congeniality, this topic is extremely personal and of great import. Do, should you feel the leading to comment or contribute, do so with the greatest respect for others. I do not mean to be condemning here – I simply seek to clarify a common misconception and, hopefully, commincate clearly a commonly misunderstood request.

Post Post ScriptumSoli Deo gloria


Trump Card

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
And rely on horses,
Who trust in chariots because they are many,
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
Nor seek the Lord!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster,
And will not call back His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers,
And against the help of those who work iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God;
And their horses are flesh, and not spirit
When the Lord stretches out His hand,
Both he who helps will fall,
And when he who is helped will fall down;
They all will perish together.” – Isaiah 31:1-3

Israel was in trouble. They’d already lost 10 tribes to the rampaging of the Assyrians, who inflicted unspeakable evil and suffering upon their victims. The southern 2 tribes that comprised the Kingdom of Judah were struggling to survive. Their previous rulers had weakened the country on every level, and morality was at an all-time low.

Enter Babylon – the kingdom that bucked the Assyrians and completely conquered the heartland of Mesopotamia. Everything had been subdued… save Judah. The small kingdom stood with, basically, no defense against the onslaught. Previous rulers had been bad, but the Babylonians would take oppression and destruction of morality to a whole new level.

Judah was afraid.

Just across the Sinai Peninsula from Judah stood another country – Egypt. This country had thrown off their previous Assyrian overlords, and was, on all accounts, a powerful ally. They retained their own culture and defied Babylonian military, preparing for the oncoming war.

It totally made sense for Judah and Egypt to unite. Therefore, in spite of Isaiah’s warning, they did. As it turns out, Necho II, the Pharaoh of Egypt, was allied with the remnant Assyrian empire. Traveling north to face the Babylonians alongside the Assyrians, the Egyptians were completely overrun by the Babylonian army. With nothing else in their way, the Babylonians marched to Jerusalem where, in 586 B.C., the Hebrew army was completely defeated, Jerusalem leveled, and the people carried away captive.

Now we look at this account and say, “Well, of course; God told them not to rely on Egypt because ultimately, as God knew, Egypt couldn’t stand against Babylon, and it meant that people were placing their trust in men, not God.” Now Egypt was no “nice” kingdom either. Egypt’s own pagan, polytheistic culture was just as morally depraved and oppressive as Babylon’s, the only difference between the two was that, at the moment, Egypt wasn’t trying to conquer Judah; Babylon was. Egypt was “the enemy of my enemy,” so Israel aligned itself with a kingdom that, while they had some similar surface goals, was just as dangerous as Babylon was.

May I be blunt – why would we trust in the Egypt that is Donald Trump because of our fear of the Babylon that is the Democratic Party? I have heard time and time again, “Anybody but the Democrats!” at trainings and caucuses leading up to the selection of the Republican nominee. People are always quoting statistics and chances as though humans were scientific entities that are always predictable. I’ve heard things like “A vote for Carson is a vote for Trump,” or “If Trump is nominated, a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Hillary.” Folks, if statistics were the only factor, then Israel did the right thing! It would have been “suicide” to try and stand against the Babylonian army alone.

You can almost hear the commanders of the Judean Army discussing the options.
“Egypt can provide the firepower that we need to defeat the Babylonians.”
“But… that would mean aligning ourselves with somebody just as bad as Babylon…”
“I don’t care; anybody but the Babylonians.”
“What if we only subscribed to Jehovah’s principles and only aligned with and supported people who do the same?”
“That’s suicide; get Egypt on the phone.”

Now, I’m not actually here to promote a particular candidate (though it may be obvious that there are some of whom I disapprove), but let me ask – why would a Christian, who is doing his or her best to reflect the character of Christ, support a man who owns and promotes immoral institutions such as strip clubs, verbally attacks people of whom he has a low opinion, and has no biblical rooting for his current belief system?

“Well, he’s better than Hillary.”

I’m sorry – say again? Just because a Democratic president might force more things upon Christians does not mean that the country’s leader is a better or worse person.

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
‘I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.’
 Therefore, ‘Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.’
‘I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,'
Says the Lord Almighty." – II Corinthians 6:14-18

Folks, if it comes down to Trump vs. Democrats, why would we associate with the moral darkness that is Donald Trump? Because he’ll take less of our money – I would hope we have a better reason to associate with darkness than that; we are explicitly told to love God more than money (Matt. 6:24). Because he doesn’t support abortion – at the moment; he’s changed his stance multiple times, because he has no absolute foundation for his belief; a double-minded man is dangerous (James 1:8-9). Because he’ll strengthen our military – because that always stops terrorism; God doesn’t apply (Deut. 3:22). We are told to be separate from those in darkness, not to make an alliance when it’s pertinent or helpful.

I’ve also heard that we are the instruments that God uses to work, but we should never intentionally violate a Scriptural principle. To be honest, folks, God doesn’t need our help (case in point… He killed 185,000 invading Assyrians with an angel in one night… no humans necessary; II Kings 19:35). That’s not to say He can’t work through our mistakes (Gen. 50:20), but they are still that – mistakes, and it grieves Him when we make them.

Think about it when it comes to voting – are you aligning yourself with the lesser of two evils, or are you living your life and stamping Christ’s name (via your support) on somebody directly opposed to Him?

Odds don’t stand a chance against God. Egypt or Babylon don’t stand against God.

God’s our trump card.


A Response to a Year of Shootings: The Madman Realized

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"

Friedrich Nietzsche penned these words before the dawn of the 20th century. These are the words of a “Madman”, who ran about the streets screaming that God was dead, that mankind had killed Him. He was considered insane because he was stating something to be obviously true that was obviously un-apparent to his audience, Western Culture.

“Whither is God?" he [the Madman] cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers.”

What was he saying? Was he equating us to the religious leaders of the 1st Century who delivered Christ to the cross? Or perhaps he was condemning us as the Roman Imperialists, who carried out the deed of killing the Son of God. Even perhaps more applicably, he may have been criticizing society for the blood of the martyrs. But no – this madman was telling of the death of God in Western thought.

“All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this?”

Western society has flirted with the idea of a God-homicide for a long time. Charles Darwin declared God unnecessary for the origin of life. Henry David Thoreau proposed that man was corrupted by society, not his inherent, God-hating depravity. Friedrich Nietzsche simply put two and two together – if we don’t need God to exist, and we don’t need him to define right and wrong, we must not need Him at all. But unlike most of society at the time, Nietzsche foresaw that Western Society could not continue on as it had – things would change.

"Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?"

Without God, mankind had no foundation for reality. Why is murder wrong? For centuries, the Western World believed life was valuable because humans were created imago dei, and therefore, life was valuable. Why ought we to consider one race to be just as valuable as another? Because we all descended from Adam, and therefore were all one race anyways – just with different external, trivial characteristics. Why did we respect and obey our governing authorities? Because we believed authorities originated from God, and we were to respect and obey them.

The madman saw that we now had no definition. What was up and down? What was right and wrong? Could right even exist? What was good? What was wrong? It was left up to personal or cultural interpretation.

When a man, for no apparent reason, walked into a university classroom and kills ten people, why is it wrong? This was simply survival of the fittest in action. The shooter was fit; the victims were not. Why fight natural law?

When a racist man walked into a church and murdered people of a “lesser race”, who was to say he was wrong? Given the achievements of the white society over black, why should he have valued them?

When radical Muslim terrorists coordinated an attack that killed over a hundred people in Paris, how did they know they could get away with it? They knew the politically correct West would “talk” and “negotiate” and not launch another full-out Crusade, because that was no longer acceptable in Western society.

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet.”

When Nietzsche wrote this in the 1890’s, this statement was true, but friends, the madman’s time is now. The West is realizing what it means to have no God. It means there is nothing “wrong” with killing somebody in the womb or the room, because who’s to say what’s “wrong” anyways? Wars fought over race are perfectly acceptable, because we are one species fighting another, survival of the fittest in action, and nature is a force more powerful than any of us. Why not assume that a radical terrorist is basically “good” and negotiable, when we have no solid definition of “good” anyways? Chaos and pandemonium are all that can exist, because we have no infinite, greater-than-man reference point. How can anything be true?

“Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”

How then, do we bring this God back to life? In the midst of this chaos and darkness we are seeing more and more often around us, how can we not only save ourselves, but those around us?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

Stand strong. Living like a Christian is to be a light, but don’t put your light under a basket. Don’t let peer pressure, reputation, or “sanity” be an inhibitor to standing out. This is a bigger problem than apprehending criminals or controlling guns – this is a culture-wide problem. How do we answer the culture’s plight? Answer the tough questions unashamedly from Christ’s point of view, because we are quickly entering an era where people are searching for answers and foundations, for they have none. But Christ is our answer, our foundation, our direction. So while the madman frets about having no reference point, remember that we have one – Christ Jesus. His words, His life, and His truth stand the test of time; He is sanity in the Age of Madmen.


Shanghai-ed Perspective

My trip here could be deemed by some as disastrous. Having a long, unexpted delay in an international airport where almost nobody speaks English does indeed sound like a nightmare, but I came away with a great lesson, as opposed to a purely frustrating memory.

This is the version of the story that I’m tempted to tell, that I think is the natural reaction to the circumstances:

1. We had a VERY long flight from Seattle to Shanghai.
2. Our flight from Shanghai to Chongqing was indefinitely delayed (scheduled to leave at 9 pm, didn’t leave until 1 am).
3. We had to stay in an extremely cheap hotel (think China version of Motel 6).

4. We couldn’t get the 9 a.m. flight out the next morning; we had to wait until 12:30.
5. We missed the first day of the build.

Now, in a me-focused world, this recounting makes total sense. All the ways I was inconvenienced. All the suffering I had to deal with. It’s all about me, myself, and I. Let’s try telling this story again, but with a different perspective (storyline points correspond)

1. This felt like one of the fastest flights I’ve ever been on; it went quickly and I was surprised we got there when we did.
2. We were stuck in an airport that just happened to have a hotel as part of its complex!
3. The hotel initially had no rooms, but after 10 minutes in the lobby with the four of us scanning the web and making calls for a different hotel, the concierge called me back to the desk and told me that some of their guests had just cancelled, and they had two two-bed rooms available.
4. It took us 2 hours to recover our bags from the previous airline for our final flight; something we hadn’t anticipated beforehand, which would have meant we would have missed a 9 a.m. flight. As it was, we got our bags, got to our gate, and had minimal waiting time before we took off. (And I wouldn’t have gotten to ride with this little guy… we became good friends via peekaboo…)

5. The first day was very uneventful, which meant we just had a whole extra day to adjust to the time zone with almost no negative impact to the team.

I was just reading this morning the comparison of a Worldview to glasses – how we view the things that happen around us. If Jesus really has changed my life (and my worldview), it ought to impact how I view things. I didn’t sugar-coat any of the items in the second recounting, I simply looked at things from a different perspective. I had a God up in heaven who had my best interest in mind. Even if I couldn’t understand at the time why we couldn’t get a 9 a.m. flight, God did know; before I got frustrated, I need to trust that God had a reason for this to occur.

So let's take that selfish, me-centric view and ship it off to Shanghai with no chance to return, because with every little inconvenience, discomfort, and frustration we come across, we can leave it up to Him – we never know what He has in store.