Category Archives: Christianity

Unity and Diversity – Two Sides of the Same Myth (Part Two)

“World unity is the wish of the hopeful, the goal of the idealist and the dream of the romantic. Yet it is folly to the realist and a lie to the innocent.”
– Don Williams, Jr.

 

Last week, I wrote about how when we push for diversity, we end up erasing it.  I believe a similar thing occurs when we speak of unity.  Even as we talk about our desire for unity, we divide ourselves.

Historically, just about every nation has experienced racial and cultural divides.  Often, these have turned into bloody affairs with injustices and atrocities committed by those in power on both sides.

In the United States today, we claim that we want racial unity, however the evidence shows otherwise.  Are you a Mexican-American?  An African-American?  Italian-American?  Irish-American?

If different ethnic groups wanted unity, then they wouldn’t label themselves by their race or nationality.  In doing so, they automatically segregate themselves from the rest of society, creating an “us” versus “them” mentality.

We see this in religion as well.  As a church we want unity… kind of.  One of my all-time favorite jokes was told by the comedian Emo Philips:

“Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump.   I said, “Don’t do it!”

He said, “Nobody loves me.”

I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”

He said, “A Christian.”

I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”

He said, “Protestant.”

I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”

He said, “Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”

I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

I said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”

I said, “Die, heretic!”  And I pushed him over.”

I believe the problem comes from our inability to define who we are as individuals.  We are desperate to find some meaningful way by which we can be identified.  Somehow, we have to matter because in our hearts, we need to matter.  So, we pick something about ourselves, and cling to it for dear life.

We then surround ourselves with people who identify themselves as we do, thereby validating our choice in selecting what it is that makes us important.  If we lose that one thing – our religion, our nationality, our skin color… our favorite team, for that matter – we lose our identity, and with it, our value.

It’s seems that we want unity, but only within our own separate little groups.

Advertisements

Unity and Diversity – Two Sides of the Same Myth (Part One)

“I could be wrong, but I believe Diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”
– Ron Burgundy

 

As I write this, the nation is embroiled in a heated battle over who gets to use which restroom. Even our president has weighed in on this all-important issue, threatening to deny funds to our schools if they don’t allow boys to use the girl’s locker room.

(Where was this policy when I was in high school?  I mean, I wasn’t even sure girls were actually ever naked, but I was very, very interested in finding out.)

Of course, the whole thing is absurd.

It has, however, initiated a train of thought which has led me to conclude that unity and diversity, or at least our desire for them, are myths.  Not that this is a conscious thing.  To the contrary, I think people sincerely believe they want unity.  I think people sincerely want to embrace diversity.  However, I don’t think we truly want want either.

A case in point is our current media-induced frenzy about gender self-identification.  The idea here is that we should value diversity by allowing individuals to determine for themselves what gender they are at any given time.  If we force a gender assignment, we are not valuing diversity.

The problem is that it’s not enough for us to recognize or respect the right of someone else to self-identify.  If that were the case, then the push would be for unisex bathrooms.  Instead, we are told we must each sacrifice our own gender identity in the process.  In effect, we are being forced to eliminate gender as an identification.

There can no longer be male or female… rather we are aggressively forced into the foggy world of gender neutrality.

We see this in areas of sexuality, as well.  It is not enough to say, “Men have the right to marry men and women have the right to marry women.”  If that were the case, I think it would be less of an issue.  Instead, you must celebrate the marriage and you must participate in the process, regardless of your own beliefs, if called upon to do so.

When it comes to sexuality, there can only be agreement.  Anything else is unacceptable.

We’re not just stamping out dissenting opinion or beliefs; we’re also eliminating the virtues that come along with achievement.

Kids who naturally excel at athletics are pulled down to the level of the least talented through the virtue of “participation” awards.

Those who have worked hard to get through high school, some of whom have had to overcome learning disabilities in the process, receive the same diploma as the apathetic kid who was passed along from grade to grade in the interest of preserving self-esteem.

In other areas, diversity is celebrated, but only for some.  People are allowed to be proud of their race, unless they’re white.  Religion is to be tolerated and have its flaws forgiven, unless we’re talking about Christianity.

As a society, we’ve been talking about diversity for decades.  There are all kinds of inspirational posters out there that pair inspirational quotes about diversity with pictures of butterflies.  We communicate this image of naturally diverse colors standing out in beauty.

Unfortunately, the image of our reality is that of  a giant blob that reaches out with tentacles to snare the individual and pull him down into the colorless muck below.

An Ethical Dilemma

“But don’t begin until you count the cost.” – Jesus

Recently, I posted the following question on Facebook (I’ve edited it a little here to eliminate some inadvertent ambiguity in the original version.):

“You’re a business owner on your way to a meeting to sign contracts with a new client.  Your company is in trouble and if these contracts aren’t signed, you’ll have to lay off 100 employees. This meeting is your only opportunity to get the contracts signed and if you miss the meeting, you lose the business.

You are walking three blocks away from the meeting when you see a blind man in the middle of a busy intersection. He is confused, lost and it’s only a matter of time before he gets hit by a car. You look around and see that no one is willing to help him. It looks like you’re his only chance at getting to safety.  If you stop to help him you will miss your meeting.

What do you do?”

I received interesting responses.  Most went with saving the blind man.  Some tried to figure out a way to do both.  Some were funny (not yours, Michael) and one person went with saving the jobs.

Regardless of the decision that is made, there is a cost.

If you save the blind man, 100 people and their families will impacted.  Considering how the average person handles their money, this will be a severe hardship for most of those families.

If you ignore the blind man and save the jobs, that man is going to get hit by a car.

The argument was made that the blind man might die.  We don’t know that.  But, he might.  At the same time, economic factors have become an increasing presence in some suicides.

The argument was made that if we save the blind man, God will take care of the jobs.  The reverse argument can also be made.

One person pointed out 400-500 people could be impacted by the job loss and there was no guarantee the blind man would be injured or killed.  She talked about the needs of the many versus the needs of the few.  And her ears aren’t even pointy.

Obviously, my bias goes against saving the blind man.  Why?  There’s no logic to it.  In fact, it makes the least amount of sense.  I agree with my normal-eared friend (for once):  if I’m that business owner, those employees are my responsibility and I can’t let them down.  (I’m not going to bite on the ‘needs of the many’ socialist propaganda bait she threw out there.  She’ll just use it against me in a future argument.)

Even though I believe the meeting should take priority, I’m pretty sure if it were me in that scenario, I’d run out in the middle of traffic and try to save the guy.  Or, at least, I hope I’d have that kind of courage.  And then, I’d hope like hell the new client would give me a second chance.

I’m such a noble guy, right?

No.

Because, if the guy in the middle of the street was a convicted child molester I recognized because I saw him on TV, I’d let him die.

There are times when I do count the cost and then do what doesn’t make sense.  There are other times when I count the cost and do what does make sense.  Unfortunately, most of the time, I just do what I want and don’t count the cost at all.

This is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for God’s grace.  He knows wisdom is a process and He gives me plenty of time to get there.

I’m glad He realizes that I’m a blind man stuck in a busy intersection.

P.S. – It’s okay, Michael.  I thought your response was actually pretty funny.

 

 

 

I Must Confess, I Have to Forgive

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – The Apostle John

For some reason, the topic of confession vs. forgiveness has come up in quite a few conversations I’ve had recently. The circumstances or people have been different each time, however the concepts (as with most Biblical concepts) are universally applicable.

I think there’s a lot of confusion about what confession and forgiveness are and who benefits from each. Probably the best place to start would be basic definitions (I’m paraphrasing, but have provided links to Merriam-Webster):

Confession: a statement in which you say that you have done something wrong
Forgiveness: the act of forgiving someone or something

Granted, the definition of “forgiveness” doesn’t help much, so let’s look at what “forgive” means. It actually has a few meanings:

Forgive: to stop feeling anger; to stop blaming; to stop requiring payment

(That last definition for “forgive” is more of a financial thing, but I believe it applies in all areas of forgiveness.)

When it comes to practical application, each of these two acts are multi-step processes which are required so we can let go of mistakes of the past (whether our own mistakes, or those of others) and live lives free of guilt and bitterness. Neither forgiveness nor confession are easy; but both are necessary.

Let’s create a scenario where one person has done something to hurt someone else. Let’s call the bad guy “Pierre the Perpetrator” and the other one “Victor the Victim”. So, Pierre does something to hurt Victor. What should Pierre do at that point? (Well, if he’s French, he orders all of his forces to surrender and then allows the Germans to plunder his cities and take his women. So, let’s say he’s Canadian instead.) What should Victor do?

Pierre needs to practice the act of confession by approaching Victor, admitting what he did was wrong, offering restitution (if possible) and asking for forgiveness. Victor needs to practice the act of forgiveness by letting go of his anger and no longer attaching it to Victor or using it as an emotional weapon against him.

Easy to say, hard to do.

The first thing each of these guys must realize is their obligation to confess or forgive is completely independent of the other person’s obligation. In other words, Pierre must confess regardless of whether or not Victor forgives him and likewise, Victor must forgive regardless of whether Pierre confesses.

Why are these acts independent? Because confession has nothing to do with forgiveness and forgiveness has nothing to do with confession. We seem to think that the two are related, but they’re not. Each of these are mechanisms which God has given us so we can free ourselves from bitterness or guilt.

When one confesses, it does not ultimately benefit the person who was wronged. Confession benefits the person who confesses. Pierre must confess so he can free himself of the burden of guilt.

When one forgives, it does not really benefit the person who acted wrongly. Forgiveness benefits the one who was wronged. Victor must forgive so he can avoid falling into bitterness.

I’m going to write more about confession and forgiveness in the future. I hope this has been at least a bit thought-provoking.

If not, please forgive me.

Welcome to the Real World

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ― The Apostle Peter

Last week, I began writing about confession and forgiveness. This week, I planned to look a bit closer at confession, however I found there are some foundational principles which must be covered prior to getting into specifics.

Guess What?  You’re in the Matrix
We’ve been lied to.  We’ve spent our lives assuming what we can observe with our five senses is our environment in its entirety.  We believe our enemies are people.  We believe our flesh is our real selves… and we spend obscene amounts of money preserving or destroying it.  We believe pleasure brings us joy.

The Real World is much different.  In the Real World, there are two realms… the physical and the spiritual.  As humans, we are aberrations in that we permanently exist in both.  Our flesh resides in the physical realm, however our souls exist in the spiritual realm.  It’s why the Bible says we are in this world, but not of this world.  My true self is my soul.  It just happens to reside temporarily in this flesh.  (The Bible says that even when we die, we’ll be given new bodies.  I sure hope mine is a lot leaner than the one I have now.)

Unfortunately, we live the lie.  We focus our attention on the physical realm when our attention should primarily be on the spiritual realm.

You’re in the Army, Private!
The Apostle Paul talks a lot about the spiritual realm and tells us there’s a great war going on.  The battles involve us… either our salvation or our destruction.  As with most situations, this one is defined by “who, what, when, where and why”.

Who is involved? – All of us.  We’re all involved whether we like it or not.  Think of it this way:  Your home has been invaded.  You didn’t choose for that to happen, but you’re fighting for your life anyway.

What is it about? – Ultimately, it’s a battle for truth.  We are defined by our beliefs, most of the time with eternal consequences.

When is it happening? – Right now.  This very second.

Why is it happening? – Because Satan wants what he can’t have.

The Bible tells us Satan is the greatest of all angels.  Unfortunately, his narcissism is greater than the sum of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian combined.  You could even throw in Donald Trump, Nicki Minaj, Paris Hilton, Obama, Miley Cyrus and Justin “Summer’s Eve” Bieber and still have plenty of room to spare.

Satan is so full of himself he actually believes he deserves to be God.  So, he tried.  And he failed.  And he took his followers with him.  Satan has been denied what he believes is his destiny… he was unable to defeat the One who created him.  The Son is creator, therefore Satan hates Jesus Christ absolutely.

Satan’s ultimate frustration is he can’t really hurt Jesus.  I mean, let’s face it.  Jesus could be in bed with the flu and kidney stones and still destroy Satan with a glance.

So, if Satan can’t hurt Jesus what can he do?  He can go after us.  We’re God’s children… and what better way to hurt someone than to target their kids?

It’s kind of stupid, really.  It’s like avoiding being killed by the mama bear by beating up her cubs.

At some point, Satan is going to face a really angry bear.

I Must Confess, I Have to Forgive

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – The Apostle John

For some reason, the topic of confession vs. forgiveness has come up in quite a few conversations I’ve had recently. The circumstances or people have been different each time, however the concepts (as with most Biblical concepts) are universally applicable.

I think there’s a lot of confusion about what confession and forgiveness are and who benefits from each. Probably the best place to start would be basic definitions (I’m paraphrasing, but have provided links to Merriam-Webster):

Confession: a statement in which you say that you have done something wrong
Forgiveness: the act of forgiving someone or something

Granted, the definition of “forgiveness” doesn’t help much, so let’s look at what “forgive” means. It actually has a few meanings:

Forgive: to stop feeling anger; to stop blaming; to stop requiring payment

(That last definition for “forgive” is more of a financial thing, but I believe it applies in all areas of forgiveness.)

When it comes to practical application, each of these two acts are multi-step processes which are required so we can let go of mistakes of the past (whether our own mistakes, or those of others) and live lives free of guilt and bitterness. Neither forgiveness nor confession are easy; but both are necessary.

Let’s create a scenario where one person has done something to hurt someone else. Let’s call the bad guy “Pierre the Perpetrator” and the other one “Victor the Victim”. So, Pierre does something to hurt Victor. What should Pierre do at that point? (Well, if he’s French, he orders all of his forces to surrender and then allows the Germans to plunder his cities and take his women. So, let’s say he’s Canadian instead.) What should Victor do?

Pierre needs to practice the act of confession by approaching Victor, admitting what he did was wrong, offering restitution (if possible) and asking for forgiveness. Victor needs to practice the act of forgiveness by letting go of his anger and no longer attaching it to Victor or using it as an emotional weapon against him.

Easy to say, hard to do.

The first thing each of these guys must realize is their obligation to confess or forgive is completely independent of the other person’s obligation. In other words, Pierre must confess regardless of whether or not Victor forgives him and likewise, Victor must forgive regardless of whether Pierre confesses.

Why are these acts independent? Because confession has nothing to do with forgiveness and forgiveness has nothing to do with confession. We seem to think that the two are related, but they’re not. Each of these are mechanisms which God has given us so we can free ourselves from bitterness or guilt.

When one confesses, it does not ultimately benefit the person who was wronged. Confession benefits the person who confesses. Pierre must confess so he can free himself of the burden of guilt.

When one forgives, it does not really benefit the person who acted wrongly. Forgiveness benefits the one who was wronged. Victor must forgive so he can avoid falling into bitterness.

I’m going to write more about confession next week and follow that up with an post on forgiveness. I hope this has been at least a bit thought-provoking.

If not, please forgive me.

SPCA – Society for Priority Confusion in America

“We feel that animals have the same rights as retarded children.” -Alex Pacheco, PeTA

I don’t watch a lot of television and what I do watch tends to have been previously recorded. So, I enjoy the luxury of skipping through commercials so I can just get on with enjoying the show.

Unfortunately, there are times when I view things as they are aired, so I’m forced to endure commercial breaks. Some of the most annoying commercials out there are for the SPCA where Sarah McLachlan sings “Angel” and they have those horribly sad pictures of abused animals. Here’s what the commercial says:

“Every day in America thousands of animals suffer from cruelty and neglect
Thousands were rescued last year
But for thousands of others help came too late” (source)

Let me start off by saying animals should be treated with care and respect. (And they should be served with a starch and a green vegetable. Ba-dum-dum!)

Animals, however, are not on the same level as people and should not be treated as if they are. According to NCCP and other sources, 16 million kids in this country live in poverty. According to The Hunger Project, 8,500 children under the age of five die daily due to poor nutrition (worldwide).

So, where are our priorities?

According the their latest annual reports, some well-known animal rights organizations brought in the following revenue last year:
– The Humane Society: Over $171M (2013)
– PeTA: Over $35M (2013)
– Dumb Friends League: Over $15M (2013)
– Best Friends Society: Over $64M (2012)
– SPCA: Over $159M (2012)
– American Humane Association: Just shy of $18M (2012)

So, just with those six organizations, we’re looking at about $462M in revenue annually. ALMOST HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. Just in the US. Not including all of the countless regional and local charities and shelters.

Now, let’s take that money and see what would happen if we gave it to a charity that helps children. I’m choosing one of the more “expensive” ones due to their holistic approach to providing care to their sponsored children.

A Compassion International child sponsorship costs $38 per month. This gives the child food, medicine, clothing and educational opportunities. What would happen if we took that $462M and gave it to Compassion?

$462M / 12 months = $38.5M per month

With the money we give those six organizations alone, we could be feeding 1,000,000 children every year… and giving them clothes… and medical treatment… and an education.

Again, where are our priorities?

If there were a starving child and a starving dog and you could only feed one, which would you feed? I believe we should love and care for animals, however, that decision should be clear (regardless of how bad you feel for the dog).

By the way, I don’t have anything against those charities (with the possible exception of PeTA) and according to Charity Navigator, they are all top rated for financial responsibility (again, the exception is PeTA). And, I’m sure there are people who give money to these charities as well as Compassion (or similar).

I just wonder which would have a greater positive impact on the world… freeing animals from a substandard life or freeing children from a substandard life.

My money is on the children.