Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodnight, Gay Monster

When I went to my parents house for respite from work during winter break (as well as celebrate the proverbial day of the Lord's coming to earth), my sister ended up bringing up an article she had read for class regarding homosexuality, which I might add resulted in me storming off to my room in disgust and indignation. You can read the article for yourself here(online PDF file). From her description, I was expecting a very harsh criticism of Christianity while extolling the virtues of homosexuality. I opened up the article and immediately opened a second window in my browser to Facebook notes so that I could record my thoughts and refutations. By the third page of the article, I had stopped taking notes and saved them as a draft.

The article was almost exactly opposite of what I was expecting. Sure, it defends gays and lesbians as human beings, as citizens of society, and as beneficial contributors to the human race. It also struck down a lot of nonsensical arguments people throw up to try to suggest that the heterosexual populace has a reason to discriminate, qualify, or segregate the GLBTQ community from the rest of society. At no time did I find the article deceitful, misrepresenting any group I am a part of, or even so much as attacking Christianity. Instead, it was a logical argument with sound structure and had wonderful format for citation of outside sources supporting claims made in the article. In effect, this article puts to rest a lot of fears and irrational concerns that people may have concerning homosexuality and the GLBTQ community (hence the title of this entry).


Yeah, so is lying, stealing; neglecting the orphans, widows, and poor yet I don't see churches protesting those things even though their existence is (in the case of lying and stealing) destroying society while the orphans, widows, and poor are a sign that our society is already broken somehow. Pointing out that homosexuality is a sin does nothing to open communication between the Church and the GLBTQ community, nor does adamantly maintaining that belief that it is wrong demonstrate moral integrity. I can insist that the sky is purple even while staring up at a clear blue sky, but that does not speak to my moral integrity; it simply says that I'm consistently wrong.

The fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been used to slander and ostracize a subset of the human race is both appalling and revolting. We are supposed to be Come-Just-As-You-Are people teaching and preaching the gospel as it is. It is not our job to decide who is qualified to come and assess whether their "progress" is adequate, that is the job of God alone. The problem is that the damage has already been done by fore-bearers of the faith. We may not intend to slander and ostracize gays and lesbians, but we have inherited flawed tools for being the ambassadors of Christ. These flawed tools were not given to us by Christ himself, but by humans who came before us; flawed and imperfect. Therefore, if we truly want to rebuild and restore the relationship between ourselves and the GLBTQ we have to throw down the flawed tools and invent new and unique ways of having fellowship with them. To do that, we must be patient, understanding, and above all else- loving.

The GLBTQ community is not going away. We have only two courses of action: be obstinate and continue to drive the wedge between our two groups or establish and elevate the conversation beyond the question of whether homosexuality is a sin or not.

For further reading, I strongly suggest Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin.

Peace that surpasses all understanding,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Are We Deaf?

I attended the Christmas Eve service which my parent's church holds every year, save for one year when I think it was too dangerous to ask people to come out on the icy roads. The service was nice, being greeted by people who have watched me grow up like it was a treat to have me there was also nice, but the most incredible thing happened almost as an afterthought. Just before dismissal, the worship pastor lead the congregation in a somber and heartfelt rendition of O Holy Night. As I sang along this verse caught my attention,

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His Gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

I was floored when I watched as the lyrics came up on the projector screens and even as the words came bursting from my mouth. This is the Christ that I've been wanting to have a relationship with. This is the Christ who brought a new Way, a Way of love and peace that surpasses all understanding. He set the precedent for the end of slavery, since we were all slaves to sin before Him. There it is in plain and simple English, from a song we all have heard at least once in our lifetime, and yet somehow Christians throughout history and in the present have a few notions which I feel are misguided. War, subjegation, inherited rights, and an arrogance that stinks worse than Chicago city sewage. Yeah, I know some reading this will feel that I am exaggerating the situation, while others will feel I'm being too generous.

But here it is, Christians today have made quite a name for themselves, and though not all of it is bad; there's certainly a bitter taste in the mouths of many who call us by name. What are we doing to impact the world with restoration love and peace? Megachurches, built for the spiritually and physically healthy while the sick lay dying at our doorstep. My friends and siblings in Christ, I know that none of you whom I've spent even a fraction of time with has a desire to see this happen. None of you are heartless, cold, and unsympathetic to the brokeness of humanity. Something else is broken though, something within our system, our way of doing things is very broken and the only power to fix it is Christ. Our dollars, our time, our debates, my writing is meaningless without Christ.

Maybe this Christmas, the celebration of our Lord's birth which the Church sought to replace the ancient pagan holiday of Yule, we can contemplate the meaning of this often sung but perhaps not often thought about verse. Perhaps this verse can remind us of what Christ came to do, what He did, and what it means for us now. Jesus said that we should worry about today, for tomorrow has its own troubles. Today, as we gather together with our families, or go to work, or take care of other matters which life does not seem to stop for even on this day; shall we consider what it is we have to worry about today? Let's consider who isn't at our table for Christmas dinner. Let's consider today the millions who wouldn't understand how we can feast on the (proverbial) day that Christ came onto this earth to give us a new Way. His final act, to die for our sins and be resurrected, was not His only act. His first act, as we understand in chronologically linear terms, was to become a vulnerable and pathetic human infant. If we are to follow His example, how can we humble ourselves and be vulnerable with the people who need the love and peace that Christ offers?

To all of you who read this, I wish you a Merry Christmas and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Violence Pt. 1: Pacifism or Non-Violence?

I've been telling people for a while now that I'm a pacifist because I believe that violence does not solve problems. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot more connotations and stigma to the concept of pacifism than I first knew when I adopted the term for my self-description. For the most part, I have heard pacifism used to mean non-violence, which is perfect. Now, as topics of conversation with people (mostly my roommate) shift from one thing or another, it usually comes up in relation to me that I would nothing in a situation that some believe requires violence. For them, pacifism doesn't just mean non-violence, it means inactive observance.

That's problematic for me since I believe that simply observing or knowing that violence is occurring when the individual has the immediate means to act and does nothing is violence. Therefore, action must be taken when violence is observed, but it's essential not to react with violence. The difficulty, for some, I think comes from how we define violence. Violence is really a nebulous, all-encompassing term that can describe anything from my five-year old self hitting my sister to the atrocities happening Darfur. There are a few common things about both ways in which the word is used; both involve an act perpetrated by one party against another, both are physical actions, both cause some level of harm to the receiving party, and I'm sure someone with boredom I had two hours ago would take great pains to extract them all. Still, I find myself no closer to answering whether I am a pacifist or non-violent activist. So now I turn to who I am trying to emulate... Jesus.

Jesus wasn't one to be sitting on the sidelines. Even before His ministry started, He was out doing stuff and getting done what needed doing. As a child He asked questions that astounded the temple leaders, he turned water into wine (yes, it was the alcoholic stuff... Nobody calls grape juice "the good stuff" at a wedding where alcohol is traditionally served), he wandered in solitary and resisted the temptations that were before Him demonstrating a delicate knowledge of the Scripture. One thing to note is that Jesus didn't get caught up in an argument with Satan over the fact that Satan had misquoted the Scripture. Instead, He redirected the issue and pointed out the folly of tempting the God. Jesus had no problem calling out corruption when He saw, and even fashioned a make-shift whip to chase out the money-changers from the temple. He stopped the religious men of the town from killing a woman even though her transgressions supposedly justified her execution, Jesus said to go and sin no more. When it came time for Jesus be brought before the religious elders, a follower brashly chopped of the ear of the guard moving to seize Jesus, but Jesus reprimanded the follower and said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. It's noteworthy that this is not the first time that the religious elite tried to kill Jesus, but things like Passover or Sabbath or the crowd's wrath prevented them from acting while other times Jesus anticipated their desire to kill Him and so withdrew. They couldn't kill Him by their own will, but only when Jesus allowed Himself to be taken.

From this I'd say that if I am to follow Christ, I cannot be a pacifist as the world understands it. Therefore, it is easier, more precise to describe myself as a follower of Christ committed to non-violent activism. Feel free to disagree and state why you disagree and at what points you disagree with me. I love feedback.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Circadian Rhythm Disorder: Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome

It's been a long time since I've discussed my sleep disorder in detail. This is partly due to the fact that I do not wish to complain, and by writing this I do not meaning to go back on that desire. I am writing this because many people are unaware of just how complex our sleep cycles are and the existence of disorders pertaining to these complexities. At one point or another, I'm sure everyone reading this has had sleeping trouble. Maybe you're the type who can't sleep when you have too much on your mind. Maybe you have certain rituals you have to perform before going to bed such as taking a shower, putting on pajamas, and then tucking yourself into bed. When you don't get perform those sleeping rituals, you may find yourself having difficulty getting to sleep. In addition to the problem of staying asleep, there are a number of sleep disorders which encompass the problem of not being able to stay asleep. There are also disorders which are not directly inhibiting your sleep, but are symptomatic of sleep issues. Sometimes, issues with sleep point doctors to other issues like Sleep Apnea.

What is colloquially known as an internal clock is a series of chemical processes which the brain and body use to regulate when we wake up and when we go to sleep. These processes are called the circadian rhythm. My sleep disorder is directly effected by my unusual circadian rhythm. When I do not manage it, or when something throws off my regimen which I use to keep my disorder in check, my internal clock basically inverses the AM and PM. What is 22:00 for the rest of the Midwest feels like 10:00 in the morning. That is where the specification "Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome" comes in. There are numerous kinds of circadian rhythm disorders, but mine pertains to my phases of sleep and wake-time. Interestingly enough, one of the symptoms of a person with my specific type of disorder is that the required numbers of hours for sleep is greater than average for my age bracket. If a normal person of 21 years of age needs eight hours of sleep, a person of my age with my sleep disorder is going to need somewhere between 10-12 hours of sleep.

Treatment for such a disorder is a combination of herbal pills containing doses of natural chemicals like Melatonin, Retina UV light exposure, and a highly ritualized sleep regimen. Patients diagnosed with sleep disorders such as mine are advised not to watch television, smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine products, or engage in cerebral-intensive activities within a certain period before attempting to go to sleep. In the morning, the first 20-30 minutes of the day are spent exposing the eyes to UV light through a light box (known by patients treated for depression as a "happy box"). Medical science suggests that this particular disorder is not really a "disorder" at all, but rather a very calculated evolution of the human species to accommodate for the small percentage of people who were in charge of nightly fire watches. In today's society where life doesn't just end at 21:30 and resume again at 08:00, there is always a need people who are physically capable of handling working the odd night hours. Make no mistake, I'm not talking about your 24-hour convenience store clerk; I'm talking about police, doctors, medics, pilots, fire fighters, and then some.

For me, this has been great struggle. In my final year of junior high I nearly failed in part due to my inability to sleep properly. I had to see a specialist that was able to identify the symptoms and derive a diagnoses. Throughout my high school career it was always an uphill. Between trying to excel in my studies, I also wanted to have something of a social life, but in the end I would stay up late one night and that would break with my sleep regimen. I would then spend the week trying to balance school, my extracurricular activities, and regulating my sleep schedule. Frankly, I have always taken offense to people calling my condition a disorder to begin with. I only use it in this blog to help you wrap your head around how the medical world talks about it. Regardless of whether you believe in God, evolution, or a synthesis of both; I believe that I am the way I am and that they're is nothing wrong with me. I never wanted to be "treated", there's nothing to treat! I may not be a superhero, but I do have a special ability which makes it possible to do things which can cause other people serious health complications. I've digressed, my point in saying that was to say that I never really gave the whole "adjusting and adapting to normal people sleep schedules" a lot of effort. Sure, when it was in my best interest to do so, I'd make a fair effort, but I never really wanted it to stick. My condition is not a disorder.

Now I'm in college and the institution seems to encourage nearly every unhealthy choice in the book (except for unprotected sex, we get free condoms just by asking or knowing which book is really a secret storage unit). College is strangely very forgiving to someone of my disposition. The trouble is finding the perfect schedule that allows me to get enough rest when my body and brain is ready to rest. I am fortunate to have found a very accommodating job that allows me to pick my hours. The difficulty comes down to my class times. It's very hard for me to get just the right classes. This semester I have class at 11:30, 13:45, and 15:15. My 11:30 class seemed like it would be late enough in the day since last semester my 10:30 class was just killing me... On the contrary, I often struggle to be awake in time to go to class and on days when I don't have my 11:30 class I often sleep right through lunch and make it to the 13:45 class with just seconds to spare. This is really unfortunate because my 11:30 class is Natural Sciences 1, and I love science. I think it's really sad how, for whatever reason, throughout my entire educational career my science classes have been at the worst time for me. In the end though, I know that I must make sacrifices if I want to get the most out of my education.

Perhaps in the near future I'll write a follow-up entry about the misguided perception that my condition is a disorder and how everything our culture holds true is in my favor.

Hoc est verum,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Politics: The Left, The Right, The Wrong

This entry is not meant to share with you what I believe politically. Frankly, I find politics way too mind-boggling to say with such definitive language where I stand. I also find it nigh-impossible to limit myself to the preexisting political platforms. Some people would hear bits and pieces of what I think and call me a socialist, a communist, or just a liberal. Rest assured, I am none of those things. In fact, I think Jesus was much the same way. People tried to put labels on Him, saying who they thought He was, but in the end they missed the mark. Jesus didn't operate inside the guidelines of any political or religious party of the time. He didn't even conform to what the Jews expected of their Messiah. He was completely embedded in the issues of the day, but instead of fighting fire with fire; He turned everything on its head while still staying true to what it was that made Him who He said He was.

The problem I have with politics is that it divides us all. Fellow believers in the Lord who have strong opinions that differ from mine often seem to feel as though they're being targeted when I talk about politics. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. As with any family, there is bound to be disagreements and things we don't see eye to eye on. We should not be so stuck on these differences so as to assume that one is wrong and the other is right. If the Democrats were so great, don't you think Jesus (or at the very least Paul) would have stuck a footnote in the Good Book telling all of us to vote Democrat? Likewise, if the GOP was "Right" wouldn't Jesus have taken an elephant into town with a giant "Bush-Cheney '04" sticker on it's right cheek?

Recently, while browsing Facebook I discovered this group called the Christian Left. Basically, they're a bunch of Christians who feel like being liberal is more Scripturally sound than being conservative. It's very easy for me, as someone who got slapped in the face with reality, to want to polarize to the Christian Left. The more I think about it (and the more I look through their pictures, which are pretty scary); the more I realize that wouldn't be counter-cultural the way Paul talks about Romans 12:2. Going from conservative to liberal isn't counter-cultural, it's just falling into a pattern of the world that's totally different from what I'm used to. I believe that there are genuine Christians who are a part of this "Christian Left" movement, just as there are among TEA-party Christians. When we make villains of the other side, then we make villains of our own brothers and sisters. That to me is the most disgusting kind of political ideology. Any idea, philosophy, political agenda, or any such notion that would have you think less of an individual simply because they do not hold the same views as you is a completely flawed and broken rhetorical narrative.

I do not say all this to passive-aggressively point fingers at others. The more I write on this, the more I realize I am guilty of doing this. Shortly after becoming disenfranchised with my ultra-conservative grassroots, I was pretty angry that I had been misled to believe complete falsehoods about certain things. I took it out on the people who I knew would have a very polarized viewpoint on the subject I was referring to. Often times, I would insert my wrathful quips into even the most innocuous responses just to stir up trouble. Problem is, I hurt people in the process and now they won't talk to me. There's a lot to be said about that that shall remain unspoken here and that I have said elsewhere.

All I'm saying is, politics as the American sees it: a two-party system with many third parties that are hardly ever given a serious chance to offer their voice is not what Jesus was promoting as the way to deal with the situations around us.

For more information about where my ideas are spawning from, I suggest you check out: Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

In Christ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Struggle of an Honest Christian

In previous blog entries I have talked about this concept of "making your faith your own". We are taught doctrine and theology as children, for those of us that grew up in Christian homes, and at some point we do one of three things. We make this faith our own, we become content with what we know and stay the same, or we reject the faith and walk away. For me I feel that I have been trying to make my faith my own. Little did I know just how hard it would be. Everyone has an opinion on what Christ taught and how we should interpret it. There are people who have been dead for centuries and their thoughts on the faith are studied still today by Christians and non-Christians alike. Does that mean I should fall in line with that group of thinkers? Does the survival of their writings mean it is the best?

Then there's my personal experiences and knowledge of the world. All the things- good or bad- that I've seen and experienced factor into how I want to make my faith my own. Add to that all the books that I've read that have given me ideas about the world and the way I perceive it. For example, patriotism. I used to be a "card-carrying" Republican that bled Red, White, and Blue. I had opinions on everything economic and social. I was adamant about what I believed and defended my positions to the point of absurdity. I had some very not-nice things to say about liberals, communists, socialists, and pretty much anyone who I didn't agree with. Then I started reading more, I studied more, and I talked with people on the other side of the fence with the attitude of listening instead of trying to be heard. Suddenly things were not so simple. The politicians who claimed to be for me were starting to look like massive hypocrites right alongside the ones I had already condemned to one of the circles of Dante's Inferno. That's just scratching the surface of the topic of politics. It barely even makes a glancing scuff mark on the subject of patriotism.

There's what some might see as lesser issues, like why I'm growing out my hair and letting it dread. It may not be to the taste of some folks, but they're not going to get into a huge argument with me over it. My choice to become a vegetarian also falls into this category. But there's also the abstract issues; how I feel about Christian music, what to wear in church, hymns, drinking, smoking, or just living life in general. They're abstractly surreal because it's nearly impossible to come to consensus about these things. Yes, there are very authoritative figures out there who say one thing, but there's also very compelling little-known people preaching the opposite. When I look at that, I think of Jesus. He was a very compelling little-known person who said something contrary to what the authoritarian figureheads were saying. Instead of just taking the guy in a suit with all the fancy titles at his word, I think I'll listen to the community-advocate who sews many of his own clothes and doesn't have any titles to his name.

The struggle for this honest Christian is to not burn bridges as I go the direction I feel God is calling me to go. But why would anyone intentionally burn bridges? Well, I don't, not exactly... Many things I rejected and pruned from my lifestyle and faith were things that I perceived as emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually unhealthy and/or unsound. I didn't just decided I didn't need them. I decided that I could literally be harming myself to keep them as a part of my life. Problem is, many of the friends I have made prior to these realizations still hold the views I have rejected. They take offense to what I have to say, even when I try to say it without the fiery passion behind it. After a time, they grow weary of hearing what I think... Funny, they didn't get tired of hearing what I had to say when it agreed with their views... Oops, did I type that out?

Anyways, listen, folks who knew me from the days when I was known as Nathan; those days are gone. My faith is not gone though, and while we may not see eye to eye on all the issues we are called to love each other. Why should anybody believe us when we say that Jesus loves them when we can't even demonstrate love to each other? And yes, I realize that I am guilty of instigating a lot of strife between us, but I have tried to clear the air with each of you on an individual basis. I have also made blanket apologies, and still there is unforgiveness and bitterness. Still, many seem to refuse to accept that I have different views. It's like people won't accept me if I don't revert back to the old me. That's kind of shallow, isn't it? Is that all our friendship was? Shallow?

The questions continue...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Modern Cold War

My heart is breaks quite frequently over the spiritual apartheid between the GLBTQ community and Christians. While I could go into all the misconceptions Christians have about gays and lesbians and provide clarity on the issue, there is already a great book which goes to great lengths to talk about the great divide and where it comes from called Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. I will instead make a few personal remarks and draw parallels to historical events from which I hope we, as followers of Christ, can objectively realize the gross injustices and stop the damages before things become irreparable.

The idea for this entry came about from a class discussion when the conversation had somehow deviated from the main subject of the text and children being raised with two male or two female parental figures came up. The class used the words "gay" and "lesbian" with the exception of my roommate who awkwardly coughed out the word, "homosexual". Don't get me wrong, I don't believe my roommate was trying to be awkward about it, but it definitely came out that way when everyone else simply used the terms gay and lesbian. It got me thinking about a time when I used to do the same thing. Ignorantly, I used to think that "homosexual" was the innocuous term for gays and lesbians. Little did I know that this term is the adopted label that anti-gay groups adopted and branded everyone who strayed from heterosexuality.

For me, I see the vast expanse that is the distance between Christians and the GLBTQ community like a cold war. On one side we have the McCarthy-like Christians who are ready to persecute anyone and everyone who even looks like a "faggot" as well as fellow Christians who aren't outspokenly bigoted are then labeled, "sympathizers". On the flip-side, we have angry gays and lesbians who equate Christianity with a fascist State that needs to be brought down. The problem is that there is so much fear and ignorance surrounding the issues that those somewhere in the middle without an opinion quickly get swept up in the propaganda of either polar opposite. It's a sad state of affairs, one that history records as a dark and tumultuous time. I would like to remind my Christian friends who may try to argue that America, in a way prevailed with Reagan and the Berlin Wall being torn down, that McCarthy was a paranoid alcoholic. He is not remembered as an American hero or a champion of American vigilance, but a crazy nut who drunk himself to death.

I cannot address gays and lesbians, because I have no real "in" connection to the community and therefore no real voice. I do have a voice to my fellow believers in Jesus. When did, "come just as you are" turn into, "come only if you agree with my doctrinal interpretation of Scripture and aren't gay"? Sure, the GLBTQ community has made some very hateful remarks of Christians and there have been some very nasty things said about us, but since when did the words, "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you" turn into procedural precedent for discrimination and bigotry? It's true that not all of you, perhaps none of you who will read this are going to Pride this year and holding up signs that say, "God hates fags" or anything like that, but by being silent regarding the prejudice aren't you passively consenting to the perpetuation of hate? We can do better than this.

Believers in the calling of Christ, I love you all, but I love my gay friends too. I love my androgynous friends. I love my bisexual and pansexual friends. I love my friends who reject the gender binary system. I love every last one of you and I will not tolerate my God and the Word being used as a mechanism of hate, which is the polar opposite of what its true purpose is for.

Food for thought anyway...


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Waking from a Nightmare

It seems I scared off a few followers with my last blog entry. I could write an entire blog entry solely based on that alone, but I don't think it would be very nice. Suffice to say that I do not value followers who simply disappear when they read something they don't like. In fact, if those people try to follow me again, I think I'll spare them the hypocrisy and just block them from viewing my blog. I don't want their half-baked and flaky following anyway. If I quit reading stuff because I didn't like it, then I would quickly run out of things to read.

I cannot say that I understand what happened, but it was a very awful experience. I had come into this semester not on top of my game emotionally, but I still had a great sense of hope. My hopes were raised with the discovery that I enjoyed my job, my classmates, and my classes. But soon my classmates disassociated and began to clique-up. I am fortunate to spend more than ten minutes with any one of them. I was also quite excited because I had such a unifying experience at Chapter Focus Week in Michigan that I thought things would be better at my chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF or simply IV). My first three months that I went were completely insignificant and altogether disappointing.

Everything I had looked forward to was crumbling. I was more than just discouraged. I was feeling completely crushed and defeated. Then I was severely penalized at work for somethings I didn't do. I tried to contest it, but the issue fell on deaf ears. In class I found myself so sleep deprived that my short-term memory failed and I couldn't remember the data as it was being read off in the lab for recording results of experiments which I must later turn into a lab report. The last two things which I found fulfillment in; work and class, had just been pulled out from under me like a rug. I would cross the street and literally question whether it would matter at all if I got hit by a large vehicle. There seemed to be absolutely nothing significant about my life and there was certainly nothing that I could think of at the time that was keeping me here on Earth.

Then I woke up one day and this monumental pressure was gone. The dark clouds had parted and the Son was shining through again. I cannot for a moment explain what happened or why. All I can say is that I'm glad it is over and I'm glad there were a very small handful who took time to talk with me, listen to me, and genuinely showed me that they cared. Others still made offers to listen, but at the time I wasn't in a place where I could just pour myself out to anyone.

There's so much more I could say about how much I hold such contempt for the human race, and about how much I trust humans to do only one thing and that is to let me down, but I'd prefer not to dwell on such darkness after having been in complete absence of Light.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Why not just shave my head?

That question cuts to the heart of what I have come to realize. I have come to realize that there is no meaning in life. The individual cannot, nor the society of individuals, derive a true meaning from life. The individual or the society of individuals can only synthesize a valid meaning from life, which is to say that they can create a non-self sustaining, or non-provable meaning from life. This meaning requires some loosely defined concept of faith. By faith I simply mean an acceptance to be true what cannot be proven. To some extent, even things that can be proven are taken by faith by the average individual. Most individuals do not understand why water is essential to our survival, but we in faith drink water when we are thirsty rather than some other fluid because we have faith that it will rehydrate us.

Furthermore, I have realized that friendships and other non-specific social connections with individuals is an extension of faith. Social connections are made for the basic purpose of exchanging goods. Goods, as I am using it, are anything physical or immaterial that can be given or taken. So what then is the good that a friend provides? A friend can provide many goods, but at the most fundamental level I would posit that a friend exchanges familiarity. Familiarity is a more base concept of solidarity, which is a unifying principle that unites individuals for a single purpose or cause. Familiarity is more abstract and less impacting than solidarity in that it only unites one individual to another and a single familiarity which can be exchanged between two people does not necessarily have value outside of the ongoing transaction between these two individuals. In fact, familiarity can be exchanged between non-individuals such as domesticated animals and plant life. It is taken on faith that the familiarity we derive from animals and plant life is a reciprocal response to our own given familiarity.

Beyond that, there are many more immaterial goods which can be exchanged between individuals which I could attempt to list, but might not be able to satisfactorily define what these immaterial goods are. The purpose of even bringing up familiarity is to show on a simple model what it is that friendship provides for the individual. I recognize that I am altogether neglecting to address the issue of social contract theory, but I leave that to more capable minds. The reason for avoiding this is to stay separate from the aspect of social that encompasses the question of why we form governments and political hierarchy. I believe it is possible discuss the other aspects of social without delving into the realms of political theory. From now on, it should be understood that when I talk of social I am referring to immaterial and to some extent the physical connections between individuals and the evolutions of those connections.

And I have said all this to say that I am deficient of faith in other individuals, moreover I continue to lose faith in everything (not just individuals) that I interact with as I begin to understand more and more the complexity and inconsistencies which all things have. For drawing up a very broad and non-theological definition, I shall call these inconsistencies in individuals sin to denote the negative connotation I wish to associate with inconsistency. I do this so that when I say that I am full of sin and that the promise of redemption from sin by a savior, namely Christ, is a very wonderful prospect. Unfortunately, I lack the faith that there is such a savior. I lack the faith to believe that my inconsistencies can be remedied. Even if the Christ is perfect, that is consistent, I still cannot summon faith to believe that an individual's consistency can inoculate my inconsistency.

But if this is true, why shouldn't I just shave my head? For those not aware of why I am growing out my hair, I am growing it out because I made a seven-year vow to the Judeo-Christian God that I would consecrate myself to better understanding myself and It in relation to each other and the impact we can have on the world. If I do not have the faith to believe in the exchange between a non-physical entity and myself, then it follows that I do not have the faith to believe there would be repercussions for cutting my hair. However, I believe that my own consistency; which I now give the abstract title of righteousness, is at risk if I break this vow. By cutting my hair, I would be rendering myself yet further inconsistent. To the same extent that righteousness might be self-determined, or self-made; sin is also self-determined. I can sin against myself, or be inconsistent with myself, and thus be doing wrong by myself.

If anyone cares to try to show me that there is meaning in life using the terms I have laid out, and not with their own terms unless you can justify why your terms are more appropriate, then I would greatly appreciate the exchange.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Breeder: Introduction

I have a story idea that's buzzing around in my head which has been bothering for a good part of the night and I wanted to get on it, but instead I thought I'd do the service to the few who read this of prefacing what is to come. The idea is rather vague, no fine details in my mind that would make it novel-worthy. Instead, I have decided to post it in parts here on my blog.
Should I got to sleep and awake to find the creative juices diverging from this idea, I shall promptly update this to let you all know and so as to not keep you waiting in anticipation of a proper first part.

Wow, that was wordy... I need to take a chill-pill from all the British-folk and their literature.


P.S - I have lost all motivation to write this story.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

O, Woe is Me! Where are You now, God?

"No one is good, not even one"

I have always had a harsh opinion of myself. They say that we are always our harshest critic. It's funny, a co-worker of mine pointed out that I'm always telling people that they need to stop hating themselves but in reality I hate myself more than I hate anyone else. Why?

"The front pages of papers of children raped by rapist
Iraqi torture chambers and we the blame claim we're blameless
Wrong, all"

True, I'm not a rapist, nor a murder, nor the kind of person who should be locked away in an asylum. I'm human. Humans, evolutionarily I'm inclined to believe that we're programmed to think there is something wrong with us so we can strive to become better than what we are. It's like a diagnostic program that runs in the background of your computer trying to find all the things that are slowing it down; in reality the diagnostic program itself is probably the most CPU-consuming program. But on a spiritual level, I believe the damage to our soul is reflected in our physical bodies. I personally believe that I am racked with guilt over sins I've committed and thus I hate myself; that is why I smoke.

"And swelling up inside of us there's this pride in us, this arrogance
And our only line of defense is the sense that
I'm not as half as bad as this friend of mine so I must be fine"

But everybody smokes at one time or another, right? I mean, it's not like I smoke pot or get drunk. As if I could put qualifiers on what makes me better than someone else, now that's a load of bologna. James 2:10 tells us that any and all sin condemns us. None of us can point a finger without also convicting ourselves.

"We mean well, don't we?
Yet I've never seen good intentions set a man free from
Hurt, all"

Being a kind person does not solve the problem. It goes a long way to making life easier while living it, but it does not solve the problem. Granted, if someone is a genuinely kind person then they're way better off than the 90% who claim to be kind and are really the scum of the Earth. I have every good intention when I am kind to people. I mean well and I mean what I say when I say it. Yet I am still alone and left to my own self-destructive devices at the end of the day.

"This poor unfortunate soul
Filling a single void with toy after toy, girl after boy
How boring- this wasn't this meant to be Humanity's life story
Warring with God saying, 'what have You done for me?'"

So, in my bitter malcontentedness I blame everyone and anyone else, even God for the way I feel. I blame myself and the way I look, the way God made me, as if I am somehow deficient. The truth is much harder to swallow. There is nothing wrong with me. I am not deficient. Nobody is to blame for this except myself, but not for the things I blame myself for. Oh wait...

"Bought, all
Hanging out for six hours, marred beyond recognition
In complete submission to His Father's will, still"

I am a child of God. When I accepted Christ I surrendered all the guilt and shame, the ugliness of sin, to Him. I have a choice now and I don't have to look at life as a predestined promenade of doom. My self-hatred and proceeding self-destructive behavior is for nothing. I don't have to do this anymore.

"A proclamation was made louder than the loudest temptation
With more beauty than all His creation
More eternal than eternity, more angelic than the heavenlies
It Is done for you and bought with blood"

How stupid and foolish to think that I, in my finite understanding, could presume to hang the judgment of the universe over my head when God Almighty doesn't. Who am I to condemn myself for what God has forgiven and forgotten? Where are my accusers now? Who can lay a finger of blame on me with evidence that will hold up in the courts of Final Judgment? He who knit me in my mother's womb has brought about a redemption love story that erases the things that I hated most about myself and given me a completely new identity: child of God.

For freedom has come"

Prose titled, "Benediction" written by Jimmy Needham
Accessed October 2nd, 2011 at: LyricsMania

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Integrity of Personality

As a result of miscommunicated intention between myself and a friend at a party, I've begun to contemplate a theory I have about something I call integrity of personality. Following up beliefs I hold to be true about purity, I have endeavored to answer the question of what makes a person a genuinely kind person. We cannot assume that mere kind deeds make a person kind, because we don't know their intentions, so therefore I ruled out deeds altogether. This may seem rather too quick, but since we seldom know the true intentions and motivations behind the actions of others it would seem that eliminating the most unpredictable variable would be a prudent action.

I do not wish to flesh out this theory of integrity of personality. It would take many blog entries to do so, and without solid evidence it will always remain a theory that can be observed but not proven. Instead, I have opted to give the interested reader a taste of what the implications would be if this theory were correct. As an aloof Christian, I have become disenfranchised with many superstitious beliefs about what it means to be a kind person. Fundamentalism amongst the charismatic circles of the Christian religion would have an individual believing that outside of God there is no such thing as kindness. They would also have an individual believe that righteousness in deed is essential to being a kind person. When I refer to righteousness I am in fact referring to sexual purity. Often times the definition of righteousness and purity are blurred by the belief that righteousness is obtained through purity. While commonly ignored, this de facto belief denies the basic tenet that there are none who are good except God. If all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God as it says in Romans 3:23, then no amount of purity will save your soul more than sexual ambiguity will. I do not deny that once we have been given new life in Christ that we are called to live differently from the rest of the world, but amongst the fundamentalists this had devolved into works-based righteousness which is in direct conflict with Paul's words to Timothy in the second letter. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Therefore, the implications of the theory behind integrity of personality is this: it doesn't matter if you're the most chaste and sober individual if you are not a kind person. However, if a person is otherwise morally ambiguous and still a kind person then they are demonstrating integrity of personality. Contrary to the opinion of the charismatic fundamentalists, there can be such a thing as kindness of personality without chastity. Feminists should rejoice, since the implications of this are a major undercut to the patriarchal narrative that plagues Christian tradition.

Thoughts, comments, questions, and the like are appreciated as always.

Hoc est verum,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prelude: Reactionary vs. Revolutionary

If this whets your appetite, then you'll be pleased to know that I am planning to write a novel for NaNoWriMo about this concept of Reactionary vs. Revolutionary.

College students are probably the most laughable kinds of revolutionaries. They begin to study some other political systems or learn about some injustice in the world and think that they're going to make things better by doing something. They may start using some fancy words, or kid themselves into thinking that going to protests with militant socialists will somehow help the situation. They read about Che and start wearing those ridiculous shirts with Che's face plastered on the front. They may begin to fall out of favor with the local authority, opting to give them the middle finger, all the while living under the protection of the same. They criticize administrations of all kinds for their lack this or that, but in the end they're mostly just making noise.

It reminds me a lot of the high school students who wrote their own version of the "Pledge of Allegiance" and proceeded to show up late to school in the mornings so that they could recite their version of the Pledge (which omitted God, allegiance to the State, and pretty much everything that made the original what it was). The video they made showing off their progressive-thinking act of civil disobedience showed the student organization behind all this was a group of liberal kids who had a history of jumping on the bandwagon of the next most progressive thing to-do. These kids were in high school, an abysmal time for many in many different ways, yet they were claiming to be on the forefront of progressivism? They're little act of rebellion did nothing more than put a few bad marks on their attendance sheet and gave Yahoo! News something to talk about for a day while a few thousand viewers commented on it like the peanut gallery they are.

As I have gotten older, I too have grown dissatisfied with the status quo. I have begun to question all that I know; challenging it all with what I am learning. This trial by fire as all the tradition I grew up with passes through the flame of reason with hope that all that remains is what's worth embracing of the old traditions. The problem comes when my emotions are running high and I want nothing to do with the traditions of my parents or of the culture I live in, and when the flame of reason doesn't consume everything, I am quickly left with something that makes sense; I just don't want to accept that it does. This rejection of something that makes sense on the principle that it is a part of what you want nothing to do with is a central them of what I called Reactionary.

Reactionary is called so because the actions that stem from this type of thinking are usually a reaction to something. Some people might look at the hippies of the 1960's who were into bra burning, nudism, sexual flippancy, and all sorts of other things and say, "Huh, what a silly group of people." The sad part is that we can find examples of the same type of reactionary radicalism on campuses today. This is not to be confused with Revolutionary activists on campus who are genuinely seeking to change the way things are and (hopefully) improve something about the environment of the campus.

To be continued in November in my novel...

Hoc est verum,

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Inconsistent Significance of Marriage

Marriage plays different roles in cultures throughout the world over. For this topic, it seems appropriate to address the issue from an overarching view of the culture as a whole like Benedict does in Patterns of Culture as opposed to how marriage affects the individual like Schieffelin in Performance and the Cultural Construction of Reality. The logic behind this is that I want to ask questions while drawing comparisons and contrasts to the marriage rituals from the cultures of the Zuñi, Dobu, and Kwakiutl with that of American marriage rituals. Because marriage rituals is relative to the couple, their families, and the cultural heritage they share; it is more accurate to say that I am comparing and contrasting the three cultures described in her book with the idealized and often stereotypical concept of the “American marriage ritual”.

The image of an American marriage ritual is in the setting of church filled with family and friends. The groom stands at the altar which is at the front of the church and is accompanied by his best man, the priest/pastor, and other select few who make up the grooms portion of the wedding party. The bride and her portion of the wedding party make their way out in the oft long-awaited moment as the tune, “Here Comes the Bride” plays to signal her walk down the center aisle of the church. After a speech from the priest or pastor, the bride and groom exchange vows of love, endurance, and faithfulness who then recite the words, “With this ring, I thee wed” in an exchange of rings which are brought to them by a member of the party given the apt title of ring bearer. The religious official gives them new names pronouncing them, “Mister and Misses [first and last name of the groom]”. After all is said and done, the procession of the wedding party and all guests watching make their way to another location for a party in which food and drink is served as well as toasts of best wishes to the newly wedded couple primarily from the best man and close friends or family of the couple.

While there are many aspects of the American marriage ritual which could be analyzed, such as the expenses incurred to make such an ideal ceremony possible, it is not feasible to make an accurate evaluation of how much is spent on average without going beyond the scope of the readings assigned. It is noteworthy that the preparation and planning for such an event is considerable. Many months go into planning the wedding from invitations sent out to potential guests to catering for the wedding reception. Every detail is carefully thought-out and taken into account. Some couples and their families elect to hire an individual who specializes in coordinating all the aspects of the planning to relieve some of the stress which often ensues from trying to organize such a grandiose day. The emphasis is mainly placed on making the wedding “her day”, meaning that focus is on the bride and appealing to her fantasies of how the wedding should be. The groom also has input, but his contributions are not considered central to making the day of the wedding perfect.

In stark contrast, the Zuñi put a very small emphasis on their marriage rituals. The boy goes to the father of the girl whom he wishes to marry and awaits for the father to ask the boy about what he came for, and the boy replies that he is seeking his daughter, at which point the daughter is brought out to answer for herself. If she consents, her mother prepares a place for them to retire together. The bride washes her grooms’ hair and for four days brings her now mother-in-law a basket of fine corn flower. Nothing more is made of the event, which points to a larger underscore in Zuñi culture that they avoid expressions of strong emotion.

Divorce in Zuñi culture is about as equally lacking in ceremony. The wife need only to make it a point to attend ceremonial feasts, have a private meeting with a potential new husband, and then to leave her husbands’ few possessions outside of the house which effectively sends him back to live with his mother. Despite this, Benedict notes that marriages on the whole of Zuñi society last the majority of a lifetime (Patterns of Culture, 74-5).

In Dobu culture, a boy freely travels nightly from house to house having affairs with eligible women in a neighboring community. When he grows tired of moving from one to another, he begins to awake to late in the morning and thereby not avoiding being trapped by the soon-to-be mother-in-law as she blocks the door effectively preventing his escape. In view of the public, the couple sit upon a mat, presenting themselves as betrothed to the girl’s village community. The boy and his brothers then work for approximately a year preparing crops to present to the family of the girl. They consummate the marriage with with the wife and husband eating each others’ mothers’ cooking. From then on, the husband provides food for himself in his own garden and for his wife and children in her garden. Marriages do not necessarily end in divorce, but take a more form of passive-aggressive abuse towards each other’s property as a result of discovery of extra-marital affairs occur. Though conciliatory acts by the village community on behalf of their respective married member are made, it is usually only enough to keep the couple together in bitter discontent. The entire marriage ritual underscores the importance of food for the Dobu, as their environment is not conducive to agricultural productivity (Patterns of Culture, 130, 134-5, 140).

In Kwakiutl culture, marriage in almost strictly a business transaction. The boy makes his bid for the girl in an aggressive competition directly against the father for the right to marry his daughter. The more renown the father is, the more the boy must pay in order to acquire his bride. This hostility can sometimes lead to physical violence and even death. The groom is also forced to run a gauntlet of the father-in-law’s men whose sole purpose to inflict pain upon him. The father of the bride forces the family of groom to endure the blistering heat of the fire he stirs while be subjected to mockery and threats of death should the groom fail to acquire his daughter. If the groom is successful, he makes a final payment to retain the bride. The father of the bride then bestows upon the son-in-law all of his titles and wealth for the children his daughter will have. The father-in-law sends his payment down river, which is then sunk by the friends of the son-in-law, which in turn causes the father-in-law to pay with interest what he originally owed(Patterns of Culture, 203-5).

Divorce for the Kwakiutl comes in the form of dissatisfaction with the payments he has received to compensate for the children his wife has had. The father-in-law is then left with his daughter and grandchildren and not paid for the right to see the children. This type of dispute can result in a fiercely competitive form of material destruction. If the father-in-law is forced to destroy most or all of what is valuable to him, then the son-in-law has effectively dissolved the marriage and is free to move on to another woman who will bring him higher status through the wealth and titles that will pass to his children through his father-in-law (Patterns of Culture, 208).

Looking at these three cultures in comparison and contrast to the American marriage ritual, I have to wonder what the significance is that there are similarities between them all. For example, divorce in America may be high, but one of the common reasons for divorce is a spouse having an extra-marital affair. While the Dobu culture has no real escape clause for a disguntled spouse who has caught their partner having an affair, Americans can easily file paperwork and go their separate ways. The father of any children from a now broken-up marriage in America is expected to pay child-support, which mirrors somewhat similarly the payment a son-in-law must pay to see his children in the Kwakiutl. The Zuñi, as pointed out earlier, have rather relaxed attitudes towards marriage altogether, yet they do not have high divorce rates.

As someone with high regard for my cultural heritage of marriage rituals, I am forced to ask why it is that the divorce among those who share my heritage is so high. To hypothesize, I would call into question the significance of marriage in my culture. It should be noted that while there is a semblance of the American marriage ritual present in my culture, when I refer to my cultural heritage of marriage rituals they are somewhat more heavy on the emphasis of religious importance in the marriage. For the longest time, I was under the impression that casual marriage equated to casual divorce, but that is simply not true for the Zuñi. I can only underscore the significance of their anti-conflict stance in marriage as an explanation for the ability for their marriages to outlast marriages among the people I share a cultural heritage with. Until such a time as when I am empowered with the resources to conduct my own research, I may never be able to know for certain what it is about marriage rituals within my cultural heritage that could contribute to their failure.


Benedict, Ruth. Patterns of Culture. New York City: Mariner, 2005. Print.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Am Not Your Christian

For years I have struggled to vocalize the frustration of a common pattern among those who hear that I follow Jesus and His teachings. Many critics of my beliefs are either skeptics by birth or are former church-goers who had a falling-out with their spiritual community. It's with these second types of critics that I'm mostly concerned with, although several that fall into the first category have made an equally irritating claim that is similar which I will point out in a moment. As a follower of Jesus, it is true that I share similar beliefs with many people who make the claim to be "Christians", but at this juncture in the joint spiritual experience of seeking out the ethereal communion with God through His Son; it must be stipulated that there is massive amounts of division amongst the human-formed groups of individuals caused by disagreements over the ideas about various details which were either not hammered out in the Bible or were considered ambiguous by many and thus in turn interpreted in multiple ways. Centuries ago these disagreements were worth killing over, but now that bloodshed is out of style for most of these Christian groups, the more favorable debate-and-reject style of proverbial murder has become the contemporary mode of operation. Yes, there are some but few and far between who seek to reach across the void to other theological camps and pursue a common goal, but on the whole most groups stick to themselves and continue to bolster their own egos with their sense of superior ideology.

Basically, I'm conceding that while Christians preach a good message about unity in Christ and entering into the fold of Church, a universal physical and temporal-transcending entity made up of individuals who believe in a common creed; there is in fact much division which was created by people and to this day perpetuated by people. It is important to make this concession before going further because many will retort to my next claim with, "But aren't you all believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you not all one body of Christ?"

Critics of my faith claim to have adequate knowledge and understanding of my faith by pointing to their background in one denomination or another while adding anecdotal stories about some horrific childhood experience that signified the death of their hope in anything the Church had to offer them. This very claim is so aggravating to me because it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the corruption which runs rampant throughout the Christ-following community. The corruption I speak of is the gross mis-use of our intellect to separate and subjugate believers into one doctrine or another while excluding other doctrines or even considering allowing an inter-doctrinal community to exist. It is true that some denominations are capable of working for a short period of time with other denominations to share in the purpose of further fulfilling the Great Commission. The assumption by my critics is thus that I am just like their idea of Christians which they know from their childhood. Worse yet, they add to that all they've learned from the media about Christianity and assume that I'm some ultra-conservative Bible-thumping young man who votes Republican on every election that comes up.

"Haha, wait... So you're saying that you're not?"

That is indeed what I am saying. In fact, most people who were to judge me by first appearances would either say that I am a hippy or a hipster. I don't wear collared shirts, I have long hair, and I am more likely to be found on the street corner listening to the story of a homeless man than to be found sitting in a Bible study. While I have been raised in a fundamentalist church with conservative parents and taught a very rigid doctrine of theology (I've even taken my first two years of ministry training), I have gone on to do what evangelicals refer to as, "taking ownership of my faith". This process is when an individual who was raised in church decides to investigate their faith further and make a decision based on their own beliefs as opposed to simply choking down everything they've been taught their entire life. Many critics don't even know this is a process of each individual's spiritual journey in the Christian community, but that may be in part due to the fact that this taking ownership of one's faith-process is different in each denomination.

Others who have never really taken the journey of a Christ-follower may have done something else that gave them the [false] idea that they're knowledgeable and understanding of the complexities of my faith because they visited several different church buildings and had numerous discussions with members of different congregations. This is admirable, but it is foolish of said critics to think that they're diverse portfolio of conversations makes them an expert on MY faith. Have you put the pieces together yet? My faith is mine. There are many people who believe in very similar things as I do, but no one else believes exactly, detail for detail, as I do. When I respond to claims about Christianity in general, I try to separate my personal faith and commonly held beliefs by those whom I closely align myself with. I do this because my personal faith is useless to others who are seeking theological or philosophical answers regarding Christ.

In conclusion, I point out this Scripture which encapsulates the principle of taking ownership of one's own faith: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." - Philippians 2:12 (KJV).

For Jah,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Promiscuous Purity

I never once thought that I would be writing this entry, an entry that is a complete slap in the face to all I once thought about sexual purity. I think back to my days in youth group and all the talks the young men would have, and I know without a doubt that my youth pastor and her husband had every good intention in teaching me what they did about purity. I know that most people who have had a part in shaping what I previously held true about purity had good intentions when they said what they said about purity. The fact is, I desire something more authentic than placations for the religiously-minded do-gooders and something more free than the bondage of Victorian-like chastity. I am in no way condoning fornication as the modern evangelical Christian understands it.

Folks, most of you who read this come from very conservative upbringings. Most of you have always known there was a proper context for sex, sexuality, and any affection shown towards the opposite gender with romantic connotations. The problem that I see in the approach most of us have been raised to take is the lie that our actions or inactions can prevent us from sin. I have struggled for years to reconcile how God-fearing men and women with such high moral fiber and integrity could fall prey to their lustful desires in the heat of the moment. Surely, this fire can be kept from starting ablaze? Surely, the Scripture is true when it says, "but God is faithful, who will not tempt you above what ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Why then do so many fall? Because we, in of our own selves are so weak and double-minded that we are incapable of maintaining the standards of purity we set for ourselves. Secondly, because we unrealistically expect ourselves not to have the desire for intimacy until we get married, as if God suddenly switches on our intimacy and we are then imbued with such overwhelming passions. That is simply not how it works. We then are confronted with urges and impulses which we cannot reconcile with our knowledge of sexuality and purity. The only recourse a person with such an education has is to label these urges and impulses as sinful desires. Folks, at the risk of being accused of misinterpreting Scripture I remind you of Peter's visions of the animals which God told him to kill and eat. Peter resisted and called them unclean, which God promptly rebuked Peter for and said, "Do not call anything I have made unclean."

Brothers and sisters, I implore you to seek something more authentic than the old ways of purity. God did not create the mess that plagues our lives. We're the ones who take the mess and spread it around like stray dogs digging through the trash. The problem is that this mess is way too big for us to clean up ourselves, we cannot even contain it ourselves, but rather we need the redeeming blood of Christ to rectify and sanctify our souls. Oh, friends, do you not understand as I do that nothing we do of our own accord can break us from the ways of sin? Sex and sexuality is the not the problem! We are! We embrace sin like a dog returns to its vomit. If you burn yourself on the stove, do you blame the stove? Our only hope is to seek Christ whole-heartedly and look not to the left or the right; pressing on towards the prize with the tenacity of someone with nothing to lose, because we have everything to gain.

If it is not clear what this means, then please feel free to comment and inquire and I will do my best to elaborate on it further.

With love,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New Dawn Approaches

It seems like a long ways away now, but I know it will creep up on me sooner than later. In a couple months I will be turning 21 years of age. If you're curious why that would be a big deal, it's a big deal because unlike my more conservative comrades I have no problem with alcohol. The problem is that I see, both at work and with friends, what alcohol does to people and I wonder if I even want to risk being like that. I hate drunks so much that I refuse to recognize them as human beings. They are sub-human degenerates. Let me make this clear: there is nothing cute, funny, or great about being drunk. Followers of the Way should know that drinking to excess is a reprehensible action. God does not condemn alcohol, but there is a clear distinction between acceptable and unacceptable use of it.

Followers of Jesus, don't be deceived! You may see people who are drunk and think they're having a lot of fun, you may even enjoy the kind of personality someone embraces when they're drunk, but it is one massive misrepresentation. Every sin is pleasurable for a season, but understand that the greatest deception is that we think sin is going to burn us like touching a hot stove. Remember that a frog will jump out of boiling water, but if you put it in room temperature water and slowly turn the heat up incrementally the frog will sit in the water and be boiled to death. We are like that frog, some sin that we do causes us to recognize what it is and run from it, but the sin that Satan lures us with is the stuff that boils us slowly. Brothers and sisters, understand that I'm not trying to judge anyone, as I consider myself the chief among unworthy of the Lord's grace, but not only have we been severed from our heritage of death and adopted into the Family of God; we have been given a new lifestyle and a new purpose for our lives. We cannot fulfill that purpose if our minds are in a fog of substances.

I have never had a problem with alcohol, despite my parents' stern messages of the evils of alcohol. My parents don't enjoy alcohol and that's to their benefit. For me, I have tried and enjoyed a small assortment of alcoholic beverages which I have no qualms about drinking. Thing is, I question what the impact will be if I begin drinking when I become of age. Will other followers of the Way discover it and begin to drink without consideration for the limitations? I feel as though I have already misled some of my friends into thinking that because I do not have issues with alcohol itself that I also have little to no problem with drunkenness. I don't know why it is so hard for so many to understand the difference between having a few drinks and getting drunk or why getting drunk is never okay under our New Identity. I accept that people who are not accustomed to drinking can accidentally drink too much and become drunk, but accidental drunkenness does not make it okay. We don't have to gather the town and stone the person to death, but we shouldn't relish the thought of them having drunk to excess.

There are so many questions and so few answers, but if I must I will simply not drink. That is the easiest and simplest way to avoid all the trouble that arises from exercising this small freedom we have been afforded because of Christ.

Thoughts? Feel free to comment here.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Father's Day seems to have become a commercialized phenomenon where people go out spend copious amounts on their paternal figures. I don't know about your dad, but mine appreciates that stuff only so much as it comes from the heart. If I went out to Target and bought him something it might mean something to him whether or not he uses it. But honestly, I'd rather use the gifts God gave me to honor my dad, and one of them is writing. My dad has always supported my writing even when he didn't quite understand where I was coming from when I wrote it.

For those who don't know my dad, he's into classic rock music. He has a healthy collection of Styx, but one of the staple bands of his collection is Petra. At one point we owned nearly every album by Petra in vinyl, cassette, or CD. He even named one of my sisters after the band. Not because he's some kooky weirdo that names his kids after bands or anything like that, but because the members of Petra brought Christ into a very dark atmosphere of rock and did so unapologetically. They kept going even when prominent pastors and preachers like Jim Baker were speaking out against them, because they knew that the music was bringing people to Christ. Today Petra is officially retired after 33 years of ministry, but they recently released a Classic Petra album which features a very strong line-up of musicians and the vocalist from the older days of Petra. In addition, the original guitarist and lyricist Bob Hartman and vocalist John Schlitt for the last 11 years of Petra are also on tour as II Guys from Petra.

I tell you all this to give you a little bit of background on a band that I grew up listening to. When I was younger it was pretty much Petra, dc Talk, and whatever classical music my mom was listening to. When my mom and dad were the leaders of SonLight (the Awana for anyone who wasn't Baptist) they were playing "I Love The Lord" and tons of other Petra songs during praise and worship. I'm 20 years-old now and I've heard literally hundreds of bands and thousands of songs, but I still listen to Petra. Why? Because the music continues to bring me closer to Christ. I may have heard, "Beyond Belief" a million times, but just this morning I was having a really bad day and listened to "Just Reach Out" off the album Wake-Up Call and suddenly I was reminded that no matter what happens God is always waiting for me to call out to Him and He will answer. My dad may not realize just how significant Petra is to me, but I want him to know that because he exposed me to Petra I have had access to music that has helped me hold on to my faith.

My dad may not have sat me down and gave me one of those Hollywood five-minute pep-talks that made me suddenly become a super happy plastic Christian, instead he did something so much better. He gave me all the tools and support I needed to find God knocking on the door of my heart and the all the reminders I could ever want about God's unconditional, unfathomable, unmatchable love for me. He may not have stood at the pulpit and preached to a crowd of people, because he really hates drawing attention to himself (so he may have mixed feelings that this is public blog entry), but he very well might have raised the next Smith Wigglesworth (me), Gladys Aylward (my baby sister), Mary Wollstonecraft (my younger sister), or the next Tony Dungee (my younger brother). All those people were extraordinary people who served the Lord while doing things that even the rest of the world pays attention to.

So, Dad, thanks. This Jesus-Hippy is grateful for having a father who was there and tried his best to be the dad I needed.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why Use Linux?

I'm going to try to use as little technobabble as possible when explaining why I use Ubuntu Linux. Before I begin let me give you a few basic terms you should know when discussing Linux:
  1. PC: Personal Computer - Most computers that run Windows are referred to as PC's.

  2. OS: Operating System - Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS X/Snow Leopard, Linux Ubuntu are all operating systems. An OS is the software that gives you the ability to interact with computer graphically instead of having to type commands in a computer language.

  3. Linux: An open-source operating system kernal (like a template or model) developed by private interests groups who wanted a third option instead of Windows or Mac OS.

  4. Open-source: Open-source means that the software designated as "open-source" can be taken apart and modified by anyone interested in doing so. This is useful if someone has something that they want to do with the software which it cannot already do. For example, if I want to be able run an anti-spyware program in the background without the user of the computer ever having to mess with it, then I might build an anti-spyware program into operating system's start up process and make it invisible to the user unless they were to look for it. (I don't know why you would do that, but that's the only example I could think of on the spot.)

  5. Ubuntu: A Linux operating system that's popular because it has large community for support and has a lot of things like word processing (like Microsoft Word) already built into it.

As the son of a network administrator, I've always had a fascination with computers. I have had former babysitters tell me that when I was little I used to freak out when they tried to get me to do something other than spend my time on the computer. I guess I wanted to be like how I perceived my dad at the time; always in front of a computer. Little did I know at the time that the reason my dad spent so much time in front of the computer was so that I could live the privileged life I have lived. That's another story and I digress from my main point.

Most people are quite content with their OS, which is usually a Windows variant like Vista or 7. A few more daring souls have Mac OS X or Snow Leopard which are specifically designed for Apple computers. Most people don't give a second thought about their OS because one comes with their computer and by the time people wanted to upgrade from Windows 98/2000/ME they were buying a whole new computer which came with Windows XP. However, young people born before 2000AD might be aware that Microsoft released the OS called Vista which was a very flawed piece of junk which was followed by a better version called Windows 7. This is significant because it probably one of the few instances of a large number of PC users needing to get a new OS and install it on their computer. The vast majority of PC users were either excited or apathetic about getting Windows Vista/7. For them it was just the most logical course of action and an unavoidable inevitability. Do you know how much the upgrade to Vista or 7 cost? Anywhere from $70-$200!

So what?

So what?! You paid that much for something Microsoft did wrong? You're paying Microsoft for making faulty software that is essential to run your computer? If you were at a really nice restaurant, you know the kind where there's a dress code just to walk in the place, and they made your food wrong; would you pay for it? What if you knew that if you ate the food that was not prepared correctly it would make you sick, would you still pay for it? Probably not, but that's what you're doing when you buy products like Microsoft Windows OS. Now, I realize that young people like myself probably didn't pay for it themselves; Mom and/or Dad bought it for the family computer, right? Some of you were probably old enough to have had your own laptop at the time, but most Windows OS's allow you to install it onto a desktop and a laptop. So I understand that this all may not seem like a big deal to you.

It didn't seem like a big deal to me either, that is until my computer got infected with a virus/worm that shut down every last program on my computer and my "top of the line" anti-spyware/anti-virus software couldn't get rid of it. I was faced with a decision: do I go out and buy Windows 7 or do I switch to Linux? Windows 7 was going to cost me somewhere between $170-$200, which is almost the entirety of my weekly paycheck. My dad encouraged me to at least give Linux a try and told me that I have nothing to lose except for a few days. The reason he said that is because a Linux OS like Ubuntu is free. The most anyone ever pays for Ubuntu is the cost of a disk and shipping which comes to a whopping $10-$15.

How is that possible?

The real question you should you should be asking is how can big corporations like Microsoft get away with charging nearly $200 for something that should be free or at a minimal cost. Most casual PC users think that you have to be a technical genius to use a Linux-based OS like Ubuntu, but I'm not really a technical genius and I am doing just fine. I've got an office suite (like Microsoft Office) which allows me to write and save documents as .doc (Microsoft Word 98/2000) or in .docx (Microsoft 2007 and onward) so even those who are running Windows on their computer can read documents I send to them without trouble.

Microsoft and Apple don't really like this though. Linux steals their customer base away from them, so in an effort to bully Linux users into going back to Windows or Mac OS, most of their software isn't Linux compatible. For example, I have an iPod Touch which requires iTunes to sync my music with. Apple doesn't make iTunes compatible with Linux, even though Mac OS is based on Linux. Funny enough, since I switched to Linux I have come to realize that my iPod is nothing more than a distraction from what I really should be focusing my time on.

So that is why I chose Linux. I've saved upwards of $300 by switching to Linux and I'm quite content with it.

In the words of Tron, "I fight for the users".


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Vegetarian

Let me start by saying that I love meat. Home grilled hamburgers, bacon, chicken, sliced roast beef, turkey, and so on. I just love meat. Unfortunately, the more I learn about the industry behind what we get at the grocer the more I realize that I cannot, under my moral and ethical convictions, continue to eat meat. No, I'm not talking about some overwhelming sense of empathy for the plight of tasty animals being slaughtered for my consumption, but at the same time I am. Let me clarify what I mean. Meat is such a staple food item among the Western World that the demand for it calls for massive amounts of animals to be raised and harvested for their yummy body parts. Unfortunately, our demand greatly exceeds the natural supply that Mother Nature has and Father Jah designed for us. Instead, we rely on animal farms to breed, feed, bulk-up, and kill more animals than what would be found naturally. It's too early to tell just how big of an impact this harvesting of large quantities of animals has on our Eco-system, the very Earth that God has called us to take care of; yet we do know that it certainly isn't a good impact. To make matters worse, on average an American spends more money daily on meat than people in Third World countries have to live on daily.

Therefore, while I have no moral qualms with eating meat, my choice to go vegetarian is about reducing the demand for meat. It will certainly have other benefits, but my primary and most convicting reason to do this is the fact that God made us stewards of this Earth and yet we squander it with our selfish obsession with the meat of animals. I do not judge those who eat meat, as I said I love it myself, and on my Sabbath I will have the freedom to eat meat. If people want to say that I'm not a true vegetarian because of that, then that's your prerogative. I suspect that after some time of going without meat that I will lose the appetite for it. It's not something I seek out, but if that happens that I am not going to cry over it. Currently, my diet is primarily based on meat, which is completely unhealthy and if I were to continue would lead to serious health problems.

The problem with my particular case is that because I love meat and have very little sympathy for the animals who are being harvested to make it into my tummy, I have to simply set a date and say, "This is when I'm going to make the switch to vegetarian." If I didn't do that, I would continue eating meat and only ever fantasize about being vegetarian. That's why I have an impending date set for my switch. In preparation I have been eating lots of meat, to the point where I'm starting to get sick of the taste of my favorite variations of common meats. Through research I have read some very helpful tips about making the switch, but consistent among them all was to get a vegetarian cook book and begin to make things out of it. Now I will be trying to things at once: vegetarian dieting and cooking. I'm not averse to cooking, nor is my proverbial chef hat lacking stature, but I just have very little experience with it. I have really enjoyed the few times I cooked for my family, but unfortunately I got tired of making food and watching my siblings whine about it because it wasn't what they wanted to eat. Yeah, my siblings and I were raised with poor eating habits and we, some more than others, have very picky-eater tendencies.

By the way, that date is Monday, June 20th, 2011. I'm cutting out fast-food/restaurant eating as well for the first year as a vegetarian with the exception of when I'm a guest and the host has chosen to order take-out or dine at some place. This exception is more for the practicality that most of all the meals served at my college are catered from a local restaurant. While I could just skip these meals altogether and eat back at my dorm or in the cafeteria, these meals are integral part of building community for Shimer students, faculty, and guests of the school. Shimerians, like students of other institutions, love free food. I am in no way at risk of going hungry, but when it comes to spending $10 of my meal plan in the cafeteria or eating with my fellow Shimerians; I'll choose fellowship with my school mates any day. This also allows me to graciously accept an invitation to eat with someone and informing them that for next time I'd prefer to eat something not from a food-service industry.

I thinks that's all I have to say about that. Feel free to ask questions or comment with your opinions here.

Be blessed,

P.S. - If my language seems somewhat child-like or less than mature, it's because I'm trying to temper the forceful language I tend to use when I'm passionate about an issue. The last thing I want is for people to feel guilty about eating meat. I feel that it's very important that no one be guilt-tripped into becoming a vegetarian or vegan. I don't make a habit of referring to my abdomen as my "tummy".

P.P.S. - I changed the way I phrased my sentence about Mother Nature and Father Jah because it originally sounded like I worship Mother Nature. If it still comes across that way, please know that that was not my intention. I believe in treating Mother Earth with respect, but to worship her violates at least a couple of the Ten Commandments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Young People Get Married... Or Not?

Today, among followers of Jesus, it seems that young people are waiting longer and longer to get married. At first, it seems to make sense: finances, housing, maturity, and so on. Then I get to thinking about the fact that for all this preparation and consideration that's given prior to taking the plunge there are still so many Christians getting divorced. So obviously marriage is not simply a 1+2=3 equation type of scenario. We cannot simply look at our finances and say, "Yes, I'm financially equipped to be married and therefore I am prepared to be married." You can insert any of the things I listed, and perhaps a few more into that sentence and it still applies. It just doesn't work that way.

But why? For those of us who follow Jesus the fact is that Christ is the first and foremost thing that should be taken into account when considering whether to marry. It starts with the question of whether we are called to marry in the first place. So many of us look at life like an equation, but how does God's will fit into that equation? Are you called to be married or single? That's between you and God, but don't just think that because everyone else gets married that you should too. We take marriage for granted like it's a right of ours when in fact it is a gift from God for whom He chooses to bestow it upon. For me, I know that I am called to marry because the calling was placed in me from a very young age. I would literally get on my knees and pray for my future wife at fives years of age. There are struggles which those of us who know are called to marry have to face, but to sum it up in a way that covers both camps (those who know and those who don't know): we can easily fall into the trap of expecting marriage which ruins the gift. How can God enjoy giving us something when we expect it, as if demanding it of Him?

Next is whether you can trust God to provide for the family you are about to create. So many of us think that if we can just get the job we want, make enough money for this or that, or just finish school that suddenly everything will be fine and you're in the right place to get married. I'm not saying be recklessly jumping into financial obligations which you cannot realistically make good on because you're marrying someone. God didn't give us brains of such high cognitive abilities to watch them go to waste of foolishness, but where is your trust being placed? Are you trusting in Jesus as your provider or are you trusting in that job you're trying to get as your source of provision? While we are certainly brilliant in nature, God's ways are higher than our own and if God tells us to marry then we need to be willing to humbly and obediently do so with absolute trust that He will teach us how to proceed.

As far as maturity goes, what is that anyway? How do you measure maturity? Are we not all strong in some areas and weak in others? Do we reach a certain point where we suddenly don't need Jesus? I pray that day never comes for me. The fact is that while there are issues that it may seem prudent to resolve prior to getting married, there is no one thing that people can look for and decide whether you're ready to get married or not. Oh, but wait, there is! Jesus! Do you love Him? Do you earnestly seek Him? Do you recognize that He is the source of all that you have and the only hope for you and your future spouse? If you answered yes to these, then you just might be ready to consider marrying someone. Obviously, the next step would be to get on your knees and seek God as to what He would have you do.

I cannot tell you what to do. I can only share what has been buzzing around in my brain and burning in my heart. I claim no experience in the field of marriage, and as my friend was apt to point out I am no longer married (I changed my status from "married" to "single" on Facebook, but married status was an allusion to being a part of the Bride of Christ). I ask all married folks reading this to offer up their own thoughts and input.

For He is the King, King Yeshua,