Category Archives: Culture

The Need for Identity

A recent news article described UFC fighter Ronda Rousey’s thoughts about suicide following her loss to Holly Holm.  In the article, Rousey is quoted as telling Ellen DeGeneres, “What am I anymore if I’m not this?’ I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself.”  This is a sad admission, yet it is something that can be heard just about anywhere.

It is very easy to get wrapped up in something so tightly that it becomes our sole source of identity.  And, while this approach can work for a certain amount of time, the trouble is that worldly things will almost invariably let us down eventually.  For Rousey, this happened to be when she lost her first fight as a professional fighter.  For others, it may be the loss of a job, a broken relationship, loss of social status, or something else similarly devastating.

For Rousey, her source of inspiration in those dark moments was found in turning to other worldly conquests.  According to the article, she told DeGeneres, “To be honest, I looked up and I saw my man Travis standing there and I looked up at him, and I was just like: ‘I need to have his babies. I need to stay alive.’”  While this sounds nice, the question then turns to what happens when the kids grow up or rebel?

When we allow our identity to be determined by others, we turn our back on the one true source of identity for humans: God.  The Scriptures teach us that we were made in the image of God, and as such we are of great value simply for being human.  A fighter can lose a fight and, consequently, lose their identity.  A person consumed with a career can lose that job and then be lost and questioning who he or she really is.  But, a person who knows that true identity is found in relationship with God will never have to worry about losing that identity.

If I lose my job tomorrow, I will still be someone made in the image of God and loved by Him.  I may lose everything, but He will not forsake me.  My identity is in Christ, and that is something I seek to remember constantly.  So many people are hurting today, wondering who they are and how they fit into this world.  They look to the outside world for help, but impressed on their very being is the answer.  We all bear the image of God.

The abnormality of the new normal

In recent years there seems to have been a push to redefine “normal,” or perhaps to even eliminate the idea of normality. This can often be seen in such statements as:

I guess you can call it normal, if there is such a thing as “normal.”
What is normal anyway?
Who decides what is normal?

I am sure that you can add your own to this list as well. From where I sit, the motivation behind such statements is a desire to reshape notions of normalcy and to make those things that were one considered abnormal as, in fact, normal. So, what we are actually being asked to do is accept as normal those things that have traditionally been considered abnormal and socially unacceptable. The selection criteria for what we see moving from the abnormal category into the normal category is telling, however. In particular, there is a noticeable assault on traditional Christian values. So, for instance, various forms of romantic/sexual relationships that were seen as abnormal not long ago are now considered by many to be normal. Whether we are speaking of homosexual, bisexual, or unmarried cohabitating heterosexuals, these are all counter to traditional Christian values. Yet, when these pairings (or groupings) are questioned we can often count on some sort of response like those listed above.

However, without some idea of what normalcy is, or the ability to identify it, then it would seem that anything could be classified as normal. Perhaps that is the ultimate goal. But what would such a world look like? Could we no longer say that mental illness and abuse are abnormal? Would we be forced to accept any sexual relationship, no matter how vile, as acceptable.

Something tells me that those who advocate for a redefined, or open interpretation of, normalcy actually recognize that there are such things as normal and abnormal. Pushing others to question the idea of normalcy betrays a desire to have one’s abnormal trait accepted as normal. The problem is that the trait is still abnormal. If the person is successful in having his or her audience doubt the validity of normalcy, then all that has been done is a movement of the goalposts. Imagine a football game in which the sidelines are moved everything a player steps out of bounds. In addition to the adjustable sidelines there are also moving goal lines and goalposts. The result is a situation where nobody can score or go out of bounds. Now, ask yourself whether or not there is still a football game being played. As an avid football fan, I can say with with a great level confidence that what you would have is chaos and not a football game. In much the same way, when we sent that there is such a thing as normal, the result is chaos.

Is God a Cosmic Care Bear?

In my last post I addressed the notion that God is a cosmic vending machine. In this post, I aim to address another common notion in popular culture: that God is a cosmic Care Bear. According to this view, God is simply the always smiling, always cuddly, stuffed animal from our youth that expects nothing of us. The view is often trotted out with the line that God is love.

Now, before I go further, I should make it clear that God is love and I am not questioning that. What I am calling into question is whether or not this is His only trait. For, when we say, “God is love,” and make that His single defining characteristic, what we have done is mischaracterized God in the minds of many. This is the result of a misunderstanding of both love and God.

Many people take love to be some form of blind acceptance and approval of anything and everything. So, according to this view, regardless of what you bring to the table, God would have a big smile on His face and give His approval. But, is this love? I think not. Imagine a parent acting in such a way. Regardless of what the child does, the parent responds with unflinching acceptance. In this scenario, there is no discipline, concern for others, or guidance as the child develops into an adult. Imagine a government that “cares” for its citizens but refuses to administer justice. The result would be pain for countless citizens that are abused at the hands of others, all the while the loving and caring government stands by and smiles with approval. Suddenly what we thought was love becomes hatred. Most of us know what love is, even if we can’t define it perfectly. And we also know, when we are honest with ourselves, that a Care Bear does not represent real love.

Now, moving on to the real substance of this topic. God is God, this is our actual starting block. From here we begin to see the many ways that God is described in the Bible. So, let’s look at a small sampling of the ways God is directly described in Scripture. God is: love (1 John 4:8, 16); Holy (Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:26); jealous (Deut. 4:24); great and awesome (Deut. 7:21); a God of justice (Isa. 30:18); one who loves justice, but hates robbery wrongdoing (Isa. 61:8); and the list can go on.

The question is: if we are going to define God by only one term, which one shall we use? Does one deserve more than the others? Or, why can we not just take Him as the Bible describes Him? For myself, I take God as the Bible describes Him, which includes all of the attributes listed in the previous chapter, plus many more. Understanding God in this way does not leave room for the Care Bear view. Adrian Rogers, a brilliant preacher who has gone to be with the Lord, once said, “To preach half a truth as the whole truth is to preach an untruth.” He was referring to people that only emphasize God’s mercy and grace without acknowledging His holiness or role as judge.

The Back Door to Your Worldview

Imagine that your house was surrounded by robbers that desperately wanted to break in and pillage your belongings. Would you make every effort to secure the home? In addition to locking doors and windows, perhaps you would have an alarm installed, purchase surveillance cameras, and even look into a guard dog or two. Remember, this is a home in a sketchy neighborhood. Sure, there are some good people living on the street, but the number of those that are bent on destruction is far greater. Now, ask yourself if you would leave your back door unlocked and unguarded. My guess is that you would not, and for good reason.

When it comes to our worldview, however, this is what many of us, in fact, do. In most of our homes there is a large electronic device that projects sounds and images to a passive, and often unsuspecting, audience. I am talking about the television, of course. We study the Bible, we go to church, we try our best to live what we believe is a moral and good life, but then we sit in front of the television and feed our minds with the values of the prevailing culture.

In recent years the media has become more outspoken in their dismissal of things sacred. For instance, we now have shows on the major networks called Lucifer and Angel from Hell. In the one case, Satan is introduced to us as a not-so-bad guy after all, and in the other, we have a guardian angel that models ungodliness. But, these are just the shows with shocking titles.

The truth is that television shows have been modeling and presenting an alternative worldview for decades. Passive audiences have sat back and enjoyed television shows that slowly introduced different value systems. For instance, over the last twenty years we can see how homosexuality made its way into shows like Seinfeld, with their famous line, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”; King of Queens, with Deacon’s son’s obsession with makeup; Will & Grace, which, I believe was the first show to feature homosexuality prominently; and Modern Family, a show that has a gay male couple as one of the “modern families.”

But we can also ask ourselves about when a positive spin on Christianity was seen prominently on television. I can think of Seventh Heaven and Touched by an Angel, but these show left the air more than a decade ago and, as far as I am aware, did not go into any detail of the Christian worldview.

Furthermore, I am not suggesting that people should not have television shows that speak to their particular life. After all, I want to have shows that I can relate to and I do not want someone telling me that such entertainment should not be made available. Moreover, I am not of the opinion that we must shield our eyes from what is going on in the world. After all, we need to know something about the world if we are going to engage it. So, I am not upset with most of the shows I list, though I do not care for the sacrilege seen in shows like Lucifer and Angel from Hell. My angst against these shows is that they take aim directly at the Bible.

Now, if we go back to the protected house at the beginning of this blog, there are a few points I would like to make.

  • First, if we simply castle ourselves in, we can miss the joy of the world around us. So, take time to enjoy the creation that God has blessed us with.
  • Second, be aware of what you are letting in through the back door that is the television. Be an active viewer instead of a passive one. This means actively engaging the worldview that is presented in a television show. Talk about what you are watching with your family members and why you agree or disagree with a particular message. You don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but it does help to use discernment.
  • Third, engage with the culture from a Biblical point of view. If you are worried about robbers outside of your home, then you can either hide inside or try to change their minds about being robbers. In the same way, we can either shut off the world, or we can try to transform the world through the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, to do this we must know something about our culture so that we can thoughtfully engage it.
  • Fourth, it may be worthwhile to try and shape the culture by increasing the number of Christian voices coming across the airwaves. If you allow more godly influences into your home, then you will simultaneously have less room for ungodly influences.

Until next time, I pray that God richly blesses you, wherever you are.

Can Christians do science?

I am always surprised when I hear people suggest that Christians and science cannot mix. Of course, they will acknowledge that there are Christians that are scientists, but they will often claim that these Christians have to leave their faith at the door when they enter the lab. The idea is that science is an entirely materialist endeavor that has no room for the divine. But, is this true? From where I sit: absolutely not.

In fact, I am inclined to think that it is the atheist who has to leave their worldview at the door in order to carry out their work as a scientist. After all, science depends on the regularity of the world as described in various laws and theories. That we can make scientific predictions, develop experiments, and uncover the order of the natural world seems to betray an intelligence behind the created world. Could we carry out science in an entirely random universe where there is no rhyme or reason to what we see? Or do we need a world that has obvious design?

The Christian, on the other hand, has no problem seeing order in the world and seeking to understand God’s handiwork. Indeed, for many famous scientists who were also devout Christians, it was their belief in God that drove them to investigate creation.

If the universe was created by God, then we should be able to learn something about it. However, if the universe came into being entirely randomly and has moved forward in the same manner, without the guiding hand of a super intelligence, then how can a person hope to learn anything about it today? After all, what is keeping something entirely random from happening each time you look through a telescope or microscope? Hmmm….. It seems to me that it is the atheist who has to leave their belief system at the door when doing science and not the Christian.

Should Christians be involved in politics?

I recently listened to the CrossExamined podacst for January 16th, titled, “Politicizing Religion?” I have always enjoyed Frank Turek’s work and this podcast was no exception. I do wish, however, that more emphasis would have been placed on why Christians should be involved in politics. The show instead focused more on the idea that some people leave Christianity because of the perceived politicization of the faith.

While I agree that pastors and ministry leaders need to be wise in speaking about politics, I do not think that we should avoid being engaged in the political process. So, a pastor, for instance, should do not stand in the pulpit and denigrate a political party. This can turn off the ears of many in the audience and cost the pastor the opportunity to impart truths from the Scriptures to people in need of hearing what God has to say. Now, I do not object to pastors speaking out on social issues from the pulpit. After all, we have a duty to apply God’s Word to the world we live in. The difficulty for many people, however, is learning to speak about a social issue without ostracizing an entire political party.

With that out of the way, I think it is time to focus on why Christians should be involved in politics. At first glance, it would be easy to simply say that it is our civic duty. While this is true, I think there is an even greater reason for us to be involved politically. In the Old Testament we see repeatedly what happens when a government tunes out the prophetic voice coming from the faith community. We also can see how a nation is blessed when its leadership heeds the words of God. Fortunately, we do not live in a monarchy. In the Old Testament, the prophets could speak the words of God to their leaders, but the direction of the country was determined by the king.

In contrast to this, we have the opportunity to directly influence our government. If our political leaders refuse to hear what the faith community says, then we can vote them out of office. Concern for the good of our nation and the Biblical examples of what happens when the Word of God is ignored should be reason enough to motivate Christians to get politically involved at all levels of government.

So, should Christians be involved politically?  Absolutely.

Indoctrination

From time to time you will hear the accusation leveled against Christians that we are indoctrinating our children when we teach them the faith. For some, the idea of “indoctrinating” someone is intolerable and must at all costs be avoided. For others, like myself, the response is: what’s the big deal? After all, indoctrination is happening whether we are involved or not. I just happen to prefer the notion of being directly involved in the shaping of my child’s life.

There are some people who will say that they refuse to teach their faith in the house because it is unfair to the children and that the young people should be allowed to make their own decisions. But, we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a world that is full of ideas and worldviews that are being pumped into the minds of people 24/7. So, they hand over the task of teaching their children a doctrine about the world, shaping their worldview, to the school system, television, radio, print media, and peers. Interestingly enough, in an effort to step away from “indoctrinating” their children, they have simply subcontracted the job out to others. Perhaps this is in an effort to feel better about themselves or there is some sense of parental ineptitude.

Regardless, handing over a parent’s influence in a child’s life to whomever it may concern is terribly irresponsible and a disservice to the child. Parents are put into the life of a child for more than the purpose of birth. Our job is not just to see them safely delivered from the womb and then provide room and board while the state, or society, shapes their mind and brings them into adulthood. That is the mindset of some sort of socialist system. Instead, mom and dad are key in raising up a strong and civil society. It is in the home that values are transmitted (more on that another day), a work ethic is instilled, and a way of seeing and understanding the world is developed.

Indoctrination is unavoidable. Companies seek to indoctrinate employees, the military indoctrinates our nation’s warriors, the media indoctrinates its audience, and the list could go on. So, if indoctrination is unavoidable, the question becomes: why shouldn’t I be involved? If I shirk my responsibility as a parent and say, “go ahead school, teach my child everything they need to know about the world,” I have still been involved in the indoctrination of my child. Passive involvement is still involvement.

There are also those that have been duped into the idea that, if only they remove religious influences from the home, the charge of indoctrination cannot fall on them. But this is nonsense. If you filter information, then you are involved in indoctrination. This is indoctrination by omission instead of commission. So, for the parents that believe they have done their child a favor by omitting religious teaching from the home in an effort to be free from indoctrination, I must tell you that you failed miserably. Indeed, you have been just as involved in indoctrinating your child as those you sought to avoid being like. You have simply indoctrinated your children into irreligion. And, if you are so irresponsible as to shirk all duties in the shaping of your child’s worldview, then you have just allowed someone else to indoctrinate your child and sacrificed the tremendous opportunity you were given by God to have an active role in the shaping of that child.

I say all of this to encourage parents to be involved in the shaping of your child’s worldview. Be actively engaged in their life. Take time to talk and play together. Live out what is important to you in your daily life and your children will take note. Show your love for one another, demonstrate a love for God, and be available to answer questions as best as you can. As the days march on a parent’s direct influence becomes increasingly less and the youngster will soon grow into a man or woman and start a family of his or her own. Please, don’t let those precious days go by without making the effort to positively impact your child’s life.