It’s OK, Dear Smart Phones…: A Christian’s Perspective on the War on Smart Phones

 

Recently, there has been a surge in what I call the “War on Smart Phones.” People everywhere are banning phones from social situations faster than universities can ban “hoverboards.” This has become an interesting piece of data to me simply because smart phones are under attack (usually by people who are posting their attacks using their smart phones) and never seem to get any love. So, here are my reasons to love cell phones: Continue reading

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What to Do with Pain

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. -1 Corinthians 10:13

I know this seems like a weird verse to begin with in reference to pain, but I have seen many posts and memes which have tried to take this verse and remove its reference to pain from it. They often point out that the pain they feel is more than they can bear and that God is strong enough to take care of them. This information is useful, but it is also extremely hindering to the comforting movement of the Holy Spirit Continue reading

Love Your Enemies

There has been a rather alarming meme I have seen floating around since the Syrian refugee crisis:

(This is not the exact meme, but my concern is not with the picture, but the text content)

There are an infinite number of reasons I find this meme and the attitudes of Christians in the refugee crisis alarming, but I will only share a few of them here.

1) Jesus calls us to love our enemies

I do not see how perpetuating a meme with a particular stereotype about a whole religion (Islam) is loving towards our enemies. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus teaches,

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a, HCSB).

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. What a powerful, under-practiced commandment which we Christians have been given. I love the reason Jesus gives in verse 45. Loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors allows us the same title and quality as our Father in heaven, making us look more like His sons and daughters and less like His enemies. We tell ourselves to be different from the world and don’t drink alcohol, smoke any kind of drug, or get tattoos, but we will strongly hate and persecute our enemies (Want proof? Try looking at a short history of the relationship between Christians and Jews or a little skirmish called the Crusades. There were twelve of them.).

So, instead of being different from the world through something which Jesus explicitly commands and loving our enemies despite their persecution of us, we hate them back. We fight fire with fire. This should not be. One cannot claim to be a Christian and ignore one of the greatest qualities which affords you the title of “Child of God,” that is, the quality which allowed God to love you, His enemy, and redeem you back as His beloved child (Romans 5:6-11).

This same principle can be applied in the caring for the refugees. I have seen many who consider themselves Christians who find the refugees offensive. Instead of finding them repulsive and unworthy of our aid, could we not care for them as Jesus did for Judas during their time together? Was Judas not included in the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000? Or did Jesus decide that because Judas would be his betrayer, Judas would simply have to go hungry as punishment? No! Jesus cared for, taught, loved, and disciple Judas just as he did the other eleven. There was no malice seen towards Judas from Jesus even at the point of actual betrayal! How could we reject the refugees and claim to follow this Christ who did not turn his back on the very one who made him crucified?

2) It promotes a spirit of ignorance

This meme promotes an ideal of ignorance. It promotes not learning about the culture in which Islam developed and the texts themselves and the beliefs of different Muslim groups. While we will explain to the T about our Christian beliefs and how they might differ from the Catholic church or the Methodists or Baptists or Lutherans or Mormons, we will not expect the same difference of opinion within Islamic groups, and cluster them together in one giant group which we stamp as terrorists, fear-mongers, and war criminals. This is not helpful for a hospitable, loving, or Christian nation. How could we claim to be a Christian nation seeking religious freedom when we will not allow other religions to freely practice their religions as well? This is the greatest hypocrisy ever perpetrated by the American people I have seen. We are all religiously tolerant until we see someone who does not fit our code. Then, they have to go. Do not be ignorant. But learn about everything you possibly can so that you do not create gigantic groups for sweeping generalizations, but you learn to take things on a case-by-case basis. This is real intelligence.

3) The same ignorant things can be said about Christians and Americans alike

There is an interesting phenomenon which appears consistently in history when it comes to colonization, and the formation of religions. Many religions (especially the three Abrahamic traditions) have gone through violent phases. Christians had the Crusades and the persecution of Jews (which started around 400 AD and continued into the 1900s until the end of World War II). Judaism had the many wars, slaughters, and conflicts within the Old Testament (led by God or not, they were pretty bloody and unpleasant encounters). Whether you believe what I believe about the Old Testament (which is that God led the Jewish people to do these things for reasons we will not understand until heaven), you cannot ignore the Crusades and the fact that the Old Testament stories are filled with bloodshed and destruction of entire civilizations.

The same stupid things which we say and hear every day about Islam can also be said about Christianity and Judaism. All three have had violent pasts, and all three can be ignorant of each other and hateful towards each other until the day Jesus shows up. But this will only create more conflict, more bloodshed, and more misunderstanding and ignorance. How do you minister to a person’s needs without learning about them first? Would you offer a conservative Muslim or a Jew a pork sandwich during a crisis? Would you offer a conservative Christian a bottle of beer to take the edge off during a crisis? As long as we are ignorant of each other, we will never learn to live in the same vicinity. We will never be able to love our enemies if we don’t even know what our enemy is about. In order to serve someone, you have to know what it is you must do in order for them to feel served.

Conclusion

All of this has been said so that hopefully this ignorance will not appear anymore (at least on my Facebook feed). If you’ve stuck this whole post out, then thank you. If you didn’t, then you aren’t reading this, so I should not be writing to you.

Love your enemy. Love your neighbor. Be Christ-like. Follow His example. Do good.

Ambiguity: The Face of the Changing Culture

The English language has anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 words (depending on whether you count technical terms, slang, and scientific terms, the number might be higher). The typical Spanish dictionary has around 100,000 words in it. This massive difference in the number of words gives English-speakers what I would call an advantage (some might call it useless): English-speakers can describe the world in a much broader way than those who speak Spanish (and most other languages since English is considered, by far, the language with the most words at the speaker’s disposal).

This leads to a considerable question: Why are there so many movements which try to lean more towards ambiguous phrasing, pronouns, adjectives, and other such designators? Well, my guess is the movements which have spawned the famous “ze/zer” ideal were also spawned by what were well-intentioned ambiguity movements made much earlier than these movements. One of the most prominent of these movements is the idea of “inner beauty” which is actually also found in the Bible (for those reading this who know me, yes, I am still a Christian, this is simply a discourse on human language, specifically, English). Now, these movements were well-intentioned, and I believe they did bring about some good. However, when movements are made towards anything, someone will take the extreme route with a good idea and create something unintended from it.

With the English language allowing so many more words to describe the world than any other language (and especially more than ancient languages such as biblical Hebrew which, if I remember correctly, had around 5,000 words compared to our more than 250,000), it seems tragically silly that we would dare move towards making some words in our language more ambiguous. We have so many more words available to us and yet we want one word to mean anything we want it to. What a waste!

Terms such as “beautiful” are easily defined (aesthetically pleasing), but have been distorted into meaning anything you want it to. It has become such that any and every girl should be called beautiful (“And when everyone’s super, no one will be.” Syndrome fans, anyone?). This ambiguity has caused the word “beautiful” to mean almost nothing. When the word is tossed around in such a way that no one really knows what they mean when they call something beautiful, how could they possibly expect it to carry any weight whatsoever in any real sense? “Beauty” is an aesthetic appeal. Calling a painting “beautiful” for its “inner beauty” is ridiculous, but reducing the word “beautiful” to that definition is exactly what has happened within today’s culture.

Rather than “beauty,” let’s use words which might get to the point of what we are saying. If a woman is “pure,” then let’s say the word “pure” rather than “beautiful.” If a man is physically fit, let’s say he is “strong,” rather than saying he’s beautiful (because let’s be honest, some guys can be fit and ugly at the same time). This is not for the benefit of body-shaming and fat-shaming and whatever else one might be willing to throw at me. This is not to say that, “If someone is ugly, call him ugly because it’s the truth.” This is to encourage you to be accurate in your compliments so that they mean something within the language and the words are thought out, executed correctly, and have weight when they reach the other’s mind. Accuracy creates an atmosphere of sincerity. Accuracy can create trust.

So, whenever you feel compelled to compliment someone, use an accurate adjective or noun. If they remind you of an actor, say so! By all means, say something which is accurate even if it is only accurate within your own mind! End the cycle of ambiguity which has plagued our generation to the point where everything is in question. Create accuracy so that the English language might be fully utilized rather than wasted like a beautiful gift. It may seem empty, useless, or like a simple semantic debate, but there is good evidence that language actually changes the reality around you (even if it is only psychologically). Accuracy creates sincerity, and this world is dying for sincerity.

Not Just Us

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “American Christianity” more than a dozen times. This particular phrase has become popular to use in criticism of today’s forms of Christianity with which many evangelicals claim they disagree. Many times, this phrase is used to denote a type of greedy Christianity, one which has been “corrupted” by the influence of capitalistic greed and political status. Many love to critique the “American” point of view for being too “closed-minded” and “self-absorbed” because of the general issues they see in the world today. I just want to take this short post to clarify something for all of those who fall into this trap (because that’s exactly what it is): It is not just an American thing.

Greed exists in all forms and fashions and corruption is everywhere. Greed, at its core, is selfishness and selfishness is sin. Sin is not an American problem, but a worldwide problem. It’s a human problem. And anywhere you find humans, you will find this problem destroying families, lives, and countries. We cannot make the distinction between American Christianity and blame the “American mindset” for the corruption of Christianity. If it was truly the American mindset which corrupts Christianity, then those Americans who claim their Christianity are in for a surprise. Logically, if you critique American Christianity and you are an American Christian, you have criticized everything about what you believe as well as what every other American Christian believes in the moment in which the criticism exits your mouth. You are not free from your own criticisms, you are gripped by them even more tightly because you will be judged as you have judged (Matthew 7:1-2).

This previous point brings me to my final one: This “American” mindset which has corrupted Christianity is everywhere, not just in America. There isn’t anything particularly unique about American Christianity, the effect of American patriotism on Christianity, or any other Americanese reference one can make in conjunction with Christianity. The British used the Bible to justify many things (and still do). The Crusaders used the Bible to justify massive injustices which they performed “in the Lord’s name.” My point is this, when you see corruption in Christianity, do not fall prey to the idea that it is because you are experiencing American Christianity. Recognize the fact that sin is not an American condition, but the human one. It’s a global problem. It is not just us.

Worship Is Loud (Music In Worship Pt. 2)

“And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.” (Revelation 14:2-3)

Believe it or not, I have actually heard a lot of arguments that worship should be quiet and controlled and simple. As if worship Continue reading