Archive for August, 2009

It is not optional.. The collective failure of believers to do this is something like leaving important snippets of code out of a computer program.

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Credo #84: The Arts

Posted: August 22, 2009 in Credo

Back in ’88 – 12 years before the dawn of the new millennium, I was an attendee at the National Religious Broadcasters convention. To my amusement I observed a discussion panel wherein musicians DeGarmo and Key helped defend the notion — apparently still radical enough to require discussion, even then — that music with identifiably modern styling not only could be glorifying to God but that to ask this question was itself evidence of a kind of bias about, and against, the arts that has long plagued the Church. Sometimes these questions about the arts are bound up with other questions than “art” per se, complicating the question. For example, the Assemblies of God believes that this couple dancing are doing something that God forbids (as opposed to something that is merely unwise). Now, I do not identify their behavior in that video link as “Christian.” But neither am I going to ever, nor should you ever, identify such as thing as ‘evil”, or unwise. I think it might be wise for some passive Christian men to learn some dance steps, but that is outside the scope of this post.

Back in the day, it was shocking to some fine, upstanding Christian people when a man named C. S. Lewis wrote (gasp) some Christian novels. Really. It was an issue. Billy Sunday, whose influence is still felt in many church circles, railed about the popular theatre of his day but spoke highly of Shakespeare (yes, that Shakespeare…have you heard what goes on those plays?) I am aware of a denominational leader who spoke highly of the King James translation because the styling and cadences of this translation artistically elevated the reader. Whatever.

.. Recently we have heard Chuck Colson make some comments about Contemporary Christian music that I think are either poorly worded or poorly considered; but I also hasten to add that few have done more than this man to identify that the culture is an arena where Christians belong. Certainly there is Christian material that is better left on the shelf, as there always has been in centuries past. On a personal note, I like modern soft-rock adaptations of classical hymns. One good gift from my background was a hymnology that continues to anchor and bless me.

Bullet points:

– It is best, I think, to think of the arts as an extension of language in non-verbal ways.

– I do not say that the popular culture is harmless; nor uncorrupted; neither do I advise you to soak in the stuff. I advise you to be like Daniel the prophet, who as it so happened was an expert in literature and learning, and who walked with integrity before God. Which do you think came first?

– To use the arts to manipulate is problematic and can be sinful, such as when one sees repeated choruses designed to work a crowd into an emotionally frenzied state.

– Develop your artistic sensibilities if you are so inclined. Be open to the idea of having to leave your art, whatever it is, aside for seasons.

– Avoid the idiocy of thinking of the arts as “bad” because they speak to the emotions.

– Guard your emotions when “art” is speaking to them, and understand that the well centered Christian life is not threatened by this.

– Understand the difference between being emotionally moved and being moved in a deeper way, within your spirit; E.g. the fact that the worship music is beautiful is different than what the worship is About.

– Guard your eyes (or your ears) if that is what the situation and context calls for.

– The “Christian” label on a thing does not mean that the artist’s creation is either helpful or harmless. Or even good art.

Your not liking something does not mean your taste and sensibilities are less than Godly; and the same grace should be extended as well to those who might not like your idea of “art.”

– Slapping the label of “art” on a thing does not make it worthy of your time or pursuit; nor does it of necessity aid you in your walk.

– It should not need saying, but apparently we must also contemplate that not everyone is an artist; neither the one who is gifted nor the one who is not is any less His son.

– Art speaks.

– To reflexively believe that something is of the flesh or the devil because you have little knowledge of the thing is in error. Such behaviour, in fact, reflects poorly on your Lord and you. Likewise it is not “evil” because it is not “spiritual” enough or themed as “Christian’ – or not.

If the lady you are seeing socially treats her cat better than any human in her life, male or female, you can cut your losses with confidence.

Which is more heinous to say: “God damn person x” — or “God will certainly curse you if you don’t give a tenth of your income to the leadership of your church fellowship?” Can you hear, in your mind’s eye (or ear, as the case may be) people in your life who have said one thing or the other?

Some years back during the Clinton administration there was a bit of public sound and fury about the issue of gays in the military. A Washington Post editorial around this time mused that the Evangelicals involved in politics, some of whom were not happy about this — were mostly “poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” There was a bit of further ruckus as various factions of Christian print and broadcast media took the Post to task for this, and eventually something like an apology was forthcoming. The “apology” was along the lines that somehow this got slipped in and nobody caught it, yet this sentiment somehow managed to slip past about six levels of editorial review before being published. Apparently the collective wisdom at these various levels was not sufficiently attuned that they could “hear” themselves talking.

So… Here we have this book
by a lady who claims to have seen in visions from God that there is a place in hell for Christians who don’t tithe. Fascinating. What is more fascinating than the believers who enjoy this book – there are many, many reasons why the book does not pass the “smell test” — is that the rights to publish this book have been purchased by Strang Communications, which publishes New Man and Charisma magazines, among other product lines.

I have not commented here on finances in the life of the believer; nor upon tithing. I am commenting about something else: I am wondering if some people can hear themselves when they are “speaking?”

Credo #85: Real men teach

Posted: August 18, 2009 in Credo

Real men teach, and other men know this instinctively. I do not advise you to constantly yammer. I advise you to develop the teacher within you.

…No believer, lady or man, has standing to look down upon you because you are not positioned by either God or man to stand a place in the fellowship wherein you “teach.”

But I do say to you that real men teach. And there is much to be taught that is worthy of your skills in this regard, and such a great deal of it is beyond what is conventionally thought of in Christian circles as “teaching.” It is part of the masculine fire within you to lead in this fashion. Whether you teach someone how to save a life, put out a fire, re-start someone’s heart, or lead someone back to Him, or how to lead a lady in dance or conversation, you are doing well.

It would serve some sisters well to consider these things, and check their instinct – if they have such – to correct a man in their presence if they have no reason or cause to; and to examine what forces in the culture or in their old nature have brought them to a place where the sound of a man offering instruction is an irritant to them.

In considering this, I also caution sisters and brothers alike to be aware of the “podium effect*” and how it can corrupt someone’s thinking.

* Search by the term “podium effect” in the link provided.

Risk intuition

Posted: August 16, 2009 in Commentary, For sisters

Bruce Schneier is a security consultant who has insight into the problems his discipline fights both in respect to the physical aspects as well as to the more arcane bits relating to the modern cyber-world. Recently he wrote an essay about people’s ability to (usually) intuit risk to themselves. It may be a bit of a “geeky” read to some, but for ladies who have trouble grasping why some men are checking out of the idea of marriage, they should read it. It won’t afford any insight into why he’s not into you. But it might give you an interpretive grid to understand Marriage 2.0 and how it affects men, including single Christian men.

If one is to search about for commentary in the Evangelical blogosphere about “gay marriage” you can find a great deal of chatter about dangers to the family and so forth. You can find material written to help support the proper formation of a relationship and its continued nurturing.

You will find very little commentary, though, about the true risks that a man takes when he marries in the modern Anglosphere. An unjustified and ill-considered phone call in some jurisdictions from an upset woman can ruin his life, permanently.

As a man previously married, I can attest that my experience as a man being divorced in the church was not one that caused me to always think of the fellowship as a place of refuge, either. One’s personal experience does not define reality for the whole – your mileage may vary – but I have gathered from other believing men whose spouses have been unfaithful — or sinning in other ways — that what I have seen is consonant with their observations.

Back to “risk intution” — It can be risky to be married, in many ways. And men have come to know this, intuitively.

Credo # 86: Life is a minefield

Posted: August 12, 2009 in Credo

Life is a minefield. You can get hurt by being stupid, careless, or sinful.* You may limit even what God’s options are for you by being too fast rather than too cautious.

*The image is from a warning sign in Cambodia, where mines left over from political and military conflict in the 70s continue to maim and kill the innocent.

Edit: You can step on a mine while doing things perfectly correctly, as well.