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.

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.

Come, worship the Lord!

Posted: August 4, 2009 in Commentary, Music

I address this post mainly to those in settings — or who have come out of settings — of Fundamentalism of one sort or the other; a strain of thought that I was influenced by to a degree as a younger man. Either tell me this Catholic man is not your brother in Him, or accept him as one, despite your differences, some of which are certainly profound.

Kissing nonsense goodbye

Posted: August 2, 2009 in Commentary

Firstly: There is ample New Testament precedent for associating people by name in public communications with their ideas and actions.

Secondly: Congratulations! To Ted Slater, editor of Boundless, for his recent post on the Boundless blog, entitled “Dating is just Fine.”

Thirdly: I am not advising single Christian men to willy-nilly go through their relational lives as it relates to the opposite gender in a state of disconnectedness from other believers, including competent help from more mature men; far from it. Your heart strings can pull at you with more power than your sex drive; and this is the sort of thing that calls out for having people around you that are invested in your life with God. And you know how your sex drive can be like an oil tanker dragging a waterskier around.

Fourthly, with trepidation: I am also not speaking of special seasons wherein you have covenanted with some group for the sake of your training, for example, a college wherein such things as going out to coffee with a lady is forbidden. I say “with trepidation” because I do not have relational standing with you, anonymous reader, to say “lights on in the head, you fool! Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit!” I can’t say that. But I think you are a fool if you are a self-supporting man and let someone have that kind of power over you, regardless of their supposed wisdom. And I think I’ve been around the block a few times.

Fifthly: We have to listen to the “heart” rather than the “heat” in this. There is a reason why these matters boil the blood; for they touch upon other kinds of relationships than those across a table at a coffee bar.

And sixthly: Sisters should be free of attention that they don’t want, and the fellowship is supposed to be a place of refuge for them as well. Keep that in mind, single Christian man.

So, finally: Both times around as a biblically free, self-supporting single Christian man, I have had occasion to come across, and experience personally, the institutional bias in some places against such horrible and terrible behaviors as (*gasp*) dating. It’s a profound mystery at times that it even exists. It ought to be a profoundly noticeable thing if men can face either reproval or discouragement in the fellowship for non-sinful behavior, yet there are places where it is official (or semi-official..or tacitly tolerated) policy. I know other people who have experienced it (one of them actually a church elder with two nearly – grown boys). I can read about it in the blogosphere, too.

….. Recently at the Boundless blog we had occasion to see Ted’s posting “In Defense of ‘I kissed dating goodbye.‘” It is, possibly, a response to this posting in Relevant magazine. Of note to this discussion as well is Joshua Harris’ video clip at Youtube. Parenthetically I will draw your attention to this web resource as well.

On Pastor Harris’ Youtube posting he speaks about what is “the heart” of the message – that’s great, by the way; yet the text of what is in the book is what people are still looking to in some circles.

It so happens that I had a “ruff draft” posting in the pipeline about these matters before these recent postings took place. My focus was going to be, basically, about how the single Christian man should respond to church leadership when they act in this fashion. The matter can be a difficult one to tease out, as we are obliged to have a certain degree of respect to leadership in the fellowship, who are at times — but not always – men who are older than ourselves. Yet, at the end of the day, some of this anti-dating nonsense is worse than hysteria or control issues; it can be sin. All of this can happen in a milieu in which a man is often assumed to be something like a “child” if he is not married, which may further embolden some leadership figures to be loose with their tongues towards a wise single in a way that they would never be with a foolish married man. ….So I have not commented upon this yet fully.

..I will offer these words of caution, though, to the single Christian man: Be certain you are hearing precisely what is being communicated. This sort of thing can in fact happen, but it can happen (I’m certain this was so in one case with me) that one is hearing one man’s opinion rather than a directive from the leadership. If you are being reproved for dishonorable behavior that you have done, don’t hide behind your freedom to date. But don’t receive shame, either, if you have done nothing shameful.

If any pastors should come this way, and if it so happens that you are not bound up with legalism and control issues – or if you think you are not — then I ask you to consider going so far as to publicly, as Pastor Slater has done, in a non-shaming manner, encourage the single Christian men in your fellowship to honorably explore relational possibilities, particularly if you are uncertain of the church experiences they may have had before they came under your eye. Or if you know that they have come out of such a background.

…It would not hurt, Pastor, if you plan on reproving a single Christian man for something he is doing — or that you think he is doing — if you let him know up front that you are going to reprove him and offer him an opportunity to have a witness from the local body, of his choice present. You do something foolish by grabbing your best friend on the elder’s team to perform such an act. Think about why that’s so.

Visit the sick: Credo #87

Posted: August 2, 2009 in Credo

I do not have much insight as to why our Lord has commanded us to visit the sick. There are always the pragmatic concomitants (for the sick) that come to mind – but I suspect the reason we are commanded to do this is because He desires us to live out His thinking, and He wishes us to be reminded that He is there with those who are in pain or ill. I acknowledge that this was written in a time when the state of the art in medicine was a guy saying “yes, this is what ails you.” I think that He wishes us to be informed that He is there with them. This is often a regularized ministry at certain fellowships… But at least every so often in your life you should make it a point to go on your own and visit the sick, even those who are not known to you. You will find it adds to your masculinity and confidence rather than detracts from it.