The Empty Nest Blues

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2017 by jcwill5

We humans want our lives to be neat and clean and orderly.

And we want to hold onto good things and never let them go.

What We Get Instead

But instead we get circumstances that take things away from us, and leave us with a mixed bag all shook together and untidily spilling out all over the place.

I write this because this week our nest emptied.

One the one hand, I’m thrilled for my children.

I’m delighted our young adults are moving out and moving on with their own lives and grabbing full adulthood by the ears.

I’m delighted that, after 24 years of children in the home, it’s just my wife and I again.

I’m eager for my young adults to have even greater adventures and enjoy a far greater level of their own consequences and, through them, gain perspective and wisdom and compassion.

But, on the other hand, I’m quite sad for me.

I have gotten very used to having them around!

Still, it’s a good kind of sorrow–but real sorrow nonetheless.

Too Quiet

It’s going to be too quiet in the house, too many echoes carrying into too many empty rooms.

Sure, it will be fun to spread out and invade their vacated spaces with our hobbies and my home office.

But they sure added a lot of sparkle and drama and opinions and presence that I will sorely miss.

And I will miss them.

Yes, we’ll still talk by phone and by text…occasionally at least.

And, yes, they’ll visit home from time to time during their final few years of college….maybe…hopefully.

And, yes, we’ll get used to it and discover our “new normal” and keep on plunging straight ahead in our own marriage and careers.

But it will never be quite the same.

An era has ended and there’s no denying it and no going back.

Telltale Mark of Aging

They’ll change and we’ll change.

And the change my wife and I are looking at is growing old together.

I can so easily remember us at their age.

It’s funny how I still picture myself, my wife, and all our college-aged friends as that age–despite what’s in the mirror and on Facebook updates!

And I can so easily remember our parents being as old back then as we are now.

The wheel has turned and they are rising and we are setting for the next 20-30 years (we hope).

You see, I have this unspoken and unrealistic fantasy of eternal youth in my mind, of immortality in this life.

I don’t feel any different in my essential person on the inside.

It’s my body that isn’t getting the message and that continues to produce grey hairs and new wrinkles.

As long as I had children at home, however old they were, I could pretend to be ageless on so many levels.

Evaporating Mirages

But now they are gone and this hard-to-shake mirage has taken a hit.

And I have mixed feelings and a messy process to go through that I didn’t seek and cannot reverse.

Part of me wants to shout, “Stop the clock!” but the rational me knows time never stops for anyone.

But there’s more to this.

God really did put eternity in our hearts.

We are outside the Garden but haunted by the collective memory of eternal, unchanging goodness and harmony on earth.

We long for someplace better, for a time when there will be no goodbyes, no losses, no sorrows and sicknesses and sufferings and deaths.

Defaulting to Unreality

Our problem, and my problem, is I keep defaulting back into trying to make this fallen world that place.

I’m caught red-handed trying to carve out a little heaven on earth and then resisting any and all forces, events, and realities that would block it or take it away.

Then I get bummed out and flattened when losses happen.

It’s not rational, this attempt to freeze time and freeze things in place.

But it IS based on an unseen reality that taps into our deepest, unquenched thirsts as spiritual beings.

We long for our true home, the perfect place and time we lost and cannot find our way back again.

And these life transitions, these major and disruptive changes–especially the mix-bag ones–tantalize and torment us.

Our problem is we try to locate the answer in clutching at people instead of resting in the Ultimate, Infinite Person.

Set Up for Everlasting Joy

Aging and life’s losses bring me right back to center:  I am created to deeply know God and be known by Him.

I am designed to long for perfection, to ache for eternity, to crave unending beauty and infinite goodness that is both supreme and sublime.

And He designed the dissatisfying, painful, loss-filled nature of this fallen life to drive me to Him so He can be all that now within me, and then one day physically with me.

Emptiness, in other words, is designed to drive me to fullness.

Temporariness to drive me to permanence.

Loss to indescribable gain, and sorrow to everlasting joy.

And that’s the point.

Advertisements

The Great Love Debate

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by jcwill5

American culture is consumed by and incessantly arguing about love.

Love Undefined and Love Dividing

What is love? And what does it mean to really love?

What is the measure of love? And how can we tell if someone is loving or unloving?

Who decides what is love and what isn’t love?  And what gave them that deciding and judging power over the rest of us?

We hear slogans like “love wins” and “the right to love” all the time.

But nobody really tells us what kind of “love” is meant by it.

Yet anyone will tell you our society is bitterly divided over our answers to the above questions.

Only One Word for Love

One of the reasons for the confusion and bitter controversy surrounding “love” is this:   English has only one word for love.

Biblical Greek, by contrast, has distinct and different words for family bonds love, admiration/friendship love, love of country, romantic/erotic love, and redemptive grace love.

And our English translations use the word “love” for all these different words.

Unlike the Greeks, we Americans are ever trying to sort out and discover what is meant by our catch-all word for love.

We are reduced to guessing, to interpreting the context of when and where the word love is used, and are always prone to using the same word but meaning very different things.

Pop Culture Love

Love in popular culture (music, poetry, cinema, theater, etc.) is a really just synonym for love-making, for sex, for sex acts, etc.

You could easily swap out the word love for the word sex in all the songs sung and no meaning whatsoever would be lost.

And associated with that very particular definition is an ideology of sex love that aims for absolute freedom.

One has the right to make love to anyone one wants, and have their sexual relationships recognized and celebrated as equally valid and as positively good.

Sex love without boundaries, restrictions, limits, disapproval, or moral judgments.

And this agenda of sex love has its enemies.

Those who do not recognize these liberated relationships, or who label them as wrong, or who oppose efforts to legitimize and affirm everyone’s and anyone’s sex love are “unloving”.

They are the party of “hate”.

Sex is God

From this pop culture point of view, the phrase “God is love” takes on an entirely new meaning.

The phrase now means Love is god.

Which really means Sex is god.

The ancients worshiped sex gods like Cupid and Baal, and sex goddesses like Venus and Ashera, in the pursuit of erotic/romantic love.

Their devotees engaged in sexual rites, in ritual prostitution, etc. to arouse the gods and goddesses to do the same and so bring fertility to earth and bed.

But since our heritage only gives us one God, we don’t have that option.

Which means we remake God into an erotic god, as the ultimate sex Validator and Affirmer.

In the new creed, He created sex love and gave it to everyone to be freely enjoyed in any way we autonomous individuals sees fit.

God’s will is now to serve as the great sex Liberator–His agenda is to liberate autonomous individuals from sex love injustices and hang-ups, from sex love inequalities and from those who’d say any kind of sex love is wrong.

Jesus Son of the Sex God came to save us from these old morals, from rules and regulations and restraints and restrictions that produce inequality–freeing us from any moral or negative judgments.

In Him, we are to “love” anyone and everyone and everything they do–especially in their sex love lives.

God is Agape Love

But what if this view is entirely foreign and opposite of what God actually meant?

What if, instead, He Himself is the embodiment and personification of redemptive, self-sacrificing, grace-lavishing love for sinners?

It is a far different and far better kind of love that met all the conditions and paid all the penalties of His moral Law–liberating us to know Him in spite of all we are and have done against Him.

A life-saving love that embraced us at the bottom of our lives, gave us a new heart that loves God and His holy ways, that empowers us to live a new and holy life, that is freed from being self-consumed with performance so we, too, can now self-sacrificingly, redemptively serve others who don’t deserve it.

A relentlessly honest love that would tell us the naked truth:  that sexual liberation is actually a toxic, lying, “bait-and-switch” idolatry that ends up in sexual enslavement and soul-emptying misery.

A supremely humble love that reaches down to the millions enslaved to pornography and unbearable shame, to those under the vicious damage of failed and broken romantic relationships, to whose who seek but never find validation or lasting joy in sexual love and who are now in utter despair.

Indifference and Detachment Are Not Options

If our current “love debates” were merely theoretical or philosophical, they might be a luxury we could well afford.

But the mounting casualties far away from the glittering, sex-love promoting celebrities, or the acclaimed, validation-demanding activists of sex love, will not let us rest so comfortably in indifference and appeasement to this massive redefinition of God and His will.

Sitting on the sidelines of the love debate is not an option.

It is high time we who truly know the redemptive love of God found our voice–not to condemn people or engage in vicious debates, but to be God’s messenger to the miserable, enslaved many who’ve drunk the poison of sex-love worship and who are perishing.

There is a solution!

Contradiction Reigns

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2017 by jcwill5

Almost 50 years ago, Evangelical philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote a trio of books that predicted a huge, revolutionary shift in our thinking.

In The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, He is There and Is Not Silent, he described the intellectual landscape in Europe, how the continent’s thinkers got to where they are from where they used to be, and how the same shift in thinking was coming to America.

Non-Contradictory, Absolutes Thinking

Up until that time, the law of non-contradiction held sway over how people ordered their thoughts.

“A” cannot be “A” and “not-A” at the same time.

For example, God cannot be holy and unholy at the same time.

For another example, God cannot require holy living and approve of unholy behaviors at the same time.

For people of my age (early 50’s), I don’t have to strain myself to think this way since it is natural to me and was the unspoken, shared, universal way of seeing reality during my upbringing.

We happily live under absolutes and confess any contradictions to His revealed will in the Word as sins–repenting of them and ever seeking to align ourselves with the teachings of His Word as our eyes are opened to ways we contradict it.

But that has changed.

Dialectal Thinking

What Schaeffer put his finger on was the rise of dialectical thinking.

It goes like this:

You have a belief system called a thesis.

And an opposite belief system called an antithesis.

You merge the two to arrive new belief system called a synthesis.

You repeat this process endlessly with new syntheses.

There is therefore no absolute, all-encompassing, timeless, unchanging belief system.

There is only endless change.

Instead of holding to the absolutes of a belief system and rejecting the opposite, contradictory beliefs, the norm is to combine them into a new whole.

Today’s people don’t even have to try because they’ve been immersively shaped to think this way–it’s completely natural to them and effortless.

Strange Combinations

This shift in thinking allows people to hold contradictory views inside of their minds and see no problem at all with it.

Instead of confessing the contradiction as sin, you make peace with it and synthesis your current beliefs with it.

For example, a God who is holy and who approves of unholiness at the same time, so holiness is redefined as what used to be unholiness.

For another example, a Christianity that affirms the Bible yet also denies the Bible’s major, clear, universal teachings on sexuality.

I find those younger than myself steeped in dialectical thinking.

Nothing is anchored or permanent, and views are expected to be always evolving.

No Effective Checks or Balances

No absolutes impede modern people’s lifestyle choices or govern their speech or restrain their conduct.

The autonomous self is above all ideas and beliefs, discarding and/or combining beliefs in the moment as the self sees fit.

Their thinking is unconsciously characterized by mutually contradictory ideas.

They see no problem with this state and don’t even notice the contradictions.

In fact, they celebrate them and revel in the irrationality of it all.

Holding self-contradictory ideas in the same mind is the new normal, and the basis of the new morality.

Dialectical thinking reigns supreme and folks approaching things from a moral absolutes kind of thinking are practically speaking a foreign language.

Dialectical thinkers cannot fathom why we who hold absolute values don’t synthesize them with their opposites and simply evolve.

They are impatient with such qualms, and will happily resort to governmental coercion (laws, ostracism, fines, etc.) to make us evolve.

They honestly cannot understand why we won’t go along with their changing views, and why we insist on following the dictates of our conscience instead of contradicting our beliefs.

In fact, such unyielding, principled resistance to “moral evolution” enrages them–tempting them to make an absolute requirement out of the contradictions they embrace.

Unheeded Warnings

Schaeffer called the church to recognize this titanic shift in thinking and to address it with their young adults and their older members.

He predicted if we did not do so we would lose our younger generations to dialectical thinking, to a state of both affirming the faith and living a life that grossly contradicted it and/or that affirmed the opposite beliefs in a synthesis.

The church with very few exceptions failed to do so.

Like Schaeffer himself, we got so caught up on resisting the symptoms of the disease (abortion, crime, euthanasia, religious freedom, public morals, etc.) that we never systematically and effectively confronted the root thinking behind all these evils.

Now the day he warned us all against has arrived and overwhelmed our defenses and totally shaped how our under 40 people approach life, conduct their thinking, and see the world.

Contradiction reigns supreme.

It will take a herculean, decades-long, systematic effort to reverse this slide into contradiction and endless synthesis–as well as miraculous deliverance from God–to reverse it.

Bombarded by Disasters

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2017 by jcwill5

There is nothing harder in life than to face not just one trauma, but a whole cluster of them in quick succession.

It’s like a boxer going down after being pummeled and never being able to regain his footing.

One thing breaks your heart and you begin to grieve and then you are hit with something even harder, again and again.

Cluster of Tragedies

When I look over the landscape of our nation, we are being faced with a cluster of heart-breaking, devastating natural disasters.

On top of grave international situations and distressing internal political divisions, the late summer of 2017 has delivered body blow after body blow to various regions of the nation.

The mountain west and the pacific states are ablaze with numerous and large forest fires–many threatening historic and treasured wilderness areas.

Hurricane Harvey has subjected Texas and Louisiana to record rainfall and widespread flooding.

And now Hurricane Irma threatens to wrack the entire state of Florida with ferocious and sustained tornado-level winds, huge storm surges, and wholesale destruction of entire cities.

To the question, “What could distract us from our acrimonious politics and our perpetual state of outrage?” we now have a terrible answer.

Judging Our Enemies?

Some see it as “God’s judgment”, as if these disasters are simple exercises in punishing their political enemies (anti-government conservatives needing government aide in Texas, environmentalists on the West coast seeing their protected forests now burn).

Such an infantile, one-dimensional view of God not only does a total disservice to Him, but it conveniently forgets that these terrible events have devastated the young and the old, the conservative and the liberal, the white and the person of color, etc.

Both people who deeply believe and those who hate the very mention of God have been hurt.

They don’t need “to be taught a lesson”, they need compassion and pity and help in their hour of need.

It reminds me of why deeply suffering Abraham Lincoln was so great–he openly owned that we were all guilty before an infinitely just God, saw the Civil War as a judgment on both sides and, in the end, said God has His own purposes we cannot fathom.

He used to tour the battlefields and see all the southern and northern dead, and allowed himself to be overwhelmed by empathy and sorrow at the sight.

It was the secret of his fabled soul greatness and large-heartedness towards even his enemies.

It stands as a shining rebuke to those tempted to read God’s infinite mind and then interpret events in a self-justifying way.

Validation of Our Causes?

Others see it as a reason to interpret events as validation for their political agendas or confirmation of their views–as if disasters are always and totally about them and their cherished causes.

“If those people had only allowed us to harvest trees from these overgrown, fire-suppressed forests” and “if those people hadn’t opposed climate change”, then all this wouldn’t have happened.

Last time I checked, large forest fires caused by lightning strikes and hurricanes all happened before these policies and beliefs were in existence.

Decades of fire suppression and centuries of industrial pollution may have them them somewhat worse, but blaming today’s people for all that is as asinine as it is annoying.

I think we say such things because we like to pretend we’re in charge, are invulnerable, and above all others.

Then, instead of accepting our humbling, we put it all on people we don’t like and don’t agree with–allowing ourselves to remain above it all.

Quite frankly, we’ve all been dwarfed and shrunk down to size by the scope, ferocity, and frequency of all these disasters this summer.

And we don’t like it one bit.

Time for Humble Self-Examination

Like Lincoln did in his second inaugural address, it would be more fitting if we all took a step back.

It would be appropriate to take a hard look in the mirror at our bloated, blathering egos and unabated pride.

What might happen if we humbled ourselves and come together before God as penitents.

As C.S. Lewis once wryly observed, “Pain is God’s megaphone”.

We are like a nation of toddlers who have thrown repeated and nasty temper-tantrums at not getting our way all the time.

We are out-of-control and nothing, so far, has been able to check us and reign us back in.

Perhaps More

Perhaps this change of course is a part of what’s going on now.

Perhaps what we most desperately need is to come to our senses and own the spiritual and moral and emotional devastation our hubris has caused.

Perhaps we really do need to pray–not for God to grant us magical protection but undeserved grace.

Perhaps it’s not “them”.   Perhaps it’s really “me”.

Perhaps these repeated disasters can serve to disrupt our raging, pontificating egos.

Perhaps they might be used to remind us all of our vulnerability and need for others, of our humanity and common plight, of God’s beckoning love towards this collective mass of sinners and screw-ups we call “America”.

Perhaps in the noble self-sacrifices of the rescuers, the re-builders of cities and areas, the comforters and listeners, the exhausted firefighters and caring neighbors, we might be reminded that life isn’t found in perpetually gratifying the insatiable self but in losing the self and in giving our selves freely away.

As someone once said, “He who loses his life will find it.”

God Bless Labor

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2017 by jcwill5

Labor day seems like one of those holidays that meant more when they organized labor movement was in its heyday pre-1960.

But work itself, and feelings towards laborers and workers, deserve celebration.

And Christ-followers can take the lead on this.

I say this with the words of UCLA sociology professor at UCLA ringing in my ears, “Christianity teaches that work is bad and is a product of the Fall.”

Although this false statement is found nowhere in the Bible, it implies that Christianity is the enemy of labor and therefore the working person.

Debunking False Ideas

Fact:  Adam and Eve were given work to do in the Garden of Eden–to tend, care for, and bring order to the place under their care–before the Fall.

Work, in other words, is not a curse or part of the curse.

Fact:  in Revelation 22 it says, “His bond-servants shall serve Him.”

Thus, throughout all eternity, we will be doing holy labors for our King of Kings and carry out assignments and holy adventures.

Before Paradise was lost, and forever after Paradise has been regained, we fulfill our Creator’s design to devote ourselves to good labors and holy tasks assigned to us by Him.

Fact: God reveals Himself to us as a Worker who does great and enduring works like creation.

Fact: Christ came to earth to “accomplish the works” that Father gave Him to do, culminating in His supreme work on the cross in accomplishing redemption for us.

Even the most brief and shallow survey of the Bible should put to rest the asinine idea that Christianity is anti-work or anti-worker.

Work is Now Frustrating

What God cursed was Adam’s disobedience, and it brought about futility of our labors.

Life outside the garden was full of “thorns and thistles”, of gardens invaded by weeds, of laboring “by the sweat of your brow” with creation working against us instead of working with us.

Work became frustrating, counter-productive, conflicted, and far more difficult.

And all the other people we’d work with, just like ourselves, would have a sin-nature and be inherently selfish and prone to quarrelling, jealousy, and back-stabbing.

No wonder we all have problems on our jobs!

Then add to all this the fact of bodily weakness, aging, sickness, and infirmities of our minds and one can see why people would assume the faith teaches that work is a curse.

Work is Still Glorious

But I take the opposite view, one revived by Martin Luther in the early 1500’s:   every kind of work we do can be done for the glory of God, and no work is more or less honorable than any another.

This teaching is far more revolutionary than anything Karl Marx taught–without destroying the individual in the name of the State.

It elevated the worker beyond anything the feudal era–which looked down on labor as beneath the nobility and the clergy.

One of the Reformation’s great liberating truths was destroying the distinction between “sacred work” of monks and priests, and “secular work” done by everyone else.

The bricklayer, the ditch-digger, the field hand could rightfully hold up their heads alongside the lawyer, the pastor, and the doctor.

All professions, all occupations, were honorable and could be used to bring good to the world and bring honor to Christ.

In fact, for the Christian, we are explicitly told to “do your work heartily as for the Lord” and “whatever you do in word and deed, do all to the glory of God.”

Our only boss and employer is Jesus Christ Himself, and how we do our work is a direct reflection on Him.

Work, in other words, is another way we worship Him.

The Biblical Work Ethic Flows From This  

Our work is a part of our witness whether we realize it or not.

I do not mean to make an idol out of work, as workaholics do.

But I do intend to raise high once again the value of work and the worthiness of labor.

I do not mean to elevate businesses or unions above the other, making one good and the other evil.

But I do mean to Christianize, transform, and dignify the inherent position of the rank and file as well as the owners.

Christ desires His followers to be the best of workers–on time, hard working, putting forth a full effort, reliable, non-complaining, honest.

Just as Christian slaves won their slave-owners in the Roman Empire, we can win our bosses, owners, and managers to Jesus by how we labor–even when nobody is looking and even when we don’t “earn” anything on earth as a reward.

Christ desires Christian businessmen, owners, bosses and managers to treat their employees well–to grant them justice and fairness, to pay a fair wage for a fair day’s labor, to regard them as people instead of as commodities to be bought and sold and traded.

The Destructiveness of the Entitlement Mentality

Many workers want to be paid, but fewer and fewer will work for it.

Many owners want hard labor, but fewer and fewer are willing to pay decently for it.

Many workers want to be paid more, but few want to work harder and longer for it.

Many owners want to pay less, and wonder why they receive worse labors and less efforts.

Many workers want to be the boss, but few want to start at the bottom and pay your dues and work their way there or prove they can be trusted.

Many bosses want to keep people down and exploit them, but few know how to empower and dignify those who labor for them.

Many want the good things of life, but few are willing to work years and save and wait for it until they have the cash.

We do slipshod, minimum efforts for employers and wonder why we don’t progress in our field.

We treat employees like dirt, and wonder why their work is so slipshod.

American businesses and workers are caught in a toxic cycle that no government or economic magic can fix.

Breaking the Cycle

We can break the cycle when we labor for the right reason–to bring honor and fame to our Master, Jesus Christ, and not for material advancement or power over others.

It is no disgrace either to work or to employ workers.

In fact, nothing could be more honorable in the sight of God than to do our labors well and do them for Him.

And that is why I celebrate Labor Day and why you can as well.

Decent Statement, Badly Timed and Framed

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by jcwill5

Several days back, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood issued a manifesto detailing their position on issues such as marriage, homosexuality, and transgenderism.

It was signed by 250 national leaders of conservative Evangelical movement.

And it met with a firestorm of criticism and ferocious push-back from those holding the opposite convictions.

From Non-Reactions to Vicious Reactions

The link to the original statement is here:   https://cbmw.org/nashville-statement

And Christianity Today‘s article on it is here:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/august/complementarians-new-gender-identity-lgbt-cbmw-nashville.html

I lead with CT’s article because always good to allow the best voices of any movement explain what it means by what it says, instead of letting its enemies define it and put alien words and meanings in its mouth.

Conservative news outlets are treating it as a simple restatement of the long-standing, historic absolutes held by Christians for millenia.   Which it is.

This response is essentially a yawn.

Progressive news outlets are treating it as a hateful, vicious attack on LGBT people, as an existential threat by a group of extremists that must be denounced and eliminated.  It’s isn’t.

This response is essentially yelling “fire!” in a crowded room and causing a stampede.

A good example of the hyper-inflamed responses is in Salon, “Evangelicals Bigotry-filled Statement is Denounced for It’s Anti-LGBQ Message”:

http://www.salon.com/2017/08/30/evangelicals-bigotry-filled-nashville-statement-is-denounced-for-its-anti-lgbt-bigotry/

What Was Said

First, the What.

As a Conservative, Bible-believing Evangelical myself, I see little new in this statement.

It pretty much captures what I have always believed and will always continue to believe about the absolutes taught by the Bible on sexual morality.

It rightfully locates standards and teachings about human sexuality at the core of doctrine and holy practices.

It rightfully says this is not a secondary, agree-to-disagree issue within Evangelicalism.

And, to be fair, I can see that the writers genuinely tried to be kind and frame it as such.

This group of 250 leaders are not lightweights or outliers.

They really do represent a broad spectrum of voices within the mainstream, scholarly, and pastoral leadership within Evangelicalism.

It is almost non-news because it isn’t new at all.

As one commentator put it, “It’s like the headline “The Pope Denounces Abortion”.  Nothing new here.”

How and When:  Not Good

Now some observations on the How and the When:

These signers and writers are intellectuals who prone to lengthy sentences and technical terms and objective rationality.

They clearly did not write their document to address things from a “matters of the heart” or “feelings of others” viewpoint.

They were not thinking about how the city of Nashville might feel about having the city’s name in the title.

They were not thinking about the timing of releasing a statement when the nation is absorbed by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, or the highly-charged atmosphere of the Trump presidency, or the terrible aftermath of the racial conflicts going on all summer.

They did not take into consideration the unwisdom of having major signers be people who sit on Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory council–practically begging for vitriol and polarized reactivity.

They simply were not thinking about how it might feel.

A No Feelings Approach Got An All-Feelings Reaction

I don’t think they were thinking about feelings at all because their processes are designed to remove all personal feelings and considerations from how they do it.

This was a purely logical, task-oriented exercise designed to provide a statement to pastors, churches, and institutions within their own movement and thus counter any drift away from historic moral absolutes on sexual morality.

It was an “in-house” document not designed to influence the wider culture or win hearts and minds outside their movement.

For its critics to attack it with such ferocity and animus is therefore wholly inappropriate.

Evangelical leaders and scholars have every right to reaffirm and apply central biblical teachings, every right to decide what their group does or doesn’t believe, and every right to instruct their movement on what’s allowed and not allowed according to the Bible.

Trying to browbeat or silence or pejoratively label them is itself bullying and hypocritical–miles worse than what this statement actually does.

But that’s the reaction it got.

Which raises the question, “Why?”

My Own Take

So where I myself land is this:   I agree with the content of the statement and would be quite comfortable affirming it’s teachings.

But I think their timing was lousy, and believe the “intellect-only”, objective statement-making approach to public moral stands has serious deficiencies.

“Why now and not later?”,  “Why did it have to be them and not some other group?” are two questions I think needed to be asked but apparently weren’t.

Had they waited until the dead of winter and separated their release time from the disasters and racial tumults of the summer, it would have been better.

Had they approached the Evangelical Theological Society, or the National Council of Evangelicals, and issued a broad-based joint statement, it would have been better.

It would have diluted the Trump connection, and would have made it easier to see just how many critical and hostile responses are themselves biased and full of animus against Evangelicals.

Time to Add Feelings Back In

Above all, it would have been vastly better had they asked, “How will this make people feel?  How can we show more of a caring heart towards those who fall on the outside of biblical morality and/or who disagree with us?”

You can hold the same views and have a decidedly more pastoral and compassionate heart towards those who disagree and/or who feel unable to ever live up to these absolutes.

I can’t think of the last time I had an argument about biblical sexuality, let alone a heated exchange.

But I can think of many times I’ve been with and helped folks “on the wrong side of God’s law” reconcile to God when at the bottom of their lives.

Finally, like it or not, I would counsel the signers this:   beware of associating anything you do and anything you believe with Donald Trump!

To have members of his Evangelical Advisory Council as major signatories is nothing more and nothing less than stupidity. (And, for the record, that’s less than 6 out of 250 names.)

These men might have to recognize that they have now been tainted and compromised.

By their open and continued association with the President this side of Charlottesville, their ability to effectively advocate on matters of faith and practice to the wider culture has been lost.

They will be seen as part of the Great Threat instead of mild-mannered scholars doing their thing.

And the sooner they realize it, the better it will be for American Evangelicalism.

Facing the Unimaginable

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 28, 2017 by jcwill5

The images of Hurricane Harvey  and how the storm has flooded nursing homes, submerged neighborhoods, and drowned freeways in Houston, Texas is hard to take in.

The area has already received 30 inches (2.5 feet!) of rain since Friday.

And they are expecting 15-30 more inches by the end of the week.

It is unimaginable and unprecedented.

It is totally overwhelming all government agencies and civic authorities.

Only the Beginning

The damage from Harvey will almost certainly take years for the area to recover.

Even the head of FEMA, Brock Long, is saying private boats and citizen donations are needed now to rescue all the trapped people, and will be needed for the foreseeable future to cope with the mass displacement and life uprooting.

Here are what the major news outlets are now saying:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41074919

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/08/28/heartbreak-texas-harvey-drive-30-000-shelters-fema-says/607224001/

While some might fault-find or seek to fix blame, the truth is we have simply never had a major hurricane stall for a week over a major metropolitan area, especially in a place as flat and wetland-covered as Houston.

It’s the worst possible combination.

It is beyond anyone’s imagination and the scenario was not in anyone’s “normal” hurricane recovery forecasts or disaster plans.

Blame Only Makes It Worse

Yet the propensity to blame, to find someone or something we can fault or fix that’s within our control, is how we often cope with the out-of-control and the unimaginable tragedies of life.

The citizens of Houston are living out a real time horror story and it’s not anywhere close to being over.

Many of them are being traumatized and are losing everything they own even as I write.

They don’t need more blame-gaming or finger-pointing.

And neither do we.

Beyond donations of material and dollars, and expressions of solidarity and sympathy, is there something we can all give that will help?

I think there is.

Shocked Into Silence

First, disasters often shock us back into our humanity and remind us that we, too, are vulnerable and in need.

They have a welcome tendency to silence the proud argumentativeness and opinionated nastiness we are all too prone to expressing these days.

The reason is they reminds us that so much of what we think is all-important isn’t important at all in light of eternity.

Life is not found in winning political arguments or in posturing on Facebook.

It never has been found there and it never will be found in dominance, control, and temporal power.

Goodness That Lasts

But the good we first receive as sinners and then give out to others–that lasts.

It outlasts even death and is what we’ll be remembered on earth for long after we’re gone and rewarded by God on the day of Judgment.

The humbleness, lowliness, and brokenness we rediscover in the face of the unimaginable is pure gold for our souls.

It shrinks us down to size and reminds us all the answers are found close to the ground instead of in the high-altitude hi-jinks of our bloated, corrupt egos.

It motivates us to lend a hand up, to reach out instead of hunker down, to be there instead of isolating ourselves and insulating ourselves.

It’s the humble people who are the kindest, who express empathy and who meet practical needs without being paid or praised.

It is they who lend a shoulder to cry on, who are simply “there” when others want to get on with it, who are able to draw out the horror and the trauma and then gently pour tenderness and compassion and grace into the raw and ragged soul of the sufferer.

Buildings can be rebuilt but who will help rebuild the traumatized infrastructure of the soul?

You?  Me?  Us?