Archive | Culture RSS for this section

How the Promiscuous Still Honor Marriage

When I was thirteen years old, we decided that the time was right for a dog to grace the sprawling 2-acre Brooks family plantation. I don’t remember the exact details of how it came to be, but we wound up giving a dog named Rolly a 2 week test drive. Rolly must have been trained by the last survivor of World War 1, because the only thing he seemed to know how to do was dig massive trenches throughout the yard that then became convenient bunkers for the brothers’ occasional mud wars. At the end of two weeks Rolly was loaded back up in the truck, and the Brooks family danced a jig in the driveway as he departed. Despite the Rolly catastrophe, our hunger for dog ownership was unabated, and so entered Hank the Black Lab.

It is no secret that the American marriage adventure has been nothing short of catastrophe. CNN published a statistic that 41% of babies in 2009 were born to unwed mothers, up from 11% thirty years earlier. Divorce rates are astronomical. Browse the Barnes & Noble marriage shelves, and all you’ll see are works on how to put the romance back into whatever you’ve gotten yourself into.

And yet somehow, marriage still holds an exalted place in our culture. Yes, 41% of children are born to unwed mothers (and unwed fathers). Yes, serial monogamy is probably the best way to describe how we functionally live our lives in a culture of cheap and easy divorce. Yes, any concept of faithfulness to vows and commitments has been crumpled up and thrown next to that pair of pink bellbottoms in the dumpster of social disapproval. And yet, the state of marriage is still held in high esteem. No matter how many trenches dug by Rolly, the longing for a dog was yet unabated.

This week Bobby Petrino, head coach of the Arkansas Razorback’s football team, was discovered to be having an extramarital affair with a fellow member of the University’s staff. Petrino was summarily dismissed amidst a chorus of furrowed brows and scolding remarks. This is one in a long list of public officials and celebrities to have an extramarital scandal scuttle their career ambitions.

But why is our culture so outraged when infidelity takes place within marriage? Petrino’s consorting with a woman not his wife doesn’t look a whole lot different than what all of his football players are doing most every friday night. Among them, the scandal is the guy who isn’t doing what they’re doing. Nobody writes articles on the adventures of a Sigma Rho Epsilon freshman. They write articles on Tim Tebow’s virginity. The only difference between Petrino and his players is that he was married. And once the ring is on the finger, even a culture deeply approving of promiscuity understands that something changes.

No matter how far we go in approving what is evil, the ghost-like traces of Christian morality still haunt our hearts and minds. No matter how many trenches Rolly dug, we still longed for the dog that would not. It’s astounding that even the homosexual community longs to be able to marry. As muddle-headed as our culture becomes, there is one thing that it cannot shake: Marriage is something to aspire to. Amidst all the statements of why an indiscriminate offer of our bodies and hearts is best, they still dance no jig in the driveway when a marriage is loaded into the truck and taken away.

Advertisements

What to do Amidst the Fray?

Right now there are…

  • Abortions being performed in Louisville
  • Tomato pickers being oppressed in California
  • Brick masons being enslaved in India
  • Girls being raped for profit in the Philippines
  • Husbands who are forced to work on fishing boats in the Atlantic and Pacific who will then be shot and thrown overboard after the fishing season closes
  • Coffee growers being exploited in Bolivia
  • Families being killed in Sudan because of the tribe they’re from
  • Orphans being made in South Africa by AIDS
  • Retiring missionaries not being replaced because there is not enough financial support for replacements.
  • Believers being martyred in Saudi Arabia
  • Political prisoners being used as lab rats for poison gas testing in North Korea
  • Scientists refining nuclear fuel in Iran to be used for evil
  • Homeless wandering the streets of Atlanta
  • Teenagers driven into drug trafficking by poverty and peer pressure in Detroit
  • Children being taught in schools in Berkley that homosexuality is as normal as heterosexuality
  • Power players swinging dirty deals for political gain in Washington
  • Murders happening in Tulsa
  • Children sorting through heaps of garbage in Phnom Penh to keep from starving
  • Kind hearted husbands and wives who want to adopt but cannot because of a lack of money

As much as they all break my heart, and the heart of every Christ-follower with me, the sad truth of the matter is that I am utterly powerless to influence almost every single one of these evils. I can tear up at the videos of starving children and be outraged at abuse and horrified at corruption, and yet none of those actually work towards any kind of solution. None work toward alleviating the suffering experienced by those who share God’s marred creation with me.

So what do we do when we stare across the landscape of our 21st century world and realize the shockwaves of the curse have crumbled to pieces far more than we could ever piece back together? Withdrawal is always an option, an option embraced at different times by different Christian groups. “If the world,” they say, “is going to hell in a handbasket, then let them go.” But this does not seem to capture the spirit of Christ declaring that what is done to the least of these is done to him. It does not seem to explain his meals with prostitutes and tax collectors and consistent seeking out of those marginalized by society.

It is here in acts of Christ we see how we might seek to both roll back the curse and not lose our sanity as we stare down the enormity of evil clutching our world. Wherever Christ went, he did good. He did not journey to Rome and topple the pagan Roman government. But he did cast out demons from Roman soldier’s sons. He did not topple the corrupted Sadducee’s stranglehold on the temple economy. But he did clear them out twice with a whip when he was in Jerusalem.

We cannot each individually address all of the evils in our world. But we are placed in unique situations with unique interests, meant to channel our God-given abilities, gifts, and resources toward the redemption of that sphere of life. I live in a dorm of college men who aspire to be preachers. And so talk  of fellowship and purity and community and doctrine and love of the brethren will dominate my time and energy. Evangelism will not. But you are in a different place. Be faithful there, and I will seek to be faithful here. And as we go and you meet the Indian refugee whose family escaped from the brick masonry slave pits, you will throw yourself into that cause. And I will meet someone else with a different past, and we will concentrate on that evil to be unwound.

We’re not individually called to address every single issue that we might within the world. Rather we’re called to do good, preach the gospel, and live out gospel implications in a contagious manner to whomever the Lord would have us meet. And I will delight in your ministry and pray for you, as you delight in mine and pray for me. Let us all seek to be faithful in our tempestuous world. We’ll see you in the fray.

I Might Have Tacos Tonight: The Power of Words and the Reputation of the Gospel

Being the mayor of New Haven, Connecticut is not supposed to be political post that will garner you national attention. Until this last week, the 28,000 person town was probably most famous for its trolly museum, which doesn’t exactly top the list of must-see tourist attractions from sea to shining sea. But then mayor Joseph Maturo opened his mouth during a TV interview and uttered one line which made the previously unheard of Connecticut town the center of a national discussion about racial prejudices. After a day where four police officers were arrested for allegedly bullying Hispanic residents, the mayor was asked by a Hispanic TV reporter what he was “doing for the Latino community today”. “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not sure yet.”

Today, the mayor was greeted by activists bringing 500 tacos to his office for lunch. He’s been publicly reprimanded by the governor of Connecticut, become a pariah for the town’s Hispanic residents, been called to resign, and had his portrait grace column upon column holding him forth as proof of what’s wrong with America. The mayor has quickly apologized, describing his comment as “off-color” and “insensitive,” and admitted they were not helpful in furthering the “progress” made towards harmony in the town. Tired and at the end of a long day, the mayor spoke without thinking of the context. And today he is accused of making a “blatantly racist, ignorant, and arrogant slur.” One columnist wrote, “The thin translation of Maturo’s remark is, ‘I am a full human being, and you are less than one.'”

Watching the firestorm a quip about tacos has ignited is somewhat terrifying in that it could have happened to anybody. Who, after a long day at the office, has not made an unwise comment that would have been funny in one situation but is rendered inappropriate due to the heavy clouds of context on the horizon? The only difference is that the mayor’s comments went viral; mine and yours did not. Is what the mayor said wrong because of its insensitivity? Certainly. Does it make him the example to be held up and examined from every side to prove what a terrible human being he is and how the rest of us are so much more enlightened than he? Certainly not. It means he’s unwise with his words at times, which pretty accurately describes every human being to leave his footfalls on the earth.

Long before every purse and pocket held a phone with a video camera and audio recorder, long before YouTube and Twitter meant every moment of every life could wind up surreptitiously recorded and posted, Solomon laced Proverbs with wisdom about the tongue.

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)

He who guards his mouth and his tongue guards his soul from troubles. (21:23)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word fitly spoken. (25:11)

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (25:28)

Perhaps most fitting to the mayor’s plight is Solomon’s wise words from Ecclesiastes. Though of the poor cursing the rich, in a world of elections and political equality it is the official whose position is tenuous:

Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter. (10:20)

Though we may think the stakes are higher now in a spirit of modern myopic arrogance, they have always been the same. Words matter. Context matters. Words fitly spoken always apples of gold in settings of silver. He who guards his mouth guards his soul from trouble. Though a quip spoken in a back room of the king’s palace in Jerusalem may not have circulated throughout the world, unwise words unravel the good. Whatever Mayor Marturo does in the remainder of his political career, this will be the lasting remembrance of his career. Did he say, as the one columnist asserted, that he believes himself to be more of a human being than a Hispanic constituent? Never. But unwise words mutate in ways we never expect. We would do well to learn from a small-town mayor that even our quips are a commentary upon the gospel we claim to represent. The stakes are higher for us than a political career.

An RD, A Witness, A Minister, A Servant

1. No ministry position will ever satisfy. Three days ago I was named Resident Director of Carver Hall at Boyce College, the undergraduate program of Southern Seminary. Being an RD is something I have pursued for several years, knowing how much the Lord has shaped who I am by the faithfulness of my own RDs at The Master’s College. Your passions reflect what and who has shaped you. And yet, despite the joy and thanksgiving for being entrusted with this position, it does not satisfy. I have gained what I have striven for, and discovered through experience what I already knew to be true: Nothing other than Christ will satisfy. If I expect to find my joy and happiness in a position where I am able to mediate Christ rather than Christ himself I may taste faint echos of presumed blessing, but those presumed blessings will be the ghost-like wisps of self-delusion. RA, RD, Dean, Pastor. It does not matter. Man. Boyfriend. Husband. Father. Grandfather. It does not matter. If I try to find my identity and joy in anything other than the wonder of salvation, then I will never find what I’m looking for. Or worse I might think I have, only to discover at some sad moment in the future that my life was spent on the triviality that is myself.

2. Hotel employees can easily recreate everything that you do inside your room. Just trust me on that one. I’ve seen multiple incidents in the past three months that would curl your toes, sicken your stomach, and incite your rage. None of these ordinary people thought about the witnesses to what they were doing or about to do. Not just divine witnesses, but human as well. I can give you names, days, and times of porn watchers, adulterers, drug users, and spouse abusers. I’m just the face that checked you into your hotel. But if I knew you were a pastor and you came down to pay for that fifteen minute long movie in cash, let’s just say your secret wouldn’t be safe with me for the sake of the kingdom of God. Maybe we’re most tempted when we travel because there is the illusion of anonymity. I can tell you that just isn’t true.

3. All authentic ministry begins with servanthood.

4. Servanthood is most simply defined as “You’re in it for them.” Not for what you can gain from the exchange, not for status or reputation or a surge of dopamine, but for their benefit. Be it the awkward pursuit for the sake of better brotherhood, the ease of hard-earned camaraderie, or the stunned silence of confrontation, it is all for their sake, not your own. This is what it means to consider others better than yourself. It’s easy to read; it’s hard to live.

Exiles: Joy and Mourning on the 4th of July

How can I celebrate a nation that stabs and poisons and vacuums the brains out of its unborn and hails it as virtue and justice? How can I celebrate a country that is addicted to scandal, whose love for celebrity is only eclipsed by its love to revel in every sordid detail of a celebrity’s moral implosion? And what of the disregard for facts, the passion for punditry and the affection for every degree and shade of snark imaginable? Or a younger generation where 15% of elementary school students, 40% of middle schoolers and 65% of high schoolers visit the school nurse not for Tylenol but for free and secretive condoms?

Homosexual marriage in New York, illegal immigrants streaming across our borders in Arizona, groping or body scanning a prerequisite to getting on an airplane, debt so great that even the monthly interest payment is a figure so large that no elementary schools student would know how many zeros to put on the whiteboard behind it. Divorce rates unbelievably high. Even our diversions rocked by scandals of steroids and rigged voting systems and dirty agents and money that just disappears without a trace.

A nation that does not read, except for romance novels and porn. A nation that does not parent, except for turning on the most recent Disney princess movie. A nation that masks all of its health problems by turning to yet a new set of pills as opposed to reconsidering its policy of eat and eat and eat. A nation that is addicted to consuming $30,000 cars and million dollar firework shows and $100 jeans while shrugging off any kind of responsibility for the people whose homes are the kinds of landfills all their consumer goods go to fill. And beyond all of this a culture that trumpets how great the American way of life is. How we love freedom and have God on our side, as we struck a mighty blow for his kingdom by winning the fight to keep his name in our pledge and on our coins.

As with Jesus’ righteousness, the world could never contain the book of our sins. And not individual sins, but corporate. We do not like to think of corporate guilt, but it is a real and present theme throughout the Scriptures. Kneeling in his window, face set towards the home he was torn from, face set towards the graveyard of so many of his family and friends, righteous Daniel opens his heart to the Lord. “We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets…To you, O Lord belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel” (Dan 9:5-7). Daniel’s eyes moisten at the sins of his people. He is haunted by the evil done by his nation. And his prayers are not those of the just, but of the condemned. Even though he listened to the prophets and did righteously.

But this shouldn’t be rain on the fireworks, flies on the potato salad, or gopher holes on the baseball diamond. Even as we acknowledge the evils of our society, we celebrate the goodness of God by having us live in America. A contradiction? No. A paradox? Perhaps. A good deal of Christian maturity is being able to live a life shaped by paradoxes, understanding that we live in a broken and evil world. If we wait to rejoice until all is made right, we’ll be wearing black until we die. Good and evil can exist side-by-side, and there is no contradiction in celebrating the good while abhorring the evil.

We live in a nation where proclaiming Christ isn’t synonymous with having your head removed from your body. We live in a nation of (mostly) peaceful streets and law and order. We live in a nation where there is a care and concern for the less fortunate, where the corpses of the trampled aren’t left on the sidewalks. Our police are our heroes, not villains. Our soldiers are not murdering, raping, pillaging hordes. Our presses turn out thousands of God-glorifying books, and twitter hums with theological discussion for the sake of sharpening one another. None of these nullify anything said before. But we cannot live in a purely black and white world. Things are not only good or only evil. We know that from peering into the depths of our own hearts.

This 4th of July, let us celebrate and let us mourn. Let us be thankful for the good gifts the Lord has given us, for he has given us many good things. But let our celebration be realistic as well. This is not our home country. We celebrate as exiles, tinged by the mourning felt by all those who live in a country both theirs and not their own. God bless the USA, yes. But God bless his kingdom most of all.

5 Thoughts on the Death of Osama

It is good for the righteous to rejoice in the destruction of the wicked.
It is not good for the righteous to rejoice in the eternal damnation of one made in the image of God, undone by his own wickedness cooperating with demonic deception.

It is good for the righteous to rejoice for living in a country that stays the course in punishing evil and restraining oppression.
It is not good for the righteous to identify this as proof of any inherent goodness or favor of God upon our nation, for we are a people who tolerate the legalized murder of far more innocents than Osama bin Laden ever killed.

It is good for the righteous to mourn for the death of one who, by all appearances, did not possess saving faith in Christ.
It is not good for the righteous to be wish the wicked long life, for it is good and just for God to remove the wicked oppressors from the earth.

It is good for the righteous to practice restraint regarding proclamation of the eternal resting place of the dead, for fear of immanent death is a mighty evangelist.
It is not good for the righteous to muddy the waters of salvation before the world by constantly repeating the refrain “we don’t know where he is.” Osama is dead and is where he is. You are not, and still have influence over which father you will follow, and whose inheritance you will receive.

It is good for the righteous to rejoice in the greater protection America will now receive from terrorist attack.
It is not good for the righteous in America to be myopic and think that protection from terrorist attack is the primary purpose of God. The wicked do not fall to secure our comfort, the wicked fall to pave the way for the progress of the gospel. And the progress of the gospel will usually demand the unraveling of our comfort.

Unity

This song is 1) appealing and 2) catchy, making it 3) dangerous.

Thoughts?

 

[Lyrics]

Take me to the table where we all dine together
Pluck me from the crowd and return me to my sender
Whatever path you follow push on to tomorrow
Love all, serve all and create no sorrow
So many rivers but they all reach the sea
They’re telling me he’s different but I just don’t believe it
Love is the goal, yes and everyone shall reach it
Who ever seeks it
Seen and unseen

I don’t wanna a reason anymore about the one I love, the one I love
I don’t wanna reason anymore about God above, God above
I just wanna melt away, in all its grace
Drift away into that sacred place
Where there’s no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity…

Well I don’t wanna count the leaves of the mango tree
I just wanna taste it’s sweetness
you can’t defeat this above and beneath this.
Come one and all, come stand tall
And whatever your approach, dance or meditation
If you got love and longing you shall reach the station
The final road the supreme abode
In this city all hearts shine like gold
{Matisyahu’s verse}-
He Prays sitting, she prays standing,
Some sit quiet, while others stand demanding.
Just fan the flames of love.
some say he’s below, some say he’s above.
It’s unknown, when the king sits down upon his throne.
some chant songs some pray with beads,
some wake at midnight cuz the heart it bleeds,
some souls scream to the demons ,leave me be!

I don’t wanna a reason anymore about the one I love, the one I love
I don’t wanna reason anymore about God above, God above
I just wanna melt away, in all its grace
Drift away into that sacred place
Where there’s no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity.

Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and Guaranga.
All dance around, dancing on your thunder
Drunk on the wine of love for thee
Well tell me when will I be blessed to join their blissful company
And blissful company goes from sea to sea
From the depths of the valley to the mountain peaks

{Matisyahu’s verse}-
Every moment, minute, hour to hour
Just a gift I need keep and cause a riff
We need to lift each other my brother and give love to another
Wanna bust the bubble I know there’s rubbage and rubble
We don’t need no more trouble
Arms fall away and so I say

So many stories and so many fables of how the king sings
of how the wall wails
In Jerusalem to the Holy Himalayas
From Mount Zion to the hills of Jamaica
All land is holy, all land is sacred
All shall leave this world completely naked, completely naked, completely….

I don’t wanna a reason anymore about the one I love, the one I love
I don’t wanna reason anymore about God above, God above
I just wanna melt away, in all its grace
Drift away into that sacred place
Where there’s no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity.