Archive for the 'culture' Category



4 July 2012

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~ John Adams*

Today, as we celebrate the freedoms we’ve enjoyed as a nation for over three hundred years, freedoms which seem to be eroding away because of the very elements Adams notes in the quote above, let us remember that while human freedom is weak because it depends on fallen humans for its maintenance, the spiritual freedom we have in Christ cannot be touched by anyone.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17

*The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31

Designer Faith

I thought I was done with the Barna survey, but it seems I am not. Because in thinking about the last two bits of information, in addition to something else I came across yesterday, I find I’m being led to do at least one more post on this subject.

I was initially surprised to learn that the Barna Group’s numbers indicated that more than half of self-identified born again believers and almost three quarters of American adults don’t believe Satan is real,   then not so surprised upon learning how very few Americans — even among the born again Christians — hold to a Biblical worldview any more. The lack of a Biblical worldview in part explains the disbelief in Satan… but how is it that so many of our countrymen lack one?

The other thing I came across yesterday was an opinion regarding the controversy over whether the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively, and that kind of clarified things for me, especially taken in combination with one last bit from the Barna Group’s research.

The writer of the opinion did not believe that basic Bible stories were to be taken as literal, real, historical events but were merely instructional tales. Or at least some were. Others might not be. In any case, the individual defended this viewpoint with the claim that there are many things that can’t be known and thus chose not to question everything and demand that all be defined.

This was not the first time I’ve encountered the opinion that spiritual things are not to be questioned too closely, nor defined in too much detail. It always sounds lofty and somehow more spiritual than the mundane, prosaic activity of trying to make everything fit.

But yesterday, it finally  dawned on me that a person with this viewpoint is primarily concerned with what they believe the Bible says, not what it actually says. And by choosing not to question or seek to define their terms, they pretty much cut off all chance of finding out what it really says.

Imagine  if a scientist did that!  

— Oops!  I forgot! Some of them do!

Okay but they’re not supposed to, and many of them don’t. The whole point of science is to find out about our world, and the way to do that has always been to question and define. The way to understand anything is to do that, even the word of God.

Especially the word of God, I would say.

Which is why I advocate learning from a pastor who has been rigorously prepared in the original languages, the historical settings at the times of writing, and the various categories of doctrines as they are found and/or developed throughout the Bible. You can’t just sit down and read it for yourself without knowing any of these other things and expect to really understand it in depth. Yet that is what many do.

Or so I had thought. In fact, it would appear that most don’t really read it at all…

Last year, an article in USA Today last year called Designer Faith  reported on another Barna Group survey which found that “people no longer look to denominations or churches”  for their theological edification but have made of it a do-it-yourself project. Or, as the article was subtitled, “are tailoring religion to fit their needs.”

“By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.” 

When it comes to the born again Christians, the number decreases, but not by much and still makes the majority for  61% of them favor an “a la carte” approach to the development of their theological beliefs. 

Worse of all, “leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.”

As George Barna said, “America is headed toward being a country of 310 million people with 310 million religions.”

It’s kind of amazing and at the same time creepy to see things playing out as the Bible warns.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires… ”    ~ 2 Ti 4:3

Goodnight I-Pad

A new rendition of the children’s book Goodnight Moon. This one isn’t as cute and charming but my goodness, it does speak to our lives these days…

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

Yes, I watched this year’s Super Bowl, though I’m only mildly interested in football. But my hubby went off to the exercise club and left it on so I could watch the commercials. So that’s what I sat down to do. Mostly I thought they were… meh.  They made me feel alienated from our culture. I do realize they are not aimed at me. However… one of them stood out. It had to be my favorite simply because of its name:  Go Run, Mr. Quiggly! Plus I think it’s funny.

If you didn’t see it… here it is. Of course, as most of you know, my Mr. Quigley  spells his name differenlty and doesn’t look anything like than this one.

A Nation of Immense Size and Diversity

Recently I’ve been writing about how the Romans didn’t think democracy was a workable form of government for their nation. For one thing, they didn’t think their non-patrician countrymen were up to it. Another reason they thought it to be impractical was because of the size and diversity of its population. In his book Roman History, second century Roman historian Dio Cassius recorded the words of Gaius Maecenas, a close associate and advisor to Augustus Caesar:

“The cause [of democracy being impractical] is the immense size of our population and the magnitude of the issues at stake. Our population embraces every variety of mankind in terms both of race and character; hence both their tempers and their desires are infinitely diverse, and these evils have gone so far that they can only be controlled with great difficulty.” [from Life in Ancient Rome by Don Nardo]

Like Rome, America also has an immense population (ours is 313 million compared to Rome’s 88 million at the time of its greatest expansion under Emperor Trajan) and our diversity has long been cause for marveling. Not because it was a good thing in itself so much as that so many people of infinitely diverse backgrounds could come together and live in peace as one nation.

E Pluribus Unum

From many, One

Our first, de facto national motto, and one of the keys to America’s success as a nation. Our early ideals were never about being “diverse” so much as about being free. About being a part of a new sort of government that guaranteed the freedom and equality of all men before the law. The credo from times past was that people came to America to be American, not to remain whatever they were before. They left the old country because the old country wasn’t working for them — was stifling them, starving them, abusing them, enslaving, even killing them. They came to embrace American ideals of freedom and the right to pursue happiness as they saw fit, to learn English, to work their way out of poverty into prosperity  — to become a part of this great nation, not a part in it.

Cultural trappings were brought into the great melting pot and assimilated, not singled out for special regard and treatment. Our Christmas traditions in particular are an amalgam of the customs of many different nationalities.  And if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas that’s fine too. This assimilation and amalgamation is what allowed us to survive,  what allowed our representative democratic republic to work. In other nations or regions where different tribes or cultures or ethnicities insisted on maintaining their separate “identities,” there has been continual warfare.

Unfortunately, more and more we’re beginning to see that sort of identity politics developing here: people who come to this country for the prosperity, but have no interest in acquiring a new language or new ways. Instead, clinging to their old tongue and culture, they create enclaves within the whole, gathering together with their fellows and, in so doing, insulating themselves from American culture. They don’t want to join it, to learn its language, to work side by side with its people and become one of them, they just want to get the goods — to keep their old ways and allegiances as they send what they get back home to the old, dysfunctional country.

And there are some Americans who are fine with that. Who even celebrate it.

Which is just one more reason why as a nation we are growing more and more fracture-lines by the day…

Eligible to Vote

A few posts ago, (which is also unfortunately now a couple of weeks ago — where does the time go?) I wrote about how in ancient Rome the Roman senators, all part of the “ancient and venerable patrician elite,” did not consider the common people fit to rule along with them. In the post, I drew comparisons to some people in our present day government who seem to hold to the same opinion regarding the so-called common people. The middle class, lacking an Ivy League degree, common man American. The Tea Party, if you will — those bitter clingers to their guns and religion.

Considering further, however, I can see some justification for the Roman patrician’s views. The people they considered unfit included freed slaves, foreigners, and middle class plebs, all mostly illiterate, all having to work all the time (they had no weekends off, not even Sundays and only a few yearly festivals for rest). Many of them lived in the Roman equivalent of tenements, or scratched out a living on rented farm property. The vast majority owned next to nothing, had no education but what they picked up on the job, and had no time to consider much of anything except where their next meal and entertainment might be coming from.

If you have people who own nothing voting alongside people who own something, it’s just human nature that those with nothing are going to vote to force those with something to “share.”

That’s one reason why in early America one of the conditions for being eligible to vote was that you had to own property. In this way people “without so much as a farthing” wouldn’t be able to vote in a legislature of Robin Hoods — making laws that take from the rich and give to the poor. Plus it was thought that those with property would be more likely to have a vested interest in doing what was best for the community in which their property was located.

This came under attack however with the onset of the Revolution and particularly in the time between the Declaration of Independence and the adoption of the Constitution. There were many reasons for objection – concerns about veterans, concerns about the effects of increasing the scope of the electorate, and even concerns about how valid property rights were as a means of determining quality voters.

Ben Franklin made an excellent point in the latter regard:

“Today a man owns a jackass worth 50 dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man in the mean time has become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers—but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?”

Ultimately, property ownership was deemed undesirable and was replaced by the paying of taxes as a qualification to vote, and as we all know, the franchise has expanded greatly from there  — and not altogether to the country’s benefit, I fear.

Because voting is not so much a right as it is a privilege, something to be conferred with care and received with gratitude and a sense of sober responsibility. Today it seems to be taken for granted, given and received as an entitlement,  a means of bribery, or of gaining power, a pain in the neck, or something other people will do, because it really doesn’t matter and “I’m just too busy doing my own thing.”

Everyone born in America today has always had it. We’ve never lived in a time when we didn’t. And yet… the entire institution seems to have been so corrupted, it’s hard to remember what a privilege it is. Not that the politicians are necessarly less upstanding today than previously, nor that the process is any less vitriolic, but that the people… a lot of people don’t really pay attention. Or is it that they’ve been distracted by things that don’t matter?

During all the hooplah with Tim Tebow last month, I read that he was number five on some list of the most influential people in America. I don’t recall who assembled the list, only that it wasn’t all athletes. Tebow was seven places (if I recall correctly) ahead of Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots. He was however, still five below the most influential person on the list… Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga?

Originally the media, the fourth estate, was to work as a check for political processes. That’s long gone out the window, but worse, what I’m seeing today is the incessant barrage of messages, accusations, stories, speculuations, promises, claims, innuendo, and out and out lies. From the news outlets, the radio, Internet, and TV. Especially radio and TV. Whoever has the most ads wins, because the poplulace has heard those the most and simply through repetition of hearing has come to believe what those ads say.

Reminds me of the Hitler salute back in the beginning of his regime talked about in Eric Larsen’s In the Garden of Beasts:  How people at first resisted it, but after awhile, when it was constantly an issue, they gave in, even though they didn’t believe in it, didn’t really hold with it… but then after awahile, all that endless saluting and Heil Hitlering eventually brought them around to where they did believe it, and wanted to do it and bought into the whole package without ever realizing what exactly was happening.

I see that happening so much today. Everywhere. In everything. And it’s sobering.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  Abraham Lincoln

Quote of the Day: Don’t be a Nuisance

 

 ‘The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.’

~John Stuart Mill in his 1895 essay On Liberty 

                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                    

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Halloween

Years ago, in the distant past, when I was a young girl, I couldn’t imagine not wanting to go trick or treating on Halloween. I fretted ab0ut growing up and not being able to do it any more, because it wasn’t a thing “grown-ups” did. I loved running around in the dark from house to house, especially when one of the houses was “spooky”. I loved the wind, the dark scary shapes, the huge orange orb of a full moon. Oh what a sacrifice that was going to be, not to be able to do that. In fact, I thought, maybe I would never give it up!

Later, as a Christian and mother, and Sunday school teacher, I hosted Halloween parties at our house for the Sunday school kids and their friends. They dressed up, dunked for apples and played other games, ate pizza and then I and some other moms escorted them about the neighborhood so they could run in the dark from house to house and enjoy the scary effects some of the neighbors devised. (Too scary in some cases — one man, dressed as a gorilla with glowing eyes, came to the door to hand out candy and my son wasn’t having a thing to do with that… WAY too scary for him at his very young age.)

It was a time to get together, dress up, play games, carve pumpkins and run about in the night geting candy. Harmless. We all knew what we believed with regard to the spiritual realm and it wasn’t like we were worshiping the devil or anything. It was just a fun, cultural thing….

And yet…

And yet as the years have passed my acceptance became ambivalence and lately, the ambivalence is turning to active dislike.

I read an article the other day that  Halloween is now the second biggest holiday celebration — in terms of money making —  in this country, second only to Christmas. (There’s something disturbing about that juxtaposition.) When I went looking, I couldn’t find that particular article, but turned up another, written today (Sunday, Oct 30) that cites the National Retail Association as their source for this same claim. According to Neilson research, we’ll buy about 600 million pounds of candy for this day, and spend even more decorating our homes and buying/making costumes.

People say we love Halloween so much because we’re still kids inside. Because we love to dress up. Because it’s a time to be together, something to do as a family. As a neighborhood.

Others say everyone loves to be scared.  Sorry, no. I detest being scared. I detest having horrid, bloody images burned into my brain that will float around with me for years. Which is why I won’t go near the chain saw massacre haunted house things. But those are huge money makers as well.

Yes, I did say above that I liked spooky houses, but that’s fake spider webs with fake spiders in them, grinning jack-o-lanterns, shadows, fake bats, spooky ridiculous music, and glowing eyes that are electric and not set in the skull of some powerful predator slowly stalking me. In other words, it’s really fake-scary. I like pretending something is scary. I have no use at all for things that are really scary.

Fear is a sin. Anxiety is a sin. So is being terrified. Yet we have as the second biggest money maker, a holiday that celebrates fear. Or is it fake fear?

And yet… for all the scary stuff, kids get candy. And, at the same time, they learn gradually that all this scary stuff… zombies, witches, monsters, vampires, devils, demons, evil spells, evil powers, mummies, ghosts… aren’t real. That all that supernatural evil stuff is just silly, harmless stuff.

Well, I don’t believe in ghosts or vampires or zombies, but I do believe there are witches and evil, clever, powerful supernatural beings at work in this world. The Bible says there are:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of this wickenss in the heavenly places (atmosphere).”  ~ Eph 6:12

Halloween makes all that seem silly and ridiculous. Satan is reduced to an absurd figure with horns, a forked tail and red skin, who roams about in a red cape with a pitchfork. Witches run about with long noses and pointed black hats. Everyone laughs and has fun. Kids get candy.

It reminds me of the post I did on Hopi religious ceremonies for the kids, where every time the kachina shows up, the kids get the equivalent of candy. Thus they come to associate the kachina with gifts and good things and pleasure. So Halloween, I think, moves kids to associate demons and dark forces and witches and vampires and even death as not real, and also, as fun, as something pleasant and tasty.

And there’s just something off about that. When I think about us as believers in Christ being royal priests, being in union with the God of the universe, children of God, beneficiaries of His grace and created to be the means by which God would solve a great battle waged against him by evil angelic beings… it doesn’t seem right to engage in a holiday that seems deliberately crafted to meld the real with the make believe, and wrap it all in the guaze of fun and togetherness and the Pavlovian reward of … candy!

Not that I’m going to go on any anti-Halloween crusade. I just don’t like it. But I think I may have some legitmate reasons for feeling as I do.

UPDATE: While dinking around on the internet after posting this, I came across this blog from a former Wiccan, now Christian who wrote a series on the origins of Halloween in Samhain, a Celtic religious end of harvest festival. Very interesting. You can read Part 1 HERE.  There are three parts and they’re all quite interesting, especially where she points out the counterfeits with Christianity.

This is Living?

I love this commercial from Toyota regarding Facebook. It makes me crack up every time. I keep asking my friends “Have you see that commerical with the girl trying to get her parents on Facebook?” They keep saying no, so… here it is.

Coexist?

I’ve seen those COEXIST bumper stickers around for some time, and on occasion amused myself when stopped at traffic lights trying to figure out what all the symbols stood for. The only one I could never figure out was the E. But now I know, thanks to the poster below (via PowerLine):

Click to enlarge


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