Sunday, 29 January 2012
Loss of Values
One inspiring scene for me was the final moments of Transformers 3. Optimus Prime, all beat up, was standing over Sentinel Prime, his former mentor, with a sword in his hand. Sentinel Prime was explaining why he turned against the Autobots and sided with Megatron and the Decepticons. He explained that he did it for the survival of the autobots, and that survival necessiates the destruction of the weaker human race.
Optimus Prime's response was inspirational for me. He raised his sword and destroyed Sentinel Prime. For me, it was a statement by Optimus Prime that the protection of the weak is an absolute value. It was more important than the survival of the Autobots, and more important than his loyalty to his former mentor, the traitor and hater of the human race, Sentinel Prime.
I wonder if our society has become desentisized to the plight of the weak. It seems we have lost the sense of the value of protecting the weak. From the permission of abortion for convenience to people standing by as other people are being hurt by others, these are symptoms of a society that have ceased to be concerned for the weak. The protection of the weak is an absolute value because it lies close to the heart of the creator. It is the main sin of God's people, that they have ceased to be concerned for the weak among them, and have become focused on increasing their personal glory.
I don't know if I would expose myself to danger for the sake of a stranger. My purpose is not to lift myself up but to point out that our lack of concern for the weak is not something benign, it incurs the wrath of God. It seems that we have become socially engineered to be self-focused, to look out for our own interests. We need a new generation that has a sense of absolutes, that responds in anger when there is injustice right before their eyes, that responds in a way that makes the world know that devaluing the weak by bullying (physical and verbal) or exploitation will not be tolerated.
However, protection of the weak should not be used as a guise to destroy the freedom of conscience. It should not mean forcing organizations to abandon their values either. Organizations should have the right to limit its membership to those who share their values, even if society disagrees with those values. Government is charged with protecting the weak from oppressors but we also must beware of government, because it could become an instrument for social engineers to impose their vision of society. Social engineers, despite talks of inclusion and tolerance, could become the bullies who use power to destroy those they deem unacceptable.
Thursday, 19 January 2012
Avoiding the Gnostic Trap
I heard two tidbits in the radio this morning that brought me to reflect on the issue of the separation of the body and the soul. I first want to address, Jesse Jackson Jr's comment that conservative Christians lack compassion and only interested in making Jesus people (converts).
It is unfortunate that conservative Christians project that aura of lack of compassion. Although people's perspectives are subjective, it is well worth considering why conservative Christians are viewed this way. Since we live in community, our reputations are important, it is a part of us whether we like it or not. Our character growth is not just for our sake, but for the sake of the community around us, so we may be a positive presence for change in the world. If Conservative Christians are viewed this way, they must do something to address this perception. It is dishonoring to Jesus when the community perceives Christians as lacking compassion.
On the other hand, nobody can please everybody, despite good intentions. It is the reality that people's perceptions of each other is often mixed. Some will say things about us without knowing everything about us, and Jesse Jackson Jr. may be called on that. The white conservative family that adopted a homeless black highschooler in the movie Blindside, providing him a home and a family, can be argued to be showing more compassion than liberal lobbyists who never invited anybody they profess to care about in their homes. As far as I'm concerned, this ought to humble anybody who professes to be the voice of compassion.
I want to turn to the response of the founder of Lawndale Community Development, that conservative Christians sometimes care more about the soul (making converts) than taking care of the physical (meeting felt needs). He proposes a more holistic approach, taking care of the whole person. To avoid the gnostic trap- separating the body and the soul, I want to propose another way of looking at human beings.
Since man is made in the image of God, and in Christian doctrine God is a trinity, I propose that man is like a trinity. He has an immaterial part, he has a material part, and he has, for lack of a better word, an aura. The aura is how he is perceived in the community he is part of. Now each of these three "aspects" represent the whole person (not parts). When somebody hits me, I do not say "your fist" hit me. That is absurd, I will say "you hit me".
The "soul" of a body that is hungry not by choice is not healthy, even if that soul is "converted". His hunger causes him to feel down and maybe angry to the point that others notice. God cares for a person's feelings (depression is soul sickness) and demeanor (God wants us to have favor before man, not just before him), and unwholesomeness in those areas requires the taking care of the body (relieving hunger). The person whose sin is idleness will have a hard time taking care of his family, or at least will find it a burden. He and his family will go hungry or he will do things that are illegal, thereby destroying community.
Going back to the person's "aura", it affects the community around him. A resentful father (because he is idle and don't want to work hard) will project a bad "aura". His children would rather be out of the home than be with him. This father is destroying his family because his demeanor (body) is reflecting his wrong attitudes (soul), and he presents himself (aura) as a person who everyone wants to avoid. Of course, he may actually be loving sometimes but nevertheless, his image to his community is marred. "He" is a negative person and we don't normally say he projects negativity. The roots of negativity is in the condition of the body and the soul.
So what is the point. The health of the whole person does not consist in the health of one of its aspects. Man does not live on bread alone because man is not just a physical body (his soul and his aura are valuable not just for himself but also for the community). Illness in one aspect affects the other aspects, thereby making the person unwholesome. Instead of separating service (to the body, to the soul), let us make our service reach out both to the body and the soul, and ultimately to the community. God does not just desire conversions or shows of compassion but the restoration of the individual and the community.
Saturday, 26 November 2011
Exasperating our Children
As someone who works with children alongside other adults, I have observed a range of ways of how adults handle children. This is not meant to be an indictment of how some adults handle children. We adults are prone to become impatient or lax depending on our moods. My purpose is to offer a standard by which we can evaluate our handling of children, whether our own or not.
On one extreme, there are adults who yell at children as a way to get them to comply. Its unfortunate that there are environments where this showing of toughness is considered normal. Children then imbibe the attitude that toughness gets things done and gets your needs taken care of, and we wonder why some children grow up fighting authority and subsuming relationships for the sake of their egos. On the other hand, there are adults who don't enforce consequences for wrong behavior. Children are then thought that their wrong behavior does not have ultimate consequences, including the loss of relationships.
In the bible, there are admonitions to the family. Wives are told to submit and husbands are told to be considerate. Children are told to obey and fathers are told to not exasperate their children.
The wife-husband admonition reflects the nature of the adult-adult relationship. The wife is told to subsume her agenda (submit) for the sake of the marital relationship. The husband is then told to consider his wife's agenda as he lives with her. It is the tendency in a relationship between equals, that one member of the relationship takes over and "dominates" the other member. Because of physical and emotional weakness (more fragility), women tend to be dominated by men. Men make decisions and actions that ignores his wife's needs, and women becomes resentful. The husband-wife admonition is that they look to each other's agendas and not just their own.
On the other hand, the parent-child relationship is by nature unequal. Without guidance from the parent, the child is lost. He won't function well in the world and in his relationships. The child needs to recognize that he is under training as he faces the world. The forces within him needs to be directed properly. Therefore, the admonition for him is to accept that position by obeying. As the child gets older, that obedience transforms into cooperation and accountability. He needs to accept that he does not have enough knowledge to recognize right and wrong, therefore he needs to look to his parents for guidance. He needs to repress his agendas, even if he does not fully understand. The parent needs to recognize this, which means he needs to evoke trust from the child by showing interest in the child by emphatizing and caring. This leads us to the command to not exasperate or frustrate children. Here are some ways adults frustrate children.
1. Squelching, instead of directing, forces within them. Children like to investigate and they should not be scolded for this, but guided into doing it safely and even be with them as they investigate. This is just one example- children also like to expend energy, feel safe and comfortable, feel loved and competent, etc.
2. Expecting children to obey without question. i recognize that sometimes explaining the purpose of rules fully may not be productive. However, it is for the interest of our relationship with children that we be open to dialogue about our values/rules.
3. Getting into power struggles. Children have sin natures just like adults. They have the will to power, to get their way at whatever cost. Therefore, they may use dialogue not as a tool for undestanding but as a tool to get adults to change their mind. Dialogue must be stopped and consequences may be given at this point. Engaging in a struggle to silence the child by yelling down the child is wrong. As the adult, you already have the authority over them, and there is no need to flaunt it. Power struggles occur when the adult is more interested in showing his power than guiding the child. Adults must watch out that they are not reacting out of self-interest (wanting to look good, vindicating hurt feelings).
I saw an article in a magazine that mentioned what young adults wanted as they were growing up in church. One statement struck me- it said "Act like you like us". It made me reflect on what made them feel like people did not like them. Maybe the adults in church treated them like they are a burden- they are noisy, smart-alecks, disrespectful. The natural tendency is to push off and even be contemptous when our self-interest (need for peace, respect, etc.) is threatened. However, the way of the cross is not to push off but to give up self-interest for the sake of something greater, the propagation of the way of the cross to our children. Adults need to take seriously the responsibility to guide our children, by example of self-sacrifice and gentle caring guidance. Let them also walk in the way of the cross.
Sunday, 13 November 2011
On electing a Mormon
The 2012 Presidential election will probably feature a Mormon. Many evangelicals see Mormonism as a cult, and says they will never elect a Mormon. I think the term cult is brandied about haphazardly, having a negative but unclear connotation. To call anybody who does not hold to Orthodox Christian doctrines a cultist broadens the definition to the point of losing its nuance. Might as well say that cult is synonymous with Non-Christian or heretical (in the perspective of Orthodox Christianity). For a Christian to say that Mormonism is a cult is equivalent to saying that a Mormon is not a Christian.
A cult may just refer to a set of religious practices and beliefs, which would make cult synonymous with religion. Christianity is as much a cult as every other religion then because it has a set of beliefs and practices. If the criteria for calling a religion a cult is its strange beliefs (out of mainstream), it becomes subjective. A cultic belief could be anything some person finds strange (for example, scientology's belief that humans are reincarnated aliens called Thetans). Christianity's belief in resurrection would have been considered strange in the first century, and still sounds hard to believe with modern people. That would make Orthodox Christianity as much a cult as Mormonism.
The best definition of a cult is a devotion to a certain movement, person, etc. This devotion may be taken to the extremes that a group of people may separate from mainstream society. If we take that definition, we then have to ask if Mormons separate themselves from mainstream society. The fact that two Mormons are running for president belies that claim.
Some say that cults demand absolute loyalty to the point of a person losing his individuality. I have two responses to that. Could it be that we have an aversion to the term "absolute loyalty" because of our attachment to individualism- the person's freedom to pursue his own agenda? Is it intrinsically wrong to submit your thinking to some object, movement, or person? For a person whose main loyalty is to himself, this is unconscienable. However, faith requires "absolute loyalty". As a Christian, I believe it is right to give "absolute loyalty" to Jesus. The Christian is to be devoted to Jesus, following him to the cross.
This then makes me ask the question, where does Mitt Romney's absolute loyalty lie, or does it even matter? It is true that it is not to the Jesus of Orthodox Christianity, but a "different" Jesus. Will that make him a bad president? I don't think it necessarily would make him a bad president. All human beings put their loyalties somewhere, even to themselves. There was a fear in the 60's about our first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy. Would he follow the commands of the Catholic church in making policy? If the answer is no, it just means that President Kennedy's values lie somewhere else. If Mitt Romney, if he becomes president, is influenced by the Mormon hierarchy, it would not necessarily be bad for the country.
There are several reasons for this, including the fact that a president does not have absolute power. Another reason is that we cannot assume that the Mormon hierarchy's values goes against the values of the majority of Americans, and that they have no sympathy for those who do not share their beliefs. Mitt Romney must clarify the values he stands up for despite pressures from anybody else, and if it matches up with our values, then we should not back off from voting for him, even if he does not share our ultimate loyalty.
When I think about what is a good citizen, I think about a verse in the bible "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) The interest of the exilic community, which the people of God is, is the welfare of the place where God puts them. The Christian citizen must then be concerned about the welfare of his country. If he believes that what is best for the welfare of his country is a non-Christian president who shares the values that make for a good society, then he must support that presidential candidate.
I understand that the ultimate best is for the whole world to embrace the grace of God in Jesus Christ. However, the victory of the gospel is not in our hands but in the hands of God the Holy Spirit who is able to change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. For now, we must seek the welfare of our nation in the ways available to us.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
What is Relevance?
He walks around like a rocker, with his leather Jacket and long hair. This man is in his 80's and seems to be reliving his young days, and seeking to be found appealing by 20-30 year olds. Some may see this man as silly, or sad, or even perverted.
I heard that Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name in order to not be offensive to the culture at large, especially to Muslims who have a bad connotation with the word "Crusade". The Southern Baptist Convention is also thinking about changing its name to better reflect its demographics- There are SBC churches in the Northern United States. These moves make me think of the question, "What is Relevance?" Some think of it as looking like others, taking on the identity of others. Some think of it as delving into secular concerns (e.g. taking sides in political battles). Some apply the concept of relevance by having separate services for different populations (youth, seekers, etc.) The apostle Paul talks about being all things to all people so he might save some.
There definitely is something commendable in being where people are, listening and dealing with their concerns. That is part of Loving our Neighbor. However, I think that in the quest to be relevant, people sometimes demean the self God gave them. Think of an old Pastor who colors his hair to take away the grayness. In his desire to reach the younger generation, he hides his age. He might have good intentons, but is denying who he is worth it? It is very tiring to make ourselves likeable, or look cool, to everybody or even to some. I don't think God intends for us to be unreal. If the Spirit is working in us, should we have more esteem for our selves- our growing wisdom which is sometimes signified by growing old, our sanctified introvertness that make us better able to have deep conversations. We should embrace the self God shapes, but not our sins.
What drives our actions? Should it be fear that others are offended by our identity? Where do we draw the line? Would Campus Crusade for Christ sooner or later give up the offensive message of the gospel? That would not be right. We must make an effort to proclaim the gospel in a way that is understandable and meaningful, and not to put stumbling blocks along the way. Names and symbols can definitely be stumbling blocks, and we should be sensitive to those offended. However, care must be taken that acceptability before the world would not become the main factor in our decisions. The quest for acceptability is frought with problems- becoming dishonest about who we are, and the amount of energy wasted on this quest.
When reaching to one group, would we push away other groups? The quest for relevance, shown by the homogenous church planting movement, has the assumption that people reach those who are like them much better. Although this may have truth to it, it betrays a shallow understanding of human nature. What attracts people to other people? Although sameness in race or social standing or political position may make people comfortable with each other, kindness and empathy also does. Those are character issues that we need to work on. If we don't have kindness and empathy, even those who seem to be like us will eventually find being with us a painful experience.
Therefore, my point is that instead of thinking about how we can be "relevant", we need to work on being kinder and empathetic people. If we just spend our energies on those who are similar to us (I understand that sometimes church planters spend more energy on "strategic" people for practical purposes, but I still think it is wrong), and spend less energy on those who are different from us, then we are guilty of favoritism. Kindness and empathy goes a long way in becoming all things to all people, even those who don't share our values.
Saturday, 24 September 2011
Mrs. Smith was enraged as her seven year old daughter disrespected her. She felt trapped in her rage as she thought of the many times she has pleaded with the little girl to stop disrespecting her, how she has given her time outs to no avail, and how she has cared for this ingrate. In her rage, Mrs. Smith grabbed her little girl, forced her mouth open, and poured hot sauce into her mouth. It was a painful ordeal for the little girl who screamed in terrible pain.
When we hear news stories about parents punishing their children in a way that threatens their welfare, we can't help but feel rage towards the mother or father who inflicted pain on a helpless child. What would cause parents, who was supposed to protect their child, harm their child even to the point of causing the child's death. We may judge the parents for being selfish, unable to cope with the frustrations of caring for a child. We may also choke it up to mental illness, thereby lessening or taking off responsibility from the parent who has shown utter disregard for the welfare of their child.
The reaction of judgment is the product of a heart that yearns for justice, for wrongs to be made right. The reaction of pity is the product of an ideology that sees the human being in slavery to chemicals in his body, or to broken/inadequate bonds in childhood. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that past relationships, whether poor bonding as an infant or poor parental modeling/teaching in childhood, influences socialization in adolescence and adulthood.
However, this ideology could go too far as to deny the ancient teaching of the Christian tradition that all humanity is pervaded by a sinful nature. We may call it original sin, depravity, or will to power. It affects the whole human being- his thinking, his feling, and his will. It is the cause of most suffering in the world. The doctrine of the sinful nature asserts that all mankind, even babies who some think of as blank slates, has a tendency towards hating his neighbor who interferes with his desires, and hating the creator who made the world he wants to master. He will act on that tendency and thereby incur guilt, which results in death and separation from the God who made humans to love. This is the greatest problem in Christian theology.
Acknowledging this problem will help us look at human beings with realistic grace. Realistic grace acknowledges that humans, including ourselves, are sinful and does not lessen the sinfulness of sin by changing psychological theories or making excuses. Realistic grace will help us be more forgiving, acknowledging that others disappoint us and that we disappoint others too, which lessens the overexpectation that ruins relationships. Realistic grace will help us expect more from our children's behavior, while acknowledging that they will falter, and we will have to teach them once again that there are rules we abide by for our own good and for the good of society. Realistic grace will stir us away from thinking that stronger measures of discipline will change the behavior of our children, a belief that leads to child abuse, which also conditions children to think that might makes right. Realistic grace also prevents us from going the other way, excusing our children's sin, thereby not giving them consequences, making children believe that their behavior has no consequences for them and for their world. Realistic grace will push us towards viewing discipline, not as a reaction to our frustrations, but as a teaching tool, imparting wisdom to our children as they deal with their sinful nature so that they can live in harmony with God and his world.
Friday, 26 August 2011
Michele Bachmann and Submission
Recently, Congresswoman Bachmann was questioned about the issue of wives submitting to husbands. Probably in many people's minds, the word "submission" brings about the image of a person agreeing to every whim of another person. I think it is legitimate to ask how this concept of submission will work out if Congresswaoman Bachmann becomes president. Will her husband really have more influence than warranted? President Kennedy, when he was a candidate, was also questioned about the future role of the Pope, since he was Catholic, in his administration.
I want to comment in this word submission. The passage in Ephesians 5 about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the church was preceded by the statement for the church, "Submit yourselves to each other." I read this passage as saying men show their submission by loving their wives as Christ loves the church. The temptation of the stronger is to impose his will on the weaker. As the more powerful person (physically at least), the husband's temptation is to impose his will on his wife, making her agree to whatever he wants. On the other hand, the temptation of the weaker is to usurp the stronger, making ways to underhandedly defy or undermine his power. As the weaker person (at least physically), the woman's temptation is to undermine her husband- telling their children to disobey their father, manipulation. Therefore, her submission comes in the form of cooperation- honoring the husband's power. Both husband and wife have to give up their agendas for the other to create a marriage that reflects the way of the cross, the way of sacrifice which is the way of salvation.
As an aside, some Christians see the husband as the head in a spiritual sense, like a priest who brings his family to God. However, all believers male and female, have equal access to God and his spirit, through the blood of Christ which removed the separation between God and man. They both stand before God equally responsible for their lives. Both of them have to be engaged in their world, which includes their family and their work. Sitting back waiting for "prince charming" or being passive and uninvolved, needs to be avoided.
All indiviuals have the will to power, to be in control. In this individualistic culture, the will to power is not something discouraged. In a more community centered culture, this will to power is more suppressed. Submission is frowned upon in a society that promotes individual rights to the point of giving women the right of ending a hepless child's life. Opposition politicians oppose the ones in power to make them look incompetent in the face of the nation's problems, not out of a desire to help the whole nation, but a desire to look like the competent ones deserving power. The ones in power give themselves credit for success and find ways to blame the failures on the "opposition". This pattern is what is addressed in the submission passage. Instead of lovingly upholding each other, the husband and the wife undermine each other, just like politicians do. The solution is mutual submission, which is the goal in relationships. Hierarchy is temporary and equality is the end point.
Despite statements that children love boundaries, I don't believe that children value boundaries at the moment. Maybe they will appreciate their parent's "no" later in life when they better understand their parents' perspective, but in the moment, rebellion is usually a way to express power. However, I do agree that lovingly communicating the purpose of boundaries is good for the child and for the relationship. Boundaries unexplained is not helpful and is resented. This will to power that humans are born with makes "submission" an odious concept.
The spiritual (a person's worldview, where he fits in, others fit in, where 'God" fits in, etc) has something to say in every sphere of life. Spirituality may not be overtly religious (identified with evangelical thought) and maybe hidden (atheists have a "spirituality"), but each person has a spirituality that influences every sphere in life- government, family, education, etc. These spheres are independent of each other (the protestant view), which should assure us the "President" Bachmann won't "submit" to her husband in the political sphere. Congresswoman Bachmann, President Obama, and every other person has a spirituality that influences their decisions. Therefore, talking about a person's "true spirituality" is legitimate, and should not be assumed to be the same as the religion identified with. Let us hope that our leaders' spirituality does not put themselves in the center, "valuing" their pride, their comfort.
Saturday, 20 August 2011
Struggling with God
Was Gideon wrong for testing God by asking for two miracles to prove to himself that God was talking to him? Was Jacob wrong for telling God that he will worship him only if he gets back to Bethel, the place where he had a dream about God telling him that he will inherit the land of Canaan? Was Thomas wrong for asking for proof that Jesus was truly resurrected?
Some people give a resounding "yes". However, I am asking the above questions to confront the human proclivity towards certainty and clear answers. The answer to this question touches on the nature of God. As far as biblical data, Psalm 78 talked about how Israel tested God. However, the context is Israel's rebellious testing of God's limits, how much they can get away with their disobedience and grumbling. On the other hand, there was no condemnation for Jacob or Gideon for their desire for certainty that God is talking to them. Jesus gave Thomas proof that he is risen and his statement "Blessed are those who believe even though they do not see", referring to the evidence given to Thomas, is not a condemnation but an affirmation that trusting him is the way of salvation even for future generations.
Does God require blind faith? Why do people doubt? I don't agree that it is sin to doubt or want more evidence. People sometimes have a more suspicious personality. They don't easily believe, and maybe Jacob was like that. People sometimes distrust others because of bad experiences. For God to require blind faith would be unfair, and would go against the reality that there are deceptive voices that claim to be the voice of God. Aren't we called to test "prophets" to see if they speak from God? Blind faith can lead to spiritual destruction. For example, there are those who listen to modern day prophets who predict the end of the world. God understands our doubts and does not hold our doubts against us. On the other hand, doubt can be a manifestation of a bad heart. Skeptics must be confronted with the issue of their disbelief, whether they are genuinely open to believing or not.
The psalmist says "Taste and See that the Lord is good." This is an affirmation that doubt is natural. The life of the Christian will be plagued by doubts (will I be OK if I give some of my money to God's work, will I ever find somebody to marry me if I reject this man who does not love the Lord). God's invitation is to walk with him and he promises that you will see that he is good. It does not say, be convinced that I am trustworthy, then walk with me.
The people of God is called Israel- One who struggles with God. The life of faith is a life of struggle. Its a struggle to taste and see that the Lord is good. True faith is not a one-time decision to believe a proposition. We are not saved by our decision but by our present faith. Faith is a moment to moment decision to walk with God, believing that he will show his goodness. Faith is strenghtened as the faithful see more and more of God's goodness. If at this moment you are walking with God, the promise is the experience of his goodness- the temporary earthly blessings (provisions, relationships), the comfort in the midst of sorrow, and the assurance of eternal life through the death of his son.
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Violence and Sex in Media
I remember sitting watching a child play a video game where you get points out of killing people. I thought to myself, "this kid is being thought to devalue human life". However, I was made aware of my hypocrisy. I remember having fun at an arcade shooting at people with a simulation gun. I was getting points for killing people who look like your stereotypical terrorist. Granted, they are shooting at me too, but where does this feeling of delight at killing another human being come from?
It seems that in our criticism of the media, we focus solely on content. We say, movies have too much sex and violence, and people's minds are being programmed to devalue human life and sexual expression. This may be true but not all people who watch violent and sexual movies turn out to be sexual deviants and murderers. It is right for us to appeal to producers to lessen the violence and sex. They will respond that sex and violence sells. Then this should prompt us to ask, "Why does violence and sex sell?"
I believe addressing that question can be a great teaching moment. What does those scenes awaken? Scenes of violence and sex awaken in humans the desire for the feelings of power and connection. Those desires for power and connection were placed there by God to help humans accomplish his mandate- to subdue creation and to multiply. Media producers have tapped into the human psyche, and we need to do the same thing if we are to turn the heart of individuals towards God and his rule. It is not enough to avoid the media's influence, if we are to win this battle of conscience (media could dull conscience by redefining what is acceptable and not acceptable). We have to teach what is real power and connection.
While the world sees power displayed in military or physical might, we need to see real power in Jesus, the crucified God. God's power is ultimately displayed on the cross, a symbol of humiliation, not in a magnificent show of smoke and light. It is through the cross that the powerful sting of death is defeated. It is through the cross that the power of sin is blunted. Sin and death, powerful and indestructible forces, were defeated on the cross.
What does this mean in our daily life? Humility and love triumphs against human rebellion. Many parents try to, or at least get tempted to, control their children by overpowering them (hitting, yelling), and the children sees force (fighting) as the way to power. People need to be taught that there is greater power in gentleness, that violent power does not solve problems permanently. Although the bully may be stopped by force, there is more power in making the bully your friend, making the bully give up his destructive use of power. The flesh tells us to avoid or eliminate the bully, but the goal of the truly powerful should be to become reconciled to the bully.
As far as sex, we should always remember that physical pleasure does not equal the true connection that our hearts really want. That true connection can only be had in the context of a complete surrender to the other. The compartmentalization of the self through the giving of the body without the giving of the soul (become one with another through sharing life together in a committed relationship) will just bring about momentary pleasure, which ends in the feeling of isolation after the pleasure is over. Media's cheapening of sex should be countered by elevating real connection, a connection that lasts beyond death. This connection is built as two people follow the crucified God to the cross, living a life of humility towards each other.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Fact and Theory
A while, I heard a woman with channel 11 (an educational station)introduce a piece of information with these words "You want to hear a fact?" Then she went on about the ancestry of some bird, how it evolved from a certain dinosaur. This raised my ire as I think of the mental conditioning effect of this statement. Kids being taught to trust people based on their education.
I don't know if the lady knew what facts or theory are but the confusion of the two confuses the minds of people, including children, who don't think about the difference of fact and theory. My issue is not whether what she says is right or wrong but with the misuse of the word fact. We receive data from the world and the data is interpreted. That interpretation is called a theory.
Sometimes I suspect that just because a scientist interprets data a certain way, that interpretation somehow is elevated into a fact. Nobody knows the past (how the world developed), and the records (geological, fossil, etc.) give us clues. These clues are interpreted, and these interpretations are influenced by prior beliefs that are held by those who interpret the records. An atheistic scientist would never say that there is an intelligent designer that guided the development of a species, for example. He is invested in his prior belief that there is no God.
The truth is most of what we know are based on interpretaions- the sum of the data presented to us and our experiences. This goes for all areas of knowledge, and even feelings. You may say your parents love you by how they act towards you. However, you interpret these actions as loving because you feel loved (data) and other people say that their actions are loving (data). Its possible that people can seem loving on the outside but have no real affection for others. An abused child may not consider loving actions to be loving because people who 'loved" them abused them. We walk through life trusting our interpretations.
Granted, scientists and other scholars may have more knowledge of the data and has interacted with the interpretions of that data. However, whatever interpretation they come up with is a theory or interpretation. It does not make it absolute truth.
Knowing that most of the things we know are inerpretations of the data should lead us to humility. Your educational degrees does not necessarily make your words truer than other people's words. You may guide the less educated by your knowledge of the data, but you don't determine truth or what's best in all situations.
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