Your Beliefs Make and Break You

It is surprising how certain core matters pop up in the most unexpected places. I was reading a marketing article, because I am sales challenged to a certain degree. Like what is probably true for the vast majority of people in my culture, I don’t like to sell. I feel forced to learn how, especially now that I am trying out different business avenues online (Zazzle, for instance). Plus I like reading marketing and social media articles. Throw in some pop psychology and you’ve got my attention.

This thought grabbed my eye:

Beliefs form a fundamental part of our psychological make up and are the building blocks of our personality. Our beliefs dictate how we see the world and therefore, every single decision we make while interacting with our world.

Beliefs start and end wars. Beliefs make and break relationships.

Sales Psychology

This has been my conviction for years, although I phrased it in a slightly different manner.

This is why I think ideology is so important. Francis Schaeffer articulated a lot of this for me when he explained that one of the reasons it matters to understand the art and innovative thinkers of your generation is because it is the seedbed of what your culture will reflect in the next generation (that is to say, ‘what they will believe”). With enough push in thought forming mediums, a culture will change… even in what once seemed to be an “unthinkable” way.

It explains to me why visionaries are so important, whether they are initially accepted or not.

We might be seeing this more clearly than ever when the accelerant of the internet made consensus change work in ways that are now described as “viral”.

What we believe not only influences everything around us, it creates a future.

I’m just going to let this sink in without further comment, until this very broad idea finds the specific application I want to think about. It applies on so many levels… like what we think of ourselves, what we choose for our families, how politically manipulated we become, all sorts of thing from business to what we think of our future.

Related to this is whether we believe something reality based, or we believe a lie… about any and all of these things, because not all beliefs are equal- or morally neutral!

Seven Mountains

The church I attend has started interest groups that serve to connect people who are called to, or now involved within one of the “seven mountains of influence”. This idea is based from a teaching that seems to have originated in 1975, from Campus Crusade and Youth With A Mission leaders. I was not very informed about it until recently (and still not well versed), but it is an interesting way to communicate a concept that has a parallel to similar ideas that have been around much longer.
In more negative terms is the idea of “the fifth colun” or in closer terms could be the ideas of “The Third Culture“, although not really like either of those, the seven mountains holds one similar line of thought: changing the status quo through those of a different worldview.

As the “Reclaiming the 7 Mountains” website says it:
“These seven mountains are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.”

I think our church has a little different take than the original, but takes the same view of the categories. Anyway, I went to the first meeting centered around the “Media” mountain.

There is a great deal of emphasis on using your gifts to a full potential; and that would be all your gifts, both natural and spiritual. It is something I am very interested in right now, and might mean that this blog will change and get more attention from me (writing, posts, stuff!)

I want to share my faith here, and explore thoughts and opinions as I did in the past, but not in the same way that I had. So much of social media has replaced the functions of the old style blogs. We’ll see if there are new avenues for this blog to follow.

In the meantime, think about reading more about the “Seven Mountains” and where you fit. We all want to develop our gifts, I think, but sometimes we get confused along the way (I know that has often happened in my life), but perhaps a fresh way of looking at vision and our life map could not just invigorate our projects, but give better focus to our energies and time.

Family- Where Art Thou?

This summer fulfilled the personal goal begun last year, focusing on family and reconnecting frayed ties. It was imperfect in results, but some important gaps were bridged. Along the journey some insights emerged.

Triggering some thoughts was a son’s question,“What useful purpose does a family reunion serve?” in response to the resurrected attempt to meet together with scattered members of my paternal side. In light of the direction our culture has taken in its view of defining family (during my generation’s watch), the question is quite valid. In fact, it is one I posed in my own early family life, in my twenties. We are making our own family circle, what good can former generations, or far flung members of a shared progenitor contribute to us? And what difference do we make to them?

The thoughts took me back to the time when the definition of family, and the outright attack on the benefit of a nuclear family unit made its way through the issues of the day. Parental rights, child’s rights, definition of marriage, divorce issues, and gay rights have all held interest in the destruction of traditional views of what purpose and benefit is contained in the form of a family and its call on relationships. The change in our thinking is accomplished … and so it can be something of a personal epiphany (as it was to me) that reconnecting along bloodlines might hold some esoteric value. Esoteric because we no longer hold a sense of belonging to each other through family ties as a general way of thinking, even though individual families may have kept such values alive for themselves…. not unlike the Biblical example of “the house of the Rechabites“. I’m not saying it is all gone to anarchy, just that it has dropped precipitously in our priorities and view of relationship benefits. It had to, given the widespread practice of divorce.

So, we have had a general disparagement of the traditional family that is fully accepted in our present culture.

I could pursue closing the arguments on that statement, but I think you can follow up the line of thinking on your own. The practices we follow in our daily lives further deteriorates the value of family ties. We don’t have time to make our own family meals, or to sit down together on a daily basis. We don’t have time to sit around and talk, especially when it can become unpleasant…. it disturbs our TV show schedule or our video game, or our computer time. We walk around in our own world of ipods, and make it distinctly difficult for someone to hold a conversation with us. A bother. A distraction. Uninteresting.

Family ties can be seen as anachronistic in such a world.

Such a world stacks the importance of self on top, with “others” playing a supporting role, at best. And should they seem unsupportive, then they may face “the axe”. And we move through a life with a constantly changing set of relationships which largely are based in “what we do“. Who we are, especially in terms of relationships, becomes increasingly irrelevant.

So you can see how a family reunion may suffer in our view of its benefit and the worth of spending time and effort .

This whole aspect of our attitude towards, and value of nuclear and traditional family structure, affects not only something like whether we meet together in a reunion, it is evident in our other structures of relationship, as well. It affects church, business corporate, and community relationships as well. We are dependent on making a case of how something benefits the individual. The group identification largely remains empty. But with a placeholder.

That placeholder can become something very threatening in many ways. Largely because the need for belonging in the human experience does not simply disappear. It searches, it waits, and it needs to be fulfilled in some way. Rejection and denial in no way diminishes this wiring in our psyche.

I still have some of the story to tell. Maybe this will be a “mini-series”.

A couple quotes to consider:

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation” ~ Margaret Mead.

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born. ~Pearl S. Buck

Finding Old Barbies in the Closet – why it is a mistake to aspire to Superwoman

Three things comprise the inspiration for this post:

  1. Super women– I mean Barbies
  2. Barbie Gets Ordained
  3. An online podcast conversation reference to “Women Who Want To “Have It All”

First Up: What Does Barbie Mean To YOU?

In the first essay, Alicia Cohn asked this question up front:

Why do women want to be represented by a plastic doll?

Since we are covering at least two generations here, I can’t speak for all of them, or for what the entire Barbie phenomenon might represent for our culture… but I can tell you my own story.

Revealing my age… I had one of the first Barbie dolls. When it first came out I wanted it so badly, and I was so happy when I finally got one. She had black hair tied in a sleek ponytail with that froufrou of bangs up front that look not unlike a poodle after a trip to the doggie salon. She had a black and white striped swimsuit covering a maturity evoking shape, with tiny high heels… another reference to the world of grownup women, and demure pearl earring studs. Her eyes were sophisticated almond shapes with catlike eyeliner. She was like your teen idol, your pets, and your future all rolled up into one little package that you could role play if you just had enough money for all the clothes and accessories. I didn’t, but I liked having Barbie around. I liked that she wasn’t at all like me… not remotely like me.

And perhaps that is telling both of me, and my generation. She was the dream girl; and that is where her role making starts. In packaged, plastic wrapped dreams.

Next: What Does Barbie Mean To US, Collectively?

But like all little girls I eventually grew up. and those old Barbies? They were played with, put in the toy box, and then found their way to my mother’s backyard garage sales. In time they became icons of a plastic and disdained world that women of my generation wanted desperately to throw away. We hippie mamas. Or did we?

Turns out that hippie mamas became infused with Yuppie enthusiams. Even the diehard ones… and as Superwomen and Super moms icons, roles, and images were given birth, along with our own kids… Barbie made more transformations than that icon of icons, Madonna. It was a whole new Age of Barbie for our daughters: Career Barbies and Celebrity Barbies. Barbies without Ken, ever younger Barbies, diversity Barbies… Barbie for the masses.

But still Barbie, and still plastic. Secretly, sometimes ashamedly, sometimes boldly, collected and displayed with renewed adulation.

Barbie and the Big Lie?

When doing some reflecting back in my thirties (I am fifty-something now), I drew a conclusion that each generation of women is given a form of “the Lie”. We see the past generations lie in a vague sort of way, and rebel against it. But that doesn’t inoculate us from our own generation’s “Lie”, and whenever we are given something of a mock up of the “Ideal Woman” as presented by our culture -and not from a historical view where it can be better considered- we might want to investigate how much of a lie is involved there. Hint… whenever a role model has little to do with ones humanity and lots to do with someone’s manufactured representation… you can bet there is some lying going on.

I liked what Alice Cohn had to say, and I laughed at the pictures of Rev. Barbie- the costume was extremely well done even if the theology is not concordant with mine.

Lies I Was Told

So finally we get to the MAIN POINT

The main point is to address the conversation about the marketing possibilities of gearing web content towards “women who want it all”.

It comes down to what you want to feed people. Real food that makes for healthier human beings? Or sugar laden pap that lards their insides and makes them feel all nice and full and “sugared up” while starving their souls and leaving them as prime candidates for debilitating disease later. Oh yeah, pass that mile high pie… and if you are religious you can just pray away the calories.

Like that will work.

Did women learn nothing during my generation? Probably not, because we are human and it is hard to choose the truth when it isn’t all lathered up with that whip cream topping over the plastic food-stylist presentation which is not real food. Much like Barbie never was, and never meant to be a real woman.

Who started the rumor that she was?

I don’t know, but it might be the sames ones who like the Super Mom-Super Women so well, and are cheerleading her comeback.

I can hear the retorts now… well just because you are a loser with sour grapes attitude doesn’t mean it isn’t possible and laudable to encourage women to be all that they can be.

But you know… I’m not saying women should not be all that they can be. They should aspire to that. In fact I applaud, and cheer, and desire to support, a realistic and healthy vision of what that might be. It is the plastic Barbie version that keeps giving me nightmares at night.

So… the main point of all this might be the last question that Ms. Cohn put forward:

so I wonder: How do intangible qualities such as faithfulness and wisdom connect with girlhood dreams of being a grown-up woman?

Deregulate My Clothesline, Please

I had to read it carefully to see if it was a joke. I’m still not sure, since it is one of those far-out nutty things that people do, but it seems there is a move to ban clothelines, and a “right to dry” counter movement. The things you find out on Twitter.

Read all about it on the Project Laundry List.

I don’t know about you, but it just doesn’t make sense to ban something that saves energy. The people who love to make rules get wayyy too zealous. And nuts. Didn’t they ever hear about “sunshine fresh” clothes? No amount of fake chemical scent will ever replicate that special outdoor fresh smell of clothes hung out to dry on a clothesline. Even pictures of old city apartments with the lines of wash hung out, stories high, have a quaint virtuous look to them.

I just don’t get it… and I hope those silly regulations get repealed. And I think there needs to be an arts movement that helps reeducate the aesthetic sense of people… to enjoy and celebrate the beauty of the commonplace. Make the clothesline a thing of celebrated art- do your part. Do we need a celebrate Washday day? Hang your sheets to the wind Day? What will it take to insert a bit of common sense into the minds of people who obviously have too much time on their hands and too little to do?

So What Is Monsters, Inc?

Vampires are sleek demons for good times. They suavely leach off society — like investment bankers who plunder outsize shares of deals for themselves or rapacious fund managers.

quoted from NYT via Ingrid,The Aesthetics of Monsters

Correct Choice of Words

So little time, so much to say. That might be the motto of many of us, especially of bloggers, or maybe it is just noticeable in bloggers -especially by other bloggers? Crafting our word choices is often a lost art, and perhaps why we so easily miscommunicate. Then there is the truncated ability to decode actual word meanings (which could inspire a digression into the state of today’s education degeneration).

I noticed this in the brouhaha engendered by Pyromaniacs set of posts on “Manly Men” and More Thoughts on Effeminate Evangelicalism . In carefully reading through the first post, I began to think that the author wasn’t really describing “effeminate” with its (rightly) criticized “homophobic” connotations, as he was something that the word “effete” might better have defined. But then it might have been more precise and not aroused the ire of those who resent the implications and connotations of the word “effeminate”. Unmanliness just has such a cultural buzz right now.

I weighed in on how we are inflecting the gospel.

Homosexual Marriage

The topic is not something I would normally choose. I don’t like to go bulldozing in where the emotional payload is so high that little of worth gets said.

but…here I am… thanks to Parablemania, the blog.

I just can’t let it go, not when “Homosexuality has the same standing as abomination as worshipping other gods. The freedom to do the latter is a first amendment right. Immoral but legal.” is something that is being argued.

First. The abomination things are both argued from what the Bible teaches, and then put into the secular legislating platform. And this is the gist of the argument being made: that morality should not be legislated.

Now regardless of my own fully verbalized opinion on this ( I tend to be against highly legislating behaviors), the fact is that we do legislate morality. That is part of what the law does…. otherwise many laws would simply go away, if it were only a matter of taxes and of infrastructures. A large part of law is in the moral category.

I think the mistake we make is when we mix the base for that law in both the religious and secular.

We may be personally informed by our religion, but we can’t make the case to society on that basis. And we shouldn’t make the case to each other as Christians this way. It confuses things on a subject that is already very confused.

For example, how do we really define marriage in our society? I don’t think that has been established. How do we make laws on this if we keep going on the unspoken traditional definition? The way it is going now, I suppose, with lots of emotional posturing, and passionately driven vested interest.

So what if shrimp was proscribed by the Torah? Jews don’t demand that the food supply be changed, they simply set up their Kosher viaduct for eating the way they believe they should eat. Sensible.

But, excuse the pun, Marriage is whole different kettle of fish.
Continue reading Homosexual Marriage

The Power and Necessity of Definition

The Usefulness of Semantics

Some negate it, some exalt it, but the study of words and their meanings is paramount to one thing: communication.

If you are truly going to understand someone, or something ( as in a subject) you better be clear on the vocabulary. And that is at the base of a lot of misunderstanding.

Ryland, Again

So here we go with another of Ryland’s posts: I am willing to chalk this latest to frustration, as well as the first one…. but then it becomes a matter of intellectual laziness, if one continues to misunderstand the need to define the terms properly.

It seems that determining what is Christian is now labeled “legalistic”. Ok, Ryland, what does that mean and in whose vocabulary? Is it “legalistic” in the Christian’s vocabulary to define oneself by the Nicene Creed?

It became apparent rather early on to the Church Fathers that we needed some idea of what a Christian believed. And to decide whether a Christian acts “Christian” you pretty much have to define how that action looks as opposed to something “UnChristian” or whatever.

This is going to happen every time you try to describe any group. What is Muslim and what is not of Islam? What is a Liberal? What is a Conservative? What is Fundamental? In what context?

It is in the context of the definitions that we get the understanding of what we are really talking about….. and it ends up being very important, and especially so if one is going to answer vague accusations and mandated actions. Mandated by whom?

Although it is all very tiresome if one is not actually interested in truth …just in fueling intimidation and emotional rants and finding some handy scapegoats.

The only trouble with that is that it will eventually lead to lots of inequity.

And then some people are going to be very unhappy. And rightfully so.

So if we are going to dialog, let’s articulate the people, problems, and issues distinctly, shall we? It will call for some tiresome defining, but worth it in the long run…even if only to know your enemy, if that is what you want to make of a group of people.

It could end up with mutual understanding , toleration, and respect, though. That, surely, is worth the temporary tedium. Time when the academic is worth its salt.

To the GIST:

Is it Christian?

If it is Christian-defining to act and believe a certain way, then it would be illogical to ask one to stop believing and acting that way- as a Christian.

The very term, “legalistic” is anathema to Christian doctrine for behavior, but there are lots of ideas on what that “legalism” consists of.

It is a discussion of internal relevance to Christians in the form it seemed to be used in Ryland’s latest post. That is how I understood it, anyway.

But you have to have some sort of working sense of what a Christian is, in order to discuss the subject cogently.

So we aren’t talking about the internal disputes of sectarians, but the general sense that the world might have of what the word, ‘Christian” means. Just follower of Christ. That is pretty simple and to the point.

Then we can get on to talking about how certain behaviors are in line with specific things that Jesus taught or is not. That isn’t too hard, is it?

But necessary…

Is Ryland correct?

In what way yes and in what way no?

Ryland said:

“The legalistic side says that in order to get into Heaven, you have to follow God’s laws (ideally, as laid out in the bible, even though it’s arguably impossible to do that). The spiritual side says that the only way to get into Heaven is through accepting Christ and being reborn.”

Actually, no. Ryland was a lot closer when he was citing the faith known by its works quotation ( Jas 2:17-24). His grasp of what is legalistic is fairly accurate, though, if one is talking about earning righteousness and standing. The spiritual does say that acceptance of salvation is by faith, belief. But the case is clearly made that those who are Christs are those who do His works as He, also said:

Matt.7:22

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

So there is a definition of good and iniquitous works. One that is not legalistic, but illuminating. The illumination will come by way of what is already revealed in scripture texts.

Fred Phelps? President Bush?

So which is Fred Phelps doing?

And which defines the supporters of President Bush? And who is right and who is wrong, in terms of following Jesus?

It matters. Especially if you are calling for corrective action. And corrective action will necessarily take place within a legal context, one of jurisdiction and right.

Is President Bush wrong in using authority? Does he abuse his authority as outlined in the presidency of the USA? If not, then you can rail all you want (freedom of speech), but it won’t make much sense to call on Christians to make a crusade of it.

Ryland:

“If Jesus were alive today, would he persecute gay people because they want to get married?”

I think it is safe to say that Jesus would not be found persecuting anybody. That wasn’t His business, but He did do a great deal of talking about repenting and turning back towards God.

He didn’t spend a lot of time defining sin, the Mosaic Law had done a pretty good job of that. It was now a matter of finding how to enter into relationship with God, given that we all had sin problems.

This is all I will say here, but I would like to say something more of the idea of crusades, later.

Be very careful of crusades…. in whatever context.