Ever since the point I realized that I could think for myself (after high school), I have been unwilling to conform to societal norms. I’ve wanted to be fairly different from everyone else. I like to be different. I like the push the boundaries, in a sense, of what society might think of as “normal”. I’m not talking eccentricity, I’m just saying a bit of living on the fringe, not living by the traditional rules. And it’s not because I have a vendetta against tradition, or against anyone in particular. It’s because I believe that everyone should feel free to be themselves as long as it’s not against the law, as long as it’s not sin, and as long as it doesn’t intentionally hurt anyone else. Just because “they” say it, doesn’t make it true or false. I’ve chuckled, and cringed many times when I’ve stopped to think about how and why society adopts its rules. Most of our fellow citizens act according to the words above: following rules like fools, believing them to be true, and never actually thinking about it.
Sometimes I’ll catch myself wanting pancakes at 10pm, and saying “I shouldn’t do this”. Why not? Who says I shouldn’t? Just because most people think that eating ketchup on ice cream isn’t normal, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Right?
Can you relate?
And just to be clear, I don’t eat ketchup on ice cream. Actually, I don’t eat much ketchup, or ice cream!
Whenever I wear a neckties, I like to wear mine only cinched up to a couple of inches below my collar, with the top button unbuttoned. Not only is it different, but I don’t like things tight around my neck! In fact, one Sunday at church when I did this, an older gentleman said “Hi” to me in passing, and, while smiling, he said “if you’re going to wear a tie, you should cinch it all the way up!” I didn’t take it personally, of course, but I just smiled back and said “I’m ok with it like this.” He isn’t used to seeing anyone wear a necktie like that before, because, of course, it’s not normally done that way. Does that mean it shouldn’t be done that way?
I’m reminded of Fiddler on the Roof, when Tevye talks about traditions:
“A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof. Trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, ‘why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! TRADITION! Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything.”
But I’m not here to talk about neckties and ketchup, those are just tiny examples meant to show how some things, by tradition, have been made into unspoken rules for everyday living. Have you noticed these types of things to be true in the circle of people around you? Maybe in the conservative church around you? Have you ever stopped to think about certain unwritten rules for which you may have been taught to conform, and their reasons? I’m sure you’ve heard, during everyday conversation, someone say something like “You know, they say______”. You’ve heard this, right? Have you ever wondered who “they” are, or where some folks get their rules or traditions?
This song from Jem talks about this very topic, addressing the mystery of “they”. It’s a gem, pun intended.
Hopefully, by this point, you’re at least beginning to understand the things of which I’m speaking. Just because it’s “the thing to do” or “it’s just what we do” doesn’t mean it’s mandatory.
Here’s one to which everyone can relate. Children. My wife and I have decided we don’t want any. Gasp!
I know, I know, right now many of you have incredulous thoughts going through your head. You want to say, “Why not?!?!?!?!?” with your tone matching every question mark and exclamation point with it. My wife and I love our niece and nephew, we just don’t want to own our own! Somewhere along the line of history, parenting became the default lifestyle in America. It’s become the norm. It’s what you do in life. Everyone is expected to graduate high school, graduate college, get married, have at least two kids. The assumption is that’s how it’s always been done. It’s the status quo. It’s as if there is no other option. To make it worse, those who don’t do those things – especially those who choose to remain child-free – are considered minority, or are frowned upon and labeled as selfish. Aliens! At least, that’s how we feel when we tell most people that we either don’t have kids after several years of marriage and/or don’t want any of our own. After all, “it’s what you do” here in this great land. Well, not for us. Now, if God wants to change our minds and give us the desire to have kids, by golly we’re up for it. But until then, we’ve chosen not to do the normal thing, if only because we are perfectly content together. It’s not normal, but it’s what we’ve decided to do, no matter what “they”, or the culture, may say. especially in the Bible belt where we are. But again, most people believe everything they hear and read, and never ask “why?” about anything. So my question to you, the reader, is “who says that childbearing / parenthood is mandatory, or even that it should happen?”
Many well-meaning Christians may try to say, “Well, God said to be fruitful and multiply, so if you’re not multiplying then you are disobeying God.” I will simply say two things. First, by reading the context of Genesis 1, God is clearly having a conversation with Adam and Eve. If they had not multiplied, no other humans would have ever existed on planet earth after them. Second, if child-bearing were a command by God to all humans, He sure failed to mention that command anywhere else in Scripture, or to anyone else. After all, Jesus sure didn’t have any children, nor do we have any record of the Apostle Paul, or Peter, having any children.
I wonder how many professing Christians actually search the Scriptures to make sure that whatever they’ve always understood to be true is actually true? I wonder if there are many people, Christian or not, who stop to consider what they’ve always heard or believed? This same idea could be used in every area of life, in every society. Hmm.
Much of my journey through life was trying to conform to what I thought were written rules. Only recently, when I’ve begun to look into some of these things myself, as well as searching the Scriptures to see what the Scriptures talk about (or don’t talk about), I’ve discovered that it’s ok, even healthy, to break ties with many of the things I used to believe. After examining the Bible without any preconceived ideas or presuppositions, I’ve found that I’m being more Biblical when I choose to break away from many of the things I used to believe Christianity to be. I’m able to discover and enjoy more about the world around me which God has created. I’m able to learn more of the truth of Christ and His redemptive plan, and be conformed to the image of Christ in the Scriptures instead of the image of Christ that was engrained in my head by mainstream, and some fringe, evangelicalism. I’m also, sadly, discovering more about how much of modern-day evangelicalism is being derived from man-made ideas, especially in the conservative arenas! Christians are called to be conformed to the image of Christ as represented in Scripture alone, not according to any preconceived ideas, presuppositions, or someone’s own ideas which they inserted into the Scriptural text to make it sound inspired.
Christianity is about breaking away from those philosophies of society which are clearly defined as sinful in Scripture, and conforming to Jesus Christ. True Christianity is not normal in America or evangelicalism. If I referred to the American church as “they”, then most of what they say is wrong, and only based on opinions and eisegesis.
So, the next time someone tells you: “You know, they say _______”, ask that person who “they” are. Hopefully that person will have an authoritative source to which they are referencing. If not, encourage them to double-check what they’re hearing and believing! And the next time you find yourself saying “I shouldn’t_____”, or someone else says “You shouldn’t____”, stop and ask yourself, and them, “why?”. If it’s not a mandatory law from the government, and if it’s not something that’s clearly defined in context in the Bible as sin, then do whatever you want!
Don’t be ignorant and just follow the rules because everyone else does it. As Kevin Max puts it: “Be yourself, there’s no one who does it quite like you, don’t let the losers tell you what to do. Be yourself, if you don’t then who is going to?” Don’t be afraid of what others may think. As long as you’re staying within the bounds of Scripture, be yourself. Be different if you want. Don’t worry about what “they” say.
And, like the front of one of my wife’s shirts says, “Dare to be Different”.
But let’s forget about the protesting. This is Christmas time. What have you done? Another year has passed like a steady locomotive, and a new one is about to begin. It’s a good question, though. What have you done?
“And so this is Christmas. I hope you have fun. The near and the dear ones. The old and the young.
And so this is Christmas, for weak and for strong, for rich and the poor ones, the world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas, for black and for white, for yellow and red ones, let’s stop all the fight
A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”
John Lennon penned “‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ “as a means of elaborating upon the themes of social unity and peaceful change enacted through personal accountability and empowerment…trying to convey optimism while avoiding the sentimentality that he felt often characterised music of the holiday season.”
This is one reason why I love Christmas. Not by any stretch the main reason, but one of the reasons. People across the world – no matter the color or ethnicity – whatever the case may be, come together to enjoy each other for at least a few days every year. In a world that is “so wrong” with people fighting each other everywhere, including in evangelicalism, the world seems so right during these few weeks in December, and much of the fighting stops during Christmastime. Of course, everyone knows (whether or not they want to acknowledge it) that the real reason that all of this is possible is the grace of God. If it were not for the birth of Jesus Christ, we would have no Christmastime every December.
So, what have you done?
Did your 2016 New Year’s resolution list include reading your Bible every day without fail, but you failed to read your Bible every day? Did you resolve to give more to your church or another charity, but you didn’t give more? Maybe you didn’t give as much as usual because of legitimate financial strains, and now you feel guilty about not being able to give. Well, it’s a good thing God never said much about Bible reading schedules, nor did He say how much to give to your church.
What else have you done?
I would like to suggest that, whatever the case may be this Christmas season, take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, a few weeks to focus not on what you haven’t done, but rather on what He has already done for sinners.
So this is Christmas, and it should remind us all that Jesus Christ did everything perfectly so that sinners don’t have to.
It’s disgusting how self-righteous we can be. As Relient K says “Sometimes we live for no one but ourselves.”
I’m not going to lie, I’m fairly exercised. Humans can be really nice people, but each one of us tends to think we are so much better than our neighbor.
I remember watching nearly the entire nation want to crucify Olympian Ryan Lochte for a moment of immaturity. I’m sure you remember that. One bad decision, with several apologies and a determination to make things right. There are many other people in the news every day making worse decisions than Ryan – illegal decisions – without any apology, and we want to persecute Ryan when he didn’t even commit a crime. That’s right, no crime against America or Brasil.
Yep, it’s true, we wanted to ban him from the Olympics, send protesters, and send nasty tweets. Yes, he lied, but then he confessed about his moment of immaturity, and his lie.
Have you ever told a lie? And apologized for it?
Let’s not forget Olympian Gabby Douglas forgetting to put her hand over her heart during a trophy ceremony, probably because she was nervous, not to mention the other emotions and thoughts which surely go through one’s head during such an event. However, we wanted to send Gabby nasty tweets as well. I don’t mind admitting that most of the time I do not put my hand over my heart during the national anthem at a sports event. I’m not a fan of it. Throw a tomato at me if you wish.
Although Gabby’s actions could hardly be considered a “mistake”, have you ever made a mistake?
I remember when a local Oklahoma man was forced out of a ballgame by an off-duty cop for not standing for the National Anthem. On August 26, 2016, prior to an NFL preseason game, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted not to stand during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Of course, controversy ensued, and people got angry. Because that’s certainly worth getting angry about…
One of Colin’s reasons for not standing? “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
It seems, to me, like a pointless way to take a stand for your beliefs, but I must say that Colin has a good point. People get away with worse things than not standing for the national anthem. And that’s not good!While the NFL does not require its players to stand for the National Anthem, the Federal government says that Americans should stand, but has no penalty for those who do not. Even if Colin’s actions could be considered a mistake, have you ever made a mistake, no matter how big it was? I have.
People who commit murder should do their time in the clinker, and we should be upset when that does not happen. Justice should prevail.
People who do not stand for the national anthem should be left alone, and we should not be phased by it.
But, we are so self-righteous (and politically driven) that we want to clobber those who don’t participate in the national anthem. That’s not even a crime!
Though I can think of a plethora of bigger problems in the world (even though none of these things are really “problems”), we want to cry out against these things because, well, we’re better than those people…aren’t we?
We should all be reminded often of Jesus’ condemnation of self-righteousness was especially harsh in His treatment of the leadership of His time, and it’s just as prevalent today. Six times in Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for rigidly adhering to their legalistic traditions in order to make themselves look better to others. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 was specifically told by Jesus to “some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt”. The Pharisees assumed that their acceptance with God was based on their own good actions, whereas the tax collector recognized that there was nothing good in himself that would cause God to approve of him. Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus clashes with the Pharisees and scribes about true righteousness. He also spends a great deal of time and energy (John 15 for example) warning His own disciples about the dangers of self-righteousness, making it clear that, without Him, they were nothing.
I honestly wonder how many evangelicals understand that, apart from Christ, we are nothing?
Everyone uses this phrase often: “He/She has issues” or “Wow, they have issues“. Most of the time, we say something along these lines in a derogatory tone, because we’re really thinking “I’m glad I’m not like that.” Aren’t we? As if we don’t have our own “issues”. Once again, that’s like the Pharisee saying “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers…” and then starts naming off the good deeds he’s done. He thinks he’s so great. I wonder how much different our everyday lives would be if we began loving those around us more, and began saying, like the other guy, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Here’s a hard thought for all of us Christians: how often do we ever stop to think that…without Christ, no one – including me, and including you – is any better than Hitler? Or a rapist? Or an adulterer? Or a homosexual? Or a transgender? Or…you name it?
Yep, it’s true, without Christ, you, me, and our neighbor is no better than Charles Manson.
Paul’s treatment of self-righteousness is no less scathing than Jesus’ was. Paul began his great argument in Romans for the grace of God by condemning the self-righteous trust that the Jews had in circumcision (Romans 2). He follows that up in chapter 10, saying that the Jews tried to gain acceptance with God based on their own righteousness, demonstrating ignorance of the true righteousness of God that we see in Romans 10. His conclusion is that people are made “better” (righteous) when they rely on the person and work of Christ, instead of relying on their own good actions. It’s not based on anything we have done or could do to earn it or deserve it, because even with Christ, Christians are, humanly speaking, no better than anyone else. The difference is that Christians are given access to eternal life and want to obey the Bible.
I also want to mention something else to all of my non-Christian friends who are reading this. If you have met professing Christians who have acted like they are more important than you, don’t believe for a second that’s the normal Christian attitude. Please don’t blame God, or the Bible, for the actions of a few, or many, professing Christians who have treated you unkindly. As a friend of mine said, “The media tells you that Christians hate gay people, but yet you cannot find one Christ follower who supports this claim.” This is very true, because if you haven’t yet been told, there are a lot of people who profess to be a Christian and yet consistently speak hatefully toward others. True Christians love other Christians, and everyone else. We don’t hate anyone.
So, the next time any of us think it’s ok to stick our nose up at others, maybe we should think about our own sins first. And for Christians, after thinking about our own sins first, we should then remind ourselves of the grace that God showed to us even while we were His enemies (Romans 5).
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him…And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “…But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” – John 8 (emphasis mine)
Imperfect people (the crowd) brought an imperfect person (the adulterous woman) into the street and were gathered around her ready to kill her because of her sins. What did Jesus do? He told them that if any of them had never sinned, then that person could step forward to throw a stone. Of course, everyone began to leave, because they all knew they were sinners, too! And then Jesus told the woman that He forgave her and to not commit adultery anymore.
“And what we’ve been striving for has turned into nothing more than bodies limp on the floor, victims of falling short, we kiss goodbye the cheek of our true love.” Once again, poignant lyrics that accurately describe the state of the world in which we live, even in the church environment.
There will always be someone else to whom we can compare ourselves. If I measure myself by the standards of many in today’s culture, Ronald Reagan was a much better person than I. And in some ways, I wholeheartedly agree! However, just because he did a lot of good things in his realm of life, that doesn’t mean he was a better person than myself. And just because I’ve done a lot of good things in my own realm of life, doesn’t mean I’m a better person than he. We’re both human and we’re both sinners. He did the best he knew how in his sphere, and I’m doing the best I know how in mine. And yes, I realize that Charles Manson actually murdered people, and I have not, however, in God’s eyes, all humans are equal sinners. You can try all you want to argue with that, but you’ll never win. Just read the Bible instead of Jesus Calling.
Ryan Lochte is a sinner, Gabby Douglas is a sinner, Colin Kaepernick is a sinner. Ronald Reagan was a sinner. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. Homosexuals are sinners. Jesus gave his life for sinners. Jesus forgives sinners. Jesus shows mercy, and gives grace to those who acknowledge they are sinners and rely on His perfection – not their own imperfection – for eternal life.
After all, remember what the Apostle Paul told Christians?
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1 (emphasis mine)
If only we would all remember that we’re all guilty of the same thing. Sin. And sin’s biggest helper is self-righteousness. It’s most disgusting. And because it will damn people to Hell if not subdued by the grace of God, it’s deadly for eternity.
Do you consider yourself the worst of all sinners?
Each year on the fourth Thursday in November, Americans gather for a day of feasting, football and family. Although I’m not big football fan (say whaa!?), I still feast with family. And every once in a while I write random, pointless blogs like this one.
“In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.”
Leave it to wars to start traditions, huh?
“Historians have suggested that many of the dishes were likely prepared using traditional Native American spices and cooking methods. Because the Pilgrims had no oven and the Mayflower’s sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, the meal did not feature pies, cakes or other desserts, which have become a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.”
Wow. I’m all for changing tradition in many cases, but in this case I don’t think I would mind a bit if we started using traditional Native American spices in Thanksgiving dishes! And if we really wanted to do a real Thanksgiving meal in the tradition of our pilgrim founders, we wouldn’t have any pumpkin or pecan pie. I don’t know too many people who would opt for that. It would make everyone’s gut a lot healthier without all that sugar, though!
Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions? Have you ever broken away from those traditions to do something of your own? Do you have any specific memories from Thanksgiving? Comment and let me know!
To be fair, I have considered why radical leftists are rioting in the streets of America. They say that they are afraid. They fear what a Trump presidency will bring upon minorities and the LGBT communities. They fear a conservative agenda and the hatred that the right might spread against the anti religious. They fear another war in the Middle East. They fear racist rhetoric and sly elitism from those in power. Simply put, they fear the loss of all they have gained underneath President Obama. Some of these points are understandable.
However, I and many other conservatives have lived in fear as well. It’s time the left heard our voices too. Throughout the last four years I feared my freedom of speech being squashed underneath the tolerance buzzsaw, and we saw that happening more and more during the progressive campaign. I feared my freedom of religion being trampled on due to it being deemed as offensive to others beliefs. I feared being forced to get health care insurance by the government and that opening the door for them to force me to do other things as well. I feared my right to bear arms being slowly ripped away and rewritten due to the acts of a few mentally unstable people. I feared babies being aborted at the last minute, a few for health reasons and many for selfish reasons. I feared heroine flooding our communities and safe haven places for criminal immigrants. I feared radical terrorism being allowed to fester in the Middle East while our leaders seemed to have no answer for it. I feared an elite media that is clearly not credible in their reporting and is bias in their worldview. I feared being portrayed as a bigoted racist who was ignorant and narrow minded…every time I didn’t agree with your worldview. In my own country I was being suppressed via an emotional and angry mob of leftists, the same mob that is violently rioting the streets today…it was, and is, scary indeed.
Simply put, this country was built for the freedoms of all Americans and not just people from the progressive movement. Let’s face the facts. America was close to becoming one sided. It was swinging so far left that we seldom had a voice in crucial issues, and that is a scary thing for any democracy/republic to flirt with because it soon becomes a dictatorship ran by tyrants. This is all in good discussion my friends, but make no mistake about it. We have as much fear for your candidate as you have for ours.]]>
Maybe it was someone new from your church who seemed rude as you were walking out the door. Maybe it’s a total stranger whom you’ve never met before. Whatever the case may be, most of us tend to immediately affix the label “officially a rude person”. How often, after something like this happens, do you naturally assume that person is having a bad day? Most of time, you and I assume that person is just a rude person, and then blow them off as if we’ve never been rude ourselves.
Maybe we all assume much less often. Assuming can make an ass out of you and me.
I recently came across this youtube video from a British vlog, Pointless Blog, who’s vlogger addressed this very issue. We can all learn from it. The part on which you need to focus starts about 10 minutes into this video, but the whole video is good.
There is only one Gospel—one interpretation of who you think Christ is.]]>
I was asked on Facebook by a friend of mine “Not trying to start an argument with you (or any of your fb friend and cohorts….please don’t turn this into one); Pete knows we share the same intj-ness.
How do you explain/defend trump’s attitudes towards women and young girls to your daughter? And I don’t wanna hear the “no one is perfect” type line of reasoning. That won’t work on me. I agree with it but I don’t accept that for repeated offenses of the nature I’m discussing.”
“Okay, I posted on a thread sometime back when you lost Bennie in the race and had to make a difficult choice on who you would vote for, I stated that although both Hillary and Donald were horrible choices, we have to vote for our polices and platform. You said that this perspective really helped you out. I believe you assumed I was Liberal.
I’ve kept up with your page and realized you were very informed on Trump’s misconduct but not Hillary’s. At least you never once posted any of her legal issues on your timeline. Okay, thats your choice.
But for me, I researched both issues of each candidate, including Bill. I don’t like the taste of propaganda. I have stated that Trump is a narcissistic arrogant pig and Hillary is a wicked power hungry crook. Something most Democrats cannot seem to bring themselves to do with Hillary. Fine.
Now that we see that they are both unfit for office, I have to vote policy and platform. You mentioned my daughter Dorian, and how I could vote for Trump and his attitudes towards women. I thought this election was a perfect opportunity to navigate her through this decision making process.
One, we separated what was crude and what was criminal. This was a none bias look at both sides here. At the end of the day, Trump came up very crude and Hillary very criminal. We didn’t use false accusations here. We didn’t use assumptions either. I’m a rational remember? We used Wikileaks and Trump’s audio tapes. “Hear say” had to be thrown out of both sides.
My daughter and I had to make a hard choice, crude words on a tape or crimes revealed on emails. It was a Words vs Actions assessment. After we chose crude over criminal, we moved to our platform.
As Christians, our top priority is life—being that the Bible states that life starts in the mother’s womb. You might not believe that, but your belief is not relevant to your question. At this point, life trump’s (no pun intended) foreign or economic policies. We believe that on judgement day, we all will be accountable for our pro-life vote, like Nazi Germany was accountable unto God for their pro-choice (one race) vote for Hitler. According to history, Hitler was great for their country, but awful in his choice of life. Were the babies in the wombs of Jewish women not counted as murder? Not all Germans agreed with what the government deemed legal, just like not all Americans agree with aborting babies.
You ask how my vote justified Trump’s treatment of girls who are outside of their mother’s womb. But my real struggle with my daughter was how I could justify a vote for Hillary’s treatment of girls inside of their mother’s womb. Being an INTJ, a big picture person…. not global, but enteral, this was a very logical decision for us to make together.”]]>