Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of a partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favor of the British war effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.
–Screwtape to Wormwood, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The first part of this title refers to a) the alternate name by which Derek refers to Kate’s favorite band, One Direction, when he wants to get a rise out of her (reminds me of my dad, who totally did the same kinds of things to us girls ALL THE TIME) and b) a small disclaimer that the things I write about here are only snippets and snapshots of life here in the white house on the hill, and not the full breadth and depth of my thoughts and of our goings-on. That’s all.
Part two is about St. Paul and the Catholic guy who posted here about being gay and celibate and a practicing Catholic. It’s a great read, especially this:
Would I trade in my Catholicism for a worldview where I get to marry a man? Would I trade in the Eucharist and the Mass and the rest of it? Being a Catholic means believing in a God who literally waits in the chapel for me, hoping I’ll stop by just for ten minutes so he can pour out love and healing on my heart. Which is worth more — all this, or getting to have sex with who I want? I wish everybody, straight or gay, had as beautiful a life as I have.
I also heard a great interview from Focus on the Family president Jim Daly on NPR the other day. An excerpt (but really, go listen or read the transcript):
MARTIN: Jim Daly is the president of Focus on the Family, one of several groups sponsoring a march in Washington, D.C. this week, to support what they call traditional marriage: one man, one woman. Mr. Daly says gays and lesbians are as equal as anyone else before God. But he also says gay marriage is a sin like any other.
DALY: Much like heterosexual men having affairs and those other things. I think for the gay Christian – the person that has a desire in a same-sex-attracted way – I think for that person it’s a matter of stewardship and how do they, in their relationship with God, steward their sexuality in a way that honors him and honors the Scripture? That is highly debatable, I understand that. It’s even probably inflammatory to some. I’m not the author of the Scriptures. Obviously…
DALY: …I’m just trying to read them as carefully as I can and try to live by them, even though I fail. And I think that’s one of the big issues is, you know, we’re all – according to Scripture – we’re all sinners saved by grace. And so, as we look at our human sexuality, which is a very powerful element of the human experience, what God is expecting of us is to bridle that appetite. And for those were married in a traditional male-female context, we give each other for a lifetime to each other. That sounds old-fashioned today in this culture but that is what the Scripture is talking about.
Like everyone else, I’ve been reading articles and comments and watching my Facebook feed blow up with pink equal signs on red backgrounds (or, in the case of The Oatmeal, bacon strips on a red background, because isn’t everyone for Equality Bacon?).
I did a whole issue on Marriage and the Scriptures for LCMS Life Ministries not long ago when gay marriage was coming up on the horizon with Prop 8 fighting its way through the court system. (I would link to the Notes for Life issue, which features Dr. Gene Edward Veith talking about Biblical marriage and two attorneys/marriage experts for Focus on the Family talking about marriage in the left-hand kingdom, but lcms.org automatically downloads it as a PDF instead of opening it in a browser, so just go here and look for the Winter 2010 issue if you want to read it.)
But here’s the thing on my mind: we are going to lose this for a number of reasons. In the court of public opinion, we will lose because our argument against gay marriage is essentially a religious one. The Bible says no. That’s the long and short of it. Trying to argue against gay marriage without the Bible is very, very difficult. I haven’t seen anyone do a good job of it yet.
At the same time, fewer and fewer Americans are even nominally Christian, and plenty of “Christian” denominations accept gay marriage in the name of love and equality. So there’s just not a sweeping majority of people saying, “Hey, this is wrong, and it’s not because we’re bigoted jerks or haters, but because the Bible says it’s wrong and the Bible trumps whatever fad is sweeping the culture.”
We are in the minority, people. And our case isn’t helped by the actual “haters” who don’t understand the distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin. I hate hearing them speak publicly. They don’t speak for me.
Second, I predict we will lose the case in the Supreme Court, not in a sweeping manner, but the Supremes will open the door a crack and let the tide sweep in by finding the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and possibly Prop 8 (that is, if the unusual procedural issues allow them to do anything at all—but they’ll find a way). However, I don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to make a sweeping pronouncement that gay marriage is legal anytime, anywhere. Forty years of fighting over Roe v. Wade should have taught them something about legislating from the bench.
The thing Jim Daly said that gave me additional pause was basically that this is happening, and he takes the long and historical view—it’s happened before. Nothing is new under the sun, and all that. A larger problem no one is really mentioning yet is that legalizing gay marriage will begin to erode more of our religious freedoms. What’s taught at school? Will churches lose their nonprofit status if they speak against gay marriage? What about an employer who doesn’t want to hire a married gay person and pay for a spouse’s health insurance since it goes against his religious beliefs? All important questions that will no doubt come up down the road.
My theme these last few months seems to be too much to say, too little time to say it, and too much to say about things I shouldn’t be saying on the world wide web. Thus, relative silence.
Not to be mysterious. Life is like this: get sucked into the work vortex all week, spend evenings when the kids are in bed frantically working on an escape plan, emerge on the weekends and forget all about that part of life while I revel in being with family, and suddenly it’s almost Monday and it all begins again.
This year I started a goals journal. I got this from Dave Ramsey’s Entreleadership book, and he in turn stole it from Zig Ziglar. You create yearly goals in seven areas–career, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, and social–and you have to write them down or they don’t count. I’ve always made yearly goals, but never in specific categories and never in one spot. Now that I’m 35, I considered all the goals I’d made over the years that are now lost on scraps of paper or even in my immature head. In a way it seemed too late, but then I figured I have, Lord willing, a good 40+ years goal-making ahead, I went ahead and started the goal journal at this ripe old age.
I won’t share them all, but a few of my goals include
Quit my job. I wouldn’t normally talk publicly about this just in case someone from work happened upon this tiny little corner of the internet, but things at work came to a crux last week when they signed me up for a conference that would have required significant investment in me on their part. I felt I had no choice but to be honest with them about my (non) future at the company and ask them not to send me.
They are, to put it mildly, not happy, and being a middle child/peacemaker I’m unhappy that they’re unhappy. But it’s the right thing for numerous reasons. I’ve had my time to evaluate the grass on the other side of the fence, to take a breather from running my own business, to realize that the advantages of running my own business, in spite of the not insignificant challenges, far outweigh the disadvantages. I’ve gained ten pounds from sitting on my behind all day instead of moving. I’ve lost precious hours with my kids. And, frankly, while I do love the nature of the work and believe I’m making a difference there both with my staff and for the company, I just need to come back home.
(Before you say anything along the lines of “I told you so,” please note that I’ve already heard this from basically everyone I have ever known, ever, so I’ll just assume you think the same thing. And the reality is, sometimes we need to make stupid decisions so we know what the right ones really are, and I think it was ultimately good for me and even for the family as Derek got to be me for a few months. He said at New Year’s that spending that quality time with the kids was the best part of his 2012. I will never get that time back, but he will always have it.)
Lose ten pounds. Work has made me a cliche. I’ve never had to watch what I eat or really even think about food other than how delicious it is, but this whole sitting on my behind all day thing is excruciating. There are moments at work when I’m dying to stand up and scream and do jumping jacks and run laps around the warehouse just to break up the monotony of sitting at the desk staring at the screen all day. When I finally get out of there, I have to sit in the car another hour to get home. The upside is I can’t wait to do dishes and clean up around the house because I need to move so badly.
Get a dog. Derek and I have a semi-agreement that when my new business is profitable and I have the time to train, we can get a dog. We’ll see how this one goes, but dog-walking could definitely help with the ten pounds.
Get to know people at church better. My natural inclination is to avoid people, but pretty much every Sunday I engage in post-church self-flagellation for not reaching out better, not talking to people I should have talked to, not being as social as I could/should be.
Continue to teach our children the faith. The other morning Jonathan spontaneously burst into a rendition of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” before breakfast. My kids know the Sunday school lessons before I even begin to teach them. This is our most important job as parents: arming our kids with the faith. Second to that, we want to teach them independence, to function on their own and to make good decisions. It’s astonishingly easy to do this if you ignore the culture, and astonishingly difficult if you don’t.
Putting on my marketing hat for a few minutes, can I just say I’m sick of Facebook and its obsessive focus on making conversations as public as possible? As weird and unusable as Google+ is, it’s got one thing over Facebook: Google+ understands context. It lets you put your friends in circles.
Facebook makes it really, really hard to segment your friends. It runs the stalker feed on one side of the page so when you comment on something Friend B said that has nothing to do with Friend A, who doesn’t and never will know Friend B, it ticks across Friend A’s screen anyway. Why, Facebook? Why? Not every conversation should be public.
So maybe the kids like this, I don’t know. But I hate it. Especially during the political season, when I’m already sick to my stomach and then I have to listen to the craziness from my writer friends who see things differently than I do and who will never be swayed by me, nor I by them, and then we can’t even stand each other because we’ve seen inside each others’ Facebook minds when in real life we’d just not talk politics. We’d talk writing and business and grammar and could still be friends on that level and not want to punch each other out for voting the wrong way.
Then there’s all the insider-baseball Lutheran stuff. I love it. But when you’re conscious that another Christian or non-Christian might read what you’ve written that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to say to another die-hard Lutheran and read it the wrong way, you think twice about saying anything at all. And that’s a shame, because there’s nothing wrong with die-hard Lutherany remarks, especially if they’re funny or sarcastic or make fun of the other denominations, as long as you’re saying them among other people who get it and who get that you don’t really think there will only be LCMS Lutherans in heaven.
But Facebook thinks everything you say ever should be made known to friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. So you end up sounding like an ass to half your friends, or you end up censoring yourself and sounding bland.
Because there is such a thing as context, and it’s important in real life, and it’s been flung aside in social media. At my new job, and in marketing in general, the biggest goal for a company is to segment. We divide people into commercial and residential cooks, because commercial cooks don’t want an offer for a $99 home knife set, and home chefs don’t care about the special financing on walk-in freezers. Hotel and motel owners need laundry carts, and schools need plastic cafeteria trays, but hospitals don’t need high-end ceramic cookware or wineglasses. And not only do they not need or want everything we have to offer, but they’ll unsubscribe from our email list altogether if we continually offer them irrelevant information.
I’m not saying we should all be marketing to our friends and only giving them what they want. But I’d suggest that people are complex and multifaceted, and we don’t want or need to put all of ourselves out there to everyone we know. The pieces we put out to people are the pieces that are relevant. It makes me sick to read my friend’s position on abortion even as I love other things about her and wouldn’t even know her in the context of her abortion activism except via Facebook. And sometimes, reading the inside baseball fine-point theological musings of my Lutheran friends, I wonder who else is peeking in on the conversation and how off-putting it must be.
Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have these conversations, but that the Facebook equivalent is a Lutheran party complete with informative, nuanced discussions (and good beer), and not realizing that hundreds of non-Lutherans are peeking in the windows and wondering why we’re so hateful.
One last thing before I end my Facebook rant: I will NEVER like Wal-Mart. Every time I get on there, Facebook tells me that such-and-such a friend liked Wal-Mart, and won’t I like it too? No. I won’t like it on social media and I won’t like it in real life. Show me a Target ad. Show me an Amazon ad. (At least give me a dislike option.)
The upside to this rant is that, given the speed of the rise and fall of tech (hello, MySpace), this post will probably be irrelevant in a few years. Take that, Facebook.
Issues, Etc. has had some really great episodes lately. I used to listen to NPR while making dinner, and it wasn’t until I switched to Issues, Etc. that I realized how much happier life seems and how much more centered I feel. The 5 o’clock hour on NPR is pretty much a huge depressing bucket of international misery with a slight socialist slant.
These shows, on the other hand, are brilliant. Listen to them.
The Application of Old Testament Laws with Dr. John Kleinig. A response to a journalist’s assertion that if we get rid of some Biblical assertions (e.g. slavery) we can get rid of others (e.g. prohibitions against homosexuality). Dr. Kleinig is always interesting to listen to, but this episode is particularly great because many modern Christians don’t understand why some Old Testament laws are still upheld and others aren’t. If we don’t get it, how can we expect the world to? Dr. Kleinig also talks about how in some cases, God’s people were held to a different standard than the rest of the world. That’s where the Bible Belt Christians get it wrong now.
The Historic Liturgy Part 1 with Pastor Will Weedon. Pastor Weedon is one of my favorites on the show. He’s very into his subject, and his geeky enthusiasm takes you right along for the ride. This new series is incredibly interesting, and again so relevant to today’s Big Questions about doctrine, practice, and worship.
How is the Good Shepherd Good? with Pastor David Peterson. Here, he points out all the art that portrays Jesus as this gentle shepherd, but says they completely miss what makes Jesus “good.” I have never heard the text interpreted this way before.
The Church’s Values and Priorities with President Matthew Harrison. I love Pastor Harrison’s theology, but the icing on the cake is his Dave Ramsey-like financial sense. He approaches matters of the left-hand kingdom with wisdom and foresight, and is making a real difference in the financial health of the LCMS. Plus, he really cares about long-term missions that don’t necessarily bear immediate fruit but are vital to the long-term survival of the confessional Lutheran church, and he quotes Sasse somewhere in there: “The Church belongs to those who dare to confess their doctrine.” Amen to that.
Besides getting to read Little House together, one of the things I enjoy most about Kate’s new 8 p.m. bedtime is that we often end up talking about very serious issues in our half-hour without the little ones. Kate is mature for her age, and incredibly empathetic toward other people. This combination makes her something of an old but naive soul, so when we talked tonight about Saturday’s shopping trip, it quickly got deep and complicated.
We live in an urban neighborhood, and our local grocery store is full of…errr…interesting people. Its nickname is the “Fellini Kroger.” Apparently some Italian director named Fellini was known for his colorful characters, and it’s not a stretch to say that the people at our Kroger would make unique extras in any movie.
When you live quite near the homeless missions, you encounter many people with sad stories. At first, we were shocked and horrified, and we gladly opened our wallets to anyone who asked for a bite to eat or a gallon of gas. But after awhile, the stories began to sound the same. The third or fourth time we heard the exact same story about a flat tire, a wife and kid waiting in the car a few streets away, and the desperate need for $20, we began to be wary. Soon we found out from more experienced neighbors that many of these people had access to food and shelter via the homeless missions, but sadly were addicts who told stories for a few bucks for drugs.
As a Christian, I struggled terribly saying no to people who were so clearly in need. But knowing that our money was very likely going to drugs–when we already pay exorbitant self-employment taxes that contributes to medicaid, welfare, food stamps, and other programs for those who are down and out–woke me up a bit. Our church makes and serves a meal at the Rescue Mission every sixth Saturday, and my eyes were opened further when I would kindly refer hungry people who asked me for money in the Kroger parking lot to the Mission down the street for a hot meal, and they would practically spit in my face and walk away toward someone else in search of cash.
So I struggle with this issue, because I want to err on the side of generosity, but I don’t want to aid and abet a terrible habit. It would be easier to just shop at the “Disney Kroger” a few miles up the road–the one that’s brand new, has everything, and seems to attract only suburban middle-class folks. But I don’t.
And when Kate has her own serious questions about the homeless and the Sheep and the Goats passage in Matthew 25, I realize how utterly inadequate my explanations are. No matter how I rationalize it, it looks bad. It is bad.
I’m not going to shield our kids from drug users who are homeless because of their life choices. It’s good to talk about how bad choices can wreck your life, and we have ample proof all around us. But it’s also hard to tell our kids that we can’t help, because the only kind of help they want is a kind we’re not willing to give.
I always thought that as a parent I could give my kids black and white answers. But darn it if they don’t hone in on the stuff I myself find to be impossibly gray.
Born at a time of suffering, Walther was no stranger to difficult times and struggles, both in life and faith, for the remainder of his days on earth.
–Rev. Brian Saunders, The Lutheran Witness, Oct. 2011
It’s so easy to complain. The economy stinks. Our dollars don’t go as far as they used to. The church is falling victim to secularism, humanism, socialism, whatever -ism you want to fill in the blank with. Grammar is going to the dogs, because people do terrible things like end their sentences with prepositions (see previous).
But any historian will tell you another version of what was written in Ecclesiastes so many years ago:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
Times have been bad since the fall of Adam and Eve, but we still think–why? Because we’re American?–that we deserve happiness and contentment. Big homes, new cars, good jobs without too much effort, and all the trappings of a middle-class life.
It’s easy to get caught up in it, but God never promised us heaven on earth. He promised heaven…in heaven. And while it seems counterintuitive, it’s actually freeing and comforting to say to yourself, “Oh, yeah. Life is hard, and we don’t always get what we want here on earth. We suffer, and in the end, we die.”
That sounds fatalistic, but only if you don’t know where you’re going. If you’re confident in Christ, then you can sit back and watch the political scene play out, the supposed decline of society, the sad things that happen to us in this world, and still have confidence in your eternal life. That’s a confidence we cannot buy. Thank God. Literally.
P.S. Kudos to Editor Extraordinaire Adriane Dorr for the best pull quote of the year:
For Walther, it was not about achieving something spectacular but more about being Lutheran.
For a magazine article on alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners, I opened with this paragraph:
Like Hollywood stars, the food world has its heroes and villains. White sugar is a washed-up has-been, artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup have taken a beating in the press, and now a new generation of natural sweeteners is capturing the hearts of Americans.
My editor was nervous. Or, more specifically, the team of editors and their bosses and corporate executives overseeing the process were nervous. They were afraid readers would think we were condemning sugar. I like to think that people are smarter than that, but maybe I’m giving them too long a leash.
The edited version:
Like Hollywood, the food world is a mix of familiar faces and rising stars. Table sugar is still a star performer, but a new generation of natural sweeteners is attracting diet-conscious Americans.
The cultural zeitgeist practically prohibits telling it like it is. Never mind that the average American eats 60 pounds of table sugar a year; we don’t want to offend people by saying they’re fat and they need to quit drinking 44-ounce sodas from McDonald’s. Preachers are vilified if they call us sinners from the pulpit. Teachers dance around the real issue–that the kid is a brat–by saying things like, “Davie is trying so hard to fit in with his friends.” Politicians tell us what we want to hear, and they don’t always do what’s good for us. They’re afraid to do otherwise, even when being unkind is sometimes the kinder thing to do.
I’m always shocked and amused to read Luther, who never minced words. He’s the guy who called the Pope the Antichrist, after all. He’s called others jackasses, dolts, fools, and more, when they deserved it. Even today, stark differences in frankness of communication exist across the pond. Watch the British version of The Office and then the American version if you don’t believe it. The Brit version is doubly cringe-inducing. We can’t imagine such un-PC happenings in an American office, even though they’re shockingly funny.
As a middle child, I’m a natural peacemaker who doesn’t like to make waves. But sometimes I just want say it straight.
People, you eat too much sugar, okay? Cut it out!