Archive for September, 2011

The DVR Dilemmas

Posted on September 27, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Entertainment, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Kicking Television

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It’s that time of year again. A time of year when your DVR proves it’s worth – tis the season for season premiers! Everyone has a show, or 10, that they have been waiting to start up again. For men, it’s football (yes, I realize women like it too, but only because men do).  For women, it’s most likely a romantic drama like “Grey’s Anatomy.”  But a recent message I heard had me thinking: just what does what we watch say about us?

Here was the message: things that capture our attention determine our direction in life. In turn, our direction, not our intention, determines our destination. Sounds obvious, but we all know people who are completely shocked they are in a pile of you-know-what after making a series of poor life choices. Most people are probably thinking “my finances”, “the mortgage,” “family” or other big-ticket items. But I think it’s also important to remember the little things, like television shows, which also capture our attention, especially for the youth.

Two years ago, my husband and I started watching “Glee,” a musical comedy featuring high school misfits. It is admittedly witty and entertaining. Then last year, as the show progressed (in every sense of the word), we started evaluating whether or not to turn it off. Both of us were hoping that the episode depicting 16-year-old cheerleaders making out was just a fluke. But as the weeks went by and the Christian students were depicted as crazies with blind faith while other characters falsely espoused that women are discriminately paid 75% than that of a man, we concluded it wasn’t just one instance. The writers had opinions they were pushing, and why not, it was their product. Though I enjoyed many of the over-the-top characters like Sue Sylvester, it needed to be turned off.

Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Mat 6:22-23).

We take in what we see. There is even an entire industry dedicated to making sure we do (also known as advertising). Are we really so naive to believe that we only take the ‘good’ to heart?  Some women get an unrealistic idea about love from romance novels, movies, and television. Media, especially pornography, also provides men with a skewed perception of a woman’s sexuality (it’s a lot more complex than a man’s for those of you who haven’t figured it out).  These merely serve as examples.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to thepaths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” Prov 4:23-27). It sounds like Solomon was warning that decisions in our lives need to be intentional and not just made based on what “feels good,” is “fun” or “entertains” us. Temptations, that means stuff we want to give into, are all around and have to be deliberately avoided in order to protect ourselves.

Do I miss “Glee” or other shows I’ve decided to live without? Eh, sometimes I click on itunes to see if they’ve covered any songs I like, but honestly it’s been freeing. Once I made the decision to turn off shows I didn’t think were constructive to my life, it opened up a lot of free time for other things like reading …or blogging!

I want to be clear, I’m not saying if you watch “Glee” or another questionable movie, show or any other form of entertainment you are going to hell. You just aren’t going to heaven. Just kidding! I also don’t think Christians are doomed to watch sermons all day. I just think we need to be careful about what we let into our lives, and our DVRs. (Sorry for picking on the Gleeks.)

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The Bible and the Bong

Posted on September 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Entertainment, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , |

Marijuana

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As an American child born in the 80s, I was taught, “just say no” to drugs. A few years later, I actually won an essay contest sponsored by the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for regurgitating the horrors of a drugs (alcohol and cigarettes too). But you know where I never learned about drugs – church. Why is that? Just what does the Bible have to say about narcotics?

I didn’t find ‘Mary Jane’ in the NIV index. Instead, I decided to go to the second source of all knowledge, Google, though Facebook may have worked too.  A quick search will show you that a lot of people have put time into this topic on both sides of the spectrum (leading me to wonder why they don’t have more important things to fret over, another topic though). What I found is that those in favor of legalization most commonly cited Gen 1:11, Gen 1:29, Gen 3:18, Ex 30:22, Psalms 104:14, Prov 15:17, and Rev 22:2. Many Christian advocates claim ‘if God made it, it must be good,’ a foolish argument Paul warns us about. I also realized why the King James Bible is still in circulation. These people will suffer through all the ‘thou’s, ‘shalt,’s and ‘cometh’s in exchange for keeping the word ‘herb,’ which has been replaced by ‘plant,’ ‘tree’ and ‘vegetation’ in more recent translations. Didn’t matter to me.

Gen 1:11 is God creating vegetation, which is followed up in 1:29 and 3:18 with Him explicitly giving them to man for food. Nothing there about God and Adam chillin’ in Eden getting high, munching on Cheetos.

On to the Exodus verse discussing anointing oil. The argument here is that the Hebrew word for fragrant cane or calamus (Kaneh-bosem) is similar to the Hebrew word for cannabis. This word is repeated in other books such as Ezekiel. Regardless, the context is not about using the plant, whatever it was, for getting high.

This pattern continues for the other verses listed above. The purpose of the word, herb or plant whichever you prefer, is never about smokin’ the reefer. It refers to praising the Lord for his blessings, eating and keeping good company, or breaking the curse God placed on man in Genesis.

Personally, I don’t find it unreasonable to believe the Hebrews used cannabis (or other ‘herbs’) considering ancient and current nomadic cultures use it for clothing, rope, medicine, paper, and the list continues. God did give the land to man to rule and subdue it. The real focus should be on what the Bible says about altering your mind with substances.

In Prov 23:29-35 the word for wine is the Hebrew mesekh, a wine mixture that contained extra ingredients to enhance the high of the alcohol. Similarly, the wine offered to Christ on while He hung beaten, tortured, and suffocating on a cross was soured wine, or one that acted as an anodyne, which He did not drink. (If ever anyone needed a stiff drink, it was then.) But, we also know that the first miracle Jesus preformed was turning water into wine, so clearly He wasn’t against drinking wine all together.

It appears to me He recognizes there is a line that should not be crossed.  The proverbial line is when your actions impede sound judgment (the Greek word Paul used was nepho). Any substance that prevents you from keeping your body a temple of Christ, affects your relationship with others, hurts finances, or has negative impacts on other responsibilities such as school or work, would qualify.

Does this lead to me to believe it’s okay to have a joint? No. Peter wrote, “Show proper respect to everyone, love to the family of believers, fear God, and honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17).  Our laws state it is illegal to use drugs, and while I don’t personally politically agree with these laws, I believe as Christians we are called to keep them while they do not infringe on basic liberties (a topic for another day).

So, though the Bible doesn’t explicitly prohibit hitting the crack pipe or snorting a line, if using drugs prevents you from sound judgement, there’s a problem. And maybe it’s my naïveté, but short of drugs for medicinal purposes, I don’t really see the point of using them if you have to remain of temperate mind.

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Remembering 9/11. Forgetting Afghanistan.

Posted on September 20, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Government, In the News | Tags: , , , , , , |

Kandahar1-1-boxingday

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Last Monday marked the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. A few days later, Dakota Meyer became the latest recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in a war that the US waged as a result of these attacks. Though we all remember 9/11, where we were and what we were doing, how many of us continue to remember Afghanistan?

Part of me was happy that I had actually known about Meyer’s actions before Obama presented him with the award. But I was also frustrated and disgusted that I hadn’t known about so many others’ actions. Worse, I couldn’t articulate what those actions were accomplishing, or what our endstate is for Afghanistan.

Why don’t most of us know more about Afghanistan? Is it because we think the issue is too complex? Because we don’t have time?  Because we don’t care? For me, I wanted to keep a very scary reality at arm’s length, an sorta irrational form of denial.

Ten years after 9/11, polls show that Afghanistan is not a top concern to Americans.  There are  ‘more pressing’ issues like the recession, gas prices, inflation, and a crumbling housing market to worry about. But if we are sending men and women to a remote dusty country, breaking up families for up to a year (and sadly, sometimes a lifetime) shouldn’t we care a little more?  Who can articulate in one sentence why the United States is still committing its forces there?  Or what the definition of victory is?

I consider myself a reasonably well-informed citizen, but I can’t answer these question anymore. I don’t even think our President (or the last one) can, despite the Ivy League sophism. This bothers me. Not as a Marine wife who is preparing for my husband’s deployment to the graveyard of empires. Not as a tax-payer who finances the war’s costs. Not even a dorky Risk player who could tell you it doesn’t matter how many men you have, you can’t control Asia. It bothers me as an American that sends men and women to go fight my battles for me. Perhaps its time that we, as a society, start becoming more informed.

The first step to gaining insight is to determine the source of our ignorance.  If you stroll through Proverbs, you will find that knowledge and wisdom are very closely connected with the concept of discipline. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” ”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov 1:7).  Reading these verses is sobering.  The Bible says that discipline, not enough “free time” or interest in the topic at hand, is the key to knowledge.

If we as a country want to continue in Afghanistan, ordering young men and women to commit violence on our behalf, we owe it to them to provide a reason for that sacrifice.  Our mission should be defined, and our desired endstate achievable.

I know this post is somewhat of a Debby Downer, violating my commitment to try to keep things light. I’ll try to keep the depressing posts to a minimum. But I think the problem with September 11th is that politicians and frankly the American populous are intentionally keeping this topic too blithe and vague. We may continue to remember 9/11, but we’re forgetting Afghanistan by not knowing anything about this war. I pray we aren’t becoming the fools who despise discipline and knowledge.

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Marriage Expectations

Posted on September 10, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Jane Austen

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A reader recently recommended a topic for me to address: what to expect in marriage. Entire blogs and books are dedicated to this topic, but those usually unnecessarily beat up on men. I’ll try to make this one different.

Marriage in one verse: It is good for a man not to marry ( 1 Cor 7:1). There – done. I write that in jest but in all seriousness, I believe Paul wrote that because marriage is hard, but especially so if you are a Christian.

Why do people get married? Because we fall in love? Because we find someone we just cannot live without? Someone who makes our heart skip a beat and looks really good in a dress. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons my husband married me was so he would never have to unload the dishwasher. But as much as he loves this perk, we know that as Christians (and Jews) we are called to marry to become holy. It is an institution that God, not a priest, a judge, or Jane Austen created in which man and wife become one in spirit and in body (Mat 19:4-6).

And here lies the problem. From the onset, we are reminded that contrary to everything our culture tells us about marriage, it is not about us – it’s about Him. While men and women look for any reason under the sun to break this bond from ‘falling out of love’ to ‘I deserve better,’ the only reason Christ defines as acceptable for divorce is adultery (Mat 19:9).  After hearing this, the disciples conclude that it’s better for people not to marry all together (Mat 19:10), which may be where Paul was coming from too.

Humans, but especially Americans, are into themselves. It’s all about me. Sometimes that works well for us. It created a society focused on individual rights, the freest nation in the history of the world. It created a market place full of products to meet even the most obscure individual desires – the shake weight, really? But in a marriage, this attitude is destructive. We’ve all heard the statistics that about half of marriages end in divorce, even among Christians. But of those that don’t end in divorce, how many marriages would you actually call ‘happy,’ even less ‘holy’?

In Malachi, God reminds us that we are all tempted to break faith with our spouse, even while we are still married (Mal 2:14-16).  Break faith – what does that mean? Maybe ‘forgetting’ list of things she wants you to do around the house. Perhaps convincing yourself that you ‘deserve’ a husband who will ‘want’ to (insert chore/task here).

Breaking the faith, I believe, means feeding that self-centered desire we have to get our way and make ourselves happy. Keeping faith with ourselves rather than our spouse. Forgetting, or worse ignoring, the fact that God has united us with one individual to make us happy, holy, and whole.

So, what to expect in marriage? Expect to learn what real love is, to be awed, and gain insight into our Lord. But expect to find challenges, especially when your expectations are focused on yourself. Jane Austen may have written some ‘lovely’ books about the perfect love, but she had no idea what she was talking about. After all, she was never married.

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Giving ‘Labor Day’ Some Meaning

Posted on September 5, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Government | Tags: , , , , , , |

Platypus: illustration from John Gould's The m...

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Labor Day, the day for being lazy. How did this day come about anyway? At some point, someone had to work so that we could do nothing all day and somehow call it ‘Labor Day.’

Though it was already recognized by many states in 1894 when it became a national holiday, Labor Day was actually a political move. President Grover Cleveland had to make up for having the worst name in the history of US Presidents by giving the public a day off. Actually, a few days after the Pullman Strike erupted in which he sent in US Marshalls to suppress picketing riots, President Cleveland and Congress wanted to make sure the government and the labor unions were on good terms. Instead of recognizing International Worker’s Day, which had somewhat of a negative connotation after the Haymarket Affair, Grover picked a day many unions already recognized as a day to celebrate the contributions of workers. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘Labor’ Day, huh?

So why does the Christian care? Well, for a number of reasons really, but I started to think about how work today has such a negative connotation. If you log on to Facebook on Sunday night or Monday morning, how many friends are complaining about going to work the next day? But is work really a bad thing?

When God created Adam, the Bible tells us he placed him in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15).  Interestingly, this was before Eve came along. Before God gave man a partner, He gave man something to do, a purpose for living. Work.

Some may recall one of the commandments is to keep the Sabbath holy, but there is more to that commandment. God actually gave this commandment before all classics like no murdering, stealing, or adultery, so it was probably pretty important. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh days is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…For six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day” (Ex 20:8-11a). I would argue that the commandment is just as much commanding us to work as it commands us to rest. Not surprisingly, God connects the idea of working with eating (2 Thes 3:10), wealth (Prov 10:4), and stature (Prov 10:26, Prov 18:9).

Why do we work? Because God does. In working, God reveals His nature to us. He made all of creation in six days, and if you stop and think about just one aspect of His creations whether it is DNA, the feathers on a peacock, or the Milky Way (not candy), it doesn’t look like He did any of it half-heartedly, except maybe the platypus. He enjoyed Himself and took pride in His work, but also understood that sometimes, you need to recharge and take time to reflect on what is important.

So this Labor Day take time to keep true meaning of Labor Day – start a strike in which thousands of dollars of property is destroyed and dozens of people are injured. On second thought, perhaps just use it as a day to reflect on the awesome responsibility and blessing God has provided us: work.

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