Tag Archives: postmodernism

Give Me Simplicity

There are many times during the course of my immersion into the realms of science fiction and fantasy, whether it be reading books, watching shows or movies, etc., when I wish that I could experience aspects of those cultures first-hand. For instance, in the short-lived show _Firefly_, two cultures merged into one when humanity abandoned Earth. The predominant world superpowers at that time were the United States and China. So, when new worlds were terraformed and then populated by Earth’s refugees, it wasn’t long before most inhabitants of this new solar system were bi-lingual, speaking English primarily but switching over to Mandarin in moments of high emotion.

In Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, the culture of Britain in the early days after Jesu left his mark on the world was rich with history, symbolism, and faith. The mere image of the cross was enough to spark strong emotional and behavioral reactions in the followers of the Great Light, of the one True God. You can believe that nothing in their faith was taken for granted.

What it comes down to is this – I see in many Americans a shallowness that borders on being depressing. I don’t believe it always used to be this way. Early on in our nation’s history, national pride was treasured, cherished. It was important to be known as an American, important enough to die for, as many did. Today it seems that so many of our citizens are almost ashamed to be called Americans, thinking that to claim such is to be pretentious and arrogant in the eyes of the world. We are becoming American in name only, with so many having no concept of the pride that goes with being called such.

So, too, in our churches and in our faith. We are becoming Christian in name only, and that often only barely. Cultural shallowness has begun to penetrate our minds, our hearts, our churches so that our ministries become less effective, less robust. As both Americans and as Christians, we are losing our culture, those elements that root us in what we are and in what we believe. The cross of Christ has become less of an integral, necessary part of our belief system and more of a digitized placeholder of faith whereupon we look and remark in a distracted manner about how important it is to our faith.

A recent email conversation among some friends has addressed this topic from the perspective of the church’s affluence. The problem posed at the outset of the discussion is that of the presence of “fancy buildings… sound systems, and the musical instruments, and the hundreds of different colors of papers, and the power point programs, and twenty children’s programs and all associated materials.” These are all things that most of our churches today seem to think they require in order to function and minister effectively. We seem to require that our auditoriums be air conditioned and that crying children be removed from the service, that the drums not be played too loudly (or at all) and that the pastor have the appropriate level of pious humility if we are to be expected to worship at all. ((Email correspondence))

There are several things that I believe have contributed to the current state of affairs in our churches. The first is that the increased development of technology has pushed the pace of culture into hypersonic speeds. Information and data travel at a breakneck rate nowadays, and most of us have noticed that life has moved into not just the fast lane but into the ultra-fast lane. We have less time now than we ever did, and what free time we have we fill with activities that are, essentially, needless. We are constantly inundated with more and more information that we must sort through and process, and as a result we have become detached from those things that are truly important, things like God, faith, and family. This is contributor number one to the shallowness of culture.

The second contributor is the shift toward post-modern philosophy. Truth is no longer what it once was. It has become an ethereal entity that cannot be grasped. Indeed, truth has become little more than a vapor, a thing that is seen – and then only just barely – before it is caught up by the wind and blown away. We try to clasp it in our hands so that we may know it, yet it slips through our fingers and goes on its merry way, leaving us wondering if it was ever real to begin with. This is the way popular culture sees truth today, as an insubstantial, ever-changing entity that is unique to each individual. Truth has many faces, so that it may look different to each individual who views it, even changing in form to a single person depending on the circumstances surrounding its pursuit. We are continually losing the notion that truth is, in fact, static and stable, never-changing, steady throughout the ages. The Enemy attacks the idea of absolute truth because those who do not believe in it are merely sheep to be led to the slaughter. The disappearance of absolute truth has contributed to the shallowness of culture and the loss of those things which are most important. Now what is most important is determined by each person privately and may look vastly different from what is most important to the next person.

The third contributor has already been mentioned – the affluence of culture. As another contributor to the conversation stated, it seems that “the more STUFF we have around us, the more FAITH we need.” I do not believe that this is just limited to material possessions, either. I have watched as men fill their heads with more and more knowledge and ‘facts’, information that they learn and catalogue. In so doing they see less and less of God’s presence in the world and in creation and less need for something outside of themselves to provide truth and to make sense of those things that happen that we simply cannot explain. We are an affluent culture, both in the things we _own_ and in the things we _know_. The more things we have, the more we become distracted by them and the less we see a need for God. It is the _things_ that then become important because we must maintain them, maintain a certain way of life, maintain traditions that we have become comfortable with and that continue to make us comfortable. The things take a place of higher precedence, usurping God and pushing faith into the background. We continue to believe that we have faith, but all we are really left with is a dependency upon things that, when taken from us, cause us to come crashing down because, in pushing faith aside, we have struck our own foundation out from under ourselves. The acquisition and collection of things contributes to a shallow culture and a faith that is sorely taken for granted. Things are temporal; faith is not, yet we seem to have gotten the two in reverse.

I find myself yearning after some of the things I read in my fiction, not as a substitute for my faith but as a return to a simpler way of doing things, a way that eliminates so many of our distractions and restores a richness to culture and to faith that has been lost in today’s hustle and bustle of activity. I think perhaps what most appeals to me about Chinese culture, in some ways, is the richness of it, the legacy of history that inspires millions to both national pride and devotion (though even that is being lost as Western culture invades the Chinese borders). There is a power within a national legacy that the cultures of both America and American Christianity seem to lack. We have become shallow people, abhoring and rejecting that which is most important in favor of pursuing those things that are most important to _us_, our selfish and narcissistic ideals. That is what our culture has told us is important, to what and to seek out that which _we_ want, rather than what our Creator God deems important.

A return to simplicity is needed, I think, in order to return us to our roots, so that we may find again the awe of our faith and the power of God in our lives. I believe that the icons of our faith can once again become powerful, no longer taken for granted as just another pretty picture on a wall or a decorative item to be viewed and then dismissed. I also think that simplicity can be communicable, a contagion that can spread through the Church and returning it to a place where the important things are remembered and the unimportant set aside and forgotten.

Yet, I think in order for that to happen, simplicity must first take place within each one of us separately, as we extract those things in our lives that prevent us making the most of the time we have here in this life – the possessions that demand our interest, the activities that require our time, the pursuit of more knowledge and facts that only serve to distract from serving our Lord. It is in the doing and living that makes the most impact on others, that demonstrates that we do not, in actuality, require most of the things we cling to with such ferocity, that we can really be happy and content with less. It is not, and will not, be an easy process, no. But I think more and more that it is a necessary one if we as a Church in America wish to again be salt and light in our culture. We do not yet see that we need less because we are blinded by our own affluence, but there are Christians in many other countries who pray that Christians in America will face the persecution that strips away all the unnecessary things so that we will once again remember Who it is we serve and remember again what business it is we are to be about.

Less is more. Jesus knew this. It is why he taught time and again that for any man to follow Him, he must first give up all he had and then follow Him. Would that we should remember that.

Nothing More Than Feelings

“Follow your heart.”
“Do what feels right.”
“If it feels good, how can it be bad?”

Do any of these sound familiar? And this one may _seem_ like it’s different from the three above, but it’s not:

“You have to do what’s right for you.”

These are some of the most common phrases heard in our culture today. Postmodernism has infiltrated just about every aspect of our lives. Truth is no longer conceived of in absolute terms, so people are free to determine truth for themselves. ((Do you see the irony in that statement?)) Ultimately, what happens is that people use themselves for their reference point, since in a relative-truth world there _can_ be no other reference point than one’s own experience. More specifically, people end up using their own feelings and emotions to guide them because feelings are powerful, salient, and readily available.

There are two major problems with this system. The first is that feelings are inherently self-serving. This is not necessarily a problem all the time, since our feelings are a prime motivator for protecting our hearts from emotional harm at the hands of another. Where the problem comes in is when following our feelings causes us to pursue our own wants and desires, everyone else be damned. I have seen many people hurt because someone else ‘followed their heart’, making decisions that were ultimately detrimental to other people around them.

The second problem leads logically from the first. Feelings are not always accurate reflections on reality. In essence, just because I happen to feel a certain way does not necessarily mean that the situation at hand fits well with that feeling. For instance, I can feel supremely confident about my ability to handle Situation B because I feel great about the way I handled Situation A (which is, in my mind, similar or related to Situation B). But I quickly find, upon taking on the tasks of Situation B, that I do not, in fact, have the ability to handle Situation B at all, thus I fail. The mistake here is in trusting my feelings to guide me because they were not giving me an accurate picture of the situation.

We live in such an individualistic society that pursuing our own needs, wants, and desires before those of others is simply a matter of course. It’s so natural and instinctive that we do it without even thinking about it. So, it’s logical that our philosophies have changed to more easily allow us to do this. Now, we justify our selfishness and self-involvement by urging each other to follow our hearts and to do what feels right, even when what feels right really isn’t. We are quickly losing any sense of what is true and good and right, except for what we determine for ourselves. Yet, somehow, we have failed to see that people are themselves flawed and prone to mistakes. So, how can people who make mistakes somehow determine what is true and right based upon their own flawed feelings? Yet we do so every day.

Feelings do compliment the decision-making process quite well. Yet, feelings are also unruly and fickle, changing almost at the drop of a hat. Feelings make terrific servants but horrible masters, and as such, they must be governed and controlled as best as possible. No decision should _ever_ be made exclusively at the behest of the emotions. Such a thing is risky because the emotions can, and will, deceive. Logic and rationality must win out when making decisions. They can, however, consult the emotions, but the message of the emotions must be taken with a grain of salt. That niggling sense of fear could tell you that something is wrong about your decision, that maybe there are other factors that need to be considered; or that fear could simply be the fear of stepping into a new situation. Emotions can provide indicators of what _might_ be, but they should not be relied upon to tell you what _is_.

Keep a short leash on those feelings. And whenever someone tells you to just do what feels right, remind them that there is a better way. Engage that brain and push the heart to the background. Letting your heart rule over your mind is surefire way to get yourself into deep trouble. ((By the way, following one’s heart can be good when pursuing one’s dreams. Just make sure that in doing so, you aren’t stepping on everyone around you, that you are considering more than just your own personal needs and desires.))

Apologetics

I used to think, as a kid, that apologetics was a method for apologizing for something. When I learned about it in the context of religious faith, I kind of figured that apology was not really what apologetics was all about, since I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to apologize for their faith. It took me a while to understand that apologetics is really just the act of studying religious beliefs with the intent to defend and prove them.

Over the years, apologetics has taken on an important role in the Christian faith. In some circles it has acquired an almost fanatical undertone, with believers arguing over every trivial detail of their respective theologies. In the process apologetics has, in some ways, almost replaced sacred text itself, with more emphasis being placed on the “teacher of a particular belief system”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=317 than on the God whom we all (supposedly) serve. I have said it many times, and will continue to say, that beyond the basic Gospel message itself, the rest of the theological details are, to some extent, far more trivial and thus far less important. This means that apologetics should not, in all likelihood, be taken quite as seriously as some Christians would like to believe.

On the other hand, I have seen it taken too far to the other extreme, with apologetics being almost ignored. Again, I think this is a product of a post-modern culture, where so few people, relatively speaking, are sure that truth can ever really be known. As a result we have many Christians, both young and old alike, who are almost completely unable to give an answer for the beliefs that they hold. This is an unfortunate situation. If an individual does not know the reasons for their beliefs, then their beliefs are not and cannot be central in their lives. Their beliefs cannot serve as that guiding light of righteous living that is so important in the daily Christian walk.

I’ve watched many Christians my age stumble and falter when challenged about their beliefs. And sadly, I’ve watched many of them change their beliefs to ones that are counter to Scripture, simply on the basis that they do not know enough to defend their stances. I don’t think that we are doing enough to teach new Christians the beliefs of our faith, let alone how to defend them. The Bible _does_ have all the answers, and those answers _can_ be known. But we seem to have taken a carefree, lackadaisical approach to teaching the doctrine of the Christian faith, and so when faced with the fire of secularism, many Christians buckle and either recant their faith and accept beliefs that contradict the very teachings of their own faith.

Apologetics can be overdone to the point of being divisive, but at the same time, I do think that they are so very important and foundational to being able to stand strong in the face of opposition. I’m not an expert in apologetics, and I find it sad and somewhat discouraging that, compared to so many of my peers, I _am_ viewed as an expert in Christian beliefs. My goal, then, is to do my part to train both my generation and the next in apologetics of our faith so that we _will_ always “be able to give a reason for the hope that is in us”:http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=67&chapter=3&verse=15&version=31&context=verse.

Fracture

The Society of Serpents and Doves: Ruminating on the Emergent Church

“Dr. Mark Caleb Smith”:http://www.blogger.com/profile/11310269 writes about the emergent church movement, addressing many of the same concerns that I’ve “mentioned before”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=183.

bq. How does one build authentic relationships with those in need by separating from the Body of Christ? If they are correct, then we, the organized church, is in need of change, and the emergents should be “salt” and “light” to the rest of us.

This has been one of my major criticisms of the separation of the emergent folks from the traditional church. Now, I realize that many emergents are still practicing their faith in their local churches, but from what I have been able to ascertain, even many (or most) of them are isolated from the rest of their congregations. ((Whether by their own choice or that of their peers remains unclear to me.)) But many of the emergent folks I have conversed with have stopped attending church, with most of their Christian fellowship taking place in more casual surroundings with smaller groups of people. Indeed, the question that Dr. Smith asks seems to be a valid one. How can the perceived problems and shortcomings in the church be corrected but for those who have identified them to stay and work to repair them?

Another of the blog’s “writers”:http://www.blogger.com/profile/11495817 comments:

bq. More problematic, the emergent alternative is not a return to the authority of Scripture. Often emergents emphasize multiple authorities (community, experience, creative thought or action, Scripture, church tradition, etc.), thus relegating God’s Word to just one among many.

Again, while this certainly does not describe all of those individuals who consider themselves emergent, it _is_ a trend that even I have noticed. It is, I believe, a symptom of this postmodern culture, where our own perceptions, understanding, and knowledge is suspect, where the existence of absolute truth is doubted, and where common experience is often given as much authority as established, verifiable fact. As a result the Bible’s authority is questioned – whether because we doubt its accuracy or source of truthfulness or our ability to understand the information contained therein matters little; the end result is the same – and we find ourselves falling back and relying on our own experiences and philosophical musings in our quest for truth and enlightenment. We hope that we can arrive at the truth simply by talking about it and sifting the chaff from the wheat. I do believe that there is some relevance to this approach, else all our conversations with one another would be for naught, but by relegating the Bible to a place of like authority as our own experiences, we remove any source and hope for discovering absolute truth. We become to ourselves a self-referential source for truth, and secular philosophy has proven time and again that this approach to seeking truth leaves us severely lacking. ((To some extent I almost think that some emergents are becoming more like agnostics in this regard.))

I don’t know how much of the emergent population this describes. That’s part of the problem, I fear – the emergent church is reluctant to establish a definition for itself or goals or a mission statement, since that is part of the very structure and legalism from which they are trying to escape. But I think Dr. Smith again hits the nail right on the head when he says that the emergent church is a further fracture of the Church, something which we all know is a very bad thing.

Subjectivity of Truth

For me, the fact remains that what is right for one person may not be right for everyone.

I really hate this argument in most instances in which it crops up. It is essentially the admission of the individual that they do not believe in absolute truth, not surprising considering the postmodern philosophy of the vast majority of our culture. But I generally dislike this argument, despite the fact that it does at times have legitimate applicability. It reminds me of schoolyard children taunting each other with, “I know you are, but what am I?” It has always held for me, perhaps unfairly, that tone and that attitude of superiority and condescension toward the opinions of others. It is not even so simple as the individual who says this implying that they disagree with another opinion and are just too polite to say so; often, the individual really believes that what is right for you may not be right for me.

For personal preferences, this argument makes sense. For instance, chocolate ice cream may be my favorite, but because vanilla might be your favorite, then chocolate is not right for you. And because there are no laws or moral or ethical rules that dictate that chocolate must be everyone’s favorite, it is completely legitimate in this case to say that what is right for you may not be right for me.

Where it comes to laws and morals, however, there are absolutes, so what is right for me must also, necessarily, be right for you. I cannot commit murder. It is immoral and illegal. There are laws against such behavior, and justice is meted out for such crimes. All people are governed by laws against murder, and so there is an absolute measure for what is right and what is wrong in murder.

The waters have been muddied where it comes to abortion, though. Somehow, a fetus is not considered human until it is born. Legally, it has no rights, not even the right to live. It is completely up to the whims of the mother to determine whether or not the child — excuse me, the fetus, the _parasite_ — is brought to term. Traditional emphases on the value of all human life are tossed aside. It became convenient to think of the unborn as less than human because then there is no conflict, no guilt involved with terminating a tiny life. What was once straightforward thinking has now become shaded in gray — what is right for you may not be right for me. You may choose to have your baby, but that may not be the right thing for _me_ to do. The emphasis is on the self, with little thought given to life growing inside the womb.

It is all very convenient when truth becomes subjective. The only person I have to answer to, then, is myself.

Postmodernism in Politics

There is no clear-cut definition for postmodernism, but it does seem to encompass two general facets of philosophy — 1) that all ‘truth’ is relative to the individual, that it is, essentially, whatever you make of it, and 2) a strong focus on relationship, both to people and to the world and nature in general. Listening to another political talk-show on the way back from New York last night, a connection clicked into place.

Politicians today are expert post-modernists in action. To them all truth is relative, subject to the whims of whoever is strong enough to sculpt it and make their message heard to the populace. Every single event is open for interpretation, and so the focus is not on finding out what happened but on putting a spin on the event that provides an advantage to one’s own party/organization/lobby group, etc. The only real truth in politics is power — how to attain it, and how to keep it. All else is relative to that. There is no such thing as truth or lies — only political advantage gained from remaking events and history so that they favor oneself. There is no such thing as good or evil — only people who serve as pawns to cast the politician in a favorable light. There are no good or bad ethics — except where it serves the politician to point out one’s own good ethics and the poor ethics of one’s opponent. Popularity is power, and politicians will do anything to gain that power and maintain it, whatever the cost. There is no concern for the people supposedly being served. There is only concern for one’s own political status.

This is the reason why we see so much mud-slinging on the political front. Since the truth does not matter, the only important thing is to make sure that when the dust settles, your opponent looks worse than you do. This is why so much of the information coming from Washington and other government sources is always cast with so much doubt — who can believe anything that comes from a politician when the only important thing to them is twisting the facts to cast themselves in the best possible light? This is why so many people are so cynical about politicians — they know they are being manipulated, and so the only thing they can hope to do is to choose the ‘best’ of all the manipulators. This is why so few politicians actually have plans for governing, and why those that do have plans cannot gain the cooperation to get them implemented — everyone is too busy playing the game of telling events as they want them to appear to actually make good and wise laws. This is the game that is played with our government and with our country. This is why we always feel have to choose the lesser of all evils when election day rolls around again. Truth is whatever the politicians can make of it for their own advantage, only that advantage has left the rest of us with the messes they don’t want to admit to because it would sully their reputations and whatever political power they have gained.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to isolate this phenomenon to just one political party or another — they are all guilty of post-modernistic politics. There are notable exceptions on both sides, of course, and we can only hope that those who approach politics with genuine honesty and integrity can have some influence on the rest. I fear, though, that it is a losing battle, that all politicians will ultimately end up being dirty, rotten liars, that ultimately our nation will fall because our leaders are too busy twisting the facts to recognize real danger when it rears its ugly head. The irony of all this is that in a democratic society such as ours, we are the ones who give the politicians power. We are the ones who keep electing the same liars and manipulators to office, the ones who twist facts and events to suit their purposes. What is more frustrating is that we can elect politicians who seem honest, only to find out they are no better than their counterparts. The world of politics today is fraught with dishonest men, and finding the honest ones is becoming harder and harder to do.

This is why I believe we need more Christians in politics, not to push their religious agendas, but to restore a measure of honesty and integrity to the positions of power that guide our nation. It’s not an easy job, but I have a deep respect for those few who can gain those seats, maintain their integrity, and wield power with wisdom, despite the overwhelming force of dishonesty that they face. Pray for our leaders on a regular basis. It’s a tough job they choose, and it is made at least somewhat easier by the support of people who care about bringing politics to a place of truth and integrity.

What’s black and white and gray all over?

Truth. Well, sort of. Honestly, I think that all truth is actually very much black and white, and if it seems to be more of a gray issue, it is simply a demonstration of the limitations of human
knowledge and understanding. Some truths are really very basic, very cut-and-dried, things like, “Gravity is what holds me down,” and “If I touch this hot stove, I’ll get burned.” Others often seem to be purely black and white and end up looking more gray the closer the individual looks. The trouble is that so many things in life involve levels of complexity that quickly overwhelm the capacity of the human mind to process. Human behaviors may seem relatively
straightforward, and we may think we understand the motivation for why one does something, only to find out upon breaking the issue down that we really don’t understand it at all (or, at least, as much as we thought we did). Even the person involved in the behavior itself may not fully understand everything that goes into their own motivation, which is often, I believe, why there is so much confusion in so many people’s lives.

It is so very easy to fall into the trap of using stereotypes and generalizations as definitive answers for any topic or issue. The trouble is that they are only ever just guidelines, general statements of human behavior. People do A because of B. This group will react in such-and-such a way because of such-and-such motivations. There’s your black and white. The gray is examining individual motivations in said groups. Ultimately you will (typcially) find that every individual acted in a similar way for similar, yet different, reasons. And that is where you find that the strength of stereotypes and generalizations to describe behavior breaks down. The irony is that the generalization doesn’t actually generalize all that well. Every individual within the group proves to be the exception to the rule. People will judge an entire group based solely on a stereotype (e.g. “Christians are horrible people because they are so judgmental.”) without ever taking the time to learn and understand that so often the stereotype doesn’t
apply to nearly as many individuals as one might think. Stereotypes and generalizations do an adequate, though ultimately very limited, job of describing group behavior (though perhaps not the motivations behind said behavior) but do a less than adequate job of describing individual
behavior within said group (duh, right?). Clearly, the complexities of the human psyche make it seem as though the truth of the issue is an issue of grayness.

Limitations of knowledge and understanding can gray-out truth. Deliberate action to gray-out truth is an additional factor. There are some who feel threatened by truth. These are individuals who wish to live their lives in their own way and are only free to do so because the ‘truth’ of their lives is appropriately gray enough to let them interpret it however they see fit. These are
the sort who, as soon as an individual begins to try to make sense out of the grayness and move it more toward black-and-whiteness, are quick to try to discredit the individual or to introduce a new level of complexity to the issue in an effort to keep the issue within a
comfortable level of gray. In other words, they deliberately sabotage the effort to achieve understanding. In doing so, they are able to remain within their own comfort zone and continue living life as they see fit because, for them, truth is whatever you make of it.

Is it any wonder that our society is in the place in which we find it? Religion and politics are topics in which it seems nearly impossible to know what is true because such things as debates about semantics, character defamations, complex contributors to situations and behaviors get in the way of making sense out of the gray. Science, as well, often ends up in the realm of the gray, with one study proving a finding where another study disproves the same finding. And in all places, personal and political motivations muddy the waters appropriately so that it seems that the truth can never be truly known, only guessed at, only interpreted, only approximated. Postmodernism, political correctness, and ‘tolerance’ are the results, a dwelling in the land of the gray with black-and-white, clear-cut truth little more than a pipe dream to those who wish to know it.

Knowing When To Speak Up In A Post-Modern Culture

Well, Liz requested my thoughts on knowing when to speak up for your beliefs in a post-modern world, so here goes. (Liz, let me know if I’ve addressed your comment adequately.)

It’s true. It really is hard sometimes to know when to speak up in a post-modern world and when to just keep your mouth shut. So much of our culture today is driven by a philosophy of
non-offensiveness that squarely speaking your mind can often put you in a position of scorn and ridicule by your peers.

In addressing the post-modern culture, there are a couple of things we always have to be aware of, things that we recognize and with which we have to deal. We have to understand that, in general, there are two separate groups of post-moderns — the group that is composed of professing Christians and the group that is composed of unbelievers. Knowing to which group the individual or individuals with which you are conversing belongs greatly affects the approach you want to take in declaring and defending your beliefs. With the Christian group, you are able to cut a few more corners, take a more direct route to your personal statements of faith, and speak from a greater pool of common ground and understanding. With the unbelieving group, you will typically have to take more time to lay out the basic tenets of your beliefs before you can talk about the beliefs themselves, to clarify the assumptions and presuppositions that are
generally taken for granted in the Christian faith, to establish a level playing field where (hopefully) everyone understands the logical and philosophical starting point of everyone else. Of course, as I have entered in many more conversations recently with believer and unbeliever alike, I have come to understand that this simplistic demarcation is much more blurred than it once was. We are required to explicitly define our terms so that, even if we disagree with the other’s starting point, we at least understand where the other begins his logical and philosophical train of thought. And even so, it is not always appropriate to speak one’s mind.

Allow me to lay out my personal approach to speaking up and to speaking out about my beliefs. This has come from many experiences, both good and bad, and I am constantly checking myself to make sure I am acting in a way that is beneficial, uplifting, and constructive to all. The rule by which I live is this — I simply wait for the appropriate opportunity to speak. Sometimes I succeed at this; sometimes I do not. As I said before, sometimes it really is difficult to know when to speak up for what you believe in. There are many factors that I take into consideration when determining if the time is right for me to say my bit. A large portion of this consideration is in determining the frame of mind of my target audience. Some topics, just by the mere mention, will fire up certain individuals into a blind rage and passion of debate that makes a lot of noise but ultimately ends up going nowhere. Those are the sorts of discussions that I try to avoid because no matter what I say or how well I phrase my own arguments, ultimately it will amount
to little more than an itch that, once scratched, goes away and is immediately forgotten. The sorts of people with whom I am really most interested in conversing are those who are genuinely open to honest discussion, who have their own opinions and stances but who are
receptive to other opinions and who are willing to recognize that they, too, are human and fallible and who desire to correct any flaws in their own logic that may exist. Those are people to whom I am most willing to open my own heart and mind, to share what I believe and why, from whom I am most willing to accept constructive criticism and challenge of my beliefs and to whom I am most willing to reciprocate in kind. Those are the sorts of people who have helped me grow the most over the years. We may end up still disagreeing on what we believe and why, but in the process we have had an exchange of ideas and of relationship that leaves everyone changed, often for the better.

It’s difficult to converse with the post-modern who holds certain core values and beliefs to be in flux due to a lack of absolutes, but it is indeed possible through the clear explanation of personal values and beliefs and through humble and open dialogue between peers. When do I choose to speak my mind? When I feel my audience is open and receptive to my ideas. Sometimes I
end up in a debate that ends in a waste of time, but sometimes I don’t, and I leave the discourse feeling as though something truly great has happened.

Is It Wrong to Be Right?

“Everyone who is consumed with being right and a little too uptight about being exact and so on shoudl take heed of my little girl’s quote: “‘R’ is for ‘Bunny'” was her response when we were doing flashcards the other night. The letter R was on one side and a picture of a rabbit on
the other.”

In this postmodern society, it is less important for an individual to be right than it is to make sure that no one’s feelings get hurt, that the social relationship is preserved and without conflict. It is more important to avoid offending anyone, to avoid telling anyone that they are wrong, than it is to make sure that the information you have and believe is true and accurate. The unspoken rule now is that it might just be wrong to be right because it might hurt someone’s ego or damage their self-esteem.

The trouble is that this approach is dangerous. I think it may be a part of why so many of our generation are unable to articulate what they believe, why their worldviews and values and standards waffle and waver so much. No one is allowed to be right, at least not obviously so, because of the effect that being right might have on others. There are countless examples in our society where what is right and true and correct is passed over in favor of what looks and
feels best. In the end the final result is shallow and meaningless, leaving everyone without guidance and direction.

Biblically, I believe we are called to seek out that which is right and true, to know what you believe and to know it so well that you can defend it to any who would attack it. Certainty and confidence are powerful allies and can set your course straight and honest. All things have a right and a wrong, but often it requires experience and wisdom to discern the difference, and wisdom is so dearly lacking in our society. How can there be wisdom when one is not allowed
to be right? How can there be wisdom when one is not allowed to speak his mind and give voice to truth and discernment? So, we must try everything, sifting it carefully, using wisdom and the
guidance of the Holy Spirit to determine that which is right, setting it in a place of prominence so that it may gleam forth and draw others toward God.

My Head Is Decidely Full

So many good topics of discussion going on in so many places
right now.� I wish I had the time to run each one down thoroughly
and hash it out with people whose thoughts and opinions I so
respect.� For now I have to simply content myself with thoughtful
and quiet contemplation.� Just a few topics waging war inside my
skull:

-Intellectual reasons for rejecting God
-Knowing when to speak up for what’s right and dealing with those who don’t want to hear it
-Existentialism, modernism, postmodernism, and other philosophical worldviews
-The hardcore 1611 KJV crowd and their affect on the collective testimonies of the Body of Christ

Like I said, a lot going on up in the ol’ noggin.� I’ll be lucky to fall asleep before midnight…