Monday, August 24, 2015

"Ownership of the Christian Message?"

Barry has been engaged in an interesting discussion called Ownership of the Christian Message in which all the various forms of Christianity are being looked at. Which then begs the question, how do you cope with all these different views and how do you know which one’s are true?

I’ll tell you how I cope, I tend to descend into complete hysterics and start shrieking about moral ambiguity while tossing teacups at people’s heads. I only partially jest here, a world without any rules at all where anything goes is a bit like free-falling through the universe and sure to evoke complete panic in someone already as melodramatic as I am.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about slight variations in doctrine, like the way some  believe the Lord’s prayer says “forgive us our sins” while others believe it is “forgive us our trespasses” and still others believe it says “forgive us our debts.” These are trivial things in a world run by insane clowns, let me tell you. No I’m speaking of things like the atheist church or those who don’t believe in the Divinity of Christ or those who have removed Christ from the picture entirely. I call these people “-ians.”

Barry mentions some “clergy who have taught that belief in the Resurrection, Christ’s divinity, and God as a being, are not essential to the Christian faith.” Yes, this is a real thing in the world, although somewhat rare because that is so contrary to the entire foundation of faith. From Catholic to protestant, through all denominations, there is one thing that unites us all and that is the Divinity of 

Christ, His resurrection, and our own salvation through Him. That is the basic fundamental message. Take that away and no, you cannot be a Christ-ian. Look at the word there.  Now some may well call themselves disciples, followers, prophets, or saints, but we’ve all got the Divinity of Christ in our minds and hearts.

Everything from that point forward becomes a matter of belief, study, opinion, the language you speak. You do not really have to believe in creationism or the end times or hell or even in the trinity. This is all just background noise, feedback from the speakers, or perhaps the spices and flavors we add to our food. It is not the bread itself. Accepting the Divinity of Christ and surrendering to your need for redemption, is often called justification. Sanctification is a word sometimes used to describe the process of allowing Him to do His work within you. Faith is a process, we are all works in progress.

Outside the context of faith and theology, and into the realm of emotion and psychology, there is this thing called spiritual abuse. There are people in the world who call themselves Christians, who abuse children, who condemn, ostracize, and bully others, and they do it under the guise of faith. Good grief, this is an appalling thing that will truly mess with your head. I have a powerful faith, I am not a child, and it still messes with my head. This is an issue that truly pushes my buttons. It is wrong to abuse others, but to attempt to separate and alienate them from their Creator just takes it to a whole new level. The harm that can be done there is just astronomical. These days it seems as if many people coming to faith actually have to first unlearn things, rather than to learn things. That is not so easy.

I’m reminded that scripture addresses this issue in a myriad of ways, from clearly stating that those who lead others will be held twice as accountable, to making it quite clear that “whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” There are wolves in sheep’s clothing and false teachings. In the bible Christ Himself spends a great deal of time addressing the religious leaders of the day, the pharisees. In the final chapter of the bible, Christ does not have a bone to pick with prostitutes, addicts, and atheists, He has a bone to pick with churches. It is not the lost who are accountable for Christ’s word, but rather the found.

So in answer to ownership of the Christian message, it belongs to those of us who claim Him name. Now needless to say Christians cannot control the actions or behaviors of everyone, but if we are talking in a moral and spiritual sense, I believe we are all called to get the word out and to properly represent the faith, to heal some of those spiritual fractures, and to speak up when we see something wrong. Once again, it is not the lost who are accountable for Christ’s word, but rather the found.

Spiritual abuse however, is not doctrine, it is not faith, and it is not the church. The personal is not political. One’s experiences and suffering at the hands of others does not define all of Christianity. Christ is to be our representative, not some lost or abusive soul professing His name.

So how do you discern, how do you know what is Truth? You go straight to the Source, you ask Christ into your heart and you invite Him to teach you. You humble yourself and you allow Him to speak to you in a language you understand. You pray, you read the bible, you allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and teach you and guide you. You avail yourself of bible studies and other believers, of church, always remembering who is at the top of your relationship, whose favor your seek. Christ should always be first.

This entire discussion, all the confusion over what to believe, the uncertainty over who owns the Christian message, all stems from putting people in Christ’s place, from not recognizing who the Source of our faith really is, from transferring authority from Christ over to a group of believers or a denomination….or over to people who abused you while professing His name.

It is both simple and complex, but if you truly wish to discover the Truth, you let go of all that you think you know, you surrender yourself to Christ, and you allow Him to light your path. It is a leap of faith, but you can trust that He will show you the way and order your steps.

Will you ever be asked to change how you perceive something or what you believe in? Most likely. Will He ever lead you astray? Nope, not ever, not if it is Christ who leads you.

Dalrock, Just Saying...

“It would be difficult to find a woman with a harder heart than Susan Smith.  She is absolutely shameless.  Yet note how consumed she is with the knowledge that people on the outside see her as a monster.  Never be fooled by the shrieks that your judgment doesn’t affect a rebellious woman.”

You may well be that “woman” with a harder heart Dalrock, you and the so called Christians who follow you. Rather than attempting to understand the Susan Smith case, rather than applying some mercy, you just exploit the tragedy and use it as an example of the evil nature of women. Your comment section is filled with hateful words condemning her to hell, wanting to see her executed, reveling in your perceived  moral superiority, and dehumanizing women in general.

I have no idea what to say to men who believe the only way to elevate their own moral character is to attempt to compare themselves to Susan Smith, but it makes me feel a bit sick.

For those who don’t remember Susan Smith, she murdered her children and is now spending 30 years in prison. She was mentally ill, her brain broke, and she collapsed. No one knows why she did it, it was just one of those evil acts that defy explanation.

What is seldom talked about however, is the fact that her father committed suicide when she was six years old and her step father molested her all through her teens, a relationship that continued well into adulthood. At 13 she tried to kill herself. By the time she finished high school there had been 3 more suicide attempts. She went on to marry David when she was 19 years old and had his two sons, but that relationship was rocky, full of infidelity, and he frequently abandoned her with the two children.

Susan Smith was a mentally ill 21 year old girl with a father who committed suicide, a stepfather who molested her, and a husband who cheated on her, abandoned with two small children. She broke. Women do that sometimes, we break, especially when all the men in our lives fail us, yes fail us Dalrock. Women do not just spontaneously combust.

***Dalrock has responded to this post, by the way, and accuses me of identifying with an unrepetant child murderer and running the rationalization race on her behalf.

He is absolutely correct too, because I truly believe that as Christians we are called to try to empathize with each other and to understand human behavior. I too would prefer to just sit in judgment of those who do evil and point my finger at them self righteously and yet Grace will not allow it. Luke 7:47, the woman with the perfume, Wherefore I say unto thee, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. My own grace requires me to extend the same to others.

I’ve said it a million times, but come judgment day I’d rather be caught standing next to a harlot or an unrepentent child murderer than a self righteous Christian with a hard heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


Seduction is a fine subject for a hot and steamy August. It is an interesting word, one that has rather pleasant connotations on the surface. It simply means to enchant, charm, entice, and to lead. When you trace the origins of that word back far enough however, you soon encounter some other root words, like treason, treachery, and deceit.

Today the modern definition has combined the two concepts so to lead has come to mean, to lead astray. To seduce has come to mean to charm someone down the wrong path. It carries the implication of deceit and manipulation with heavy sexual over tones. Culture, mores, history, and human sexuality, have all played a role in giving us our modern definition.

In the days of old, women as a group were not perceived as the primary seducers, as a temptress full of wiles and deceit sure to lead men astray. Ironically that is a more modern concept. Traditionally only men were perceived as being capable of seduction, while women were all pretty much thought innocent and naive, under the protection of fathers or family until marriage. Men often dreamed about Sirens luring men to their doom or mermaids enticing sailors into the deep, but these things were not the way of the world. They were a way for men to try to relieve themselves of a burden, of moral and sexual agency, of the responsibility they were forced to carry for both themselves and for women. This was serious business, men were sometimes killed for having “seduced” the wrong woman.

Somewhere along the path of  history, men managed to off load this burden of personal sexual agency, by transferring the load over to women. Women became the seducers, sure to trick and deceive men, who surely could not be blamed or held accountable for having sexually succumbed to feminine wiles. Christianity and culture did manage to affirm this idea in people’s heads. Eve herself was transformed into a temptress who seduced Adam into eating the forbidden fruit, rather than a victim of Satan’s deception. This contradictory archetype of Eve as both innocent and naive enough to have been deceived by Satan and yet also seductive, clever, and manipulative enough to have seduced Adam, still persists today in some circles.

Like many things within our culture what it all boils down to is a dispute over sexual agency and responsibility and who holds it, men or women. It has to do with attempting to avoid accountability and to pass the buck back and forth. You see evidence of this sexual confusion, these contradictory archetypes, in the modern world. Women are encouraged to empower themselves sexually and yet women are also being perceived as having so little personal sexual agency, there are consent laws on college campuses where men are now being burdened with having to prove not only that they themselves consented, but that she did too. Women no longer have to prove rape, men now have to prove consent.

We can forget equality here, these are very gender specific ideas. Recently I saw a poster where a couple of college kids were going drinking with the warning for the guy, “remember, if she has been drinking she cannot give consent and you could be charged with rape.” They are both drinking! His drinking however, does not relieve him of owning full sexual accountability for both of them to the point of criminality. Her drinking simply relieves her of any sexual agency or accountability. She is now deemed incompetent due to alcohol, while he is deemed extra competent due to alcohol. He has once again returned to his archetype as the male seducer and she his helpless victim. Predators and prey.

Conversely on the other side of the aisle, you will find attempts to hand all the sexual agency back over to women, to portray her as the seductress once again, as if all sexuality is entirely her fault because of what she was wearing, where she was hanging out, how she looked, as if men are simply helpless victims of women and easily led astray.

This is always what is at the heart of sexual politics, a gender competition over sexual agency and which gender owns the blame. The blame/shame game. Sexual matters can carry heavy shame that people rarely wish to be held accountable for, men or women. When we plan to blame the other person, we often must first dehumanize them, demonize them, so they become an appropriate receptacle for our own shame. It’s interesting to me, in our so-called open-minded culture where anything goes, sexual shame does not appear to be diminishing, but rather increasing.

Personally I’ve never been too interested in such silly games, but this is a serious thing in the world and now shapes much of our modern politics. As far as I am concerned in the year 2015, men and women both have total sexual agency and full responsibility for their own actions. I realize that  biology is a bit different between men and women, that men are often far more captivated by the physical, more visual, but just the same, when it comes to simple sexual attraction, both genders have full agency. Nobody falls victim to another’s charms and simply loses their mind and moral agency.

Seduction in the context of sexuality seems almost innocent to me for that very reason, we are not truly vulnerable to manipulation and deceit based only on physical attraction. We may wish to try to claim that is true, but it is not. Seduction in a purely sexual and physical way really means nothing more than to enchant, charm, entice, and to lead. Whether one allows themselves to be led or not is entirely one’s responsibility.

There is another edge to seduction that concerns me far more than seduction in a sexual context however, and that is when we enter into the realm of the psychological and emotional, of brainwashing and mind control, for the purposes of deceit and manipulation. This concerns me because these are the kinds of things people are truly vulnerable to because they slip in under the radar, leaving us unaware of what is happening and completely lacking personal agency. What we cannot see and reason our way through, we are powerless to resist. Advertisers do this, they play on our emotions, they push those biological triggers and before we know it we’ve been seduced into buying some product we didn’t even know we really wanted.

Anybody who doubts the power of seduction for the purposes of cultural manipulation should consider that less than a hundred years ago, humankind didn’t even have toothpaste or much interest in oral hygiene at all, and yet today to do without is unthinkable. Not that toothpaste was a bad idea, but it does speak to how easily seduction and manipulation can completely alter human behavior.

We see seduction being used today in politics, in education, in cultural mores. I watch these little tricks being used to manipulate people, to direct human behavior. One trick you often see being used is to gin up controversy. Dirty laundry sells and it is an unfortunate fact of human nature, but we’ll all look towards the train wreck to see what all the fuss is all about and shortly thereafter, start taking sides, drawing our tribal alliances. Something else people are vulnerable to are those we perceive as victims in need of our protection. Everybody wants to rescue a victim, to be perceived as a champion for the down trodden.

Sometimes it seems as if the media is just one endless loop of seduction after another. That’s what they do, that’s how they gain viewers. These tools of seduction are marketing ploys often used in political campaigns, in cults, advertising, the media, to sell books or products, and in education.
I really wish we could get over the sexual politics, the constant gender competition over seduction and perceived sexual agency, because we as a people have far bigger fish to fry. It is not so much men and women seducing and leading each other astray that is the problem, but rather the world stepping up its game for the purpose of manipulation and deceit, to lead us all astray.

The dangers of that should be obvious, if we are all being seduced, manipulated, and deceived, at that point, can any of us truly claim to have any moral agency of our own?