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I Might Be Insane: People Can Choose

March 30, 2013 Leave a comment

I have this thing that I believe about people that almost everyone agrees with. The weird thing is, when we actually start talking in depth, we come to this place where it seems we agree in principle but disagree when it comes to specific situations. I believe people have the capacity to make decisions about their actions. I believe people even have the ability to make really difficult choices. At this point, I’m assuming most of you are with me. I hope by the end of this some of you will disagree with me so I can gain a better understanding of why what I’m saying is disagreeable to others.

I think the ability of humans to choose was a deliberate design decision. God was particularly concerned with creating humans with options, the ability to choose different options, and more than that, the ability to examine decisions before making them. First man’s world was so simple, but God was sure to set it up with one complexity, an option with pros and cons depending on what was chosen. Eat and be filled with the knowledge of good and evil, satisfy curiousity, and die? Or refuse to eat and live, without knowing intimately the knowledge the fruit would provide? Choosing is central to being human, and, I suspect, a part of what it means to bear the image of God.

I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago. He asked, “Why do you think that person is overweight?” I responded simply with an answer I still believe is quite true, “They consume more calories than they burn.” My friend went on to talk about how he thought this person’s past affected their self-perception and so they ate to blame their self-perception on their weight instead of their past. I’ve never been all that convinced one’s personal past is the problem. The problem with this way of thinking is it pushes back the problem to something that really isn’t the cause. The problem is not what occurred to someone in that past, their experiences never forced them to consume more calories, their daily decisions resulted in their weight gain. I believe that whatever someone’s past, they still have the capacity to make their own choices about their life. That’s one issue regarding choice I sometimes find myself in disagreement with others on.

Addiction is another issue regarding choice me and others don’t always see eye-to-eye on. I don’t know what the medical definition of addiction is. My functional definition of addiction is being addicted means it’s really hard for someone to stop engaging in a behavior. Sometimes we throw the label “addict” on someone and give them a free pass on their behavior as if they can’t stop. We also undermine their power over their own decisions. And it’s kind of silly when we act like an addict is unable to stop.

Let’s use a common example: Alcoholism. Alcoholics have a very difficult time quitting, but they are perfectly capable of doing so. After an alcoholic quits, starting up again is not some inevitability because they are addicted. It’s a series of choices: choosing to get the keys to the car, choosing to leave the house, enter the car, drive to a place with alcohol, grab some alcohol, pull out one’s wallet and purchase the alcohol, choosing to drive somewhere to drink the alcohol, opening the alcohol, drinking it, and then choosing to continue to drink it to excess. These behaviors don’t happen because someone is addicted, they happen because someone makes decisions they have control over. An alcoholic does not get drunk because they are an alcoholic, they get drunk because they choose to get drunk.

This way of thinking about choice is like a lot of things in the kingdom, beautiful and difficult. It’s difficult because every individual, including you and I, become completely responsible for our own actions and their effects. The problem with us is not that we can’t stop drinking, manipulating others, smoking, overreacting, eating, watching tv, looking at porn, etc, etc, the problem is we choose not to stop. We have no excuses. It’s a beautiful way of thinking about choice because in His love, YHWH has given us the power to make choices over our lives. We have power to break the negative cycles of behavior we are in. We have hope, which is far better than any excuse.

For the follower of Jesus, changing one’s behavior so that it honors YHWH is good start, but it’s not the end goal. The end goal is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The goal is to have all of ourselves in full obedience to YHWH, wanting what Jesus wants, feeling like Jesus feels, thinking how Jesus thinks, and doing what Jesus does. The ultimate goal is complete transformation so right behavior is a natural outpouring of our new self. However, even when right behavior seems to come unnaturally, it is still worth choosing obedience to our King.

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I Might Be Insane: Jesus Followers Should Support Decriminalization

February 16, 2013 Leave a comment

​I’m using the topic of illegal drugs as a specific example representing the bigger issue of the desire of people to make people do what they want them to. As a society, even in our churches (perhaps especially in our churches), we have a very strong tendency to control others lives. I could use a lot of issues to exemplify this, but this is one is a great example which has the least amount of strong support from sensible people.

​For the follower of Jesus, I believe the use of many illegal drugs is probably sinful and often bad for society. A lot of things are. I also believe gossiping is sinful and bad for society. I believe unforgiveness, pent up anger, lust, lying, greed, and many other things are both sinful and bad for society. However, none of these things directly violate another individual. None of these things infringe upon the freedom of others. While people using illegal drugs might be bad for a society, violating the freedom of another because their behavior is considered uncomely is far, far worse.

​Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in thinking it is crazy that we call people criminals because of what they choose to consume, possess, or sell. Is it good for people to shoot up heroin or smoke meth or take a bunch of pills or otherwise destroy their bodies through foreign substances? No. Should we be willing to use violent force to prevent them from consuming a product we don’t think they should be consuming? Hell no. But we do it, support a government that does it, and try to get them to do more to keep people from consuming things we decided they shouldn’t be consuming.

​I feel sad because of and frustrated with those who engage in some of the more potent and destructive drugs, trading a beautiful life for a wasted one. I feel disgusted with a society and culture that has decided to ostracize and punish people for behavior they do in their own home that doesn’t harm others. It’s sick. No one who ingests something should have to live in fear of someone using violent force on them because of what they ingested. That’s a messed up a world. That’s the world we live in.

​It’s often the world Jesus followers promote, fight for, and participate in. We promote a world that uses violence to coerce others to conform to the way we think the world should be. In the process, we violate others’ rights and create a worse world to live in. Christians support a government crackdown on illegal drug use, but never say the government should outlaw judgmentalism, hubris, gossip, or obesity – all of which are bad for both the individual and society. I believe it is the job of Jesus-followers to be the voice of the oppressed and persecuted. Illegal drug users fit in this category.

​Part of the beauty of following Jesus is, through love, taking a third side. I am against drug abuse and against laws which take away people’s rights to do drugs. I speak out against drug addiction while speaking out against those who would use violent force to stop others from using. It is my calling to defend the right of individuals to consume what they want without fearing oppression. It is also my calling to speak of and exemplify a full and rich life free from addiction, to offer this freedom to those entrapped by addiction to foreign substances, and to walk alongside them as they discover a life worth living. It is not my calling, nor, I believe, the calling of any Jesus follower, to support the use and threat of violent force to prevent others from consuming what they want to.

I Might Be Insane: The Kingdom Is Not One Of Clothing

February 11, 2013 1 comment

​Clothing is for covering nakedness, keeping warm, protecting skin, and supporting sensitive members. I love clothing for these reasons (there are probably a few more too). I’m a big fan of all the pragmatic uses of clothing. I also love when people choose to express their individuality through clothing choices.

​Clothing has a lot of other social functions that I am not a fan of. Clothing can be a way of boasting about disposable income. Some people convey professionalism and capacity through their clothing. Clothing is used to try to look attractive. Clothing is used to acquire acceptance and respect from others. Clothing is used to receive praise. Social rules which most people understand and accept underly our use of clothing.

​I find these rules to be shallow and limiting of people. The rules divide people based on class, income, social position, culture, power, attractiveness, respectability, career, etcetera. The rules include expectations of “proper” attire for particular places and/or situations. The expectations and divisions of the rules are the source of much judgment of others for the clothing they wear. Clothing is another way for humanity to make presuppositions about others, evaluate who they are, assume things about their life, and judge them for how they cover their nakedness and keep warm.

​Our rules about clothing are silly and unfounded. The only reason these rules exist is because everyone lives as if they do. They have no real grounding in reality. There is no reason these clothing rules must exist, but the rules will continue to limit people, marginalize outgroups, result in judgment, and create division as long as people continue to participate in them and enforce them. For the sake of unity and freedom,  I believe kingdom people should seek to overturn these rules about something as superficial as clothing, but churches participate in these rules as much as the rest of society.

​I was once questioned for my attire (I assure you I wasn’t showing any cleavage or too much leg) at a church by someone willing to have a discussion about it. When I asked him why he believes in wearing a certain type of clothing to church, he said it was to show respect to God. I’m all for showing respect for God, but I don’t know where we got the idea that God feels a lot of respect when we wear a coat and tie. God’s not that petty and narrow minded. In most churches, there is an understood proper and improper attire, but again, these rules are arbitrary, unecessary, promote judgmentalism, and limit expression. I imagine that in most churches if the pastor was to wear footie pajamas while preaching, there would be a negative response from the congregation. Some might think it was just weird, but many would think it was improper. In reality, there is no inherent impropriety in wearing footie pajamas to preach. It’s only improper because everyone is crazy.

​That all said, some people do feel disrespected when someone wears a type of clothing they don’t like. Success in the economic world is often contingent upon clothing choice. I struggle with trying to show people respect and wear clothing others consider befitting for a particular job or circumstance. I can both wisely submit to these rules while acknowledging they are pretend and engaging in non-participation when the opportunity arises. I know and am persuaded that clothing choice is not important in itself, but it is important for anyone who thinks it is important. For if my brother is grieved by what I wear, I am no longer walking in love. Through love, I can participate in the bullshit while still preaching the kingdom of God that is not about suits and shoes.

I Might Be Insane: Odd Thoughts On Race

February 7, 2013 7 comments

In the last post on Jeremiah, we talked about the way Jeremiah was the only right person in a wrong world, and that actually made Jeremiah look like he was crazy and wrong. After writing, I thought about some of the things I think are crazy about the way the world works. I’m not sure if the world is crazy or just me. This is the first post in a series interlude.
​I’ll begin with a brief summary of what I think about racism: thinking less of someone because of their color of skin is the lowest form of humanity and it is absolutely deplorable. There, now that’s done.
​Other than that issue, I don’t care about race. I don’t think it matters. I don’t think it’s even something worth discussing in society. I don’t care about African American poverty. I don’t care about Hispanic education. I don’t care about wage differences between races. I don’t care about census bureau statistics regarding race. I don’t care about racial diversity in schools. I don’t care about racial diversity in churches.
​I do care about people in poverty. I do care about people not getting educated. I do care about people getting paid fair wages for the jobs they do. I do care about schools accepting all comers with no thought to race. I do deeply care that churches give no thought to someone’s skin color as they invite them in as a brother or sister.
​The focus in our society on race, racial equality, racial quotas, constant accusations of racism (crying wolf sometimes), and highlighting racial differentiation is often unhelpful. In the world of my imagination, here is how talking about race should go: Person A: “So, race, huh?” Person B: “Why should we care about someone’s race?” Person A: “We shouldn’t.” Person B: “Agreed.” But all over the US, including in churches, we think and act in a way that differentiates between people because of color of skin.
​There are a few reasons why I have thought about this issue. One, society’s view on race contrasts with its treatment of race. It doesn’t seem intellectually consistent in society to talk about how race shouldn’t divide groups, how all races are equal, how someone shouldn’t be judged based on the color of their skin, and then to have such a strong focus on racial issues (there is a distinction between racist issues and racial issues, and where racism is, we should call it out immediately). It feels like many people act like race is an issue that matters and yet says that race is not an issue. If race doesn’t matter, then it really doesn’t matter.
​Second, I believe there are situations where focusing on race and differentiating people based on race function to increase racism. A couple of stories will help highlight my point:
​I had a friend in high school who was trying to get into a good college pre-med program. His grades bordered the requirements. They asked him what his race was because if he would have been the right race he would have been accepted. He was the wrong race and was rejected. Why does this happen? In many situations, colleges (sometimes companies and other employers) have required racial diversity. In these situations, individuals are
​sometimes judged by the color of their skin. My friend was discriminated against because of his skin color. Sick. In an effort to create racial diversity and get rid of racism, those who make regulations like these are being racist. It’s perverse.
​I also was with someone in a church service after which they left with confusing feelings about themselves and frustrations about the sermon. In the sermon, the speaker repeatedly talked about this future church he and others were about to plant and the church’s biggest focus: racial diversity. He talked about the importance of being racially diverse, how they were starting in a racially diverse community, and were going to specifically reach out to people of different races. The person I was with was of a minority race. They were frustrated at the idea that someone would reach out to them because of their minority status so that person could succeed in starting a racially diverse church. My minority friend was uneasy at the idea that someone might only be treating them a certain way because of their race and not because of who they were as a person. The idea of seeking racial diversity for the purpose of diversity felt like a violation of their individuality.
​Finally, focusing on racial diversity undermines the individual. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times,* People are people are people. They are all valuable because they are individual human beings. Being a member of this or that race in no way defines who they are and says nothing about their infinite worth. It’s cool that there are people of different colors. It’s cool that people look different than other people. However, beyond that, it doesn’t matter. By pretending the race of someone is an aspect of great import, we use it to define individuals by unnecessarily grouping them and in so doing and violate their individuality. Let’s stop caring. Please.

​*This saying makes no real sense.

Categories: I Might Be Insane
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