Merica’s gods: Religious Tradition and Dissidence

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

My family has some great traditions, especially around holiday time–traditions that I enjoy being a part of and look forward to every year. Chances are that your family has traditions of your own. It doesn’t end there. Ultimately we are creatures of habit and comfort, and will almost inevitably create a tradition out of anything that gives us comfort or a feeling of success.

Politically our nation is experiencing this right now as the party convention season kicks into full swing. Relationally we probably experience tradition of another kind in the ways we enjoy spending time with our friends, family, and significant other. Religiously, well religiously is where tradition can really begin to be disastrous in our lives. I will go on record again to say that I don’t think religion is a bad thing. Today its a dirty word in most conversations, but my personal belief is that it has been misused.

For the Christian we use religious activity to connect with God, which is a good thing; but sometimes we become more occupied with the idea of the religious activity and it’s importance than we do with the God we should be trying to connect to, which is not a good thing. Jesus frequently butted heads with people who had engorged perspectives on the importance of religious tradition, but Jesus also did many religious things.

To finish this thought before moving on: the tradition must never trump the Trinity in our hearts and actions. We must never let our ideas about how we connect with God become more important than God or helping others connect to Him. The moment this happens we have created an idol.

And then there is the other side of this coin, dissidents. The dissidents among us, and many of us fall into this category at one time or another, are so fixated on the notion of abandoning tradition that we make a tradition of not being traditional. See how silly that sounds? And like the traditionalist who replaces God with his/her ritualistic thing, the dissident replaces God with his/her compulsion to ignore and abandon anything meaningful to be gleaned from tradition.

In my life the key to truly enjoying my relationship with the Father has been to embrace objectivity in my approach to the Christian religion. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always succeed in being objective, but I frequently find myself asking these questions: Why do I believe this way? Why do I do that? How does this help others see God? How would Jesus respond to this situation? Again, let me point out that I’m not always successful in my approach. Sometimes I become impassioned and rush into something without proper contemplation or prayerful discernment. Even so, it is my deepest belief that we can find the heart of God somewhere between the idolatrous extremes of religious tradition or dissidence. He is calling the Church to meet Him there.

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More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

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Merica’s gods: Culture Wars

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

I’m not a culture warrior, and never plan to be. I think that getting caught up in most of what amounts to today’s culture wars is pretty petty and ridiculous, and usually becomes more about who has the most fashionably attractive position to the fickle masses. Also, as Christians, getting lost in culture war has basically nothing to do with sharing the light of Christ with the world. In fact, I think its usually pretty contrary. Let me be clear, I do believe that we should take a stand for our values, and our convictions, but I also believe that sometimes we begin to idolize those convictions.

I have to admit, one of my biggest pet peeves is to listen to someone “preach” a sermon that is bulging with angsty war-time rhetoric targeted at their ideological opposition. It reeks of insecurity, faithlessness, and arrogance. But here is the real problem; some people just can’t be bothered to follow the whole Bible. They’ve picked their target sins and want to camp out in picket lines at every social juncture to make sure that their voice is heard, their opinion is voiced, and they’ve had their say.

What happened to “pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)” and “praying on all occasions with all kinds of prayers (Eph 6:18)”? What might our culture actually look like if the American Church spent more time looking and acting like the Bride of Christ and less time trying to make war with that culture?

News flash: the degradation of society that most self-professing culture warriors are so worried about is a symptom of a much larger issue. It’s time to stop elevating our societal struggles to a place of supreme prominence. It’s time to stop giving them the limelight. It’s time to stop behaving as if God needs our help and is not sovereign.

Show concern for the issues that matter most to you. Form an opinion. Share it with those you care about, and vote your heart when the opportunity presents itself; but stop behaving as if culture war has anything to do with the Great Commission. The Church began losing the heart of America when it became more preoccupied with maintaining the status quo than with making disciples.

More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

Merica’s gods: Sex

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

Sex is the Herculean demigod of American idolatry. A rampant problem resultant of several other converging erroneous western ideologies, sex, or more accurately our cultural obsession with it, is a wildly dangerous god set loose upon this society.

The prevalence of pornography and abortion are probably two of the largest indicators that society’s sexual climate has experienced radical change in recent decades. The consensual relationship between encroaching perversion in mainstream media and the common consumer’s acceptance of it only further illuminates this change on a societal level.

Like all American gods, regular sacrifice is offered to the very real sexgod; and in a way that almost mirrors the abhorrent idolatry of ancient Israel. Whereas most idolatrous action is a display of misplaced passion, resources, and affection, each with their own varying degrees of affects; sex results in a host of other problems as well. Disease, broken families, perversion, and murder of the unborn are all results of sexworship.

The scary part is how little we even acknowledge how deeply it has affected our nature. Hollywood frequently champions the push to expand sex’s reach, but advertising is a close runner up. Promiscuity, permissiveness, and the ongoing proliferation of sex have created an acceptable culture of sexual consumerism that degrades the delight of marriage, distorts the dignity of the human body, and destroys the dynamic of God-given gender roles.

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More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

10 Things I Learned from Spider-Man

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Life usually doesn’t fit into nice neat little lists, but that doesn’t keep me from trying. Welcome to my Tuesday 10, where I try to fit the messiness of life into a list of ten.

It’s no big secret that I love super heroes. Anyone that knows me very well at all can tell you that. I have loved super hero mythology as long as I can remember. And while my favorite member of the long-underwear club is Captain America, his frequent ally and fellow Avenger Spider-Man is a close second. I’ve been collecting and reading Spider-Man comics longer than I’ve even known what a comic is. Spider-Man turns fifty this month and to honor this colorful character this week’s Tuesday 10 is a list of ten things I learned from Spider-Man.

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1. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t: I grew up in an age when the good guy always beat the bad guy, a cliche of modern story-telling that just doesn’t hold up well in real life. Spider-Man was the first super hero I can remember that actually lost about as often as he won.

2. Never, under any circumstances put on clothes if you don’t know where they came from. Also, there is never a good reason to wear your underwear on the outside of your clothes.

3. It’s good to have a sense of humor, but a joke at the wrong guy’s expense might hospitalize you.

4. Sometimes willpower is better than muscles: Numerous times throughout his fictional history Spidey has reached the peak of his physical ability, and had to rely solely on inner-strength to prevail. A powerful physique can never surpass the will of the one who wields it.

5. Life is sacred: unlike a lot of fictional “heroes” Spidey doesn’t kill his enemies, ever. That doesn’t mean his stories haven’t faced their own moments of intense tragedy, but they are never senseless acts of killing perpetrated by the wall-crawler as a facade for heroism.

6. Clones, symbiotes, deranged editors-in-chief, SONY Pictures, and emo dancing montages are all Spidey’s worst enemies.

7. If you want to tell good stories they need a moral core, an identifiable hero, and a mounting conflict.

8. Editors-in-chief have way too much control.

9. Money affects everything in this life.

10. Power and responsibility: Spidey’s costumed career took a turn for the heroic when his Uncle Ben was gunned down by a thief he had refused to stop in an earlier robbery. This event set the tone for a phrase that is as inseparable from the Spider-Man mythos as web-swinging, with great power comes great responsibility. If you have the ability to do good for someone, or the ability to prevent evil from happening, you have a moral obligation to intervene. This is a philosophy that is stated very plainly in the New Testament–James 4:17.

11. Stan Lee is a nerd’s best friend. ~ Excelsior!

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Merica’s gods: Education

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

Some people are just educated beyond their own intelligence, or humility. Admittedly there are times that I battle with both. I love to learn. I am good at it. And I love to share what I learn. But there comes a point when someone actually does begin to be so well educated that they abandon all wisdom.

Probably the most blatant form of nonsense drummed up by this mentality is the prevailing presupposition that declares the supernatural impossible. Men have attributed such a high value to their capacity for understanding that they assume nothing can or does exist which might actually surpass that capacity. What an absolutely arrogantly absurd assumption! This is only one example. There are numerous others.

One of my favorite scriptures is Mark 12:30 in which Jesus answers a question by telling the gathered crowd that we should love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind. Jesus is saying we should love God will all of our being. It is sad to me that instead of loving God with these aspects of our nature, we often choose instead to replace God with one of these aspects of our nature.

When we begin to hold dangerously lofty views of our own thoughts and opinions we begin to withhold the love of our mind from God, instead choosing to use our mind to love ourselves. When we continue to formulate ideas, or dwell on thoughts that promote ourselves we are doing the same thing in a different way. When we begin to weigh the value of someone based solely on the power of their mind, or whether or not we agree with their conclusions, we are in sin.

All over the country kids are starting back to school, universities are filling up, and teachers are heading back to work. Let’s use this opportunity to develop our minds in a way that helps others, while loving God; and not a way that helps ourselves while loving ourselves.

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More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

Merica’s gods: Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

We love pretty people. We love strong people. We love people who are strong while they are pretty even more; and we love people who can make us feel strong or pretty most of all. The catch in this whole distorted thought process is that we have no idea what either or strong or pretty really are outside of our disastrously unhealthy presuppositions about physical appearance.

Guys often think we know what pretty is. We usually attribute it to a visually pleasing female image, after all, God did wire us that way, but that is really only one aspect of beauty…one that has been disfigured, embellished, and warped beyond recognition. This image most of us hold to about the nature of beauty is actually a sacred cow. It is an idol that our nation sacrifices billions of dollars to every year.

Sure, there is something aesthetically pleasing about attractive people, but that is only one aspect of a person’s being. When it comes to strength and beauty we so often miss the mark by determining a person’s worth based on their physical image. Another major pitfall here is how we measure our own worth based on these fickle indicators.

Anytime a person’s image governs our reception of them, or our actions or attitudes toward them, we have made image an idol. Jesus plainly stated in scripture that how we treat other people is a direct indicator of how we treat Him.

Heaven help us to see people for who they are, to love them without condition, and to put to death the vulgar quest for the perfect image so many have become so consumed with.

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More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

Guest Blog: 10 American Blunders

I love America, but we (Americans, first worlders, ect) tend to do a few things that don’t make sense. Here’s 10 (okay 11 because American’s don’t always follow the rules) common American blunders.

1. Lawn sprinklers. Why do we waste water watering our sidewalks and streets when drinkable water is a luxury many countries can’t offer?

2. Spend $250 on a pair of jeans. I promise, you can find some for less than that, which will still make your butt look awesome. In many places around the world $250 is considered to be a good monthly salary.

3. Rent storage buildings. Why spend so much money on junk that won’t fit in our house so we have to pay money to store it?

4. Buy SUV’s and complain about gas prices. (guilty)

5. Take our kids to the mall instead of the library.

6. Accept the use of foul and degrading language around us.

7. Have more TV’s in our home than people. Have more computers in our home than people (majorly guilty).

8. Buy homes we can’t afford, decorate them with things we don’t love, to impress people we don’t like.

9. Do anything (including having risky surgeries and taking strange untested medications) to lose weight. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you eat less and get in a little exercise.

10. Take no responsibility. Blame everyone.

And one extra:

11. Worship athletics. Million dollar grass. Billion dollar stadiums. Million dollar salaries. Thousands of gallons of fuel for one sport. Enough said.