Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sir, Your Christianity Is Peeking Out.

I had a couple of moments yesterday where my religion peeked through.

It is interesting to me that outside of "church", I run in some groups that (generally speaking) are not terribly religious sorts of people.  Very spiritual, just not religious (and yes, there is a difference).  I do not always know the backstories - for some it was a very bad experience, for others it is because they just were never raised that way.

And it is a challenge.  One wants to be true to one's self and one's God - after all, that is reason we are here after we are saved, right? - but on the other to become hammer handed about it simply removes any ability to discuss anything later.  I always struggle to find the compromise.

I have learned a little, over time.  Most people never seem to have an objection to being prayed for - and I tell them I am, whatever their spiritual understanding may be. And over time, I have learned to listen for those subtle cues that tell one "Hey, I am not really in the mood to talk on this" - hopefully long before the stage is reached where they actually have to say that (because by that time, it is too late).  

Sometimes we talk around religion.  Sometimes we actually talk about religion.  And sometimes we talk about nothing that has anything to do with religion.

I should think that there are those that disagree with my approach - in fact, I know that there are some that do.  Perhaps I am misguided - after all, there are those that believe that if are not actively confronting them (in their face) with the Gospel, you are not following The Great Commission.

But I will be honest:  I do not see Christ acting that way (except, interestingly enough, with the Conservatives and Liberals of the Jewish Order), nor do I see that in the Apostles.  What I do see is a conversation - yes, a declaration but a conversation as well.  And an example of living like Christ, not talking about living like Christ.

I prayed today for those that needed it, whether or not they asked.  I let them know  I was doing it.  Not sure if it makes a real difference temporally.  But I like to believe it does.

Monday, October 24, 2016

On Engaging The World

I have been thinking in some detail about the matter I spoke of last week, of the relative absence of the Church in this year's election cycle - really, in this culture.  Really.  I know we believe that somehow we have managed to finally overtake that whole 1950's image problem we were accused of dragging around with us, but I realized over the weekend that this is simply is not the case.

Ask yourself:  is the culture becoming more holy, more Christ-like, improved?  Or not?  Not with your particular issue in question (yes, I know we all have them) but the culture as a whole?  If not, then, like salt that has lost its savor, we have failed in our task - and are pretty much should be on the "Damaged Goods" table in the grocery store along with the dented pineapple and the hot sauce with no heat.

Generally speaking (yes, I know there are always exceptions - and some good ones) we have continued to accommodate ourselves to the culture - really American Culture - so well and so uncritically that we have become (for the most part) indistinguishable from it, because we refused to pass everything through the grid of the Word of God.  We let their motivations become our motivations, their causes become our causes, their interpretations become our interpretations - and lost any chance we had of making an impact.

In short friends, we have a problem.  The good news is, there is a solution.

We simply need to stop worrying about the world.

Oh, I know - we live in the world. And yes, we should be intimately involved in the world.  God made it.  Christ was in it.  That I know of, God (in the Old Testament) and Christ (in the New Testament) never said "Be holy, be saved - and completely ignore the world around you."  We live in environments and economies and governments all of which are made of up people, including us.  And those things need to be attended to as fully as anything else we do (after all - not my original thought, but the best of any individuals or fields in culture have much right to be Christian as they do for anything else).

No, where we need to stop worrying about the world is in how we live and how we conduct ourselves.

The world is not our friend.  Never has been, really.  It loves the fact that we are so accommodating to it, easing natures subconsciously guilty of sin and making gradations in our own mind of the seriousness of sins.  We have graded them, frankly, bases not on what God's word says but on what we feel it should say.  We are actually doing it's work for it, comforting the sinful and tearing down other Christians who are not living as God says we should.  The old adage "If your enemy is destroying themselves, get out of the way" was never more in play than here.

And as not -our-friend, the world will keep us only up to the point that we are useful, and then stick the shiv in.   Many, many churches are going to be sadly surprised some day when they suddenly find their "friends" on the outside, with whom they have had many lovely conversations and delightful tete-a-tetes, are suddenly rolling over them with the surety of a steam roller because they are "Christian".

We just need to accept this.

Accept it.  Accept that the world will not, if you living as God has called us, ever really like you or embrace you.  Accept that - now, in this culture - there is nothing short of an actual revival (not the pretend ones some like to speak of) that will make that true.

It means work.  It means digging even deeper into the Word of God for knowledge and strength, praying with fervency, training our minds - and our bodies - to be excellent intellectual defenders of the Gospel and to have the stamina to go along with it.  We need to ask the hard questions.  We need to have the logical frame of mind to engage others in the predictable consequences of policies and the inherent discrepancies therein (I honestly believe this has become one of the greatest weaknesses the Church Apologetic has).

Worry not, friends, that the world will never support or accept your Christian beliefs.  It never really intended to.  Do worry that you are enabling the world continue its action instead of challenging it.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Friday, October 21, 2016

We Had An Election And The Church Did Not Show Up

I have noted with some interest during our recent election cycle that the Christian Church (at least in the United States) has effectively disappeared.

All of the issues that in the past have motivated the Church to play a role - typically moral issues - have not been discussed almost at all in this current incarnation.  It is almost as if (in the most abhorrent phrase I can think of in the English language) "the science is settled" and everything has moved on.

Think about it - the Church (at least from what I can see) has simply become another interest group to lure into one's orbit.  Churches have become places to stage things, votes to be courted - not (minimally) the conscience of society, calling it to a higher and better life.

Segue to a second conversation this past Sunday between two friends about their congregations (both the same mainline denomination).  The first, a parishioner, asks the second, who is a pastor, where he has landed.

"Oh a church down on X street.  Small church, really struggling.  How is  your church doing?"

(First):  "Oh, fine.  We just called a fourth pastor."

(Second):  "What is the membership there?"

(First):  "Well, for years they held at 650, but we seem to be losing people now."

(Second):  "Can they afford four pastors?"

(First):  [Shrugs]

Which, when added in with the first comment, starts to make sense - after all, in an era of declining membership (and most of the mainline denominations are declining), why waste time and energy and money appealing to shrinking power base?  From the world's point of view, makes perfect sense.

It seems that the more and more the Church has come to reflect the society around it rather than calling others to a higher standard, the less and less effective that it has been at making an impact.  I would suspect that in any churches, stripping away the differences in songs, you could find yourself just as likely to be immersed in a self-help seminar or motivational meeting with virtually no difference.  And if people can have that - and feel good about themselves to boot - why would they even bother with church?  (The subject on a whole separate posting on what the Church teaches, I suspect).

Short of an revival (an actual revival, not the silliness I hear spoken of so often with no basis in fact) I fear the Church (at least in the US) will continue to dwindle in effectiveness and impact.  Perhaps that is okay for political life, but inexcusable for the spiritual.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why Governments Discourage Self Reliance

"Self reliant people never favor the taxes that allow governments to become totalitarian." - Gene Logsdon

Globalism and modern society have no interest in promoting self reliance.

Oh, there is quite a movement for small industry: the farmer's markets, the individual crafter, the soap maker, the stone carver.  People proudly go (and even more proudly proclaim that they are going) to such things and supporting "the local guy/gal".  But even within this back to smallness and "rurality" (yes, I just made that up) note the underlying assumption:  we are all part of a big group trying desperately (if we are socially conscious, of course) of not being big.

The ideal of being self reliant - of not depending on anyone else  especially, good heavens, any government - is completely set aside.

Why?  Because self reliant people are not dependent people.  They not only generate some or all of the things they need for living from themselves or their efforts, they have come to rely on themselves - not some large bureaucracy of any nature - to supply their needs.  Life is a thing to be managed - but life can be managed by their efforts.  They look (I think) with scorn upon the idea that they need someone else to do something for them - or perhaps just as relevant, some one else's permission to do it.

And thus the hatred of taxes - indeed, of anything that prevents them from taking action to supply their needs or drains from them the ability to provide for themselves to provide for someone else.  It is worth noting, I think, that totalitarian governments - or, for that matter, totalitarian administrations of any social structure - have never thrived where they did not have the ability to tax (and tax heavily).

And thus the need to strike down self reliance, be it in the form of preventing the use of water on your land or heating with wood from your land or eating/selling the products that you or others have grown or made.  It is why cities promote solar but insist you are still wired to the grid, why barter is frowned on and cash more and more spoken out against (cannot have people doing things with their money that the government cannot see).  It is why government programs come into existence but seldom - hardly ever - die.  Ultimately they need you to be dependent on them, because then the taxation and regulations become something that they are benevolently doing on your behalf - not something that they are imposing on you with the force of law.

I am not self reliant at this point for 99% of the things it takes for living.  I am working on that.  And I can tell you that I have friends around the world working on it, seeking to live more by the efforts of their own brows - and doing it.  It is a noble, never ending quest, worthy of whatever effort we can make, even if we cannot get there.

Ask yourself, you who question my logic:  When was the last time you heard a government - any government - espouse self -reliance as a noble good and societal goal?  If not, why not?  Surely if this led to a greater good it would be something that would be promoted?

And yes, I do suspect that if more people were self-reliant, there would be much less toleration for the taxes that enables governments to enforce their will on others.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Little Isolation

One of the unlooked for outcomes of my current job is how little I actually talk to people now.

My company is small and split between two sites. Turns out everyone is quite busy and as a result, there is little social interaction. Oh, there is the general morning greetings and occasional sharing of information but no more lengthy exchanges. There is no break room so most everyone eat alone in their workspaces.

My own interactions, for the most part, are limited to three items: the morning greetings, interacting with my manager, or fielding questions from my direct reports. This is a far cry from what my previous job was and (that I can remember) almost any job I have had before.

On the one hand, it makes for a productive day. Even our meetings are kept to a minimum. As a result, there is plenty of time to get work done. It makes for a productive atmosphere.

On the other hand, there is probably (I am guessing) not a lot of social building outside of work. Really, we are all just people that share a space to work at. That I can tell to this point, there is little development of relationships beyond that of work.

How do I feel about this? Ambivalent for the most part. Love the ability to be productive, not quite so much a fan of the isolation. Still on the fence as to whether, on the whole, this is a good thing.

It does give me thought towards the future. I often complain that I do not care for social interaction all that much, but find that actually having not that much for long periods of my day is little hard – can I imagine myself living an even more isolated lifestyle where the amount of social interaction is truly almost zero?

In a way it is sort of retro to pre-Interweb (if you can remember back that far), when friends were only those that you could reach by phone, in person, or by letter.  I did not necessarily work during all of those years but I do remember being a lot more involved in the lives of others than I currently find myself.

I wonder (in my off moments) if we are rapidly coming back to this time - not from a dearth of technology (Heavens knows we have enough of it now) but from the general malaise of not only this election cycle but this societal norm - where we are simply going to communicate with others less and less in general.  Or perhaps it simply be a move back towards communicating with those who share our values - either from a desire to avoid the aggravation factor, a desire to avoid arguments, or simply the fact that we value what time we have actually communicating with those we care about, not worrying about our words for the consumption of strangers.

It makes me wonder - is this just a hard adjustment for me or a harbinger of things to come?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Game of Empires?

Let us play a game, shall we?

What declining historical unit are we?

Are we the Roman Republic, falling prey to greater and greater dictators, frittering away our power for bread and circuses?

Are we the Roman Empire, economically failing and geographically rent apart?

Are we Byzantium, ultimately facing attacks from both our enemies and our supposed friends?

Are the Latin States of the East, a bridge too far, unwilling to play the games we need to survive yet always insisting we come back to war?

Are we the Austro-Hungarian Empire, finally rent apart by nationalisms too fierce to be subsumed in the larger unit as they were before?

Are we another one - something you know and I do not (as you will note, my history is largely Western European centric)?

You note that I assume that we are, in fact, a declining historical unit.  A quick read on any of these will, interestingly enough, point not only to the waning power of the unit but usually to the unfortunate financial and economic circumstances they found themselves in.  Economic instability, it seems, ultimately ensures a state cannot weather the tides of its time.

My guess?  Call me old fashioned, but I will go with the Roman Republic.  We seem to more and more find ourselves in the position of having less and less power to influence our society, swept aside (ultimately) by the dictates of fewer and fewer individuals (in my mind, both major parties have abandoned us to this fate.  It is not one or the other - nor was it in the Republic.  If it would not have been Caesar, it would have been Crassus or Pompey, had they survived).

Rome, of course, ultimately survived.  The Roman Republic, of course, did not - except in name only.

Monday, October 17, 2016

On The Removal of Things

So this afternoon at a friend's enjoying Barbecue on an Autumn day that was a bit hotter than is should be for the middle of October, one of the attendees shared her story of earlier that day, when she  was cleaning out her Mother's things after she had recently passed on.

"Fabric"  she said.  "She had lots of fabric.  And I cannot remember her sewing more than one or two things."

And on her father's side of the closet, hats.  Trucker hats.  When she asked her dad if she could get rid of them, his response was "Well, I collect them."

"Dad"  she responded, "You have not opened these up in 15 years.  The hats are falling apart because the material is old.  How about just keeping three or four?"

We all laughed of course - we all know ourselves too well to not know that we have precisely the same proclivities in collecting or saving things that we have ultimately seem to have no intent to ever use.  But it did start me thinking about things in my own life.

Truth be told, I am a collector of things.  Most of us are.  We like to play it down by calling it a "hobby" or "I buy them because they make me happy" but in fact, we accumulate things.  Perhaps because we instinctively feel like when we start something, we need to complete the set.  Perhaps it is because purchasing something is a form of personal power, an exercise in doing something that we want to do rather than all the things we have to do, such as paying bills and mortgages (even if we have to do it with money we do not actually have).

I would like to say that for myself, I have become less and less focused on acquiring things.  In some ways I believe that to be true:  I seldom buy books as much as I used and really do not acquire anything else.  Part of it is expense I suppose:  the things I want have simply gone up in price.  But there is also a realization, I think, that things do not (in and of themselves) make me better or solve problems.  They may bring a brief sort of joy, but not the sort of life changing joy our mind tries to tell else they will bring.  I am coming to measure things not just on whether I want them, but rather of what use they will be to me (and the nature of "use" is getting pushed out farther and farther:  if I will not get 5 or more years of use out of something I am likely to not buy it).

But the second thing I am now confronting is releasing what I have.

Some hard numbers:  in 6.5 years we will effectively be child free.  We have already discussed - I would say agreed to at this point - moving somewhere else at that time (assuming my job holds out that long).  More than likely moving would entail some form of downsizing.

It is easy enough to point at things and say "We should get rid of that"  when the things are not mine.  When they are mine, it is harder.  I attempt to justify by saying "But what if I need it?" or "I will never get back what I paid for it".  Really, I guess, it is because I do not want to let go:  at best it invokes memories, but at worst it is simply my own greed.

How am I trying to combat this?  Two things, one for each problem.

For the acquisition of things, I have started making a list.  If  I want it, it goes on the list with a price (effectively Amazon's shopping cart does the same thing).  I can look at it, think about it, and prioritize it.  Now, except for the occasional find  at the used book store where buying right then means I get it, I very seldom buy things on the fly.

For the simplifying of things, I am starting to root out things on shelves, in drawers, and in the garage - places were things are not commonly seen and if not seen, then not used (Truth be told, I hate drawers.  Just places to hide stuff to avoid getting rid of it).  It is not an easy task, I can tell you.  Once you get past the "I just do not want to get rid of things"  you are left with the sentimental "Oh, I cannot get rid of this - remember the time.....".

But I am working on both.  Financially it makes sense (what I do not buy I keep in money, what I am able to sell I keep in cash).  Space-wise it makes sense.  And, hopefully, in terms of my children it makes sense - I do not wish to leave them with the task of weeding through things because I was unwilling to.

And it makes for a constant reminder that not, you really cannot take it all with you.