Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

A Desk

October 15, 2019

I inherited a very nice office when I accepted my current Call.  A large, dark wood desk with an accompanying side piece – I don’t even know what to call it – that has another large flat surface as well as cabinets above.  Both pieces have large, deep drawers with plenty of hanging file space.

It’s a beautiful desk – though I rarely see it because of my clutter.  I rally every so often to clear away the ministerial detritus which accumulates there naturally layer by layer.  There is a great – if fleeting – satisfaction to seeing the top of my desk.

But even as I admire it, I recognize it is not an ideal desk.  It is very much a desk of a different age, before the proliferation of devices and cables.  Phone and computer cords trail off of it in a rather unappealing fashion.  I could rearrange my office layout somewhat to compensate, but I don’t really care about it that much.  The multi-outlet surge protector lays on the floor beside it, also relatively unappealing aesthetically.

A desk for today would have options for cable management so they aren’t trailing across the top of it like anorexic octopuses.  It might even have a place for the surge protector to be mounted underneath, reducing cables across the floor.  And while large file drawers are still helpful, in this age of digital storage it seems somewhat superfluous.

It isn’t that the desk is bad.  It’s a good desk that accomplishes good things.  But it shows it’s age.  Not in terms of how it looks, but rather the functions it does and doesn’t incorporate.  The fact that wires and power outlets are more important these days than file folders doesn’t mean the desk was bad for its time, but rather a demonstration of how many things we take for granted also adapt in subtle or not so subtle ways to changing environments.

I was talking with a parishioner a few months ago who is trying to divest himself of his now-deceased mother’s furniture.  Lovely, sturdy, probably hand-made.  And yet despite being well-kept and lovely, he’s had almost zero interest in it.  Folks are more inclined to order something new and sleek off of Amazon, or take a trip to the nearest IKEA mega-store to pick up something full of contemporary functionality – even though it will never last as long as his mother’s furniture.  I love my desk, but the fact that I love it may not mean anyone else will.  They think of desks differently perhaps than I do.  We use the same word but have slightly different ideas in mind.

It isn’t that people are going to quit needing desks.  But they are going to look for different features in desks, and desks will increasingly adapt themselves to those needs and wants.  It shouldn’t compromise the core purpose and identity of a desk.  It isn’t as though desks will quit featuring flat tops to work on.  It wouldn’t be a desk any more!  But in other ways manufacturers will increasingly figure out and incorporate ancillary preferences and needs.  In the process, looks will change, although I have no doubt there is very fine, traditional-looking office furniture that provides for cable and power management and other modern niceties.

It’s probably time to clean my desk off again.  Time to admire the classic lines and finish.  I’m willing to deal with the minor inconveniences, but  I know others might not be.  I just have to keep that in mind, should I ever decide I want or need a new desk and want to sell this one.

Palimpsests

October 10, 2019

In the generally cool category, this article describes the discovery of some surprising things written on parchments, then erased so something else could be written on them instead.  And, we also get a new vocabulary word to describe these parchments – palimpsests!

The idea is that an isolated monastery in Egypt at one point was not able to easily procure fresh parchment, and turned to erasing some existing manuscripts to provide parchment for new copying.  A variety of previous texts have been discovered through the use of specialized cameras and lighting, and some of those texts were previously unknown or written in languages we have few extant examples of.

What a cool use of technology, proving that while we in the digital, Internet age know that nothing really disappears online, it might be true to a certain degree for people 1400 years ago as well.  Fortunately, it appears to all be textual and no compromising, hand-drawn selfies of monks.

Whew.

The article also provides a link to a site where photographs of the overlaid texts can be viewed, which is also very cool.  If my Greek was better, it might be tempting to try some translations of my own, but I’ll leave that to more competent folks!

Book Review: Preaching and Culture in Latino Congregations

September 20, 2019

Preaching and Culture in Latino Congregations

Edited by Kenneth G. Davis &  Jorge L. Presmanes

 

I culled this from  the cache of Catholic texts I recently inherited.  I’ve had some experience in cross-cultural preaching, but not much.  During my seminary program seminarians are paired with a local congregation and pastor to gain some regular, practical pastoral experience.  It’s theoretically  a nice off-set to  the very academic nature  of the graduate program, though in reality mileage varies significantly based on the pastor(s) at the congregations.  I was blessed with an eccentric but open pastor at a small and mostly dead congregation.  Founded in the 1920’s, the congregation experienced the White flight out of the inner city in the 60’s as a major freeway was put through town just a mile or so away.  Less than a dozen Anglo members remained in this parish ensconced in an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood.  They were in discussions with a small Vietnamese congregation a couple of miles away about merging.  In addition to some experience working with those Vietnamese congregants, I had the opportunity to preach (with a translator) to the combined congregations.

But I didn’t give a lot of thought to the cultural nuances to be considered  in such a situation.  The Word of God, after all, is the Word of God, regardless of the culture it touches.  And while this is true enough, understanding a different culture a bit better can help the preacher articulate the Word of God in a way more easily received.

That’s the premise of this book.

The collection of essays focuses more on culture than specific preaching recommendations, but is very helpful for thinking through issues and backgrounds in a Latino congregation that would be significantly different from an Anglo or Vietnamese congregation.

The essays here vary in their usefulness (as is typical with these sorts of books), but overall were insightful in revealing or confirming ideas about Latino peoples and therefore congregations.  The first essay was a bit of a shock because it was very steeped in liberation theology, so that often the Gospel seemed more a means to an end than the end in itself!  But the other essays were more helpful and a bit less radical.

While this book comes from and is geared towards Roman Catholic parishes the material would be helpful and adaptable to anyone who finds themselves in a cross-cultural ministry situation.  The book was published in 2000 so some of  the examples are from the 80’s and 90’s, but the core material remains helpful, though I wonder if another 20 years has mitigated some of the identity issues mentioned here, particularly as second and third generation immigrants give way to fourth and fifth generations that likely identify far more as Americans than as Latinos in some sort of self-imposed exile.

 

Book Review: Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles

September 7, 2019

Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles

From the Witherspoon Institute

I’m positive I’ve read this before but I was too impatient to search out more carefully if I’ve blogged about it.  This is a pamphlet more than a book, only about 50 pages.  And it reads like something out of a time capsule, from the ancient past.  However in this case the ancient past is 2008, before the sweeping judicial decisions that rushed same-sex marriage into public law across our country.

This is a fantastic resource.  It reads very easily, and lays out the basic argument for the primacy of marriage in a democratic and free society, and specifically a traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman for life.  This is not a religious argument, but an argument grounded in research and science.  Research pertaining to the health and welfare of children, and research related to the health and well-being of men and women, married and unmarried.

Against the clamor of  it will be just fine! if we radically redefine marriage stands this brief summary soberly warning that it will not be fine.  A good body of research over considerable periods of time bears witness to the fact that men, women, children, and therefore the society they are a part of are all better off when marriage is upheld, supported and encouraged both privately and in public policy.

I strongly encourage you to consider having this resource on hand.  It’s a reminder that traditional marriage definitions are not simply a religious preference but a time-tested means of ensuring the best for as many people as possible in our society.

 

 

 

Born This Way – Not So Much

August 31, 2019

A large study garnered attention this week.  This study attempted to identify genetic influences on same-sex experiences/behaviors (which I understand to be different than homosexual behavior in terms of frequency).

The study concluded that there is no “gay-gene”, a single genetic marker that determines sexual orientation.  Rather, it asserts that a variety of genes may influence sexual behavior and sexual preferences.  It also asserts what most studies for decades have shown – there are environmental factors that also determine – and likely more heavily determine – same-sex behavior or experiences.

In effect, this study reinforces most of what is already known – environmental factors (nurture as opposed to nature or  genetics) play a big role both in whether someone dabbles or experiments in same-sex encounters or whether they identify as exclusively non-heterosexual.  As such, there have been plenty of responses by LGBTQ people either associated with the study or reviewing  it, claiming that the study might be unnecessary and actually dangerous to LGBTQ causes since it doesn’t affirm a clear genetic determination for sexuality.  They fear  – reasonably – that people will interpret this to mean sexuality is a choice rather than something hard-wired.

Which of course, is what the study is saying.

A complex genetic interaction provides “significant” influence over sexual behavior, but it appears to be far from clear-cut exactly what this means, and by relegating the genetic influence to 8-25% (a pretty impressive spectrum!), my take-away  is non-genetic issues provide the greatest impact on how open a person is to same-sex experiences or – by extension – a same-sex lifestyle and identification.

Sexual behavior is complicated, the study essentially affirms.  And certainly, if there are no guidelines or rules along which to be guided, it would be strange if anything other than the mass confusion characterizing our cultural sexual landscape emerged.   Right now we seem as a culture interested only in normalizing that confusion at whatever cost.  History I think we see this as a curious and unfortunate time, whether in terms of science and how it is allowing itself to be co-opted by a particular sector of the population, or how the mental health and well-being of future generations was sacrificed to justify the decisions of a small segment of the generations before them.

What Are Your Values?

August 28, 2019

An irritatingly  vague article forwarded to me this week on the changing values of Americans over the last two decades.

Twenty-one years ago hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion and the goal of having children were the most important principles cited by respondents.  The article reports that an other survey recently revealed dramatic drops in the priority of those areas for many people today.

It’s mostly an annoying article for how much it doesn’t tell you, though.

I had hopes they would provide a link to both the surveys involved, so I could see all the questions asked and the respondent rates.  They don’t do that.  As such, I have to assume the survey issued recently used exactly the same questions and language as the one from 21 years ago.  It may seem like an obvious thing taken for granted, but even similar questions worded differently could account for changing respondent levels.

Secondly they don’t indicate what the top principles are for the respondents today.  Are they still those four, but at lower levels than 21 years ago?  Or are other principles now more favored?

Certainly each of these four areas have come under strong cultural attack over the last 20 years.  Rather than emphasizing the importance of hard work, most everything is now oriented towards those who don’t or can’t or won’t work.  Rather than seeing assistance as something that might be necessary in extreme situations but not something people should desire, assistance is seen as natural and ordinary and good.  I can’t remember a single advertisement for ObamaCare that didn’t lay heavy emphasis  on how much assistance was available, so that pretty much nobody would have to pay full price!  I routinely hear people talking about getting Obama Phones.  Some of these folks are in genuine need, but it’s disturbing that aid is sought from a government program rather than their local communities.

Patriotism has taken a lot of hard hits as well.  Superman was criticized for being too America-oriented.  There are groups who view patriotism  not only as misplaced but actually evil, as though people would not naturally form attachments to their communities of origin.  The funny thing is when I talk with people from other  countries, they naturally espouse a strong patriotism.  Unlike the insistence of many pundits today, patriotism is not the same as xenophobia or racism.

Of course religion has taken a beating as well, both from horrific abuse issues as well as a growing misunderstanding of what the separation of  Church and State started out as and should be.  As Biblical Christianity refuses to budge on issues of gender, sexuality, and a host of other popular cultural reforms, this trend of painting Christianity and the Bible as actually evil will only continue, so that naturally more people will distance themselves from it.  But I think a drop in this area also represents an overall lessening of loyalty and trust to any institutions secular or religious (or even family), a continuing effect of post-modernist philosophy and disappointment.

And finally, as children are more and more deemed obstacles to personal fulfillment, the priority of having them will continue to erode.  With monumental debt levels for young people from college student loans, the need to delay having kids until reaching a certain level of financial security has only grown more dire as well.

In other words, there are reasons behind some of these shifting numbers.  I wish the article had done a better job  of providing additional information that might help us make sense of the why’s rather than just the what’s.  There’s a lot more at stake than just the  2020 election cycle.

But you’d never know that from reading the news.

 

FOMO and Pulling Triggers

August 3, 2019

After several weeks of preparation and contemplation, I just deleted my Facebook account.

Of course, few actions are immediately irreversible in the technology world.  I have 30 days to change my mind and reactivate my account (and access all of my posts, pictures, and other tidbits accumulated over the last 12 years).  But once that window passes – and I trust it will pass without inordinate temptation – I’d have to start from scratch with a new account.  Theoretically at least, Facebook will delete all of my data and information.  I downloaded a copy of it a few weeks ago in case I want to peruse it one day.

Not checking Facebook multiple times a day over the past month has been an amazingly simple experience.  Once I deleted all my friends, there was no content to tempt me back.  Facebook was, in the final analysis for me, not so much an avenue for self-expression as it was a means of lurking on the lives of others.  I doubt I’m unique in this, but I’m willing to admit it for what it was.

In our age of acronyms this is known as FOMO – fear of missing out.  What if everyone else has discovered something wonderful and I’m out of the loop?  What if I miss out on the latest meme?  What if I’m not on the cutting edge of current water cooler conversation?  What if, what if, what if…..

Having crested mid-life, FOMO has a diminishing pull on me.  All well and good because  having crested middle age I’m now largely irrelevant to the culture around me.  Old enough not to be swayed by the myriad  cries of the masses virtually or otherwise, to  be skeptical of the swaying needle of cultural opinion or fashion or celebrity or other metrics.   When I honestly admitted that lurking on the lives of people through Facebook I’m barely connected to otherwise in life was unhealthy for any number of reasons, cutting the cord was easy.  Being willing to admit that 99% of the people I was friends with on Facebook hardly fit that title by any reasonable definition was harder.

It’s like the much-maligned band Nickelback and their single Photograph.  I’ve thought for years it was simply a nostalgic trip down memory lane, when actually it’s a recognition that such strolls have to come to an end some day.  It’s not healthy or accurate to perpetuate the state of a relationship years or decades ago through a social media outlet if that’s the only connection that remains.  People I’ve worked with across multiple organizations and vocations, people I’ve gone to school with in various places across the decades, people associated with other groups or times of life – if  my only connection to them is watching what they post and liking it or visa versa, this isn’t really a relationship.  It becomes an obsession with the past rather than the present, an attempt to maintain the illusion of something deeper which died a long time ago, and barring some miracle of the Holy Spirit’s strange connectivity, will never live again.

Some of those Facebook friends I’ll keep touch with in other ways, but the vast majority I won’t.  That’s OK.  It’s not that I wish them ill, think any less of them, or  otherwise don’t care about them.  But I need to acknowledge that what Facebook helps create is the illusion that those relationships are still alive and active and to some degree unchanged.  As though liking a post or a photo  of someone I haven’t otherwise communicate with in 20 years is the same as the old  water cooler discussions or the old late night camaraderie.  It isn’t.  Those things have passed on.

That can be hard to acknowledge if there aren’t a set of new relationships to replace these old ones.  It can force us to acknowledge our actual isolation in the here and now.  But such honesty might also spur us to greater efforts to build new relationships.  When I first began serving as a pastor in this part of the world, I was told about a program specifically designed for new pastors  in the area to connect with one another and begin to build relationships with people right here rather than rely exclusively on past relationships (or even current but geographically distant ones) through social media.  That was a dozen years ago.  The program long ago died off, but the need it sought to address back  then is only more real now.

I don’t think social media is bad, per se.  There are unhealthy aspects to it, but there are also beautiful blessings it provides.  As with most tools, it’s how we use them that matters, and recognizing that technological tools also seek to use us.  I can pick up a hammer to hang a picture on the wall and put the hammer down and it won’t pursue me.  Social media can and does pursue.  In the last month since I quit checking Facebook I’ve started getting texts and e-mails from Facebook telling me that there are new posts and messages that I should check in and see.  Unlike a hammer, social media needs me every bit as much – or more likely more –  than I need it.  And when that’s the case we need to carefully discern what we’re providing compared to what we’re receiving.  Concerns about privacy and data breaches are as common as the air we breathe, and perhaps that’s the point – we get used to the idea that we don’t really have privacy, that we aren’t entitled not to be commercially objectified or exploited 24/7.

How people calculate these balances will differ.  For my, psychologically and emotionally it’s time to pull the trigger on Facebook.  I’ve realized I’m not missing out on anything, or perhaps more accurately, I’m still missing out on the same things whether I’m on Facebook or not.

Misplacing Shame

August 1, 2019

San Francisco is a big city with a big problem – people want to ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) for free.  A one-way ticket costs just shy of $4.00.  BART estimates  they lose between $1 million and $25 million a year due to people hopping over the turnstiles without paying.  That’s a large range.  A better handle on more accurate figures could assist in determining what – if anything – should be done to prevent people from free-loading more often.

What they’re currently testing is  not popular with a lot of people.

They’re installing chrome blades that shoot up out of the turnstiles if someone tries to push through without paying.  I’m sure they aren’t sharpened, but are designed to make it harder and slower for someone to circumvent the system.  This article describes the outrage these modification systems are raising.

The blades are cited as a danger to people in wheelchairs, though unless someone is bent over at a very awkward angle I’m not sure how that could be.  Others are cited are critical because they see this as an economic oppression of the lower classes.  Their solution is that BART should be free to low-income people.  An interesting proposition, though one that undoubtedly comes with a hefty price tag in terms of systems implementation, and still would not likely deter those who won’t bother to register and prefer to just hope the turnstiles.

But nowhere in the article is there any shame cast at those who are the problem – those people stealing free rides by jumping the turnstiles.  I’m not unsympathetic to an argument for a free or lower-cost rate for low-income people, but I find it problematic that nobody – other than BART – thinks that the real problem is people who  feel they should be able to ride for free while others pay.

Throughout the article, those people are never called out.  Never criticized.  Never shamed for their behavior, no matter how justified or necessary their situations may make it seem to be.  If theft isn’t shamed and called out as wrong, it won’t change.  Justifying the behavior just makes it that much more acceptable to a wider range of people.  It’s an endemic problem in our culture these days,  and it’s contributing to the deterioration of law and order on a wide scale.

Go ahead and be critical of a particular methodology aimed at curbing fare-theft.  But don’t forget to be critical of those stealing rides.  They contribute to lost operating revenues and the need for ever-increasing fares, which only makes the situation for low-income people as a whole (at least honest ones) worse.

 

We Are What We Are

July 31, 2019

I drive a 14-year old vehicle.  It’s been paid off now for a couple off years which helps make ends meet in our expensive little community, but it has the quirks and oddities of any mechanical device that old, let alone one as complex as an automobile.  Most recently, the retracting radio antennae no longer retracts, perhaps because it partially melted and fused into place during a recent sojourn  in Las Vegas for the world billiards tournament.

These things happen.  Things age.  You can’t expect a 14-year old car to function like a brand new one.  It would be foolish to think that somehow a vehicle – or any other thing – could remain independent of it’s actual age.  It’s a reality brought home to me more  and more, as some of my other possessions – particularly books – begin to show their age.  This was brand new when I bought it, but despite hardly being read, the pages are yellowing and the binding is cracking!  Duh.  I bought it brand new 30 years ago.  Things age because  they are what they are.

People are no different, though I think popular cultural mantras try to tell us otherwise.  There’s this idea – perhaps I shared it when I was younger – that we can objectively critique reality and ourselves and those around us.  We can isolate ourselves from what we are and objectively judge reality.

But the reality is that we can’t.  We are what we are, and part of what we are is a product of our time.  We may like that or not.  We may think about it or not.  But it’s true.

Since the radio antenna is stuck on, I turned on the radio today and sought out a station that would have made me shudder 30 years ago.  I turned on the 80’s station.  I hated 80’s  music when I was in the 80’s.  Mostly because it was popular and I saw myself at odds with everything popular and fashionable – mostly because I was neither.  But now, I seek out that station.  I hum along with Duran Duran and even Culture Club, despite hating them in the 80’s.  There is nostalgia there now, and comfort.  I’m a product of the 80’s,  when I came of age and became aware of the artistic culture around me.  I can’t change that.  I can be ashamed of it, I can embrace it, but I can’t divorce myself of it.  When I try, I end up sounding stupid.

Like this article.

I watched this show somewhat when it came out.  Growing up on reruns of the original Star  Trek series, I thought this basically did a good job of picking up the mantle and carrying on while trying to do so in original ways.  Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t.  Not all the episodes were great, but they were overall enjoyable.

So this article is annoying and naive.  It critiques the series by and large for aesthetic issues related to when the series was made – the late 80’s and early 90’s.  It presumes that somehow the series should have been able to create an atmosphere completely disassociated from current cultural norms and trends.  As though the show could be or represent something other than what it  was – a group of actors and writers and designers and producers who were influenced not only by the original series but by their culture at the time.

One can like or dislike aspects of the culture, but to critique the culture for being the culture at the time is ridiculous, and to presume that it is possible to create something completely new and unaffected by current cultural fashions or ideas is arrogant.  We are what we are, and part of what we are is products of our culture,  even if we’d rather not be.

Not being God, we can’t create ex nihilo, out of nothing.  We can simply recombine things that already exist into other things.  This can be done in surprising and impressive ways, but it remains an act of creating from raw materials already there, so there will always be residue of what materials were available or plentiful or desired at the time.  And while I can lament that I seek out music I grew up on even when I grew up hating it, I’m reminded that I am formed and shaped even by the things I reject, and sometimes there is  comfort to be found there.

I’m considerably older than my car.  I shouldn’t expect myself to feel or be otherwise.  Hopefully I find a way to appreciate and enjoy who  and what I am now as I grow in my understanding and appreciation of the One who not only created me ex nihilo, but continues to shape and form me.

Authority

July 29, 2019

We sit chatting at our Sunday night happy hour open house.  She’s  leaving this week for grad studies out of state and this will perhaps be the last time I see her.  She has an impossibly beautiful smile and a keen mind overlaying troubles and doubts and fears that walk with her through the rooms  of her life.  A friend has come along tonight.  He’s visited once or twice before, roommates with her boyfriend.  He asks me a curious question – what is a change you can think of in your theology?

The question strikes me as curious immediately.  What changes in my theology?  Is theology mine?  Am I free to change it?  Or is theology something I have received, that I can build upon and expand and grow in my depth of understanding and appreciation, but which I am not free to change outside of discarding error as I uncover it in myself?  A million thoughts flash through my mind.  What is he really getting at?  What changes has his theology undergone?  And what do you want to learn or know by asking a pastor about how his theology changes?

I bring up a theological doctrine of sorts  I was introduced to in Seminary that I have grown in my fondness for, even if I can’t substantiate it in this lifetime and may never even in eternity, touching as it does on the inner workings and relationships of the Trinity.  I talked about how amazed I was the first time it was suggested that Jesus did not perform signs and wonders within his own power and authority as the Second Person of the Trinity, but rather God the Holy Spirit performed signs and wonders through him by the directing of God the Father.  Essentially similar to how the apostles and other followers of Christ have performed miracles – not on their own power or authority but through the  power and authority of the Holy Spirit.  Though of course Jesus was the perfect conduit for such power in his perfect obedience to the will of God.

She brings up almost immediately how she still struggles with the role of women in the church.  It’s not relevant, but it’s on her mind.  She flashes her smile as I respond that her issue isn’t so much with the Church perhaps as it is with Scripture.  Heretic here, remember?  I’m the heretic.  She smiles again.  I know a bit of her story, raised Christian but with experiences and doubts that haven’t been addressed or remedied.  And now recently graduated from a local Christian university where, she admits next, she was taught to be a feminist.  The smile and the heresy comment are  meant to defuse and deflect.  No need to really grapple with what might be truth in this regard because we can just dance around the heretic term as though it doesn’t really mean anything.

I believe her assessment is accurate – she arrived at this Christian university with one set of ideas and understandings, and those were altered or added to during her four years there.  In part a good university should do this.  But in the realm of theology this becomes tricky, as I suppose it is in any realm.  But the ramifications of changes or additions in the realm of theology have potentially eternal consequences – something very unique to this realm.

I ponder as the conversation eventually trails off.  Raised for the first eighteen years of her life with one set of beliefs, she has now set those aside because of things she was presented with in four years of undergraduate schooling.  Because these things were presented as the intellectual, educated position, no doubt.  Because she was challenged I’m sure, to adopt these not just for herself but for her entire gender.

And so a person’s theology changes.  But doesn’t just change, in this instance.  Changes so that the source and foundation of that theology ceases to be the revealed, sacred text it derives from and becomes something else.  Something personally dictated.  Authority switches from the Word of God expressed in human language to the personal beliefs or preferences of an individual or a larger but transitory culture.

So perhaps her response was more on topic than I first assumed.

This has over and over and over again been the point of conflict and disagreement in theological discussions on Sunday night.  What or who is your authority?  And over and over and over again it has become very clear that even for professing Christians, the Word of God is not their authority.  It is their personal emotional concerns or worries.  It is the cultural expectations they are inculcated with, expectations of how you define things like equality.  And that if the Word of God doesn’t back their definitions or ideas or even directly contradicts them, they’re more apt to discard the Word of God – or at least that particular part of it – and hold on to their own feelings and ideas.

Now, to be sure we all do this in small ways, most likely.  There are aspects of God’s Word that confuse or frighten us, that we avoid thinking about and reading.  This is sinful, of course, but it is different than outright confronting these issues and seeking to faithfully adhere to God’s Word even if it means discarding our own ideas and preferences.  This trend that I see and hear so often now is very dangerous indeed.

And others recognize this as well.

The role of the Church is to teach and reinforce the faith, as conveyed to us through the Word of God, and as made sense of in both doctrine and practice.   The Church should equip men and women with these abilities so they in turn can instill them in their children, not simply as rote memorization but in an active and alive sense so that their children grow to be men and women who, assisted and strengthened by the Church, are able and willing to pass these things down to their children.

But this process has been disrupted  in our American Christian culture – or at least parts of it.  Christians are increasingly unfamiliar with the Word of God, resistant to doctrines and practices grounded in it, and increasingly willing to discard all of this in order to cobble together a set of beliefs and practices that better support their authority – themselves.

Here is just one recent example of another article saying exactly the same thing.

Note several paragraphs down how younger people are discarding organized orthodox religion (doctrine and practice) for a smorgasbord of other  concepts and practices, often drawn together from diverse and contradictory traditions.  Not that they necessarily believe any of this, it’s a matter of convenience, of serving the purpose of reinforcing their own authority.  If they find that it no longer does that, they can discard it without any feelings of guilt or any concerns about eternal ramifications.  None of that is real, anyways, right? is the basic gist here.  If there is anything greater than us out there, it probably likes us and isn’t very interested in what we do beyond wanting us to be nice and happy.  And if there’s nothing greater than us out there, well, might as well be the me I’d like to be, right?

She  leaves this week for graduate school and starting life in a new place.  She’s bright and beautiful and has a wonderful boyfriend and likely a future together with him.  I’ll pray for her and him and them.  Not simply for their relationship but for their authority, that it would be not  simply the faith of their fathers, so to speak, but the faith as revealed in the Word of God.  Even when they don’t like it or it feels restrictive or when it clashes with societal notions.  Even when their professors (at a Christian university) won’t back it or support it but put out their own ideas and their culturally formed notions instead.

Authority matters a great deal, and you can’t claim to be Christian if you reject the authority of the Word of God, just as you can’t claim to be a good Muslim if you reject the Quran.  We can have theological discussions or debates about interpretation to some level, and this is good and helpful.  But to skip that quest and grappling for truth  in favor of just ignoring the bits we don’t like so we can do and think and be the things we prefer, that is a big problem.  For the Church, for families, for the world, and possibly for eternity.