A Time to Build

Obergefell has been weighing on me a lot recently.

Not so much the legalization of SSM, but the way it was done. I feel there is a difference. When they legalized no-fault divorce, I don’t think it was done as a repudiation of Christian morality. More as a sense of reality, as an option for bad marriages to be resolved much easier. We still believed in good marriages, but realized sometimes others needed to dissolve them. However Obergefell to me is saying “we want to create a new, post-Christian form of marriage” and that’s something different entirely.

I think this presages changes we will have to deal with. It feels to me like an invisible line has been crossed, one marking two sides.  The first side is the nominally Christian philosophy the USA had. Rod Dreher calls it Therapeutic Moralistic Deism, and while it has its own issues, it still took many parts of Christianity and made a culture out of it. The other side though rejects even the weak form of Christianity it used, and now is fully Post-Christian. What that means we aren’t sure yet, but something is forming, something that in time will be hostile to religious faith that refuses to be subjugated.

I think this means Christians will have to change.

I feel that the time for complaining about the church is over. There’s no more time just to talk; if the issues you decry are important enough, you must act to change them. If not, accept them and work on what you must change instead. There is no more luxury of sitting back and tearing down. If we are forced to flee to the church, we have to accept it. We cannot flee to something we judge, and I worry we will soon need to flee to it. I don’t mean literally, but the choice may be where we need to make a life around it, or get swallowed up by the world. Like we can’t weaken it when it needs to be strong, or we cut off the limb of the tree we sit on. When the rain is pouring, no time to point out we need a bigger cabin in the ark.

It’s time to build.

Like culture. There’s going to come a time where Christians have to make their own. It will grow harder and harder to like secular culture the more anti-Christian it gets, and it will get that way. When every cartoon has Korra’s lesbian ending, or every show paints us as evil people, there’s no way we’ll be able to enjoy them. And it will get that way, because when people find their new post-Christian society doesn’t work, they’ll look to indoctrinate harder and scapegoat harder. Who better than us?

So for me, it’s going to be about the building.

  • No point in arguing against homeschooling. While we were a part of society, it was an option, and one i believed to be inferior. But we are now not a part of that society, or are heading that way.
  • No point talking about Christian culture. We either build it, accept it, or don’t have it.
  • No more rants about worship music or little cultural tics Christians have. It’s not the time for that any more.
  • Yes, there are bad Christians. No, we are not allowed the luxury to care about them. We have to worry about ourselves now. You cannot let others be the excuse why you do not act. You can worry about others when you are safe, but now, the winds are hinting that soon, we will not be safe at all.

Yeah, this sounds alarmist. But I’m starting to feel very alarmist indeed.

I mean, what happens when we have a few generations of people whose only idea about Christianity is we are homophobic bigots? What happens when liberals decide the next oppressed group is polyamorists, and put the strength of the culture behind that? What comes next?

I don’t know.

I do know that its time to build. Lord give me the strength to.


How it Begins

Inspired by this article.

1. Have a small population of people do an avant-garde thing(AGT).

2. Have that small population catch the eye of people among the larger avant-garde(LAG) set.

3. That behavior becomes, if not trendy, at least known among the LAG. Maybe not everyone is polyamorous, but that witty and charming woman you know through a friend is. The LAG circle is small enough for a lot of people to come into contact with the AGT, and the more adventurous may even try it.

4.One of two things happen:

  • The behavior is unsustainable among the LAG. Maybe the AGT person falls out with the social circle, or gets arrested, divorced, sued, etc. Best example is furry culture.
  • The behavior endures.

5. Media phase. The LAG people, who are in control of the media, begin to report on this new normal thing with them. Never mind that it’s a relatively small amount of LAG compared to a large amount of normals; they’ll do it all the same.

6. Initial saturation phase. Where we are at now for polyamory. Normal people start trying it. Normal people become aware that this thing exists, and naysayers muster arguments and fight viciously to deny it legitimacy.

7. Maximal saturation phase. Where we are at now for gay marriage. Even if you are opposed to it, it is now a fact of life. There is no more world where it isn’t an issue. Even if the articles are clear about the negative effects of it, there is no going back to make it outlawed or socially sanctioned.

8. God judging us, possibly with fire.

***

This is simplified, some. I probably should include this step:

5.5. Defanging the behavior. Focusing on the positives and making it safe, downplaying the negatives. The AGT may even evolve to a safer mode of expression over time.

also this:

6.5. Make sure the behavior is marketed to win over women. Women tend to be the best consumers and persuaders out there.

For the anime fans, monstergirls are this. That genre has a horrible history, one which I will not go into here. But now it’s been softened a bit, and Daily Life With Monstergirls is a NYT best selling manga. Monstergirls are at point 3 on this list.

In general though, this is how cultural ideas transmit. This is probably the vector we’ll see as polyamorous couples become the new homosexuals. i’ve seen it happen too often. The post-Obergefell world will only intensify this.

Step 8 was done only partly tongue-in-cheek. God has a history of judging the people that are His but choose to reject Him. Increasingly I’m feeling less assured that we can claim that aspect of God is no longer in existence. I think God will be patient with us if we are aware we are broken, but when we call evil good, I’d watch out.


The Danger of a Feminized Church…

..is that they spiritualize the simple acts of being a woman.

Christianity Today is rapidly becoming horrible that way. Look, I can get finding Christian meaning in the acts of everyday life. But Her.menuetics especially has a bad habit of taking the various cultural tics of being a knowledge-class Christian white woman and trying to plumb them for spiritual depths, to the point of absurdity. Recent articles cover the writer’s love for Amy Poehler, the American Girls toy line, Hypnobirthing (whatever that is), mean people causing bloggers to quit, and Elizabeth Elliot. You find yourself learning more about the neuroticism of the middle-class SAHM than any real spiritual lesson.

I’m going to catch hell for this, but for women to be effective teachers or spiritual leaders, they need to shed the solipism they have. They need to forget themselves and their experiences, and resist the temptation to spiritually justify them. Perhaps that’s a bit too strong. Let me restate.

A woman can teach us through her own experiences; she cannot teach us through her own lifestyle.

The selfie is unintentionally the best example of this. To a point it’s just normal picture-taking. But it’s also become a symbol of the narcissism of young women. To spiritualize this is unintentionally spiritualize that narcissism, and very few people will call them out on that. If it’s done often enough and by enough people, we wind up making a religion of Eve. Or better fitting, Lilith.


The Vatican Liked Anime

…because they went and commissioned one, a long time ago.

No, seriously. Created by Osamu Tezuka, the God of manga. He died though, after a feature film was made, and Osamu Dezaki did the subsequent series.  You can find some of the series on Youtube, and it’s full of eighties anime goodness:

I’m not generally a fan of Bible adaptations, because I think there’s a good risk of “adding to the words of this book” whenever you seek to adapt it. I have a huge weakness for that kind of early eighties anime though. It tends to age better than the cheap 90’s throwaway animation most Biblical retellings use. Same with the 60’s Hanna-Barbera style-for all its flaws, it isn’t generic, and generic animation gets forgotten quickly.

When you think about it, it’s kind of cool that big Japanese studios actually were willing to make these kinds of stories.Little historical nuggets of time gone by. You have faith, but combined with some level of quality. There’s some sadness too, in a “finding love in the ruins” sense. These are things that probably will never get made again, and are reminders of a time where it was still possible to make them. I don’t think the climate is the same any more. But at least we have the past.


A Fairy Tale

A long time ago, there was a kingdom called Virdania.

Virdania had its flaws, like other kingdoms.But the people were happy, and on the whole the kingdom was far better than its other neighbors across the seas. They may have failed at doing right at times, but they always tried to do so, and their successes outnumbered their failures.

Unfortunately something curious happened.

Virdania always was a rather loose collection of different tribes and peoples. In one sense, that was its strength. People could look at that country, and say that a place existed for everyone there. But that was also its weakness, as tensions rose to the point where the different factions finally had to openly rebel against the ruling class. The cause was a rather expensive jeweled rose, commissioned by the royal family during a time when bribery and extortion ruled the streets. That rose set off The War of the Flower, which really wasn’t a war at all. It was a quiet series of inter-tribal skirmishes and suppression that lasted for a hundred years, until the royal family was weak enough and the citizens of Virdania tired enough that they had enough. “We don’t want any royal families!” was the cry, and the nation moved to a democratic-style government.

castleTo prevent any further warring, they even went so far as to change the name. No longer Virdania, they were called the Verdant States, and at first there was rejoicing. The people in their hearts however still called themselves Virdanians, and there was still the same debate about what a Virdanian meant. What the moral character of one was, and what the identity of a citizen was. Many people in their hearts understood that they needed the Verdant States, because The War of the Flower was a horrible time, and they couldn’t risk the idea of Virdania being corrupted like that again. But many weren’t all right with it, and in their hearts they wanted the Virdanian flag to fly again. But a curious thing began to happen.

Over time, people began being ashamed of Virdania, in a very specific way.

While people loved Virdania, for some reason they hated hearing about it in song or in poetry.

It was difficult to explain. It was not that they hated the ideal of their nation. Ask them that to their face, and they would deny it intensely. But for some reason, they loved the anthems and pamphlets of the Verdant States more. They were stirring, true, and many skilled artists worked on them. But in them, there was no mention of Virdania at all. Rather than the famous phrase “My treasure, my green jewel, my everlast love,” you had the rather weaker idea “I value you, good nation.” Rather than “I bend the knee and honor Tal,” (Tal being the patron deity of the Virdanians,) you saw “I honor freedom and respect for all men.” Things that Virdanians once did, like Belfast dinners, clasping the Sigil and naming Tal in thanks, or bringing children to the Everglade on their twelfth birthday to be devoted to Virdania seemed to disappear overnight from songs and art.

True, if you squinted really hard you might find a weak allusion or a glancing reflection. Some works might still name Tal, but the Lord of the Greenwood had become a rather wispy thing indeed. But even then you had to admit that the songs were about the Verdant States, and that you were hoping to see Virdania in it rather than acknowledge it was there.

What was worse was that over time, anyone mentioning Verdania was soon seen as second-rate, even by those who claimed to love the ideals of their vanished nation.

True, a lot of bad poets made interminable verse about it. And not all the songs were as good as those composed in its glory days. But people started to believe that even talking about Virdania was the sign of a hack, and preferred the smooth, elegant prose of Verdant artists. That Verdant artists were busy creating an entirely new anthem, and one that was opposed to the old ideals of the country, seemed to escape them. But Verdant soon dominated the songs of the people by skill, by power, and by more, and Virdania became the refuge of minor schools of poets, of random singers, and of the occasional great artist who brought up the past nation to all. But slowly, quickly, any sign of Virdania began to vanish.

And the tragedy was that Virdanians wanted that.

How long do you think the memory of Virdania will last?

***

One of the things that annoys me these days is how people don’t seem to want any form of Christian culture. That they don’t realize that you cannot have an entirely secular art culture without it affecting how you think or how you believe. One of the common things I say is that for all the talk about finding God in secular works, it’s incredibly rare to find someone just praying outside of Christian fiction. Or going to church. A lot of our values, habits, and culture are simply invisible when you look at the artistic culture of the day, save for a heavily Southernized, redneck form of it, or ritual retellings of the Bible.

I admit we need the secular culture, and the Verdant States isn’t always evil. But because of our own War of the Flower (the Reformation) we wound up becoming a subculture. We had to reduce the power of the state, but what happened is that we didn’t realize that so many Virdanians were only such because the state kept them in check. So the true Virdanians assumed once Virdania, always Virdania, even if the Verdant States had to exist.

It doesn’t, and a culture can dry up pretty fast.

I think this is part of the reason why my desire to find Jesus in anime has dried up recently. I like anime, and for Verdant culture, it’s pretty good. But at some point, you have to raise the standard of Virdania. Secular culture, though good, will never fully satisfy me, because it makes me invisible. I can understand being Verdant out of necessity, but that’s due to our sinfulness. I can’t be Verdant and all its values at heart.

But a lot of people seem to easily be such, recasting what Virdania was into what Verdant is.

Just be careful, okay? Guy Gavriel Kay wrote a book called Tigania, in which there existed a nation. That nation was cursed by a sorcerer, to the point where not only was it forgotten, no one could even say its name. I think in part that was a parable about how government and culture can work to erase the culture of an existing people. Christianity is not too strong to avoid being erased.

Especially if people like the erasing.


Top Five Most Annoying Worship Songs

Saint Bertha-dances-in-the-aisles approved! In no particular order.

5. Awesome God

Not that Rich Mullins is bad. Far from it, actually. But it’s sad he’s known for this annoying little ditty. The original song is passable, but then you get the Maranatha singers murdering it even for, and you now have a staple of worship designed to torment your ears over and over.

To me, his song “Calling out your name” is far better, even as worship. This is how different he really is, compared to that song:

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob’s stairs
Yeah they danced on Jacob’s stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer
The whisper of a prayer
And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames

Chorus:
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant’s wings
And there’s fury in a pheasant’s wings
It tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I’ve seen love make heaven ring
Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains

Compare this to:

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the Ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

Sigh.

4. The joy of the Lord is my strength

This in particular is the most annoying version of that song, but there are others to rival it. The version I grew up with was incredibly perky. The joooooy of the Loooooord IS MAH STRENGTH. The worst time was during the laughing revival of the 90’s, when we had an additional chorus of nothing but ha.

Haha haha haha haha ha ha ha!

This probably the number one song Sister Bertha gets down to. Not the indie grrrl “spontaneous worship” version above, but the relentlessly positive one most people hear in their church.

3. Lord I love you

I can’t find the particular version I grew up with on youtube, but that’s probably a good thing. The lyrics are easy to remember.

Lord I loooooooove yooooou

Lord I loooooooove yooooou

Lord I loooooooove you.

Lord I love you.

Lord I neeeeeeed you.

Lord I neeeeeeeeeed you.

Lord I neeeeed you.

Lord I need you!

Repeat times 50.

Every church band has a staple go-to song when the Spirit moves and you need the congregation to stay in the worship high they are in. You can’t play anything too challenging or too discordant, or the Spirit is lost. This one was my church’s go-to song. I’m not sure if it actually exists and was just the bridge to another song, or what.

2. Lord I lift your name on high.

This is the forced smile of Christian worship.

It’s just so overwrought. YOU MUST BE HAPPY WHEN YOU SING THIS. Like the music and the lyrics are designed to make sure you are happy. You have to raise your voice at “you came from heaven to earth.” Even the downbeat parts are sung too fast for the meaning to register.

1. Any country worship song, ever.

The point of good worship is for you to connect with God. You cannot do this if you are reminded of the song itself.

Country worship always, always reminds you that you are listening to country.

At no point will you ever be unaware of this. Every sappy, syrupy twang will remind you, every drawled syllable of the singer will too. Country gets singled out because it’s “mainstream,” but the effect is just as bad as if every song were heavy metal instead. The country part overwhelms the worship part.

This is possible with other styles, but other styles are infrequent enough not to be noticed. It’s not like whole albums are around New Wave or Bossa Nova praise, and neither of those styles are as big of a cultural marker to some people. And pop in general as in worship tends to be bland as a point; it doesn’t want to get in the way of you and God. But country is both too present and too distinctive for me to worship to. I’m reminded of it rather than the song. I think only people who are steeped in it and really like it can “forget” it and just go on to connect with Him. That’s not a good result on a large level, though perfectly fine on a smaller one.

There’s also larger issues, like the annoyance of how Christianity gets defined as a religion of the South. But in general, a worship song isn’t about you, or how well you twang your geetar. Country is the worst offender in this instance. This is a case of where the best objects of art are ones that are there for the user, not as a statement of the artist. I wish more worship songs were like that.


Jesus is my Amish Boyfriend, yo.

boyfriendBehold the immense might of the patriarchal church.

***

Today I was driving down the road, and God said to me, “Do you know how Valentines Day is coming up?”

I said, “Yes Father, I know.”

He said, “Do you know how powerful and strong and passionate the relationship between a man and a woman can be?”

I said, “Yes!!!”

He said, “That’s the kind of relationship I want with my people!”

I had some love songs on in the car, including “The Power of Love”… one of my favorites! It was as if He said to me, “I want you to listen to those songs and sing them… not because of your love for another person, but because of your love for me, and my love for you.”

I did… and tears starting coming down my face!

Then Un-chained Melody came on… another one of my favorites… and I wept almost the whole way home as I thought of my Father’s great love for me!!

During my time in the Bible last night, the Lord also reminded me of a Bible verse that shows us clearly that our relationship with God is supposed to be a deep and passionate love relationship!

Get deep with him here.

I am taking care of you.Trust Me at all times. Trust Me in all circumstances. Trust Me with all your heart. When you are weary and everything seems to be going wrong, you can still utter those four words: “I trust you, Jesus.”  By doing so, you release matters into My control, and you fall back into the security of My everlasting arms.

Before your rise from your bed in the morning, I have already arranged the events of your day. (ed-Thank you, Christian Gray Jesus) Every day provides many opportunities for you to know My ways and get closer to Me. Signs of My Presence brighten even the dullest day when you have eyes to see. Search for me as hidden treasure. I will be found by you…

…My love for you reaches the heavens, My faithfulness to the skies. So what is hindering your belief when I say I am taking care of you? It doesn’t have to be a hindrance any longer.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling Devotional. And in an ironic note:

During the first three years after its 2004 publication, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence sold a total of only 59,000 copies, a modest success for a daily devotional from a then-unknown author. But then book sales skyrocketed: 220,000 copies in 2008 alone.

Sales of the book have nearly doubled in each successive year, says Laura Minchew, senior vice president of specialty publishing at Thomas Nelson. As of this summer, Jesus Calling had sold 9 million copies in 26 languages, and Publishers Weekly reported that it remained the No. 5 bestseller of the first half of 2013—for all books, not just Christian ones: It outsold Fifty Shades of Grey(emphasis mine)

From this article here. And now we get even Greyer.

I look into the face of the painting, of Christ giving thanks and breaking bread.

God, He has blessed–caressed.

I could bless God–caress with thanks.

It’s our making love. (emphasis and disgusted looks mine)

God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love to us. And He invites the turning over of the hand, the opening and the saying Yes with thanks. Then God lays down all His fullness in the emptiness. I am in Him. He is in me. I embrace God in the moment. I give Him thanks and I bless God and we meet and couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve? Spirit skin to spirit skin? (emphasis again mine)

Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to live Fully.

From that page:

60 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller’s List

Winner of an Award of Merit in Christianity Today’s Books of the Year

Christian Book Association’s Retailer’s Choice Award 2012

“…. So many writers of faith do not do the hard work of literary incarnation: expressing spiritual truth in the material world of daily life.

Ann Voskamp does this brilliantly.”

Philip Yancey, New York Times Best-selling author

Screen shot 2012-01-22 at 11.17.27 PM

“ …lilting prose… biblical thanksgiving…. it’s a pleasure to turn to a remarkably gifted writer  Amen.

~Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of WORLD Magazine

***

You know, I grew up reading things like this.

A lot of people really gripe about the Church being a bastion of male dominance. This is humorous to me because I grew up in the exact opposite. Virtually all the language of my charismatic church was feminine. It can even get bizarre.

The first step to developing an intimate (and fulfilling) love relationship with God is to admit that the abundant life He promises will never be found in another person. Instead, as the definition of zoe (life) shows, true abundant life is internaland it’s found in Christ alone.

Don’t get me wrong; God created us to experience human love, and romance can add a wonderful dimension to life. But romantic love will never be able to trump an intimate love relationship with God. Frankly, God likes it this way because He doesn’t want any contenders for your heart; He’s jealous for your affection (Ex. 34:14)…

…This describes my relationship with Christ. He has comforted me as I have cried, directed me, taught me, rebuked me, guided me and loved me. There have been times when I have thought that my heart would burst with emotion for Him. Who could understand the depth of my relationship with Him but me and my Savior? This is true intimacy with God: when we feel that no one else would totally understand, even if we tried to explain, because relationship with God is personal.

Found here. 

The lyrics to that song, with humorous errors in capitalization:

Ink and paper, epic offers
Glass moon waltzing on the waters
Horse and carriage, I am courting my marriage
Of dreams in the wings of visions unseen

Cross my heart, only Your love will do
Cross my heart over You
I will cross my heart, there is room enough for two (ed-polyamory!)
Cross my heart over You, over You

Cross my heart
Cross my heart
Cross my heart
Cross my heart

Inside, feels like there’s a thunder
Spellbound, now You’ve take me under
Gold and diamond ever saying that
I’m in this forevermore, You can be sure

Cross my heart, only Your love will do
Cross my heart over You
I will cross my heart, there is room enough for two
Cross my heart over You, over You

Gold and diamond ever saying that
I’m in this forevermore, You can be sure

Cross my heart, only Your love will do
Cross my heart over You
I will cross my heart, there is room enough for two
Cross my heart over You

Read more:  Michael W. Smith – Cross My Heart Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I think the “you” isn’t meant to be Jesus. But it’s a hilarious error to make, because, well, Jesus is my Amish Boyfriend, yo.

Seriously. Look, I can get devotion and the desire to express your love. But God is God, not your boyfriend, and I think sometimes we sin when we forget that. The lover analogy, the feminine Bride, has overpowered everything else.

And to be honest, it’s becoming a barrier. This post was inspired by author Keven Newsome’s Facebook post about a church using a rather unorthodox song for worship. My reaction was humor, because unless they murdered the lyrics, the particular song talks about needing a man to love you, and feeling the heat with somebody. But really, is it that atypical?

Three out of the four things above are best sellers. The Voskamp praisers are almost a who’s who of Christians. But we all know Patriarchy. I could probably fill a book with examples like these. A lot of us guys grew up with an Amish boyfriend Jesus. Maybe that’s why we don’t stick around that much.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 274 other followers