Paradigm Shift

Throughout the years, culture changes result in paradigm shifts.  It always takes a generation or two to assimilate to the change, but once it happens, future generations look back and wonder how their ancestors could have been so short-sighted, how they could have given into cultural expectations that clearly go against God’s standard.

The truth is, we all wear glasses that filter out the colors of racism and oppression and prejudice and even murder — we know they exist, but we don’t see them as a part of what we do.  It’s surprisingly easy to rationalize whatever it is that our culture deems okay — and in some cases, even to support it by Scripture.  Our glasses are great at proof-texting while filtering out the larger context.  Sadly, our humanity makes us literally incapable of removing ourselves from the culture enough to see the true horror of what we do.  Perhaps the saddest part about this is that very few Christians are actually a set-apart people of the Word.  They are products of their culture who interpret their religion based on their preconceptions.

Think about slavery.  Living in our current culture, several generations removed from the oppression of slavery, we’re horrified at the thought of it.  But in the pre-Civil War era, it was perfectly acceptable to own another person; it made perfect sense to them.  It was necessary for the economy, and probably even better for the welfare of the slaves themselves.  Scripture even condoned slavery.  They had no concept of what it would be like not to own slaves: how would they get dressed in the mornings? how would they harvest cotton? how could they live without this crutch they so heavily depended on?  So because they knew no different, life continued as normal until slavery was abolished, the societal structure was reset, and the cultural paradigm shifted.  And the world did not end.  People learned to live without their crutch.

Even after abolition, though, the Jim Crow laws were nearly as bad.  Today, as we live and work alongside our African-American friends, we ask how in the world they could have been arrested for drinking out of the wrong water fountain.  Our minds literally cannot grasp such a thing; but back then, they couldn’t grasp how it could be any other way.

Think about women’s rights.  The oppression of women stemmed from the southern ideal of “true womanhood” — a woman was the prized possession who needed to stay at home and stay out of public affairs.  As this mentality took over southern culture, it too was given religious affirmation: Paul said women should remain silent, so this made sense.  Never mind the examples of women teaching and prophesying and leading in Scripture.  The cultural glasses expertly edit that out.  Here’s just one example of this mindset, from R.C. Bell, from the publication The Way in 1903: “Woman is not permitted to exercise dominion over man in any calling of life.  When a woman gets her diploma to practice medicine, every Bible students knows that she is violating God’s holy law…God forbids her to work in any public capacity…She is not fitted to do anything publicly.”  However, in the late 19th and early 20th century there was more of a move toward gender equality and women’s suffrage.  With this paradigm shift, people began to realize that the world actually wouldn’t end if women taught school and pursued education and a career.  They were right.  It didn’t.  Now we can’t even fathom the sort of mindset that would forbid women to vote just because they are women.

Think about Jesus’ death at the hands of the Jews.  Their cultural expectation was of a political Messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel.  Jesus was obviously not that, so He was a blasphemer.  We wonder how they could have been so stupid, but let’s face it: if we were in their shoes, growing up with the same preconceptions,

we too would have shouted, “Crucify!”

Even think about the Holocaust.  It was presented as being a good idea — rid the world of minorities, and the handicapped, and those who were a burden to society, to let the master race emerge.  We wonder how in the world people could have been okay with the mass slaughter of millions of innocent people in the name of a superior social structure.

Kinda makes you wonder how in the world people can be okay with the mass slaughter of millions of innocent people in the name of a woman’s right to choose.

You see, we can’t help getting swept into the stream of culture.  These mindsets become so deeply ingrained as a part of who we are, that we can’t imagine life any other way.  In every generation there are a few who dare to dream of things being different, and these are the ones who change the world.  But for the most part, we’re a sad lot of mindless cattle following the herd.  Generations from now, what will our descendants say about us in disbelief and disgust?

How could they have been so wasteful with their resources?”

How could they have tried to ‘fix’ gay people?”

How could they have thought it was okay to abort a baby?”

For one moment, try to take off the glasses and ask these questions.

It’s so hard for us to imagine what life would be like without our cultural mindsets, but the truth is, Jesus called us to look beyond the comfortable.  To think outside the box.  To travel the narrow and difficult road.  This is precisely why so few are able to enter the Kingdom: it’s freaking difficult to find.  I think it’s much harder than we’ve assumed all these years.  Living Kingdom life requires that we take a good hard look at “the way we’ve always done it.”  We have to ask the difficult questions and upset the status quo if we are to be truly not of this world.  Living this way is offensive to the world, because we stand against the tide of culture.  This is why early Christians were martyred: they were seen as a threat to the social system and the established order.  Have you ever wondered why we fit in so well these days?  Because we love our culture.  We immerse ourselves in it.  The media, the consumerism, the politics.  As Pastor Steve Berger once said, “If we’re not being persecuted, it’s because we don’t look enough like Christ to a Christ-hating world.”

There are so many sincere Christians who have been led astray by the incremental deception of Satan as he infiltrates our churches with cultural values.  We’ve accepted Christ, but our lives look no different.  And we’re the ones losing, we’re the ones missing out on what the world could be.  Instead of bringing the Kingdom to earth, we’re promoting our own kingdom.  We’re living in our story instead of His.  When Jesus comes again, will He look at our castles in the sand and say “Well done, good and faithful servant?”  Or will He have to clear His temple of its cultural bias?

Jesus compared the Kingdom to hidden treasure for a reason.  If we can’t listen for the still small voice in a world that clamors for its agenda, if we can’t see past the filthy lens of our culture-colored glasses to defend the marginalized and the oppressed and stand for Kingdom values, then we’re no better than any of the generations before us.  We’re no better than the ones who crucified Christ.

God, grant us forgiveness for our blindness and syncretism.

stop talking and do something about it.

Up front I would like to apologize…or, NOT apologize… for the black-and-white nature of this post. Yes, I’m an idealist, and I’m sure you have very convincing arguments for why this should not apply to you, but when I get passionate about something, this is how I roll.

Talk is cheap. Especially in a country where we have freedom of speech. What does it cost you to post a facebook status against abortion? Or picket a clinic? Nothing. So talk about it all you want, but what are you going to DO about it? Argue against it, but nobody’s listening. Why should they? Everyone knows talk is cheap.

We can’t believe nobody did anything to stop the Holocaust, but do we have any room to talk? I’m sure there are people who disagreed with it, like we disagree with abortion. But what are you going to DO about it?

As Christians, our mission is to reflect God to the world. We love, because He loved us. We serve, because He came to serve. We forgive, because He forgave us.

And He also adopted us.

Just saying.

If you hate abortion, stop talking and do something about it.

What would it look like if we stopped talking and started DOING? If we imitated Christ, letting our actions speak for themselves instead of trying to persuade people with clever rhetoric? Scripture makes it clear that the world notices how we live.

“They may be won over without words by your behavior…” (1st Peter 3:1).

“By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Live such good lives among the pagans that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1st Peter 2:12).

What would it look like if the body of Christ came together to give these children LIFE? What an incredible testimony that would be!! What if, instead of picketing abortion clinics with signs that say “God hates abortion” we had signs that said “I want to help”?

We have a day once a year where we go without talking to “speak for those without a voice.” But if they could talk, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t say, “Speak up for me.” They would scream, “SAVE ME!”

We tend to like the theoretical a lot better than we like the practical. You see, we can talk about loving others all we want, but when it comes down to doing something crazy, we want to back out — we don’t have enough money to adopt because we’d really rather have a new car, or we’re afraid of adopted kids turning out badly (good thing God didn’t use that excuse). But wars have never been won by rhetoric — they’re won by action. So if you hate abortion, stop talking and do something about it.

Published in: on September 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm  Comments (7)  
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The Value of Life

What determines the value of life?

Think carefully before you answer.

Can the value of life increase or decrease?

Is a life’s value determined by situation? By circumstance?

What is life, really? Life is everything we are. It makes us human. It is the core of our existence.

Can you say, “I’m worth more than you”? Maybe you’re a greater ‘benefit to society’ — but you’re no more  alive than they are, are you?

So to say anything but “no” — to judge the worth of another’s very being — would sound ridiculous. But what do your beliefs say? What does your ballot say?

Here’s another question: does every life have a purpose?

Would God really create something useless?

Consider carefully here. Because in taking a life for any reason, you are undermining the innate (for worth is innate, not situational) value of life AND denying them the opportunity to fulfill their purpose.

That’s some pretty serious stuff.

It’s easy to say, from a political standpoint, what would be “best” — for people, for society, for the country.

But when impersonal pen and paper determine what happens to living flesh and blood…I tremble. I can’t make that call.

Like most conservatives, I used to be against abortion but for capital punishment. Obviously there’s a difference between taking the life of an innocent unborn child, and taking the life of a hardened criminal. And from society’s standpoint, yes, there is. But from a truly pro-life standpoint, when you consider the innate value of life — if its worth is not determined by circumstance — is one so much better than the other?

The criminal had a chance, and the baby didn’t, you argue. That’s true.

But regardless of chances, there is still purpose, and you cut it short either way.

What about people like the BTK killer, you ask? They’re sick. They’re obviously insane. Granted.

But is their life any less valuable? God had a reason for giving them life; if He didn’t, they wouldn’t exist. But He purposefully, intentionally breathed into them the same value — the same gift — the same life — He breathed into you.

Demanding the right to take someone else’s life into our own hands, for any reason, is a dangerous thing.

A frightening thing.

Because if we give ourselves the “right”…

One day, when you’re too old to benefit society and the system is even more corrupt than it now is…

Who might give themselves the “right” to take your life?

Someone else will determine that your value has decreased. Someone else will decide that you have no purpose.

You won’t agree.

But you, who voted away countless lives, will be unable to vote for yourself.

Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm  Comments (3)  
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A Story Never Written

Each of us has a story. Written in our own handwriting, some pages spotted with tears of the journey, our stories are uniquely ours and a testament of our lives to everyone around us. The days of our lives flow onto the pages like the smooth ink of a pen, leaving our mark upon the world. Some stories are emotionally charged, fast-paced roller coaster rides, while others are like informative textbooks. Some seem like fairy tales. Others, sadly, read more like tragedies or horror stories. And some are cut short without a satisfactory ending as the world mourns an early death.

But by far the saddest stories are those that are but empty covers with a collapsing spine where the pages should be. There is no title page. The author has no name on the cover, and there are no pictures in the book by which to recognize his or her identity. There is nothing. This story, like all stories, was supposed to change the world by its unique plot, but its pages were ripped out and burned. The world will never see what was meant to be.

 Those hundreds of pages that should have been filled with stories of birthdays and first dates and school and friends and life were exchanged for a single sentence in another person’s story: “I decided to have an abortion.”

Published in: on June 16, 2011 at 1:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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