For the last year, I have been wading into the swampy mess of American race relations. Like all good swamps, the water is murky, every step you take comes with danger of being attacked, and visibility is limited. But I’m still moving through it.
Now, I invite you to join me, white friends. Come on in, the water’s fine.
It seems that Trump has won the republican nomination. I know the game is not over yet. But after taking Florida as one of his 18 wins, he is no longer an unruly house guest overstaying his welcome, he now has more right to the space than anyone else in the room. He is flat-out winning, and no appeal to a divided voting block changes the simple fact of his clear and consistent march to victory. He keeps winning, which puts many people I know, love, and respect into the awkward position of voting for a man they detest in order to uphold the conservative principles of the party they love.
I don’t feel a hint of that awkwardness, though, because I can firmly, without hesitation, say I will never vote for a man like Trump. And I want to tell you why.
I just finished a little facebook tussle, which is second on my list of ultimately futile activities, over status update I made about a hot button cultural issue, which is the straightest line leading to the second most futile activity known to man. In this little back and forth, it became very clear that I was wielding a sword in what the other person assumed was a pool noodle fight. In that scenario, neither person looks too bright.
But this kerfuffle brought a number of thoughts to mind as I reflected. The whole situation was interesting to me on a number of levels:
1. Should we speak? People love to speak, but rarely have something to say. Social media has given us the ability to speak, which has morphed into an obligation to speak. This cuts towards me just as much as it does to the other person involved. I deleted about eight different tweets about the topic I brought up, because it was far too big a topic for a tweet. So why did I keep writing them until I clicked Tweet? Because I felt compelled to speak, primarily because I was able to speak. For the person who responded to me, there was a compulsion to say something in response to my saying something, but a vague and indefinite fortune cookie maxim was all they had available at the moment. But if I was speaking to something much larger than I could reasonably address, and if the person responding had nothing of substance to say in response, perhaps we should both have just stopped typing.
2. Speak with conviction. The person’s initial response was vague, and the follow up responses were a mix of denying what they had vaguely said, backing out of the argument they started, and at one point saying they had no intention at all behind what they said. If there is no intention, why say anything? And the answer is simple – there was intention behind responding to my status update, but the intention lacked the fortification of conviction. Paraphrasing Stinger, The person’s rebuttals were writing checks his conviction couldn’t cash.
3. Taylor Mali knows what I’m talking about.
4. Humility should be attached to ambition, not knowledge. G.K.Chesterton, writing about a hundred years ago noted this new tendency for people to act as though pretending not to know something was humble. That is relativism, agnosticism, or laziness, but it is not humility. Humility is meant to limit our inner world, not write off the outer one.
5. Christians must speak with conviction. Have you ever had that moment when a group of friends are trying to decide where to go eat, and all of them, looking out for the happiness of the others, keep deferring to everyone else, who are all deferring to everyone else? All it takes is one person with the conviction of personal desire, and the Mexican standoff will end. Our culture is at one massive Mexican standoff, and we desperately need Christians to step in and bring the clarity, honesty, and peace that can only come through Christian conviction.
In summary: don’t speak unless you have both something to say and the conviction to bring others with you.
Last week, I moved. I am sincerely grateful that small portion of my life is over. I am convinced that Hell physically manifests itself in the form of boxes, trucks, furniture, narrow doorways and stairs. And it’s hot.
One day last week, in order to take a break from moving, I took my car to get the oil changed. I know, I am writing a post about declining manhood and I don’t even change my own oil. Pathetic, I know. But give me a minute here. I took my car to get the oil changed, and I noticed something really interesting. As I watched three different couples deal with mechanics, explain car problems, fill out papers, and pay there was a consistent pattern of movement displayed by each of the three couples I saw. The men stood slightly behind the women and spoke only when spoken to.
It was fascinating to watch once I picked up on this pattern. Women would approach the counter first. Women would talk with the mechanic. Women would lead the way to the waiting area. Women would step up to pay. Men followed behind like children, waiting for mom to make the next decision.
Now, let me throw out a few qualifiers to explain my reason for surprise and the noteworthiness of this pattern.
Car stuff is not man stuff. I do not think women to be unfit or incapable of handling car issues. I do not consider it unmanly to be unfamiliar with cars. That is not the source of my surprise.
Standing behind is not a sign of weakness, lower status, or lessened capability. There are many areas in our life where my wife takes the lead for me, and I stay out of the way. I do not find that to be a mark against me as a man.
There is nothing wrong with strong willed, independent women that can take care of business. On the contrary, I think an industrious, capable spirit is one of the most attractive qualities a woman can display. Solomon thought so as well, seeing that Proverbs 31 devotes more time to the hard work of a woman than any other attribute.
Those qualifiers out of the way, the pattern of movement displayed by the people in my local garage displayed something attested to in study after of study of the modern man: men are disengaged.
Please understand the limit to what I am saying: I do not define masculinity and femininity by particular tasks or tastes. Masculinity and femininity are best defined by attitudes and dispositions of the heart. This post is not about defining masculinity, but I will happily point you towards a few that are: here, here, and here.
So finally, after dancing with the lions of outraged feminism, the problem I want to address is one of creating some proactive momentum. When I started cleaning out my home office for the move last week, I sat in my chair and surveyed the state of my stuff for about 30 minutes before I moved a muscle. Why? Because I had no clue where to begin making sense of my own mess. I want to provide some insight for men who similarly look at their own passivity and have no idea where to start making changes.
Admit you have a problem, and then admit the problem is bigger than you just admitted. Tell you roommate. Tell your spouse. Tell your parents. Tell someone in your life that you want to make a change. The reason is simple; you have likely grown numb to letting yourself down, so bring someone else’s expectations into the equation to provide some accountability.
Give yourself some goals. Make goals according to two criteria: Small and SMART. Make your goals small, because the goal here is to create some proactive momentum, not conquer the world. Also, make sure they are SMART goals. Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-sensitive. Read this – and start making plans!
If you are married and struggle with passivity, then you need to follow John Piper’s advice and bring two little words into your vocabulary that will revolutionize your relationship: “Let us”. Train yourself to be the first one in the house to say “Let’s” you will have become the de facto initiator and leader of your household. Be the one thinking ahead for your household’s needs, and be the one who addresses them first. “Honey, let’s…” Those two little words can change everything.
So, if you struggle with passivity, try making those 3 little changes in your daily life. Most importantly though, recognize that unhealthy passivity is a result of brokenness in your heart. You can try to change your actions, but the most important factor in lasting change comes when you allow God to change your heart. Phenom rapper, Lecrae, has an excellent message and testimony about how God challenges and changes your understanding of manhood. Well worth your 42 minutes.
One of the most common critiques of Christianity in Western culture comes from an accusation of its inherent exclusivity. The cultural, social, and political elites of our age have judged the values of our time, and have thus decided to exclude exclusion from polite society. As such, a religion marked by one way, one truth and one light fails to open enough doors to include everyone. This anti-exclusive dogma is the most dangerous type of nonsense imaginable – nonsense turned common sense.
Therefore, I would like to explore two functional definitions of exclusivity followed by a response to the charge of Christian exclusivity as evil. Hopefully, what is common sense will be displayed as nonsense.
This post has a pretty limited audience. I am writing to pastors. I am calling you to work through some tough issues for the sake of the Millennials in your church. In case you do not know, Millennials are the young adults born between 1980 and 2000. Here are a few articles for those interested in learning about our habits in the workplace, our good points, our bad points, and our beliefs. We are an 80 million strong nightmare for most authority figures from the Baby Boomer Generation.
I watched a debate not long ago between a conservative pastor and a gay marriage activist in which the pastor was roundly dismissed for suggesting that the normalization of gay marriage inevitably leads to the normalization of any type of “marriage.” That prediction is coming true already. Watch this video of a polygamist family who will star in their own reality television show. The argument put forth by the wife in the white sweater for the normalcy of their lifestyle is the exact argument put forth by proponents of gay marriage.
Earlier today I read an article from Christianity Today about Donald Miller’s recent declarations about his relationship with Church gatherings, confusingly called church. I do not think he is forsaking the universal Church, because that would mean forsaking Jesus. I think he is forsaking the Church gatherings which have come to be known as church. That is how I read what Miller says here and here.
I agree with Kevin Miller’s assessment of Brian Maclaren and Rob Bell. I think he prematurely loops Donald Miller in with them unless he argues from the perspective of trajectory, which I would think a very fitting argument. Either way, Kevin Miller is experiencing the same push back any Christian feels when they call out another Christian’s actions or words as dangerous, lacking in wisdom, or out of step with the Bible. You hear the accusation coming from believers and unbelievers alike. It comes with both patronizing disdain and vicarious offense. It comes down in one word. Judgmental.
My last post was about the value of conviction in preaching. That made me think about the value of conviction in everyday life, and reminded me of a quote by G.K. Chesterton. What he saw as a shifting mindset has become the dominant mindset today, one hundred years later. Our humility has been displaced.
What we suffer from today is a humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert — himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt — the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur that kept a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.
– Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton
I pray that you would grow to be humble in your personal pursuits and unyeilding in your conviction.