Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I have my best ideas after I pray.

I realized that this morning. I got dressed and realized I had a 15 minute window of earliness. I had seen a bunch of cool posts on Facebook and had some work to do on the website I'm starting, so my first thought was to sit down and get going on those...and then I realized that that's exactly the behavior that's gotten me off my regular devotion in the morning. So, instead, I sat down and opened up James.

Afterward, I had three great ideas for the site and some beautiful inspiration for blog posts...and I know why. It's hard to be creative and come up with anything worth working on when your mind is cluttered. As much as I felt spending those 15 minutes with God instead of working on projects would have lost me precious development time, the exact opposite happened, and that's because I was relaxed. I sometimes forget that one of the many benefits of prayer is getting your mind off cares that you have absolutely no control over, and honestly even the ones you do. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Good Christian Bitches doesn't bother me.

No I haven't read it and I probably won't watch it once the show is out. In all honesty, I'm just talking about the title and the premise, which seems to be what's freaking people out the most. Long story short, it's a supposedly comedic and critical work based loosely on the life of a Christian socialite, written by the ex-wife of one of the Gatlin Brothers. I did however, go and read a few of the criticisms and praises and complaints and blogs on it. Of everything I read, nothing bothered me...except the people who were offended. I had to ask why...why are they REALLY upset.

I understand the twinges of pain that come from when your faith is being criticized. I also understand all too well the twinges that come when your culture is being insulted, which is what I really think is sticking in the collective craw. No, not all Christian women are Dallas socialites, but many have little nuggets of aspiration to achieve at least part of that type of life, and many engage in or support the very behavior that's being addressed. That said, I believe many Christians are making a huge mistake in their responses. The concept of an enemy's enemy equaling a friend is one that runs deep across many cultures, and taking offense at the simple use of the word "Christian" or even the criticism of a culture that has decided on Christianity as its religion of choice is effectively validating the equation of "Christian" with, in this case, superficial, catty, soul-crushing, gossipy women. We must be careful to distinguish between our faith being criticized and when a culture is, because what we defend, we condone.

...kind of like that mother that jumps to her child's defense even when they're blatantly wrong.

On a personal level, I realized that I am even more culturally disconnected from the group that's being criticized than I realized. So disconnected that I felt pangs of insult not from the existence of the book itself, but more from the wagons that I know will be circled (and have been circled) in reaction to the work. Yes, Christians are unfair game for ridicule in today's popular culture, but I see very little effort by many Christians to distance themselves from the things that draw the bulk of the ridicule. In a case like this, I do not think the hatred is what was referred to in John 15:18. I don't often hear Christians being criticized for being too peaceful, too joyous, too loving, too faithful, too kind, gentle or self-controlled. (Too abstinent...that I do hear). I will admit though, that my race changes my exposure, because in the US, Blacks are expected to be church-goers...but still, I think the foul being called by Christians is off-base. Nietzsche disliked Christianity for what it is...teachings of caring for the weak and the poor. I see little of that in the mainstream ridicule of Christians today (though it does exist). Instead there is mass criticism, rooted in response to things that need to be cleaned out anyway.

There is an opportunity for Christians at foot. There is an opportunity for Christians to distance ourselves from all the dirt and grime that being the powerful majority in a powerful country can bring. An opportunity to clean house and return to the Christian roots that new Churches in places such as China and India are tending so well. I genuinely wonder if people will stop indulging their umbrage and surprise, and take a look.

Oh, and the "Bitches"? Well, that was changed to "Belles" for the TV series...which I really don't think is much better, just less profane.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why aren't more Christians talking about Jeremy Lin? (and other surprise believers)

So everybody's got their ways of relaxing. I find schedules particularly constraining, so whenever I need to rebel or relax, even unintentionally, I fall into the same general habit...I stay up late watching TV. My programming of choice being Frasier, Golden Girls and cartoons on Adult Swim. I'll admit, Adult Swim isn't overall the most wholesome programming, but there's some stuff in there you wouldn't be too uncomfortable watching with your parents. So I was dozing off the other night watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Half way between awake and asleep, I heard "Blessed be the Tie that Binds". I figured I had drifted into some Sunday-school inspired throw-back dream, but rolled over to see Frylock (yes, a talking box of french fries) singing in his room.  I'm decently familiar with the series, so I'd watched Frylock, the show's cerebral and rational hub, progress from generic spirituality to a more definite Christian bent. I knew there had to be something behind that and started Googling.

A few clicks later, I learned that one of the show's key animators, also known for other animated shows geared toward adults (Squidbillies, Archer), was Craig Hartin, Christian. I immediately thought...really? Some of those episodes get pretty...rough. He offers some interesting points of view on the matter in an interview he did a while back, talking about everything from how he explains being associated with some very risque content and how he ministers in his world.

A few weeks later, "Linsanity", the current adoration of NBA player, Jeremy Lin, broke out. If you're a non-sports-watcher like me, he's the Taiwanese guy whose record breaking scoring has put the Knicks back on the map. I did some poking around on him and found a rap track by HongKongese (by way of Miami) rapper, Jin, about him. I listened for a while then thought " he talking about God?" Turns out both Jin and Lin are believers. I really wonder if Christians will give the same attention they give Tim Tebow for his faith...I mean, the man openly gestures to God after he scores and is quite open about his faith too. I doubt an Asian Harvard graduate will translate as well in the US as a hero story though. And honestly, the same goes for Lin and Hartin, though for their own personal reasons.

As my brother says, "we're a diverse group".

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fleeing from Temptation

So in small group, we're taking turns leading. Tonight, one of the guys covered the topic of temptation. I always like hearing him talk...he's honest and open and has some perspective on the Christian life that I don't often get to see. He said a LOT of stuff that had me thinking and reviewing and remembering (and preparing because I'm up next)...but when he got to the part about fleeing from temptation, I thought immediately that I've never really been in a position to do that...then I remembered the most recent "Hot Guy" (from high school to salsa lessons, there always manages to be one around somewhere).

This one was at my gym--and as I'm writing this, I'm terrified that somehow, he might run across this post because that's just how my life works--I saw him before I even made it in the building...he's just one of those guys where you can hear the hotness. Anytime a woman comes in, he's the first thing they notice...even the straight men have crushes on him. Anyway, considering his demeanor, appearance (looks a lot like an old crush from middle school days) and the bond-inducing nature of the martial art I practice, I was on guard right out of the gates. I could easily see myself falling for him and I think he knew too. Sure enough, he offered his body up. Now, I'm not saying that as churchly euphemism for him wanting me to sleep with him. The way he approached me was a subtle, but almost a literal offering of his body.

Sexual temptation isn't a huge issue of mine, but there was something about him...something I knew could draw me in with little effort. I'd felt a calling from God a few months before I joined his gym to get focused on my spiritual growth and I genuinely believe this guy was the reason. I needed to be able to "flee" when the time arose, and flee I did. And it caused issues. Negative reactions on his part that had to be ironed out. Difficulty in scheduling lessons trying to keep optimal distance. I felt nutty at first, questioning whether I was going overboard or overreacting, but I don't think I was. I could have easily positioned myself as Hot Guy's "friend" (something I had a habit of doing earlier in life), but that would have been the equivalent of my walking into an all you can eat dim sum spot while on a diet and promising myself I'd only have two soup dumplings...guaranteed defeat.

From dieting to emotional peace (struggling with that now) to situations like this, it amazes me how far in advance you need to say "no" to avoid temptation. Forget not dipping a toe in the water, sometimes you can't even go to the beach.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Apparently, Black churches don't have youth groups.

So I ran across this guy's videos today. I'd never heard of "Messy Mondays" until a friend made me aware (through Facebook of course)...

He's a little really high energy, but I'm enjoying his sarcasm. About 15 minutes after getting stuck in a loop of his videos, I ran across this one on youth groups.

I watched. I laughed. I couldn't relate. Don't get me wrong, I get the "coming of age" deal that comes with being a kid in church. The single most massive crush of my life happened there. This dude made my stomach do back flips and was the last man to truly make me nervous.

But yeah...I realized that my youth in a Black church was WAY different than what goes on in White churches. I always kinda knew this...I went to a predominately White school and the church stuff they would talk about was completely foreign. We didn't do games or trips or the like. Well...MAYBE in Sunday school, but it wasn't ever anything major. We mostly worked in groups. Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of teenage hormones to go around, lots of hugging and the "side hug" had not yet been invented, but apparently there was more supervision and less freedom (what I think is a direct effect of hippie culture never hitting the Black church).

I don't think the reason is anything more complicated than the fact that Black churches are just more formal than White. Look at the clothes, the seating, even the schedules and service formats...much more structured, much less loose. The funny thing is, neither approach seems to make much of a difference regarding sexual behavior or subsequent adult involvement in the church. Makes ya wonder...