Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  When he got on a jag about the Russell Crowe movie Noah Maher said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

Who Won the Sexual Revolution? (hint: it wasn’t women)

“When we examine simple connections between recent and lifetime sexual partnering, frequency of sex, and a variety of emotional-health indicators—including depression scales, self-reported episodic crying, life satisfaction, depression diagnoses, and current use of prescription antidepressants—it quickly becomes apparent that having more numerous sexual partners is associated with poorer emotional states in women,
but not men.”
Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker)

A good thirty years into the sexual revolution, the throwing off of “traditional” views of sex along with how we view gender roles, is working out great; if you are a man.  Men who used to pay a much higher price in terms of commitment and stability in order to gain access to sex, can now have sex for little or no commitment.  Women, who were encouraged to view their sexual decisions in a “liberated” way (ie to have sex when they wanted with whoever they wanted) are not faring so well by putting that into practice.  In the traditional view of sex, women were the gatekeepers who could demand relational security in exchange for sex, and men were the pursuers exploring the market for the price they had to pay for sex, and trying to have as much of it as they could get for the lowest cost.  As more women adopted these liberal attitudes toward sex, the market slowly started to flood with lower cost sex in terms of commitment to the point where a woman who withholds sex from a man is no longer an obstacle for him – he has plenty of options readily available.  Now men can have sex for next to nothing with many partners – literally a school boy’s dream, and they are doing it with abandon, and, evidently without causing themselves much long term damage.  Women on the other hand, are not faring so well.

Even getting married—deciding to settle down with only one sex partner for good—doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who’ve had numerous sex partners in their lifetime. While no association with depressive symptoms is apparent among now-married young women who’ve had up to four sex partners in their lifetime, problems appear among those who’ve had 5–10, and even more among those who’ve had more than 10 partners.  [Such] women display more intense emotional difficulties. Among those who’ve had more than 10 partners, 41 percent report being depressed at least some time in the past seven days. Just over 14 percent are actively taking antidepressants, and only 79 percent say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their life. So while the security of a marital relationship can diminish sex-related emotional-health problems, it doesn’t often take them away.

It makes you wonder who’s idea the sexual revolution was in the first place, and what were they hoping to accomplish.  One name above all others attaches itself to this: Hugh Hefner.  Hefner is the living image of the beginning and shriveling up of the sexual revolution; a man of small physical and moral stature who lacks the generally valued masculine qualities which would attract and hold the attentions of a real woman.  A man who has everything to gain by tearing down the traditional sexual structures in order to gain access to what he wants.  It was all couched in such inclusive terms from the start – why shouldn’t we all stop feeling guilty about sex and relax?  Why shouldn’t women be able to have as much sex as men are having?  The truth was (and still is) that men were not having more sex than women; that single men always had (and still have) less and less satisfying sex than their married friends, and that women enjoyed sex much more when they had a greater power over the sexual market place by rejecting casual sex and waiting for sex in an emotionally stable relationship. What will happen in the next 30 years?  Given what I know about women’s character and ability, I predict they will tell their daughters and sons what a disaster the “sexual revolution” has been, and begin to teach them to reject it.  The generation raised by the victims of the sexual wars will raise a generation who will reassert sane and workable sexual practices that work for both genders.  When they do, many will be surprised at how “traditional” it looks.  I won’t, because to me it isn’t tradition, it is truth written into the fabric of the universe by our Creator, and rejecting it always wreaks havoc.  Maybe we can help get things started by putting posters of the original Playboy in every dorm room of America…  Read more from Ron here: The Elephant in the Bar

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Marriage: You’re Closer Than It Appears

objects-in-mirrorObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  Why?  Because the mirror bulges in the middle.  Imagine the mirror as plastic wrap spread across a frame.  If you took a ball and pressed it into the wrap it would bulge outward taking the shape of the ball.  This is a convex mirror.  Light reflects differently in this kind of mirror, bouncing off at an various angles.  In a flat or planar mirror light reflects at ninety degree angles virtually recreating a picture of the object being reflected.  In the  convex mirror on the passenger side of cars the different angles of light compress the image in the middle and expand the image at the outer edges increasing the field of vision by about 30% but making  reflected objects appear to shrink.  Both mirrors are useful in their place.  If you want to see around a corner you’re going to need the convex type, but if you are trying to put in your contact lenses a flat mirror is going to be your best bet.

Have you notice how some people have a wider perspective than others?  They can see things other people don’t see.  On the other hand there are people who are very good at reflecting exact pictures of what they see.  Same light, different reflection.  Mirrors have warnings.  People don’t.  In relationships it is often a good thing to suspend judgment about who saw something in a certain way until you have a better feel for their perspective.  Flat mirror types often feel like the picture they see is getting distorted by convex mirror types.  Convex mirror types often feel like the flat mirror types aren’t looking at the big picture.  Both perspectives have value and can be combined to  help you safely navigate your relationship.  Either way you see things, you are closer to each other than it appears.

Why Do I Think My Husband Hates Me?

My husband comes through the door and goes directly to his seat on the couch.  He turns on the TV and barely glances up when I kiss him and ask him how his day was.  I serve him the meal I’ve been planning for a week.  It is his favorite.  He swallows it and goes out to mow the lawn and work in the yard, not coming in until after dark.  Why doe the man hate me?  What did I do?!  What is this all about?

I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by my husband to me must have something to do with what I said to him last night or what I forgot to do before he went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into him about why he isn’t responding to me right now.

How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in his place and treated him cooly, it would be because he offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why he is acting the way he is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view his actions through are my own actions in the same situation.  He sees the world through a completely different set of lenses, and on top of that experiences a whole different set of things I don’t know about.  Does he hate me?  What if he was so preoccupied with getting the yard done before it rains because he knows my family is visiting this weekend that he didn’t notice I kissed him, cooked for him or even looked at him?  That is hard for me to see on my own.  What can I do to change lenses and see things more clearly?  I have to judge my own judgments.

full_1324062160Screenshot2011-12-16at2.04.24PMNone of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does too, it takes a different path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment. Recognize first that you only think you know why they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.

Why Do I Think My Wife Hates Me?

I come through the door from work, walk up to my wife and kiss her.  She doesn’t look up and barely acknowledges me.  I take the trash out and wash the dinner dishes.  She doesn’t have anything to say.  Why doe the woman hate me?  What did I do?!  What is this all about?

I am a thinker, so I process the world by thinking about things and trying to sequence them with logical patterns.  If action A, then result B.  The cool response by Tina to me must have something to do with what I said to her last night or what I forgot to do before I went to work.  This may or may not be true, but the thing that will help us most at this point is not for me to drill into her about why she isn’t responding to me right now.  How to I know this is about me at all?  Well, all I really know is that if I was in her place and treated her cooly, it would be because she offended me some way.  I really don’t have insight into why she is acting the way she is acting right now, I only have my own way of doing things as possible motives.  Do you see what I mean?  The only lens I have to view Tina’s actions through are my own actions in the same situation.  Tina see the world through a completely different set of lenses, and on top of that experiences a whole different set of things I don’t know about.  Does she hate me?  What if she was engrossed in finding me the perfect pair of shoes because last night I complained about how much my feet hurt after work?  She was so engaged in loving me the way she shows love that she didn’t even realize I kissed her and washed dishes and took out the trash!  That is hard for me to see on my own.  What can I do to change lenses and see things more clearly?  I have to judge my own judgments.

None of us are motivated by the exact same things.  Each of us has a history that makes us do things differently and for different reasons.  My A leading to B is not your A that leads to the same B.  And even when my A leads to B and yours does too, it takes a different Jan2011-March2011-autocritica_799671110path.  Instead of assuming you know why your spouse is giving you the cold shoulder or is not responsive emotionally or sexually in a given situation, judge your judgment. Recognize first that you only think you know why they are doing what they are doing, that you really don’t know why.  Ask questions.  Use your judgments as entry points to understanding your spouse or your children or your friends, not as evidence to convict them.  Say, “Hey, if I was acting this way in this circumstance, it would be because I was angry/sad/distracted/etc, what are you feeling right now?”

A warning.  The reason this is so hard to apply to our relationships is that we rely on judgments more than we know.  We do it all the time and we think it serves us well; it may serve us well in many cases.  If you are a fairly intuitive person, you may get many judgments right.  You develop a track record and a confidence that you are the kind of person who just “knows people” or you think you “know what makes people tick.”  Trust me on this, you don’t know as much as you think.  I mean, lets be reasonable – do you know why you do what you do all the time?  You perfectly understand your own motives? I don’t.  I find myself doing things I have no idea why I’m doing them.  The implication of this is obvious: if we can’t get our own judgment about ourselves right, what makes us so sure we have anyone else sorted out?

Take this to heart and your marriage will improve today – it isn’t a miracle cure for all that ails us, but is a great way to start cutting down on meaningless arguments and misunderstandings and to begin building some trust in communication.  Try it.  Judge your judgments.

This is Gonna Leave a Mark: The Hookup Culture

Screen-Shot-2013-07-14-at-9.28.27-PM-e1373851764641What is the “hookup culture”?  It is not, as some might say, the liberation of women’s sexuality as much as it is women losing control over their sexual choices.  Does that sound absurd?  Every psychological measure tells us that when women use sex the same way men traditionally use it (low intimacy – low commitment – pleasure only) it leads to poorer long term emotional states for them.  Sex in any context is the mantra of post modern America and has been for a generation; long enough for the shine to come off the apple and for people to stop claiming that women only feel bad about their sexual activities because of social stigma.  There is no social stigma.  The problem is that men and women really are different and experience sex from completely different perspectives.  Pornography has driven the cost of sexual experiences down to little or nothing for men who use it regularly (and the majority of college aged men do use it regularly).  Real women are messy and expensive and, because of the proliferation of high speed digital porn, no longer necessary for men’s sexual satisfaction.  Women who want any relationship with men are up against porn stars who perform on demand and look perfect all the time.  Men’s sexual appetites and expectations are warped and their patience is thin.  Women who don’t conform to these sexual expectations are discarded.  The belief that everyone is having fun and it all doesn’t matter unless you let it matter is a lie that eventually wears thin for both men and women.

Watch this video of college aged men and women talking about the hook up culture and you will see evidence of sexual deception throughout.  Watch what the one man says about who he wants a long term relationship with in the end.  Watch the one woman tell us that she wants her daughter to know she is worth more than rubies so she can navigate this sexually liberated sea of confusion.  Watch it till the end of their segment and see the answer to the million dollar question: Do you want to have a life long committed relationship in marriage?

Someone should write a book to help these people…

What To Do When You Realize You Married the Wrong Person

We  know the divorce rate stats.  Marriage is a 50/50 proposition.  As a caterer and a preacher I probably attend more weddings in a year than anyone attends in a lifetime.  I can tell you this:  no one looks worried about the divorce rate at a wedding.  No one.  Worried about the cake falling over, yes.  Worried about a wrinkle on a tablecloth, yes.  Worried about whether or not the mash potatoes on the buffet are good enough, yes.  But no one is worried about divorce.  I’ve never seen a bride huddled with her girls stressing over whether or not the groom is the right one.  I’ve never seen the groom with his boys wistfully looking over the women in the room and wishing one of them was in the white dress instead of his bride.  But I sure have heard a lot of people saying they married the wrong person a year or two or ten down the road.  This is supposed to make IMG_0027everything better.  It is a magic formula pronounced over a struggling marriage.  It absolves the speaker of guilt.  It is the equivalent of saying “I’m not really broken.  I’m marriageable.  I can do marriage.  I just needed the right partner and this one isn’t it.”   This seems to overlook at least one crucial fact: even if you did get the wrong partner for marriage, it was you who chose them – it was your judgment call.  What makes you think your judgment is good enough to go out and find the right partner?  And, more immediately, if you have such poor judgment about one of the most critical decisions of life, what makes you think you are qualified to judge the true state of your marriage?  No matter how bad the marriage looks at the moment (and no marriage looks good all the time), it is wise to remember that your discernment got you here, and the worse the marriage looks, the less you should trust your own ability to see it clearly.  You got fooled.  Maybe you should take time to figure out how that happened.

Ask yourself if it is possible that the problem is not who you married, but that you don’t understand what marriage is.  What if marriage doesn’t create your problems but reveals them.  What if the purpose of marriage is to create a situation where the real fatal flaws in us are exposed so the opportunity exists to get them repaired?

If these things are deep enough there may be no way to get them to the surface other than a committed relationship with another human being who never goes away.  We all wear a success suit for the world and we hop around in it all the time like rabbits.  It covers up the things inside we don’t want to show others, the pain, the scars, the shortcomings, the fear.  Hop, hop, hop.  But marriage is there all the time, and sooner or later we can’t keep hopping.  We unzip the suit and let it all out.  It was always there underneath.  We didn’t show it to anyone especially not someone we were hoping would marry us.  Most of us don’t do this on purpose.  We don’t set out to deceive anyone.  We may not even realize where those flaws are, their roots and their fruits.

Divorce

If the Christian story of the world is true, and if the Christian concept of marriage is real, this is precisely how the gospel works its way into us and helps us.  Marriage is a means through which grace is pushed deeper into our lives than we would on our own.  Marriage is a means to get at the deep deceptions that dwell in us because of our God-loss.  And a key component of this view of marriage is that this grace comes to us in any kind of marriage.  Bad or good.  Fulfilling or unfulfilling.  This grace is the realization that Jesus Christ is a spouse that marries the wrong person on purpose.  He marries people who are not lovely, but he loves them into loveliness.  Finding out you married the wrong person may be the only way you can figure out how much you need to accept Christ’s marriage proposal to you.

Purchase Ron’s Book; The Elephant in the Bar:  How the Sexual Revolution Broke Sex & Marriage and How to Keep It From Breaking You

Heaven is for Real…if You Earn It: Bloomberg Shows a Way

At the close of an interview with the New York Times this week, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say about heaven:

Mr. Bloomberg was introspective as he spoke, and seemed both restless and wistful. When he sat down for the interview, it was a few days before his 50th college reunion. His mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. And he admitted he was a bit taken aback by how many of his former classmates had been appearing in the “in memoriam” pages of his school newsletter.

But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

Before you become too critical of Bloomberg, take a moment to consider whether or not you share his religion.  Dr. David Martin Lloyd-Jones, the British pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, used a very simple diagnostic question to determine if people understood and embraced Christianity or were adherents to religion.  Jones would ask a person “Are you a Christian?”  If they answered with, “I’m trying,” or “I’m doing the best I can to be Christian,” or “I hope so,” he knew the person did not understand what Christianity is.  What Bloomberg said, and what many many people BLOOMBERG-master675believe, is that the power to get into heaven, or to be pleasing to God, rests with us.  It is our job to be good; to do good, and it is God’s job to call balls and strikes.  And in the end we expect God will give us all a very generous strike zone because He is kind and generous and loving.  Is that what you believe?  Is it up to you to keep the Ten Commandments or follow the Golden Rule or to be generous with your stuff?  If so, then you shouldn’t be too critical of the Mayor because he is only telling your story with more confidence than most of us can muster.  He is sure his life will measure up.  He is so sure that his record is acceptable that he doesn’t even think it needs double checking at heaven’s gate.

That gate may be somewhere, but it isn’t the gateway to heaven that any Christian is looking for.  The Christian gospel is not our record offered to God for his acceptance, it is Jesus’s record given to us.  Are you a Christian?  Yes or no is the only correct answer.  There is no earning it.  It is a gift.  The whole Bible shows this pattern.  Abram gets God’s promise of land and blessing and seed before he did anything notable.  Moses is a washed up shepherd who ran away from a murder rap when God chooses him.  God rescues all of Israel from slavery before he gives them the Ten Commandments, not after they obeyed them.

The God of the Bible consistently gives away his endorsement to people who don’t deserve it; to people who have not earned it.  The final and full expression of this is Jesus.  Jesus earns a perfect record with perfect performance of human life.  This is a whole other topic worth considering – that when you see Jesus its not that we are just looking at a sinless life (no mistakes or nothing that makes God angry) its that we are seeing what a completely full human life looks like.  This life earns Jesus a place before God like none other.  Jesus then gives away his record to anyone who asks for it.  Good people don’t get it.  Bad people are not excluded.  Anyone can have it.  The only thing you have to do is accept a complete record swap.  You have to take all his record and give up all your record.  None of our marks transfer.  None of our good marks – the ones we’re really proud of – come with us, and none of our bad marks – the ones we’re really ashamed of – come with us either.  Complete swap.  That is the gospel and that is Christianity.  Are you a Christian?  If the answer is yes, you can have Bloomberg-like confidence in your record.  No need to even think about getting into heaven.  You already know your record “works” to get into heaven because Jesus got in with the same record and now its yours.  Pretty simple.  Thats the gospel.  Thats why gospel means “good news,” for those of us who aren’t strong and sure we can work our way into heaven.  We are going to heaven the real old fashioned way…Jesus earned it.

Wakeup and Smell the Sin – The Bundy Ranch and the Abuse of Power

How far can a government go before its people push back?  What are the limits of governmental power and how do we keep it in check?  What recourse do we have when government abuses power and refuses to “play by the rules”?  The opening of the American Declaration of Independence recounts the profound nature of these questions saying:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

This was written by a people who were convinced their government was willing to use its power to further its own interests at any time and any way it chose.  They lost faith in their government because it chose to use its power over them randomly and without recourse.  Their government threatened them economically.  They responded through economic sanctions against the government’s interests.  Their government threatened them politically.  They responded by setting up extra-governmental congresses.  Finally their government threatened their very lives and liberty.  They responded by taking up arms and forcibly removing those who abused power.

None of this happened in an instant.  It happened over the course of many years.  When it did come to a crisis it wasn’t just the tea party or the Liberty or Death speech or “the shot heard round the world.”  These are historical contractions; ways to make sense of events after they happened.  Those living in the events didn’t always see how they connected with both the past and the future, nor did they all agree upon what to do about it.  There were loyalists and patriots and at the time each thought the other thoroughly “unpatriotic” one way or another.

It would be a mistake to think that “civil discourse” existed in the time of America’s founding.  To believe our forefathers treated each other better than we do today is to be ignorant of history.  There has never been such a thing as clean politics; not in America, not in any country with any form of government at any time in history.  Politics are messy, and there have always been people willing to do anything to accumulate and exercise power over others.  It is exceedingly rare to find an instance where people on either side of an issue are completely in the right, or completely in the wrong.  Both sides abuse power, or attempt to manipulate circumstances to their greatest advantage using questionable article-2603026-1D12BF1A00000578-37_634x437tactics.  The American revolution wasn’t carried out by perfect people with a perfect claim against England.  The standoff at the Bundy ranch isn’t a case of perfect people against an imperfect government either.  So we have a serious problem:  we need government to live well because without it we are on our own against individuals likely to exercise and abuse power over us, but once we form a government it is made up from those same individuals who are likely to exercise and abuse power over us.

The American form of government is not all that it could be.  There is plenty of room for improvement.  But the thing we’ve gotten right; the thing that led an obscure backwoods colony to become the most influential and powerful nation on earth in less than 200 years, is the dilution of power.  That sounds strange, but its true.  America became more powerful than any other nation because its political system prevents the accumulation of power by the few and spreads it out over the many.  This counterintuitive form of governing created both freedom and restraint in the highest ratio ever seen on the world stage.

While our government has changed and grown, this core of diluting power so that freedom and restraint stay in balance has remained.  But the core of the core is our current problem.  There was a reason our forefathers feared the accumulation of power, and it wasn’t because they hated a particular king exercising it over them.  Our forefathers, and the majority of every generation of Americans until the last one, believed human beings were flawed and couldn’t be trusted with power.  We did not have illusions about our fundamental goodness.  We believed in a thing that sounds very old fashioned now:  sin.  Because sin was a fact and sin infected everyone, we knew instinctively that fewer people with greater power was a recipe for disaster.  This lesson was forcefully driven home to us by two world wars ignited by totalitarian egos, and a cold war driven along by the same thing.  But now we are a half generation removed from the fall of Soviet style communism, and a generation and a half past world war, and we no longer believe in sin.  You can tell by the way our leaders talk.  The Russian invasion of the Crimea elicited this response from our Secretary of State:

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a completely trumped up pre-text.”

Our leaders don’t see that sinful people have always and will always make up pretexts for abusing power.  We are not getting less sinful because we have the internet, the best understanding of science, or the highest educational standards in history.  If anything history shows us that the more we advance technologically the more we will use that technology to abuse and exploit each other.  The ignorance of history and the loss of the language of sin leaves us in danger because it fosters an environment in which our natural suspicion of individuals who accumulate power is stunted.  We can’t believe the President of Russia would actually invade a country because he can and he wants to.  We can’t believe the President of the United States will ignore the Constitution because he can and he wants to.  We can’t believe these leaders are sinners.  There was a time when calling these men “sinners” whose every action deserved our careful scrutiny, would have been nothing more than an agreed upon fact.  We would not want to destroy them because they were sinners, we would just not allow them to act without restraint, without recognizing they were capable both of error and of deliberate abuse of power.  We would know this because when we looked inside ourselves we would see the same flaw. Now we are defenseless against sin because “sin” doesn’t exist; it died along with God.

Not only are we victims of the mythology of a sin-less world, but a godless world too.  We blindly trust government to act in our best interests all the time.  In other words, government now occupies the place of God in our culture.  It is both sinless and all powerful.  Questioning government activity is like questioning church doctrine.  Worshipping other gods above government is increasingly dangerous.  Appealing to another source other than government for freedom and protection is discouraged.

The only kind of people who can provide real and lasting help for the situation facing America today are those who know themselves to be sinners and the whole world to be broken by sinfulness.  These will be the only people with both the awareness and the humility to work together to solve our real practical problems.  These will be the only people with the guts to say no to the accumulation of power by sinful people and the self awareness to keep from grabbing it for themselves.  This is how our forefathers founded our nation; taking power from the powerful but dispersing it among the many.  The cowboys at Bundy had the guts to stand up to sin and the abuse of power.  If they act like Americans of old they will not abuse the victory and they will share power with others like themselves.  If I am not mistaken this kind of courage and restraint are going to become more and more necessary day by day if we are going to remain both a free and a powerful nation which is a force for good in a sinful world.

 

 

 

This Sexual Revolution Thing is Working Out Great… if You’re a Man

“When we examine simple connections between recent and lifetime sexual partnering, frequency of sex, and a variety of emotional-health indicators—including depression scales, self-reported episodic crying, life satisfaction, depression diagnoses, and current use of prescription antidepressants—it quickly becomes apparent that having more numerous sexual partners is associated with poorer emotional states in women,
but not men.”
Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker)

A good thirty years into the sexual revolution, the throwing off of “traditional” views of sex along with how we view gender roles, is working out great; if you are a man.  Men who used to pay a much higher price in terms of commitment and stability in order to gain access to sex, can now have sex for little or no commitment.  Women, who were encouraged to view their sexual decisions in a “liberated” way (ie to have sex when they wanted with whoever they wanted) are not faring so well by putting that into practice.  In the traditional view of sex, women were the gatekeepers who could demand relational security in exchange for sex, and men were the pursuers exploring the market for the price they had to pay for sex, and trying to have as much of it as they could get for the lowest cost.  As more women adopted these liberal attitudes toward sex, the market slowly started to flood with lower cost sex in terms of commitment to the point where a woman who withholds sex from a man is no longer an obstacle for him – he has plenty of options readily available.  Now men can have sex for next to nothing with many partners – literally a school boy’s dream, and they are doing it with abandon, and, evidently without causing themselves much long term damage.  Women on the other hand, are not faring so well.

Even getting married—deciding to settle down with only one sex partner for good—doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who’ve had numerous sex partners in their lifetime. While no association with depressive symptoms is apparent among now-married young women who’ve had up to four sex partners in their lifetime, problems appear among those who’ve had 5–10, and even more among those who’ve had more than 10 partners.  [Such] women display more intense emotional difficulties. Among those who’ve had more than 10 partners, 41 percent report being depressed at least some time in the past seven days. Just over 14 percent are actively taking antidepressants, and only 79 percent say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with their life. So while the security of a marital relationship can diminish sex-related emotional-health problems, it doesn’t often take them away.

It makes you wonder who’s idea the sexual revolution was in the first place, and what were they hoping to accomplish.  One name above all others attaches itself to this: Hugh Hefner.  Hefner is the living image of the beginning and shriveling up of the sexual revolution; a man of small physical and moral stature who lacks the generally valued masculine qualities which would attract and hold the attentions of a real woman.  A man who has everything to gain by tearing down the traditional sexual structures in order to gain access to what he wants.  It was all couched in such inclusive terms from the start – why shouldn’t we all stop feeling guilty about sex and relax?  Why shouldn’t women be able to have as much sex as men are having?  The truth was (and still is) that men were not having more sex than women; that single men always had (and still have) less and less satisfying sex than their married friends, and that women enjoyed sex much more when they had a greater power over the sexual market place by rejecting casual sex and waiting for sex in an emotionally stable relationship. What will happen in the next 30 years?  Given what I know about women’s character and ability, I predict they will tell their daughters and sons what a disaster the “sexual revolution” has been, and begin to teach them to reject it.  The generation raised by the victims of the sexual wars will raise a generation who will reassert sane and workable sexual practices that work for both genders.  When they do, many will be surprised at how “traditional” it looks.  I won’t, because to me it isn’t tradition, it is truth written into the fabric of the universe by our Creator, and rejecting it always wreaks havoc.  Maybe we can help get things started by putting posters of the original Playboy in every dorm room of America…

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