CHRISTIAN LIVING

15Apr

A test is coming

Are you ready?

The coming days will show us that the Body of Christ in the United States isn’t as large as the guide books tell us. And it might not be as strong as assumed, either. I fear that some among the rest of us might counsel silence by reminding us that we don’t face violent persecution like Christians overseas. We don’t, and we should keep our own burdens in perspective. But we should not use that perspective as an excuse to hide and hope the hate goes away. As Christians overseas might tell us, it doesn’t. Our tests are coming. We need to gather our resolve now, while our burdens are still relatively light. They aren’t going to remain so. –Leslie Loftis

31Mar

What is the Point of a Selfie?

…what is the point of a selfie? It’s about affirmation. It’s about how many “likes” they can get, and at the end of the day that is how they will determine their value. Disagree if you will, but I feel like the instant emotional responses of your Facebook friends and other strangers are much too fickle to find your worth in. And on the flipside, they’re training us in quick judgements. Thumbs up or down – easy as that. Because who needs time to reflect or think deeply? Take that into real life, and no wonder we are so quickly critical of others and have no patience for them if we don’t instantly love them. –Family Edge

23Feb

Connected and Cranky

no-internet

Massive interconnectivity in our era has ironically resulted in self-isolation, self-delusion and aggression — for individuals and nation-states alike. –Townhall

We know this is true — the more “connected” a person becomes to the digital world, the less connected they become to the real one. And yet — we don’t really ask the fundamental question.

Why? Perhaps the answer lies someplace here.

pen-mightier-than-truth

In the digital world, the pen truly is mightier than the truth. We can remake women into sexual objects who are physically perfect, “always on,” and willing to do just about anything. We can remake men into emotional powerhouses through romance novels who will stop at nothing — nothing — in their unmitigated devotion to their own personal goddess.

But the bottom line is this: The digital world allows us to believe in the allure of the progressive lie, that we can really and truly treat other human beings as objects to be used, used up, and then thrown away when we’re done on the way to the next emotional high. Living exclusively in the digital world teaches us — molds our minds — to treat other people as though they are merely appendages on some electronic device rigged up for our personal entertainment.

Confronting real people, in the real world, who can’t be molded to our desires, who can’t be shut off and put away when we’re tired of them, becomes a chore we just don’t want to deal with. Can’t people just progress past being real humans, so we can manage them to our own desires and tastes, already?

And that’s why we’re all cranky.

16Feb

Internet of Things

Whether or not you know it 3 or like it — the “Internet of Things” is well on its way. With smart phones and smart televisions that monitor everything within “hearing distance” of the device, and thermostats that “know” if someone in the house, and the patterns of your life, we are well on the way to living in a world where every basic human need (or want) is “covered by a machine.” Amazon is peddling a device that brings us “one step closer to the all-knowing, ever-helpful home assistant that we’ve hoped for…”

And doesn’t it sound wonderful?

To be able to, as the story line goes in the Big Ball at Disney, simply get up in the morning and have your entire day planned for you without a thought — because your smart home already knows what you will think, like, not like, and how to arrange things to use the minimal amount of energy from the solar panels to get you there. Wow.

Before we get too caught up in the dream, maybe we need to consider whether this is really a dream — or a nightmare. Two points to think about in your rush to self-extinction.

The two keys are a pair of lies: “it’s only a computer watching me, the data is anonymized, no can watch me as a person, etc.” and “even if a human gets this information, they’ll be a disinterested human who’s primary goal is to make my life better anyway.”

First, the computer isn’t watching you through these devices. People are. The interface you see is an abstraction for a larger program, an information gathering scheme. The thermostat in your home that tracks your every move is an abstraction. Abstractions, as we like to say in the technology industry, are leaky. No matter how much you try and make the data not apply to a single person, to reduce the person to a member of a crowd, you will leak through. To carry this thought further, given the profit motive involved in controlling the lives of, say, several dozen people to the maximum possible degree, and the possible criminal use of this type of information, you can be assured the entire system will be designed to allow the abstraction to leak when it’s needed.

Do you like being naked before the state, especially when the state, itself, is quickly becoming criminal?

Second, once you leak through the abstraction, you, as a person, are not being watched by someone who cares to make your life better. You’re being watched, instead, by someone who wants to make their life better. It’s a fundamental rule of human nature that we are not often, even on our best of days, truly self-sacrificing. Human greed, in the name of making our lives “better,” knows no bounds. If we let it slip through our doors, into our living rooms, it will take over. And this is bottom line for the companies promoting this stuff — the ability to take a few more dollars out of our checking accounts in the name of “making your life better.”

In case we’ve missed the lesson, just look to the welfare-government complex as an example. Here we have a case where we pay people to “care” for the less fortunate among us. What we should have learned is that when you give people a material interest in “charity,” when you make it their job to dispense money to those who are “less fortunate,” the definition of “less fortunate” expands to the level of salary those paid to dispense this “charity” feel they need to prevent being “less fortunate” themselves. Hasn’t the entire attempt to equalize society through government intervention taught us anything? Apparently not, for we, like the mad person in the asylum next door, continue to do the same things over and over again while somehow expecting different results.

In the world of “the Internet of Things,” then, there is no promise that “you” won’t leak through the layer of carefully constructed abstractions being used to lull you into a feeling of safety — in fact, that’s the point. And once you’re exposed, there is no promise that “you” won’t be “nudged” to spend more and more and more, ’til we’re living the life of a coal miner in a big mining operation. “I owe my soul to the company store.”

To me, it seems most of the IoT scenarios are concerned less with making my life happier and more about positioning me carefully on a conveyor belt of consumption. As such, the smart home concept is another step towards productizing and monetizing our behind-closed-doors private lives – and towards reducing our choices as well, because making your life simpler very easily slips into making your life smaller, too. –Steve Ranger

It’s the second point made in this quote we should pay special attention to, though — the point about making our lives smaller. For in the end, the point of the “Internet of Things” is simple:

You are the thing attached to the Internet.

Think about it.

7Jan

What Difference Does it Make in Eternity?

“What difference does it make in eternity?”

The preacher thundered from the pulpit, his hand slapping on the worn leather bound Bible.

“Do you think God is going to care if you worked hard for your boss? Do you think God is going to care if you had a nice house? Do you think God is going to care if you had a nice car? No!” The Bible came down on the corner of the pulpit, the thunderclap reverberating through the sanctuary. “What God is going to care about whether or not you did his work here and now! How many people have you saved? How much money have you given to missions? How much have you done for the Lord?”

My mind wandered to a woman bent over, focused on her weaving. What is it she was doing? She held the cloth up to inspect it — were all the threads in the right places? Was the pattern correct? Was the precious golden thread creating a creature that everyone could see? Would it last for a hundred years, separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle of God?

“Where is the tithe of souls you would bring into my storehouse, cries the Lord? Will you care about the degree you didn’t get in this life, or will the people you didn’t reach matter more?”

My mind again wandered to a shepherd in a field, watching over his flock at night. There, in the field, he was playing a harp — or was it a small flute? He was singing a song between the notes, looking around to make certain not a single sheep was missing. As I neared, I could hear the song more clearly, carried on the wind — a song of praise to the Lord. Here was David in the field with his sheep, long before he became King.

The Bible slapped again, it’s thunder bringing me back to the present. “What difference does will it make in eternity? Would you have your soul roast in hell for a car, or a house, or a certificate? Or would you rather hear those sweet and precious words, well done my good and faithful servant?”

I found myself thinking of men huddled around the base of a wall, examining the work from the day before. Were the stones laid just right? Was the mortar setting the way it should? Would it hold the weight of hundreds of generations to come? Would hold the wind at bay, and the warmth of a small fire in at night? There, in the midst of the group, was Joseph, and then Jesus, learning his father’s trade, making the wall straight and strong and true.

“What difference will it make in eternity?” The preacher’s last words hung in the air, humming on top of the first stanza of the last hymn.

God didn’t just create, he created beauty. God didn’t give the Israelites poor gifts for a ramshackle, ugly Tabernacle, he gave them great gifts to build a beautiful structure that would last for hundreds of years. God didn’t look askance at David’s singing, he had these beautiful songs recorded in the Scriptures for all to read throughout the ages. And God, when he walked the streets of Nazareth, didn’t ignore the work Joseph set him to do — we are told he grew in favor with God and men, which means he did his work well.

What difference does it make in eternity?

Beauty always makes a difference — and the work of the soul in learning to make things beautiful, to make things true, to make things as they should be — that work shapes souls that make a difference in eternity.

29Dec

Advertising Ourselves to Death

The advertising of our decade is very similar: products are advertised not as shirts, cereal, or face lotion, but as “something to make you look thin,” “something to help your kids get good grades in school,” and “something to make you look like Jennifer Lawrence.” The items with which we fill our shopping carts are as much ideas, fantasies, and forlorn hopes as they are food and raiment. Advertising is manipulative, but in its own limited way, it also reveals the yearnings of the American heart. –Anna Mussmann in the Federalist

Or, to put it in other terms.

marketing-evil-tool

What we often don’t realize is just how manipulative marketing has become. What was once a simple statement saying, “ship just landed, we have pineapples available at pier 14,” or, “I am a purveyor of the highest quality hats,” become, “use this product if you want sexy girls draped all over you,” or “use this product if you want to be sexy,” some years ago. Today, it has become, “I know that if you like this sort of post, you’ll like that sort of product, so I’ll send you a direct advertisement you can’t resist.”

We’ve moved from, “I have this available,” to “I will find a way to manipulate you into buying what I have to sell, regardless of your financial condition, your actual need, etc.” Marketing has moved to, “I need you to buy this in order to make my business grow” — from the needs and wants of the consumer to the needs and wants of the seller.

And it is precisely here that I want to inject something not many people understand — big data and privacy. When I object to the widespread posting of information that should be personal on facebook and other social media sites, when I say, “you really should watch your social media usage,” I often hear two things:

– “They’re not watching me! It’s impossible, there so many people out there, how could they watch every one?”

– “I don’t care, so long as it’s just some company grabbing the data for marketing, and not the government.”

Both of these excuses fail to take into account the absolutely manipulative nature of modern marketing. It doesn’t matter if you think a specific person is watching you, individually. The entire power of modern marketing is to leverage a single person’s time to manipulate as many people as possible at once. It wouldn’t pay to have a single person watching you, specifically — it only pays if there’s leverage involved. On the other hand, manipulation is still manipulation, whether done by people of machines. We all have someone we know that always seems just a bit shady, who’s always trying to get us to go along, to get us to go one step beyond where our morals and standards would allow. The marketing industry has become that person, only with very well trained data scientists and psychologists in tow. It’s not any less creepy when it’s a machine doing the manipulating. What we often forget in our rush to “blame the system,” is there’s still someone behind the machine. Artificial intelligence still isn’t a “thing.”

It also doesn’t matter if it’s “just a company,” mishandling our information. Private companies are often wide open in their treatment of data about us, leaking that information everywhere, and setting up all sorts of moral issues we can’t even begin to imagine. It’s coming to the point that the only real option, if you want to keep your information private, and you don’t want to run afoul of the high school cafeteria of “meme girls,” is to self censor.

As Christians, maybe it’s time we did just that. Maybe it’s time to actually put into practice what Jesus taught — to love one another. And to realize that feeding the marketing machine, that following someone on facebook, rather than just talking to them face to face, isn’t “loving,” in any sense of the word.

16Dec

Boycotting Popular Culture

It’s difficult being a consumer of popular entertainment as a conscientious conservative. Hollywood is so infested with liberals and Democrat activists that it’s difficult to go to a movie at all without feeling like you are contributing money to someone who will immediately turn around and donate it to either a Democrat or Planned Parenthood. Many companies are likewise entwined in Democrat or liberal organizations, and then there’s the increasing willingness of professional athletes to enter the fray. –Redstate

The conservative reaction to “popular culture,” often takes one of two forms. Boycott it, with loud protests and demands for the companies to change what they produce. Shrug your shoulders and watch anyway. I would like to suggest another alternative — an alternative that specific to Christians, of course, but a real alternative, nonetheless.

Ignore it.

Stop watching four hours of television a day. Stop going to movies you’re really not interested in “just to go.” Stop following the lives of the “stars.” Stop listening to what actors, actresses, singers, and professional athletes say about anything. Don’t watch those overblown award shows where folks “in the business” grow really long arms so they can pat themselves on the back. Stop caring about who is dating whom, who broke up with whom, where some star bought a new house, and all the rest. You’re never going to meet these people, and if you did, you wouldn’t like them.

So just stop it.

Entertainment would be a lot healthier if we put it in it’s proper place — to entertain. But we’ve become a world obsessed with being entertained — we think entertainers (including professional athletes — who are, after all, just another form of entertainer) are some sort of special class of people. They are somehow wiser, stronger, and better than us because we pay them millions to utter the perfect line to the perfect setup written by someone entirely different.

I’m not saying we should boycott all this stuff. Rather, we should just find better things to do with our time. Don’t you have a long list of classics you’ve never read? What about that apologetics book that’s been laying on your side table for the last ten years? Or, God forbid, that dusty old Bible you only pick up to flip to the passage on a Sunday morning.

If you really want entertainment, then go local, and go Christian. Stop pining after some superstar — they’re really not all that much better than the folks who sing in your church on Sunday morning. They’re just popular because, well, they’re popular — and they’re willing to make themselves into a public spectacle by riding nude on a wrecking ball (and that’s supposed to be “good” entertainment??).

Stop whining about how Christian entertainment isn’t “as good as the world’s.” Just because it doesn’t sound like “world music,” doesn’t mean it isn’t good — it might just mean you’ve developed a taste for sugar, and have a hard time handling red meat.

Stop whining about the lack of Christian culture, or the shallowness of “popular” Christian culture, and help to create some. Are you writing a book, or writing music, or playing in a Christian group, or… ?? Have you really looked around for local groups and venues that have local talent that’s not so tuned against Christianity? If not, then stop whining, and do something.

It’s time to find better things to do with our time.

3Nov

The Necessity of Relationship

The family is coming apart. From no-fault divorce to homosexual marriage to single’s rights to (the next logical step) the complete dissolution of all family bonds, we live in a culture that places no value on making and staying in relationships beyond their “useful lifetime.” This should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands the foundational thought of the progressive ideology currently bearing fruit in our culture — humans have no intrinsic value. The only value some “other” human has is in relation to what I can get, what I feel, what I need.

But humans are also created with a need for solid, stable relationships — the kinds of relationships that involve staying in the relationship even when you don’t feel like it. The kinds of relationships that involve being “trapped” for some periods of time while you work out how to make the relationship better. The kinds of relationships that involve commitment to a principle rather than just “how I feel right now.” In our rush to destroy marriage (make no mistake, the drive for homosexual marriage is, ultimately a drive to destroy marriage itself), we’ve forgotten that humans are built to be in just this sort of relationship.

Evidence? Take the following quotes from a piece on how libprogs misunderstand the drive to have children out of wedlock:

Most low-income non-married mothers see children not merely as desirable, but as a ‘necessity.’ Without children, their lives are hollow and chaotic; having children is a ‘heroic’ choice that rescues them from emptiness. For many, parenthood is the point ‘at which they can really start living.’ –Promises I Can Keep, quoted at The Federalist

As the linked article points out, the disconnect between what “upper class” libprogs see in children and what their wards (the “lower class” welfare class dependent on them) see in children is so stark as to be almost unreal. For the “upper class” libprog, relationships come and go — but there are always a few friends, always someone, with which they have a solid, caring relationship. A family, as it were, even if they don’t call it such.

But while the “upper class” libprogs have such relationships as a matter of course — they have the money, and the time, and the background from the conservative upbringing they hate to form them — folks in the “lower classes,” who depend on the libprogs to take money from “the rich” and give it to them for their bare sustenance existence, simply don’t. The upper class in the United States, the librpog elite, live in a world where babies are a matter of choice, of convenience, and babies that don’t fit the bill should be terminated, to be replaced by another of your choosing.

The “lower classes,” those dependent on liberal largess taken from others, live in a world where relationships matter, where having a relationship isn’t a “matter of course,” but it’s a matter of either being alone most of the time, or not. They live a world where the male/female relationship has been destroyed, the church is being unwound as a community (Christians are intolerant bigots), and they’re told that money and “more sex” are the answers to their problems.

When the school is the only “community” left in any community (intentionally, on the part of the libprog elite), then how do you “join the community?” When you can’t have a husband, then how do you have a family?

You have a child. A child who will love you no matter what. A child that will connect you to the school, and hence to the other parents in your area, and hence to friends, and social contact. A child that will connect you to a government case worker, and a doctor, and… A child who will your family when no-one else will be.

That should should be as plain as the nose on your face, but somehow we miss this point. Humans are built for relationships. Destroying the family isn’t going to help the “single mother” problem. Providing free day care for unmarried mothers isn’t going to help the “child of a single parent” problem. Families are necessary to learning how to properly form, and keep, relationships, so building more content free relationships aren’t going to help the social problems we have.

What will help is to rebuild our society from the bottom up, one family at a time. To stop pushing choices rich people who have a solid family on people who aren’t rich, and don’t have one. To stop telling them that families are bad, all men are rapists, and Christianity is bigoted. If you want to create a civilization, you don’t start by pushing people out of relationships as fast as possible, by downgrading all relationships into “what’s in it for me.”

23Oct

What God Wants Us to Ask

[God] wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking, “Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is it the way that History is going?” they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make. -C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

24Sep

To Be Like Gods

In Genesis, the Serpent said that when we eat of the fruit of the tree, our eyes will be opened to the knowledge of both good and evil. We will have the knowledge and become as gods. It is not enough to be made in the image and likeness of God, but we must actually do something to fashion ourselves as such – idolatry. Every human error of faith begins with a misconstruing of the nature and will of God. Pantheism, modalism, and other forms of thought that fashion God as a being and substance that He is not is the beginning and root of heresy. The will of God is not explicated in the beginning. Even in the Word, the “why” God created is not there. Why He created humans for his company in the garden, is truly a mystery. We turned on Him and through sin created an eternal division between us and our Father. His will today until it is fulfilled is to reconcile us to Himself. That is the only and central will of God is that He brings us to Himself. –Acton

© Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved