Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jeus in the Cafe IV - Jake's Day of Reckoning

You must read the previous 4-5 posts to understand this one.

(As John leaves the café, Jesus turns in his seat and looks over at Jake)

Jesus: “Well Jake, how’re you coming with your list of your Christian accomplishments?’

(Jake with a frown on his face, slides two napkins with about thirty lines of writing on each, towards Jesus. Jesus grabs then, then without looking at them, wads them up and leaves them on the table. Jake lets out a loud disapproving sigh.)

Jake’s Id: I’ve about had it with this imposter. Why in the hell did he want me to write all those things down and then not even look at them? He’s a first class con man and I’m ready to expose him. He has already offended John, and he’ll probably never come back to the church. As an elder and community Christian leader, I’ve got to end this here and now. God knows that Lacey doesn’t have the balls to do it.

(About this time Maria arrives with a large pan of water, a washcloth and towel. Jesus smiles gently at her.)

Maria: “Sir, you gave me far too much money for a tip. I didn’t even know how much it was until I was in the back.” (She hands Jesus the wad of money).

Jesus: “Oh, keep it.” (Pushing her fist-full of money back towards her.) “I really didn’t give to money for your sake . . . although I’m sure you will put it to good use. I really gave it to you for John’s sake. He must have been satisfied with my decision because he’s no longer here is he?”

Maria: (with tears in her eyes) Oh thank you sir!

(Melvin and Lacey are both looking at the pan of water with great curiosity, then Jake abruptly and loudly speaks)

Jake: “Okay, this circus is ending now! I’m now in charge of this meeting and I must expose you, whoever you are (looking at Jesus) as a fraud! We are done playing your little mind games.”

Jesus: “And you really believe that I’m not who I say I am? So, what would it take to convince you?”

(Jake looks both defensive and puzzled. After thinking for a few minutes, he speaks.)

Jake: “Okay Mr. hot-shot, if you are the real Jesus, do a miracle! Turn that pan of water into wine. Or take a sword, or kitchen knife . . . cut my ear off and then put it back on.”

(Jesus looks at Jake in silence for a moment.)

Jesus: “So you want a miracle. Everybody wants a miracle. Oh, you of such small faith. (long pause). Don’t they say that a pen is mightier than the sword? Then hand me your pen.”

(Jake takes his pen back out of his shirt pocket and hands it to Jesus. Jesus pulls another napkin out of the chrome napkin holder and writes on it. He spins it around where Jake can read it. Jake frowns and then goes completely white as sweat pops out on his brow. Lacey, out of curiosity, reaches for the napkin and reads it out loud.)

Lacey: “Jennifer Wilson. Jennifer Wilson, what does this mean?”

Jesus: “Ask Jake.”

(The color is starting to come back to Jake’s face).

Jake: “Oh, she’s a gal I knew in college . . . I may have dated her once.”

Jesus: “Well Jake should I tell them?”

Jake: “Tell them what? I mean that was a long time ago and I barely remember her. She was a real nobody on campus.”

Jesus: “She remembers you.”

Jake: “What point are you trying to make, Jesus?”

(Jesus turns to look at the whole group)

Jesus: “You see, Jennifer was a girl that Jake dated once . . . but she never dated him again because he raped her.”

(Jake looking very hostile)

Jake: “That’s a lie! I never did such a thing! Yes, I may have slept with her, but I slept with a lot of girls when I was in college. I was a football star and it was before I met Christ!”

Jesus: “But have we met?”

Jake: “Well, you keep claiming that we haven't, but, how did you know about Jennifer? Huh, tell me that!”

Jesus: “Oh . . . because I know Jennifer. And I know that she has never been the same since your little date. She was a virgin and you took that away from her against her wishes. The only reason she didn’t turn you in is that she was so ashamed . . . and still is.”

Jake: “I think her memory is wrong! Back in those days every girl on campus wanted me.”

Jesus: “She didn’t. Not in that way. Yes, you might have been her knight in shinning armor, but she didn’t go out with you to sleep with you. She wanted to be your princess, a princess that you respected. Jake, I know this is troubling to you, but it’s time that we dealt with the past.”

Jake: “That was all long time ago, but I am a totally different man now.”

Jesus: “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Are you a different man . . . really?”

Jake: “Oh, good grief. If you hadn’t wadded up those napkins you would see all the things I’ve accomplished for you over the past ten years.”

Jesus: “Could it be that you simply exchanged collecting football trophies to collecting Christian trophies? Wasn’t that napkin just another list, a list of trophies? And what about Jennifer? Did you ever go back and tell her how sorry you were? Did you ever tell her that none of it was her fault? And speaking of women, what about Nancy Gaver, at your old church. Do they know you seduced her?”

Jake: “Now that was a big mistake. I talked to my pastor AND MY WIFE about that, and I ended it!”

Jesus: “Only because you got caught!.

(Jake looks like he is about to explode)

Jake: "I’ve had it with this crap! I’ve done so much for this community . . . a lot of good. This church wouldn’t be where it was today if it had not been for MY leadership. I’m out of here and I’m not taking this abuse any more!”

(Jake jumps up and walks out of the café leaving only Jesus, Lacey and Melvin . . . both of them stunned and speechless.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jesus at the Cafe Part III - John's and Jake's Assignments

Above is Juan Gris' painting Man in the Cafe

(Jesus turns and looks at Jake)

Jesus: “Jake, you seem rather quiet. Are you still upset that I didn’t know you?”

(Jake just stares at Him)

Jesus: “Okay, here’s an assignment for you.”

(Jesus gathers two napkins on the table and shoves them in Jake’s direction)

Jesus: “You’ve got a pen right?”

(Jake nods)

Jesus: “Okay, write out for me all the things you’ve done for me over the years.”

(Jake looks perplexed for a moment then takes his pen out of his shirt pocket and starts writing. About that time Maria returns with a large plate of waffles with vanilla ice cream on top and sits them in front of Lacey)

Jesus: “Thanks Maria. Now one more thing before you go. Would you please bring me a large pan from the kitchen fill with warm water. A clean wash cloth would be nice . . . oh and a dry towel.”

Maria: (Looking confused) “You want a pan of water? Do you have a dog?” (she looks under the table.)

Jesus: “No dog . . . just need a pan. But wait a second.”

(He turns and looks at John)

Jesus: “John, hand me your billfold.”

(John reaches slowly, like he’s really confused, and pulls out his billfold and slowly hands it to Jesus. Jesus opens it up and pulls out all the paper bills in the bill section and starts to hand them to Maria. John grabs his hand.)

John: “What the heck you doing? You can’t give her my money. There’s almost five hundred dollars in there.”

(Jesus struggles and pulls his hand away from John’ grip and hands the money to Maria and winks)

Jesus: “Maria this is your tip for the waffles and the pan.”

John’s Id: What the hell is He doing with my money? This really frustrates me. I should have never hung out with this bunch of losers.

John: (after Maria walks away with his money) “This is so unfair! You’re not grabbing anyone else’s money. This breakfast has cost me seven hundred dollars now and it’s starting to piss me off!”

Jesus: (Looking at John kindly) “Unfair? Let me see. Maria here, well, she was brought to the US illegally when she was four. Her family paid an 'escort' their life savings for the trip. Their escort took their money and dropped them in the middle of the Arizona desert . . . and it was August. Maria’s mother died from dehydration over the subsequent 30 hours.

Maria’s father was a migrant worker and they traveled throughout California and up through the northwest. Usually three or four families were crammed into a broken down, two bedroom trailer. When she was sixteen, her father married her off because he couldn’t support her anymore.

Maria’s husband, besides giving her four children quickly, was a drunk. He beat her without mercy. She was finally able to get away from him when he was arrested.

Now Maria is raising her four children alone, working for minimal wage, about sixty hours a week. She still earns only about twenty five thousand dollars a year.

Then I look at your life John. You’re a single child of a lawyer couple. You had every thing you ever wanted. You parents paid your way to go to the best private schools. They paid your way to go to Berkley. Didn’t they give you a BMW at graduation?

Your dad arranged for you to get your first job. Now you earn over $250K a year and you too have one child. You have over 1 million dollars in your 401 K retirement account.

So tell me John, What’s not fair?”

John: “But Jesus, this is MY money and you have not right to give it away to others. I give my tithe to the church.”

Jesus: “Well, let me think for a minute. If you mean by tithe, 10% of your income, then I think you are mistaken. You give 3%, after taxes . . . 2% before taxes.”

John: “Hey go back to our old church. My wife and I purchased four oak pews. They weren’t cheap! I think they were a grand each!”

Jesus: “Hmm. I think there’s a brass plaque on the end of each pew with your and your wife’s name on it too . . . right? So you’ve gotten the credit you were looking for.”

John: “You know folks. I have never been so insulted as I have this morning. I won’t be back to this breakfast and I won’t be back to your church.”

Lacey's Id: Oh, no. Were going to loose John and he and his wife were going to be such good donors. I think Jesus went too far.

Jesus: “John, you weren’t coming back to their church anyway. You, as a cooperate lawyer, only use churches to find more clients. Haven’t you already realized that there’s not enough business men and women at this church anyway? I mean, you have already figured out that it isn’t worth your time.”

(John stands up, picks up his billfold off the table.)

Jesus: “John, before you go, I want to give you your assignment.”

(John looks down at Jesus with an angry look . . . but he listens)

Jesus: “John, I want you to cash out your 401 K and give the entire 1 million dollars (plus a few thousand) to Maria’s church.”

John: “You’re out of you’re freaken mind!” (Then he storms out of the café).

Jesus: (looking around at the group) You folks keep thinking I’m insane. Now isn’t that curious.” (Jesus smiles) “You know a son of mine, Jim, said once, ‘He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep to gain what he can not loose.’ He was a smart guy.”

Jake’s Id: That proves it to me that this man is a fraud. Jesus would never have someone give money to the Catholic Church!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jesus at the Cafe Part II - Lacey's Assignment

Continued from previous posts:

Lacey: “Jesus, you know that I’m lonely. I try hard not to be, but I really thought I would be married with a couple of kids by now.”

Jesus: “Yes, Lacey, I do know that you’re lonely. I care very much about that. You know, I have sent you four great men and you weren't interested.”

(Lacey looking very confused)

Lacey: What men!? I don’t know of any men that came my way.

Jesus: Yes you do. Let me name a couple. What about Allen Page?

(Lacey’s confusion continues)

Lacey: “Allen Page? Allen Page, he wasn’t interested in me. I mean, every girl in seminary had a crush on him . . . but he was way out of my league. He never gave me a second glance.”

Jesus: “I beg to differ. Don’t you remember him asking you to help him drive the YMCA kids to the Christian music festival?”

Lacey: “But Jesus . . . he was only looking for another driver, not a girlfriend.”

Jesus: “Again, I beg to differ. He really was interested in you and I believe the two of you would have made a great couple.”

(Lacey goes from looking confused, to blushing to right out laughter)

Lacey: “Jesus, you must be crazy. That was during my chubby days. Guys never flirted with me then and especially not Allen.”

(Jesus speaks in a clam voice but very direct)

Jesus: “Lacy, do you really think I’m crazy?”

Lacey: (putting her hand over her mouth) “Oh no . . . just a figure of speech.”

Jesus: “Listen to me child. I’m telling you the truth, that Allen was very interested in you. He didn’t flirt with you, like some men did after you became thin, because he didn’t just see you as a semen depository, but a whole, wonderful women . . . whom he could really respect. Lacey you rejected every attempt by him to get to know you better, so he eventually gave up.”

(Tears start to come to Lacey’s eyes. Meanwhile Jake is appalled by Jesus’ language.)

Jake’s Id: I knew that this man was an impostor. He claims he doesn’t know me and of course the real Jesus would know me and of me. The real Jesus wouldn’t use such raunchy language either.

Jesus: “Lacey I think I know what you are thinking, and don’t go there. Allen is happily married now and has two lovely children. But there were other men. More recently, there was Bob Hodges. Don’t tell me that you didn’t know he was interested in you.”

Lacey: “Well, no, I guess I knew that he was. I mean I did go out with him a couple of times.”

Jesus: “But what happened? Bob was a great guy and extremely nurturing. He would have eventually made up for some of the nurturing that you lost out as a child. Your father left when you were five. Then you mother, who loved you very much, had to work two jobs to support you. Bob was an ideal man for you and was a humble follower of me. What went wrong?

Lacey: “I don’t know. It just didn’t seem like it would work out.”

Jesus: (smiling) “Lacey, should I tell them the honest reason?”

Lacey: (looking down) “I guess it’s okay.”

Jesus: “If I remember right, it’s because you thought he was fat.”

Lacey: (looking around the table and speaking in an emotional voice) “It wasn’t that simple! You see, I had worked very hard to get thin and I had finally gotten there. I was afraid if I hung out with Bob . . . or married him, that I would get fat too.”

Jesus: “Lacey, you have a fear of fatness because you don’t like yourself. It isn't because you think it will keep you from getting a good man. Here, you had a good man and you let your thinness get in the way. . . Look at me. Lacey, you are precious in my sight and I love you dearly. In my righteousness, I have given you immense value. You need to accept that. Do you think you can?"

Lacey: “Yes I think I can.”

Jesus: “Okay, my first assignment is for you. How long has it been since you’ve had waffles with ice cream?”

Lacey: “I don’t know. Maybe once, when I was a little girl.”

Jesus: “How long has it been since you’ve had any ice cream, you know more than just one bite?”

Lacey: “Years.”

Jesus: “Okay, I’m ordering you waffles and ice cream and I want you to do the same every morning for the next month.”

Lacey: “The next month! Are you crazy?”

(Jesus just looks at her and smiles)

Lacey: “But Jesus, I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at. I’m sure I’ll gain weight if I do that.”

Jesus: “Yeah you will . . . just a few pounds. But that’s okay. Look at my faithful servant Luther. He loved his beer and his waist showed it. But he did, which few have, start to understand that my righteousness is his.”

(Jake is still siting quietly)

Jake's Id: "See this man can't be Jesus. Jesus wouldn't be promoting gluttony."

(Looking across the table at John Jesus speaks to him)

Jesus: “John, this brings me to you. Lacey here lives on about thirty thousand dollars a year, and she gives twenty five percent of that back to her church. Would you please pick up the tab for her waffles?’

(John smiling)

John: “Sure.”

John’s Id: I knew I shouldn’t have come here this morning. My future is not with this church anyway. Now it’s going to end up costing me $250. That burns me up . . . Me paying for this woman’s silly waffles.

(Jesus motions for a Hispanic woman, who’s in her upper thirties to come to the table)

Jesus: “Maria isn’t it?”

Maria: “Yes.”

Jesus: Maria, can you bring this young woman here a large plate of waffles and ice cream, I think vanilla is her favorite. If she fails to show up for one morning, in the next month, please let me know.

More to come . . .

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jesus Pays a Visit to the Prayer Breakfast

Jesus’ example of honesty . . . in love. As before I will use real dialog and then what they really think, in the deepest places of their hearts under the heading “Id.” Jesus of course does not have an “Id” because he speaks what he honestly believes.

Before we move along in this fictional story, I invite you to go back to the original post about Babel and language, at least to the post where I discuss the background of the main characters.

In this scene Jesus was invited to the Small-Town Bible Church prayer breakfast by Lacey, the youth pastor. I know that it is a bizarre scenario but I’ve taken creative liberties so play along.

Setting: Prayer breakfast and Lacey arrives with John, Melvin and Jake already there.

Lacey: “Hello everyone. I have some exciting news. Jesus Himself will be joining us this morning! Here He comes now.”

(Jesus walks up to the table, shorter hair, trimmed bread and wearing a tee shirt and jeans . . . typical dress for the modern man, just as a robe and sandals were in 30 AD)

Lacey: “Everyone, I want to introduce to you a man who needs no introduction, He . . .”

(Jesus, smiling motions for her to sit down)

Jesus: “Thanks, Lacy, but why don’t you allow me to the introductions,”

Lacey: “Of course. You already know everyone here, what was I thinking?”

Lacey’s Id: I‘m an idiot. I’ve made such a fool of myself. What was I thinking? Of course Jesus knows everyone here.”

(looking around the table in silence, Jesus finally speaks)

Jesus: “Hi John. How’s things at the firm?”

John: “Oh, very well. I’m really excited about several opportunities coming up in this next year.”

Jesus: “I can see that will mean a lot of money in your bank accounts, and a lot of professional prestige. But that’s just an illusion.”

John’s Id: Hmm. What does He mean by that? I would ask, but I’m afraid that I will say something wrong. I don’t want to offend the group. I’m still hoping to win the legal account for Jake’s business, so I just better cut my losses and just be quiet.

(Jesus, still smiling in kindness, looks next at Melvin)

Jesus: “And you are Melvin. It is nice to meet you in person.”

(Putting His hand on Melvin’s back, he turns to the group and continues speaking)

Jesus: “I realize that you know Melvin, but you don’t really know him. He is my friend but doesn’t really accept my gift of righteousness. I hope to change that in time.”
(Looking now at Lacey)

Jesus: “Lacey is precious to me.” (He leans away from Melvin and towards her and gives her a big hug. She has a huge smile on her face and watery eyes) This young lady is a gem but her soul is not satisfied in me alone. She does have her problems with envy, longing for the comfort and nurturing that she, unfortunately, has never received before. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

(Looking at Jake with a perplexed look on His face)

Jesus: “And you sir, I don’t think I know you.”

(Jake has a terrified look on his face)

Jake’s Id: Why is He saying this? Of course He knows me.

Jake: “Of course you know me . . . you are Jesus.”

Jesus: “Yes, I am. But I only know that which the Father has revealed to me and I really don’t think I know you.”

Jake: “Jesus . . . of course you know me. It’s Jake! I’ve been faithful to you for twenty years. I’ve worked with Promise Keepers, finishing their discipleship program and I’ve disciple many men who are great leaders in their churches and communities.”

(Jesus still looking puzzled, Jake then continues)

Jake: “I think you are forgetting me. I mean, I’m the leader of the Christian Businessmen’s Association for two years now. Jesus, ask anyone in Small-town. They voted me the Christian father of the year two years ago. Doesn’t all that ring a bell?”

Jesus: “Hmm. Nope. I’ve never heard of you.”

Jake’s Id: This is a nightmare. Why is He doing this? This can’t be the real Jesus. He would know who I am. It doesn’t make sense that He would know a looser like Melvin and not know of me and my reputation. This is not going well and I don’t how I’m going to convince everyone that He’s an imposter . . . unless Jesus has a strange sense of humor.

More to come.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What Would /Did Jesus Do?--Language Continues

The other day I read my previous post to a Christian. She reacted the way that most Christians would. "Lacey was honest but she was cruel. That wasn't a loving thing for her to do. There's a place for honesty, but you can't go around hurting people's feelings."

Now, I'm not sure I agree with that. In the story, Lacey had a special gift, a strength from the Holy Spirit, in order to over come the huge social mores that forbid us from speaking honestly. I've tried to speak honestly, no where near the level that Lacey did, and I have suffered from it. I've made a lot of Christians mad.

I'm also not talking about being honest in the way that we are attacking others more directly rather than with veiled attacks that we normally do. Lacey was very transparent with her own weaknesses (like praying that she would not covet other women's husbands). When I speak honestly about my own failures, people are offended. It is strange. We all say that we are fallen, but when I speak of specifics, they see me as more fallen than everyone else . . . when I am just trying to be honest. As our Navigator boss on the mission field said to me once, "Mike, the way you speak, you come across as a very immature Christian."

But let us take it to Jesus. If my premise is right, that in our fallen selves we misuse language to cover our failures and to push others down, then Jesus must have done things very differently. But, if He has perfect love, he must have been the prime example of speaking honestly but in love.

I think if we turn to John 4, and read about his conversation with the woman at the well, he was very honest but not cruel. Sure, the woman must have been embarrassed about Jesus knowing about her sexual escapades. But this didn't drive her away, but made her want Jesus more. If He knew her so well, He would be able to "heal" her.

If Jesus walked into my house and sat down. Then rather than talking about his accomplishments or trying to put me down with veiled "spiritual" wording (in which I would tempted to fight back), Jesus looked me in the eye, smiled and said some very revealing and honest things about me, even if they were about my failures, I think I would want to get to know the guy better.

So, the last of my little experiments on this topic of language, I'm going to go back to the prayer breakfast with Lacey, Jake, John and Melvin . . .then have Jesus come and sit down. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lacey Speaks Honestly

Setting: It’s been a week since the last meeting. This week the same three are present, plus a guest, John, who just started visiting their church.

Lacey awaken that morning and during her personal quiet time, she read the verses from Psalms 15:

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart

She had somewhat of an epiphany and prayed, “God help me to speak only honest things that are true to my heart.” She set in her heart to follow through in obedience to that verse. God does answer her prayer and with the Holy Spirit’s help, allows her to be much more honest than she could have on her own strength.

Lacey: “Good morning everyone. I don’t know if you’ve met John, but he’s visited our church a couple of times. He and his wife just moved here from Chicago. I really do hope they decide to join our church because we need more people to do more tasks, so we can create more programs so that we in turn, can attract more people. The more people we have, the more financially secure I will be in my job. John is a lawyer so he will be in the position to support the church financially than many other people because I guess he has a lot of money.

I invited John to the breakfast, and put a lot of guilt on him if he decided not to come, because if we get him to come to things outside of church, then it will be more likely he will join our church.”

(All the breakfast participants look oddly at each other).

Jake: Lacey, I think you are trying to be funny but I’m afraid that John here might be taking you seriously.”

Jake’s Id: How embarrassing. What is wrong with her this morning? John is going to think she’s a fruitcake. Well, she is, most women are . . . but he will think the whole church is a bunch of fruitcakes . . . including ME!

Lacey: (Seeming a little perplexed) “But Jake, I AM being serious. That’s the real reason that I invited him. I mean, I do care about him too and wouldn’t mind being his friend . . . after all he seems like a nice guy.

Now where were we? Why don’t I open us up in prayer.

Dear Lord, I really need your grace in Christ, because I feel like crap this morning and I have a lot of unresolved issues.

I’m feeling very depressed again because I’m in my thirties and not married. I always wanted to have kids and I don’t have any. I always wanted to have a great friend and husband to spend my time with, like most of the women in church. God, you know that I’m as mad as hell that you seem so unfair to me. Have I not served you faithfully? Yet, you have never given me my husband that I wanted.

I also would like to have sex a lot. I’ve only had sex twice, with men you didn’t give a damn about me . . but I would . . .”

Jake: “Lacey! What’s the matter with you!? Are you ill? I mean that was the most inappropriate prayer I’ve ever heard! It was a sacrilege!”

(looking over at John), “I’m really sorry John. She has never been like this before and I’m really confused about what is going on with her.”

John’s Id: This is the strangest people group of Christian people I’ve ever met. They're a bunch of fruitcakes. I can’t wait to get home to tell Linda. I don’t think we will ever visit this church again. I wasn’t going to anyway. They don’t know that I’ve already decided to visit the Small Town Community Church, which is much bigger and will have many more business contacts, which I need for my practice.

Lacey: “Nothings wrong with me Jake. I feel fine. I was just praying from my heart.”

Jake: Lacey, then keep those thoughts private. Is something wrong with you . . . I mean you sound like you’re drunk.”

Lacey: “Oh, I’m sure I’m not drunk. I just had one beer three nights ago. I have to drive fifty miles to buy beer so no one in our church sees me. You know, since I’m the youth director, if I get caught buying one beer my job would be toast. I hide it under my bed, so, no I have never been drunk in my life. I savor my Coors for a once a month drink . . . alone in my dark apartment. Then I have to bury the bottle in the bottom of the dumpster so no one sees it.”

Jake’s Id: Lacey covets me? Wow. She’s a cute girl. Stupid, but cute.

Jake: “Okay, Lacey, since you seem to be in rare form, and you’re taking this prayer breakfast in an unspiritual direction, I’m going to lead it for the rest of the morning.”

Lacey: “No you’re not. Pastor Dan put me in charge of this group and if I don’t remain in charge, I could loose my job. He would love to replace me with a man so he could have a back up in the pulpit. I can’t speak from the pulpit because it would ruffle too many old-timer’s feathers.”

Melvin’s Id: This is getting interesting. I want to wait and see how Jake handles this. Hopefully he will make a bigger mess out of things. He thinks he is God’s gift to mankind and I would love to see him screw up.

Jake: “Lacey, as a pastor of Small-town Bible Church, surely you support the official church doctrines including that women aren’t to teach men?”

Lacey: “Actually Jake, I think that’s a bunch of bullshit. I signed on to the doctrinal statement because I needed a job and that’s the only way I could get a job here. I think your arguement last week with Melvin about evolution, or age of the earth is a bunch of bullshit too. I'll sign the doctrinal statement if they change it, but that doesn't mean I believe it. I need a job!”

Jake’s Id: Man, that turns me on which Lacey uses words like “bullshit.” Her eyes are the deepest blue. I feel attracted to a helpless woman and she sure looks helpless now. But this situation is bad. She has really lost her way and I've got to help her.

Jake: As a church elder I am dismissing you from the leadership of this breakfast. This should be a place where we honor the Lord. Here you are saying the most hateful things, talking about alcohol and now swearing. I think the devil has gotten a hold of you. I’m now in charge and when we are done here, we are going over to see Pastor Dan . . . and then maybe a doctor.

Okay folks, I’ll open us up in prayer.

Dear gracious Lord, be with our dear sister Lacey and let her see how much we love and care for her. Whatever is ailing her, whatever has turned her heart dark I pray that spirit would be slain . . .

Lacey: “You want to slay the Holy Spirit?”

Jake: “What are you talking about? You’re being blasphemous!”

Lacey: “No, you are. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me be honest, and He . . . or should I say, SHE, did. That’s why I’m talking this way. You see I’m only speaking what’s on my heart!

John’s Id: This is the most interesting prayer breakfast I’ve ever attended. We have a woman who has gone nuts right before our eyes."

Melvin Id: I’m really confused here. I feel like I’ve got to speak up in this situation or I’m going to look weak. As usual, Jake takes control of everything and I just can’t sit back and let him do this again.

Melvin: “Lacey dear, you’ve been under a lot of stress lately and I think it would be a good idea if you get some help from a psychologist friend of mine. I hear Dr. Patterson is very good in helping people handle stress.”

Melvin’s Id: I should know. I met with Dr. Patterson for two years when I was going through depression. I hope he doesn’t mention to Lacey that he knew me professionally. The last things I want is for church people to find out I have mental problems.

Jake: “Melvin, is he a Christian psychologist?”

Melvin: “He’s good. Does it really matter that he’s a Christian?”

Jake: (shaking his head and smiling), “Of course it does. Lacey is under a demonic attack here and one of your humanist psychologist wouldn’t be able to figure that out.

I think the best thing is that I meet with Lacey for a while. I’ve finished a course in Nouthic Biblical counseling and I sense that I have a gift in it.

Jake’s Id: I would like to meet with Lacey privately for a while. There is something about a girl, especially a cute girl, who is vulnerable that I find attractive. Who knows what could happen after a few months. I mean, she has probably never had a real leader in her life like me.

Lacey: (laughing out loud) “I really think it is you guys that need the shrink. For the fist time in my life I am closer to speaking God’s truth than ever before and you want me to see a shrink so I can shut up. Don’t you think that is quite odd?And Jake, do you really think I would want to meet with you one on one to “fix my problems?”

Jake, everyone knows about your affair with the younger lady back in the church in Kansas City. The Evangelical world is a small world. Pastor Dan’s seminary friend was the pastor of the Methodist church there. We’ve never mentioned it so we don't embarrass you. So, I’m not so naive to meet with you like that. Yeah, I did find you attractive in a stupid school girl kind a way but I never do anything to jeopardize your family. I also find your spiritual ego very unattractive.”

More to come:

Language, Looking Behind the Facades

In my previous posts I've been talking about language and how it is misused by all of us fallen creatures. We don't use always it to communicate, but often to intentionally miscommunicate.

I really make Evangelicals uncomfortable when I even, compassionately suggest that someone is not saying what they really mean. But my point is that we are all in this fallen boat together. The error (and this is where I will connect this problem with Dualism vs Monism) is that Dualist Evangelicals assume that all relevant features of our being are spiritual. The spiritual is fluid and changeable. So, when we become Christians, we assumed that all the bad stuff (our previous emotional baggage, selfishness etc) vanishes and we are decent chaps from that point forward.

But, when that is not true (that beneath the facade we are desperate for seeking value in other peoples' eyes) we cover over our raw, not so godly, intentions with beautiful words.

Some Christians friends ask why I even go there (in this discussion)? I "go there" because I sincerely believe that we serve a God of truth. Throughout the Old and New Testaments God speaks of truth . . . and the opposite, Satan being the father of lies. But somehow, we've mixed that up to the point that lying for Jesus is epidemic in Evangelical circles.

To a Higher Honesty

It is very, very difficult for a sincere Christian to seek real honestly within the Evangelical setting. The Church (unfortunately) is a very dangerous place. If you do not say the right things all the time, you WILL be rejected. Since I made a decision 12 years ago, to try and live honestly, I've lost a lot of good Christian friends.

To illustrate this point further, I'm going to continue this prayer breakfast conversation but this time with a twist. One character, Lacey, started her day on her knees. Before God, she made a decision to start living honestly at all cost . . . because she realized that she serves a God of truth and she wanted to live in turth rather than dogma or pretending.

Stay tuned

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prayer Breakfast - Language Deconstruction

Wednesday Prayer Breakfast-An Exercise in Deconstruction of Language

Be sure to read the previous two posts before reading this one.

Setting: It is the Wednesday morning prayer breakfast meeting at seven. This week it is only the three, Lacey, Melvin and Jake, in attendance.

In the Dialog, I’m going to first list the surface discussion, and then after each statement, I will describe the “Deconstructed” meaning. I will use Freud’s “id” to identify the raw feelings that we, Christians, often bury. I won’t bother to mention the id with each statement. The id will not be in quotes because it is unspoken thoughts.
They sit at the table, greeting each other and Lacey speaks first.

Lacey: “Well, I’ll open in prayer and we can get started. Any new prayer request this week?”

They sit in silence for a moment, interesting that both Jake and Melvin seem to be in a sour mood.

Jake: "Yeah Lacey. Let’s pray for our church. It’s really been on my mind this week. I’ve been thinking . . . and praying . . . about our leadership and pastor Dan. I think what prompt it was you mentioning last week that they may be changing the doctrinal statement for the church to include that Genesis is true. I mean, it is a sad commentary on our society that we even need to do that. For two thousand years believers have trusted the word of God, but now,” smiling and shaking his head, “we have to put it in writing. I mean my Bible says the earth was created in six days, six thousand years ago and I don’t doubt God or His word, ever.”

Jake’s id: God is lucky to have me on his team. I may be the best Christian man in Small-town. I’m a real leader. I’m the head of several organizations. I really want to be God’s man in every situation. Here, I can quickly control things, putting me on the higher moral ground, especially over the only other man at this breakfast . . . Melvin. The things I’m saying will really make him feel bad, see me as the spiritual superiority and I will remain in control.

Melvin: (appearing a little blushed face), “Now wait a minute Jake. Just because I said that I would not be willing to sign the new doctrinal statement doesn’t mean that I don’t think Genesis is true.”

Melvin’s id: Jake really pisses me off. He knows he’s talking about me. I don’t know why he always ends up on top, as some giant spiritual authority. I’m totally crap. I always come across as crap. But I really don’t believe that the earth is only six thousand years old and I ‘m not going to pretend that I do.

Jake: (with raised eyebrows and smile) “Slow down there Mel . . . I wasn’t talking about you. I’d forgotten that you had even said that last week. I’m sorry if you thought I was talking about you. But if you are so sensitive about this, maybe it’s the Holy Spirit talking to you.”

Jake’s id: That big baby. I’ve got him just where I want him. I’m going to totally crush him this morning and he will never look down on me again. I am the only real man of God this town knows. I’ve won father of the year. I’ve been the president of the Christian Businessmen’s club twice. Everyone in this town respects me and I’m not going to let this nobody get away with not showing me total respect.

Lacey’s Id: Men are such pigs! I don’t know why they have to get into this discussion and spoil a, otherwise, beautiful morning. Yet, I’m the pastor, the facilitator here so I’ve got to maintain control. If Pastor Dan finds out that I’m letting things get out of control, he will be disappointed in me. It will give the crotchety old men on the board more reasons to believe that I, as a woman, have no right to be leading men.

I also want to impress Jake. I want him to see me as a smart woman who is confident. His tanned face with the touch of gray above his ears makes him look like a movie star, or a knight in shinning armor. I would love to crawl up into his strong arms an let him protect me, like the dad I never know. But on the other hand, I would love to be laying naked in his arms on some deserted beach where no one in this church, especially his wife Christy could find us. I want his strong arms around me to hold me. But, I have to stop these thoughts. These are terrible. I don’t know why I have such evil thoughts. I mean, Christy is one of my best friends and here I am . . . wanting to make love to her dear husband. It’s just not fair.

Melvin: "Maybe it is the Holy Spirit speaking to me. But I have strong feelings about the fact that a six thousand year old earth just doesn’t make sense scientifically. So I could not sign that document in good faith."

Lacey: "Well, why don’t I open us up and prayer and we move on today’s devotional."

Jake: "Lacey, as a youth pastor, you must know how important this issue is. I mean, if we compromise with humanists then how will our kids be faithful walking with Christ."

Jake’s Id: I dare her still my thunder. I’m in control here and I’m not finished with this guy. Either he’s going to agree that I’m right, or he’s going to pay. I mean, I want everyone on my side and I must prove myself the spiritual leader to Lacey to Melvin . . . and God already knows I the real spiritual leader at this church.

Melvin’s Id: I’m really starting to look bad, like I’m a humanist or something. I’ve got to explain myself better or Jake’s not going to respect me at all nor Lacey.

Melvin: "Jake, I’m not a humanist. But I have studied enough science to know that there are some real problems when you try to prove that the earth is that young."

Jake: (smiling and rolling his eyes) "Melvin, brother, the science departments in every university is ruled by humanists. They brainwash every science student and I’m afraid you’ve been brainwashed. (reaching into his briefcase) Here’s a booklet that I brought you. The title of it is The Myths of Evolution. There’s a whole chapter talking about how carbon dating is totally wrong. These people can't believe in a God that does miracles. I'm a miracle believer. Hey, when Christy has breast cancer. I prayerd, and God did a miracle and the cancer was gone and no doctor or scientist could explain that away.."

Jake's Id: Well, Christy really had just a lump in her breast. But it could have been cancer if I had not prayed. But, it's really important that I summarize the story as a miracle because Melvin, in his humanistic slant, would not see God's hand in it if I told him it was just a lump whose biopsey turned out to be negative. We were worried that it would be cancer and I have a feeling in my spirit that it was cancer until I prayed.

Melvin’s id: I’m as mad as hell. Now that idiot is calling me brainwashed. He doesn’t know anything about science and here he is lecturing me! But now I am really looking bad and I’ve got to redeem this situation but how do talk science to a lamebrain superman? I don't remember hearing anything about Christy having breast cancer.

Melvin: (trying to smile and not show any anger) "Jake, how did we get onto evolution? I hadn’t said anything about evolution. Also, this information put out by Christians that carbon dating is all wrong or that the moon should have had 15 feet of dust on it, none of that is true. Carbon dating is very reliable . . . but it is not used to determine the age of rocks, only carbon-based, organic material and it only goes back a few thousand years. Christians should not be putting out such false information."

Jake: (smiling and looking over at Lacey, who seems distressed that she’s lost control of the discussion, winks at her), “See how important this is? I mean, Melvin has been very active in this church and he has very unbiblical views. You can tell who's side he is on.”

Melvin’s id: That son of a bitch! I hate his guts. Talking to him is like talking to a moron. But now he has the upper hand and he is the great Christian and that I’m the unspiritual one. I need to just cut my losses and move on. I really don't know what's the matter with me. Everytime I get into one of these situations, I come out smelling like crap.

Melvin: “Lacey, you’re right. Let’s move on to today’s devotional before we run out of time.”

Lacey’s id: I feel hopeless. Who cares about old earth or young earth. Women don’t argue about this stuff. Men are such ego freaks. I’ve got to talk to Pastor Dan about getting me out of this prayer breakfast commitment. I just want to work with kids! But if I don’t do every thing that Dan ask me to do, he will eventually let me go. I know he really wants a man as youth pastor, who can also take the pulpit when he’s out of town. I know he regrets hiring me. If I loose this job, I may never find a youth pastor job in this area and really want to stay here. I don't know how I would support mysefl. Oh God, give me some direction here. I must snap out of it and take control or I’m out of here.

Lacey: "That’s a good idea Melvin. Let’s move on."

Jake’s id: Now how did this happen? Now I have the lower hand. I’ve got to end this on a positive note. I got to keep up my image so what can I say? I just can't let this go here.

Jake: "Hey guys, it’s seven forty five and I have a really important meeting at eight. I’ll be meeting with someone from the governor’s office about some exciting new opportunities here in Small-town. Being the president of the Downtown Business Association gives me the real opportunity to rub shoulders with the real shakers and movers. God has really opened doors for me to minister to people all the way up to the governor. I feel really humbled to be used by God like this. He is so faithful to me. (Pretending to wipe a tear from his eye), I guess that’s why I feel so strong about defending God." (Lacey reaches over and pats his hand . . . and he grasp it holding on to it for a minute. Then he turns the other direction and puts a hand on Melvin’s shoulder).

"Mel, I really love you man and I want to help you. You know I’ve been discipling men for several years. You may know I was the regional director of Promise Keepers and had excellent disciplemaker training with them. One of my guys, Terry, the State Bank branch manager, is ready to fly on his own now. Man, he’s a great guy and I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to turn his life around. Anyway, I have an opening now to start discipling another guy. I was thinking that maybe you would be interested in that. We could meet weekly. I could help de-program some of the humanistic stuff you’ve been exposed to and help you really love Jesus like you’ve never known how.”

Melvin’s id: This is a total disaster. How in the hell does this guy think he needs to “disciple me.” I mean I was memorizing the Bible when he was sowing his wild oats on campus, sleeping with every girl he met and boozing it up every night. Who gives him the right to think he is so superior. But now I’m stuck. I will really look unspiritual if I refuse his offer, but on the other hand, I will feel totally humiliated having him meeting with me each week.

Melvin: "Let me think about it. I mean I’m really busy right now and I want to make sure that I would give this discipling the time it needs."

Jake: "Okay. But I can’t wait too long because there’s a number of guys who are chomping at the bit for this opportunity and will need to let them know. Hey brother, I wouldn’t mind coming over to your house either in the evenings or on Saturday if that would fit into your schedule better."

Jake’s id: Wow, I came out smelling like a rose in this discussion. I’ve got the superior hand on Melvin and he will never question me again. I hate it when anyone questions me. It is so insulting. If they really knew who I was and the things I had accomplished, they would never argue with me. If Melvin had argued that the earth was only six thousand years old, I would taken the other side and made him look like a fool.

I would really like to be at Melvin’s house each week. Is wife, Karen, is a doll. I don’t know what she ever saw in this shrimp of a man. I’ve seen her looking at me. She knows that I’m the real man that she doesn’t have. I remember that time I was Mel’s house and she came out of the bathroom in her bra, not knowing I was sitting there. Wow, that’s an image I’ll hold on to forever . . . hopefully it will happen again.


I'm going to post a post-deconstruction discussion abou this in the next few days. Some people would read this dialog and be offended. They would think that Christians don't really think this way. But, I suggest that if you really peel back the layers of the onion, you might be surprised how deeply fallen we (including me) really are. So stay tuned. Sorry about any typos but again I had to type in a rush.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Babel From a Different Angle

I started this whole topic after watching two Christian families, one ultra-conservative and the other, well, maybe liberal (Lutheran at least), slug it out on "Wife Swap." I know . . . low brow.

But it got me thinking how we as Christians use language sometimes for the opposite reason that God gave it to us. We use it as camouflage, behind which to hide, rather than to expose ourselves to others. While language was given by God as a mode of communion, is becomes a fig leaf to cover our shame.

First, the movie Babel, wasn’t so much about deconstructing language, but more about how . . . despite language (in the case of the movie, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic and English) that we are all linked.

So much time has passed since I watched the Wife Swap, I’ve forgotten most of the dialog that I wanted to draw from. Instead, I’m going to create a fictional, but realistic, story to illustrate my point. I will give the background of the main characters first. Then, on the next posting I’m going to have a dialog between this Christian group, but then “deconstruct” it, looking at the deep meanings of what they are saying. As I deconstruct it, I hope you understand the spirit that I’m doing it in. I’m not standing on a higher moral ground looking down on Evangelicals and showing how THEY mis-use language. I am INCLUDING myself in this madness. I live in the glass house too. I mis-use language as well.

I also don’t want to be cynical for the sake of cynicism. The point that I’m trying to make is that we, all, are much more fallen than we realize. Therefore, we must depend more on Christ’s righteousness. This is really good news, so we don’t have to go on pretending.

The Prayer Breakfast

Characters: Let’s call the three individuals in the dialog, Jake, Melvin and Lacey. I will describe their personality background so you can understand where they are coming from. Although I will pigeon-hole them for this exercise, I really don’t think human personality is so easily divided into neat groups.

The setting: A local café, in a small town in the Midwest. The occasion is a weekly Prayer breakfast that meets at seven AM on Wednesday mornings. It is led by Lacey, the youth pastor of the Small-Town Bible Church.

Jake: is a “self-made-man.” He is a business leader in the community and the sitting president of the Downtown Business Association. He is 47 years old and was raised in a family with four other siblings. His mom was a stay at home mom and his father was a very confident, career Air Force Fighter Pilot.

Jake’s father instilled in his children a lot of confidence and believed that they could achieve anything if they set their mind to it. They were a Christian family. It was a disciplined family and the kids never questioned their dad. Their dad routinely pointed out accomplishments of people in their town and the failures of others. He was always making the point how those people did the right or wrong thing in each case. The family didn’t believe in luck, but if something bad happened to anyone in town . . . it was the person’s fault.

Lacey: Is thirty three years old. She grew up in a single mother family with one sister. Her mother had to work two jobs to support her family (after her father left them with a much younger woman when she was only seven). Lacey wasn’t close to her mother only because her mother was gone so much working.

Lacey had a fairly happy childhood, but that seemed to change as she entered puberty. For reasons that were not clear, as her friends seemed to develop and become beautiful young ladies, Lacey seemed to just become fat . . . and thanks to her Italian heritage . . . hairy.

One of the lowest points in her life when she was fifteen and one of her best childhood friends, Matt, sat near her in the cafeteria at high school with several other guys from the football team. Lacey had been close friends with Matt since they became neighbors at age six. But her adoration had transformed over time to an infatuation. She dreamed of marrying him some day.

On that day, the boys kept giggling and she was not sure why. Matt had not spoken to her much over the past couple of years. Finally one of Matt’s friends said out loud . . . “Hey Lacey, do you know what Matt calls you?” Matt seemed embarrassed and got up and left.

She didn’t know what to say, but just looked puzzled. Then the boy shouted out, “Pig-cey!“All the boys all burst out laughing at her.

Lacey’s world seemed to end that day. She went home that night, alone in their trailer, and cried her eyes out. She even poured about thirty of her mom’s Sominex sleeping pills and considered taking them.

From that moment on, Lacey saw her self as just fat. She started developing an eating disorder where she would eat, and then force herself to vomit. Her mom knew nothing about it. She also became withdrawn and stopped associating with boys altogether.

Besides her eating disorder, she devoted herself to her studies and became an A student. In college, she started out majoring in social work, but after meeting a Christian campus ministry her future began to change. After becoming a Christian, she decided that she wanted to go into full time Christian work. She went to a two year Bible school after graduating from the state school where she got a Masters in Youth Ministries.

Oddly her weight problem faded away as she focused her energy on jogging, then running and finally competitive running. But she never regained her confidence with men. It didn’t help matters that she only went out twice in college, once at the state school and once at the Bible school. The outcome was the same. She slept with both me on the first date . . . and neither ever called her again. She felt a lot of guilt about that. It was only later that she realized that these men didn’t care anything about her . . . except for her body from the shoulders down (and did not include her heart). She told a friend that she could have worn a sack over her had and never said a word on those dates and the boys would have been just as satisfied.

She had been the youth pastor at Small-Town Bible Church for three years. Part of her duties was to organize the Wednesday morning prayer breakfast. She was the “facilitator” but could not be the Bible teacher, per the instructions of the elder board. A couple of men on the board didn’t even like the idea of her organizing the meeting because mostly men would be attending and, “Only men should lead men.”

Melvin: A 35 year old high school science and math teacher. He was a quiet man with two young children and a beautiful wife.

Melvin became interested in spiritual things as a young man. A lot of it had to do with him trying to find a way to feel good about himself. He became very involved with his Baptist church while other young men were playing summer league baseball our just hanging out at the park.

When he was young, his mother’s sister moved in with them after going through a painful divorce. She dated several men over the years. One man, whose name escapes everyone because she dated him so briefly, raped Melvin when he was seven. After the terrible ordeal, the man held a large hunting knife to his throat and told him if he ever told anyone, he would cut his aunt’s heart out, force him to eat it and then cut his head off. Melvin was terrified.

In many ways, the Melvin that could have been, died that night. He never, ever told anyone about that event. His parents knew that he wasn’t right, withdrawn, night terrors and always anxious and they showed their great disappointment in him for his behavior, but he didn’t seem to change.

But as he was just entering the very, early edges of young-manhood, he felt like his manhood had been taken, leaving an immense shame in its place. It seemed that nothing would make the shame go away. He stopped being a friend to anyone, because, deep inside, he felt like he was too dirty to be a friend.

This was big part of the reason that he turned to the church. When he participated in the Awana program, and started earning awards and patches for doing things like memorizing verses, he felt that small bits of his mountain of shame were chiseled away. But if he missed even one Awana program, of even if one other kid memorized one more verse than him that particular week, his intense guilt would return as strong as it ever had.

He also focused on his love of science. In high school and college he could spend hours in the lab or library and not have to feel the pain of self-inflicted solitude. He also faithfully attended his home church all through college even though it was thirty miles away. But he felt too guilty to consider changing churches.

He was lucky that he married his lovely wife Ann. He had never had a girlfriend, again because of his constant shame. But Ann was his lab partner in his biology class during his junior year of college. She had been thinking about med school, but about that time was becoming disillusioned with the concept. She took an interest in Melvin, and he couldn’t understand why. But, although she had many suitors, Melvin’s humility attracted her to him.

Introduction: Jake, Melvin and Lacey had met the previous Wednesday. At the end of that breakfast meeting they were taking turns reading the first three chapters of Genesis. They were following a devotional guide that the senior pastor had recommended. The point of that reading was to look at God’s glorious creation.

The meeting became a little side tracked at the end when Lacey brought up the fact that the church board was discussing the possibility of making the belief in a literal story of a seven day creation and an earth that was six thousand years old, official church doctrine. This would mean that every one that wanted to join the church or serve in any capacity would have to sign the doctrinal statement.

Just before adjuring Melvin raised the point that he didn’t really believe that he could sign that document. The doctrinal statement didn’t seem to bother Lacey, she just smiled and told Melvin, “Don’t worry about it, but if it ever happened just sign it and not make a big deal about it.”

Jake, on the other hand, looked troubled. As they were paying for breakfast he said to Melvin, in a confident voice, but with a strong smile, “Mel . . . I’m a little bothered by the point you made that you can’t trust the Bible.”

Melvin was feeling defensive and his face blushed a little as he answered, “I didn’t say I didn’t trust the Bible, I just said that I’m sure I could sign a statement that says I believe the earth is only six thousand years old.”

Jake, frowning a bit and shaking his head, “Hmm . . . that really worries me. I mean, give me the form today and I’ll gladly sign it. God has been so faithful to me and my family, that I couldn’t imagine denying him so quickly.” Then Jake patted Melvin on the back and smiled and added, “I’ve got a business meeting that I’m late for . . . let’s discuss this next week.”

On the next posting, I’m going to share their dialog and try to deconstruct what is really going on in their heart of hearts.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Babel Effect

Language . . . what is it good for. Actually a lot. God gave us language in order that we can share ideas between inside our own heads and the heads of others. I use “ideas” in the broadest of sense here, meaning facts, feelings and imaginative creativity. But, it too is broken and can be used for lots of things, especially for intentional miscommunication. But language in itself is good. I mean, read the first chapter of John and how, even Jesus, is expressed as God's word taking on flesh. So that is far different than, say a movie like AI where the futuristic, robotic world seemed to advance beyond the need for language, at least spoken language. I guess ideas went from one brain to the other directly . . . after all they were robots.

The reason I’m thinking about language today is for a very low-brow reason, it is from watching an episode of “Wife Swap” last night. It caught my eye, because it was an interesting social experiment, swapping a wife from a very conservative (might say fundamentalist) Christian family with a wife from a very liberal, but Christian, family. So it was Christian Vs Christian in a microcosm of culture wars.

I wish I was a better communicator on this blog because I do have a lot of ideas that I would like to get from my head to the head of others (and vice versa). However the written word is two dimensional and is a poor way to communicate (unless you do it in book length). Also, I have to write here on the run. It is usually (and literally) between patients and I am very rushed . . . with the phone ringing and me be paged at the same time. I mean I don’t even have time to proof-read my typing here (as if you didn’t notice). But I do think I can write better, or communicate better than I am.

Now to the point.

Sorry about the delay but I had a very busy day yesterday. I went to Starbucks early this morning to write . . . only to find my computer's battery dead. Now I have patients waiting again.

I'm starting to feel (after more thought) that this idea of language will have to become a multiple posting because there's (ironically) so much to say.

Premise 1: You don't have to be a Christian to make great observations about the real world. However, with a non-Biblical world view (and often WITH a Biblical world view) you reach wrong conclusions.

The linguistic deconstruction movement (or also know as simply Deconstruction) was one of those situations where non Christians (as far as I know) made some interesting and probably true observations about language and people, although certainly many of their followers took it too far.

In simple terms, they wanted to "deconstruct" language . . . even human history, down to their foundational building blocks. The building blocks were consider as motives, or to add a view of Nietzsche approach, to power over or dominate others. Now they went to far of course. For example, some feminist went so far as to say, everything ever written by men or spoken by men only had one purpose and that was to suppress women. Of course that is wrong.

But there is some truth to the fact that we use language, which on the surface seems beautiful and pure, but really is to accomplish some very narcissistic goals. This brings me back to my observations from the war between the two Chistian families on Wife swap and how they used "Christian language" for some very basic, carnal (you might say) goals. I think we all do this far more than we would like to admit.

Now before I can discuss this further, I have to go back and review “Mike’s Theory of Human Behavior.” I discussed this in great detail many posts ago.

I am not proposing some new, grand theory or idea of human behavior, but some what of a “no-brainer” over-simplification of what I consider is the Biblical view of human behavior. This is a far cry from pop-Christian psychology, which is mostly crap. I mean, Christians psychology (which I have criticized before) is made up of such goofy ideas of “recovery from repressed memories” or as Bill Gothard has said, “All mental illness if the result of personal irresponsibility.” Or that all emotional or behavior problems are either personal sin or demon possession (the famous Christian so, called Nouthetic Counseling movement). Crap, crap crap . . . mega-crap.

Here it is:

1) God created people wonderfully and of immense value.
2) The Fall of Adam and personal sin has broken us, erasing our personal value.
3) God has TOTALLY restored our value through Christ.
4) NONE of us realize that our value has been totally restored (passive) in Christ so we spend our entire lives trying to compensate for the perceived (but not real) "economic" short fall. We respond to this sense of personal devaluing in two major ways (some people tend to fall to one side and others fall to the other side based on personality traits);
A. The self-made man or woman. They think they have restored their value through their personal accomplishments or the image that they project to others or
B. Feelings of chronic shame. These (like me) think they see the short fall but they fail to see that it has been restored in Christ. Rather than feeling that they can succeed in fulfilling the shortfall (like the A people), they feel they must cover their failings so no one else knows about them.

Now, you add to this background human perception. I say that most mental illness is not a problem in logic, but a problem in perception. The schizophrenic is not illogical as much as delusional. They respond logically but to voices that are mal-perceived.

So our perceptions about ourselves and the world around us are influenced by the Fall in several ways. First, there's genetics. Unlike Bill Gothard’s stupid remarks, much of our personality and mental illnesses comes from the way our brains are put together from the womb. Secondly, how the Fall has influence us in early childhood. None of us have grown up in perfect families. Those who were abused as small children perceive the world differently and it is the passive way the Fall has effected them.

Next are our choices, both in behavior and in the ways we think inside our own heads. This is the only active part of personality and this may be where personal sin can influence the way we behave. But, even with that said, change in our perceptions comes very, very slowly. This is because our brains (neurons) change very, very slowly. The dualist-Christian (Like Bill Gothard) totally disregards the brain because it is of this physical world. To them, everything is sin or demons (spiritual).

With that said, we look at lanuage and the Babel Effect. The tower of Babel was man's response to his/her sense of the economic short fall (remember I am talking about self-esteem or self value, not about money). They wanted to build a tower to the heavens. God frustrated their plans with the confusion of language.

We now use language to 1) communicate ideas from inside my head to inside your head, but also in this deconstruction framework to intentionally mislead people. We intenentionally mis lead people to cover our percieved short-fall (again I say "percieved" because in Christ the short fall is NOT REAL). Non Christians do it as well as Christians and it dominates our language use.

The stereotypical example is the single guy in the bar trying to impress the girl. Always putting his best foot forward, and telling a few lies to make himself better than what he is.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. As I listen to language I notice that sometimes we ask questions because we honestly want to learn something. Some times we say things because we really want others to learn something about what we are thinking. But sometimes (not all the time as the deconstructionist would say) we use language to give the impression to our selves, and to others, that we are better than we are. We cover our hate and anger with “I was frustrated.” But if we are really superficial Christians we will say, “I was grieved by the Holy Spirit just because I love you so much with God’s love.”

I would like to pick up with the next posting, deconstructing some of the conversation that I heard between the two Christian families on Wife Swap.

But, before I close out this post, I want to end on the positive note that I really believe. It is simply this; there is NO ECONOMIC (speaking of self worth) SHORT FALL IN CHRIST. We are complete and of tremendous value so we don’t have to go on pretending. We also have the great freedom to cease from using language as part as that camouflage.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Paradise Lost? Living Within the Fall, Honestly

The above image is from John Milton’s 1667, twelve-volume poetry work by the same name. If I’ve read Paradise Lost, it has been a long time and I’ve forgotten most of it. But I do hope to read it again soon. I understand that Mr. Milton takes a very thought-and emotional-evoking look at the Fall of Adam on mankind. This short essay of mine is not about that work in particular, but about the concept of the lost paradise.

I want to add my usual caveat. My writing often comes across (compared to the usual Joel Osteen-type of “happy” Christian writing) as gloomy and sad. I'm sorry about that. That isn’t how I think or feel. In my perspective, we live in a wonderful creation of many, many beautiful things. I also have, and try to give, great hope that we (as Christians) don’t have to go on pretending anymore. I want to celebrate (or authenticate) the reality of who we are and the world that we live in.

What got me thinking about this was the sadness I was feeling with the recent graduation of two of my children, Amy from high school and Daniel from college (both two weeks ago). I know that for some parents, the empty nest is something they really look forward to. I know that I will find good in it . . . eventually. However, for me it has been like a slow death.

My entire adult life has been defined by fatherhood. Not just fatherhood in the literal sense, but fatherhood of children small enough to be dependant on me. I was a fort-builder, doll-house builder, tree-house builder, story-teller and wrestler. That has all changed. Even before kids walk out of your door, and life, never to return in a meaningful way . . . they go through a stage of emotional and intellectual detachment. This is where you, almost overnight, go from being the hero, dragon-slayer and the soruce of all knowledge (in the eyes of your child) to being the village idiot. That was hard in itself. I do undersand as they get older, that will change for the positive and I'm looking forward to that.

My first child left home . . . for the first time, about seven years ago. Since then has been a gradual procession of leaving and closure of great epochs of one's life. Out of five children, I have one still at home.

But this story is not just about the sadness of the empty-nest syndrome, but about sadness itself . . . and loss, pain, fear and death. In other words, the Fall of Adam.

I can clearly remember a conversation with Tom, the Navigator guy who led me to Christ when I was barely 17. Besides God offering me eternal life (which didn’t mean squat to a teenager) He was also offering me the abundant life. I would like to go back and read that passage (John 10:10) in context to see what it really means.

But Tom’s, and the whole group’s interpretation of this “abundant life” was that if you follow God faithfully, pray right and have faith, then God would bless you with financial security (especially if you gave money to support your local Navigator staff man), physical health, wonderful kids and, most of all, happiness. But even their understanding of happiness was a constant emotional euphoria.

Well, guess what . . . life did not turn out that way. During the twenty five years since, I’ve seen a lot of difficult things in my own life as well as in the lives of my (faithful) Christian friends. I mean, I’ve seen some of the most wonderful Christians (far better than me) die from brain tumors at age 28, or hit by a train at age 24, or die from breast cancer at age 40, suffer bankruptcy, divorce, suicide of their children, and I could go on and on. So where was this hedge that Tom said God would build around me and my family if only I “Trust Him?”

Ironically, even Tom himself has gone through divorce and has had several major heartbreaks with his children. Who knows, maybe his distress was the consequences of such positive thinking (and not living in honest reality).

So what does a Christian do who is honest enough to know that the prosperity gospel does not reflect reality? You can use psychological gymnastics to cover up the obvious, like a Navigator staff friend whose son was tragedy decapitated. This guy tried to never to cry over the incident or even show grief. Why? Because he was convinced that God did this for a reason. BULL SHIT!!!!! What kind of God would decapitate a 16 year-old boy who was on his way to church just to teach someone patience? Where is George Carlin when you need him, to explain the insanity of this thinking? This is the great tragedy when you live with a prosperity gospel or a dualism that states that nothing in this world can happen unless it has a spiritual (and positive) reason.

The Fall of Adam, has decimated but not totally destroyed this universe. There is still good in this world. Charles Manson can still create a work of art that can have real beauty (I don’t think he has but he could). So despite the brokenness that we have to co-exist with, there is real beauty in this world.

So, in closing, I ask, where is the solution (speaking cosmologically and metaphysically)? To think that I will only escape all this pain and disappointment when I live in Heaven for eternity really doesn’t give me much comfort.

A non-dualistic view of scripture suggests that our eternity is really here, on earth. But it will be a fixed earth. No more cancer, no more tragic accidents, no more rebellious kids (I don’t have any personally . . . yet) and no more tears (not just suppressing them beneath a dysfunctional façade).

But in the meantime, like Luther said to “Sin Boldly” I would shout, “Cry boldly!” “Grieve boldly!” Shake your fist at the broken universe, at Adam and shout curses on them. That is completely consistent with the (non-Dualistic) Christian position. Read Ecclesiastes at this juncture. The writer wasn’t talking about the vanity only for the un-regenerate, but for us all. Eat, drink and be merry (enjoy what is good) because the solution is not here, only some pleasure to dampen the pain. But hope in God that a real solution is coming . . . but it is not here yet.

My greatest need for faith must come in at this point. I can not imagine an eternity that will solve my inward pain that I now know. Can my kids be made small again so that I can hold them on my lap? I don’t think so. A humanist psychologist might tell me to start dressing my dog (Saint Bernard) up in baby close as a surrogate for my children. I don’t think so.

Jesus hints that I will not even be married to Denise any longer in paradise. It just doesn’t make any sense to me how eternity will be better. . . but I just have to trust God that somehow it all makes sense to Him.

I will add, that obedience in this world does have merit. It doesn’t build an impermeable fence of safety around us, but it does give us a higher quality of life than total debauchery. I don’t think the writer of Ecclesiastes was advocating total debauchery, but just enjoying the beauty and God-given pleasure that we have left . . . and this is the best we can do in this broken world.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Alpha Male - Genre?

Society has its buzz words that seem to come and go. I'm sure that their coming and going is insidious, but from my perspective, it seems abrupt.

I remember while I was still living in Egypt, I went to well-attended lecture by a Princeton Linguist about the Arabic language. The whole, American University in Cairo campus (where I was attending) turned out for it. I went because I was studying Arabic at the time, and . . . here was my rare chance to see another American.

It was interesting that they professor used the word “Paradigm” about 48 times during his lecture (I counted them). I wasn’t even sure I had heard the word before, at least not while I was living in Egypt. Then suddenly, every USA Today (usually a week old by the time they arrived in Egypt) had the word “paradigm” in it. When I got back to the states, over and over in TV interviews, the word was being used. It is now a common word in my own vocabulary.

But since then, I’ve noticed how words come onto the scene very abruptly . . . then the use is epidemic for a while. Entertainers abuse the word “Amazing.” They can’t even talk about breakfast without using it.

But two words that I have seen bursting onto the American landscape (and I may be very late in the game) are “Alpha Male” and “Genre.” Every day I hear these words. Now this discussion is about to take a more serious turn . . . so hold on.

In a discussion I had two days ago (with our old pastor’s wife), she used the term “Alpha Male” several times when talking about both men and women. What I'm about to say has nothing to do with how she was using the term, but it just reminded me of the term itself and how I had herd it on NPR and other sourcs over the past few weeks. I’ve done some thinking recently about the Alpah Male and I want to talk a little about the genre of the "Lonely-Alpha Male Syndrom" . . . pun intended.

I really don’t think there has been a lot written about the American male, especially the Christian male. Sure, there have been plenty of books about “Being the Perfect Husband God Always Wanted You to Be.” I have to admit that I did enjoy some of John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart.

But most Christian books push men in the direction that they have already gone too far in . . . that is living behind some kind of façade.

It has been my observation that women, and girls (being a husband and father of a teen-aged daughter) don’t deal with this as much. But society (men’s society at least) demands that men be the Alpha male figure. That means there is a tremendous pressure on men to be the champion of everything they do, and that now applies to "doing" Christianity.

The problem is, the people who set these standards and write these books are totally out of touch with the depth of the Fall of Adam on all us men. We are not champions, knights, great successes, godly . . . yada, yada, yada. So, what do men do? Men feel that they must created these very thick facades, behind which to hide. Men can no longer communicate in real terms, except for describing their accomplishments or talking about superficial things like football or how to stain a deck.

Somehow, I think I am different than most men and it has nothing to do with my “godliness.” I think I’m a little different because I tend to be one of those more-creative, sensitive-type of males than the stereotypical macho male. I actually enjoy talking about feelings and really deep, honest things about real life, what people are thinking and hey, I’m not gay nor have ever been tempted to be. But very few men want to go to this honest personal level because of their insecurity. I think part of it is, sadly, is homophobia. Men are afraid to talk about feelings because someone would get the idea they are gay . . . or at least soft. So it renders me, and most males, very, very lonely.

I’ve had periods in my life where I’ve had great friends. High school was good. The 4 years I was in college, and the additional 5 years I was around graduate school (and the Navigator training center) I had great relationships with other men.

I remember sitting up and taking to 4 AM with Antonio (pictured over at the right) who was my roommate from Spain. We talked about, almost, anything. I say “almost” because we were still pretend Godly Navigators at the time. So we might say we are “having lust problems” but we would never say that we have sexual fantasy life going over the Nav-staff’s daughter. So we could be real to a point.

But since I’ve graduated from college, I have had very few men to talk to. I mean I have a choice. I could be (and have been many times) part of men’s prayer breakfasts . . . but those are so out of touch with reality that is would be the same as going to a wax museum to talk about life with your wax buddies. There is so much fake godliness in those places that I choose not to go BECAUSE I hunger for friendships.

The Alpha-male syndrome, either in Christian circles or professional circles is the same. It is like a tennis match where ego is the ball. They serve with a statement about their great accomplishments then you have to trump with your own. Then they must trump what you say with a better accomplishment.

I’ve set in on many professional dinners where one doc will talk about how big his boat is. Then the next will tell how his boat is better, then on up the table. I don’t speak about boats because I just have a couple of kayaks.

In the prayer breakfast, or elders’ meeting it is the same but with veiled responses. Since bragging is considered “ungodly” you veil it with a psychologically-sophisticated cover, about how God did such and such “Through You.”

But I am a very lonely man, like many men. Maybe that's why I and many other men do blogs like this.

I am privileged to have great sons, and I do think we communicate much better than most. For about four years, I’ve met with one . . . up to all four of my sons at Starbucks every Saturday and Sunday to discuss books, poetry and philosophy. Lately, I am down to one son and that makes me sad. Two sons are at home right now, but Tyler doesn’t come any more.

But watching my daughter grow up, I see something that I really envy. She has girl friends who really care about her and love to talk to her about anything. If we go out of town, her phone rings within minutes of coming in the door because she has about three or four friends that are dying to know how the trip went, what she did, who she met, how she feels etc.

I can honestly say, and I don’t mean to sound like self-pity, but no one gives a rat’s ass about how my day went. I can have a terrible day and there is no one to tell. I can take a long walk to recover from it.

I think this is difficult for me, because my entire profession is tied up in listening. I work in chronic pain and I sit for 8-9 hours a day listening, intently (and I don't mind this) to other peoples' deep problems. There is not a day that goes by when I don't have a converstaion about someone's experience with incest, sexual abuse, abusive husbands or boyfriend. I just sit and sincerely listen and encourage them. But it would not be approriate for me to talk about my own feelings or thinking with my patients.

My wife Denise is a wonderful woman in every way . . . but she is not a talker, at least when it comes to me. I’ve try to figure out why and I think I know some of the answer. I mean, she is a little like my daughter with other women. She can talk to them for a hours.

I think the reason that Denise can’t listen to me, when I speak of my real life, is that she grew up with men who not only practiced the Alpha-male syndrome to a tee, but also had the Scandinavian-stoic philosophy superimposed. So I can’t speak to her about emotional things . . . what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling or venting about a frustrating day. I can speak to her about how to stain a deck. She loves to sit in silence and me to give her foot rubs. But if I talk, she tunes me out quickly because I am responding very differently than how she was taught that men should respond. I've been at her house for a week and heard her dad speak five words at most. Those words were usually about a sick cow.

So, I am speaking not just about me, but about the condition of all men. The Lonely-Alpha-Male Syndrome, Genre. I think I go down to the museum and chat with my wax friend and pretend that he’s listening . . . and that he really does give a rat's ass.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Walking Down the Christian Memory Lane

For the past three days, we’ve had the luxury of playing host to some long, lost friends. Actually it is the associate pastor and his wife (Keith and Linda) from the very first church that Denise and I attended way back in 1982. We were there for about five years.

Anytime you run into old friends, and have the time to discuss things, the conversation often moves to the “where are they now” segment. We had our segment yesterday while riding the ferry across Puget Sound. Keith and Linda are a great resource because they do keep up to date on many people we haven’t spoken to in 25 years.

This conversation was also a time-warp in another way. I would say, in a loving way, that Keith and Linda are probably still Evangelicals and they knew me when I was an Evangelical (compared to what I am now, somewhat as a "post-evangelical"). So this long and fun conversation with them (although there were some sad things too) was like a sampling of a previous life.

When I was in an intensive Navigator training center, in the late 70s, we were warned about the “isms” that many Christians can fall into. I think Dawson Trotman (the founder of The Navigators back in the 40s) coined this concept of being weary of the “isms.”

In summary, as we looked over the lives of about twenty of our old Evangelical friends, none of them were taken in by the “isms.” To define what we mean by “isms” is Mormonism, Jehovah Wittiness-ism, Buddhism, Communism and etc.

Several of our dear-old friends are not doing well, but it wasn't because of some ism. No, they were taken in by Evangelical Swindlers (con men). So, I think this does reveal a paradigm shift from the 1940s until the twenty-first century, where the danger is from within (Evangelicalism). I will have to share a few of the stories.

A & D, were great Christian friends of ours. They were frankly wonderful people and we loved them dearly. It appears that a Christian psychologist came to town (Ann Arbor, Michigan) and set up shop. He was very convincing about his approach to counseling. He was part of the “Repressed Memory” movement of the 80s and 90s. Besides seeing clients in his office, he did “marriage-enrichment” seminars in several churches and was very popular among evangelicals. A & D met him through our old church.

This psychologist seemed to have convinced “D” (the wife) that she needed more help. He persuaded her through his gift of “spiritual discernment” and maybe hypnosis that she had been sexually abused by a family member as a little girl. D had no memory of this, but that’s how this game is played. The “Christian” psychologist convinced her that it was true and that he could help her.

To make a long story, short (and to be rather direct) the jerk ran off together destroying this beautiful family.

Another movement that sweep through the church was an entire phenomenon with home "Bible study" groups about “Deliverance.” To read more, I suggest this great article by a group of Lutherans.

Several dear, old Christian friends, were convinced that they had some time of spiritual oppression because of something someone did in their families decades or even centuries ago. Several people were hurt by this crap.

I could go on to tell many other stories of spiritual abuse and damage that has occurred to our old Christian friends, both those from Michigan and other friends that we've known in other places, by the likes these groups or of Bill Gothard, or MLM Christian supplement "cures," or “God-inspired” weight-loss and health fads.

So it wasn’t the obvious “isms” that got these dear friends, it was the faddish, nut-jobs within the Church.

I, too used to be very involved with Bill Gothard, helping as an “Associate” at one of his “Basic Youth Conflict” seminars. He is a nut job. If you don’t believe me, watch this You Tube sound bite. In summary he says that all mental illness is the result of personal irresponsibility. That proves that he is an idiot, and a very dangerous one at that.

More to come . . .