A few years ago, I did a series on homosexuality. I’m going to link a few of the posts below. This week, I hope to summarize a couple of these posts and reframe them in the context of transgender issues. I have no answers, but hope to shed some light on the topic from past research.
There are two major cultural issues being debated in the US at this time: homosexual marriage and immigration. Starting next week, I want to begin exploring the issue of homosexuality and homosexual marriage.
My intention is to discuss at least the following topics:
- Categories of sexual orientation
- The causes of homosexuality
- Homosexuality and Darwinism
- Cultural history of homosexuality
- Homosexuality and the Bible
- Homosexuality as sin
- Marriage versus Civil Unions
I had hoped to have a blogging discussion with a friend who teaches at a college and promotes homosexuality and bi-sexuality. However, I could not get a response from my friend and so I have decided to simply begin the discussion anyway.
This will not be a detailed, scientific discussion, but one more general in nature. I intend, however, to be thorough when necessary.
I will go on record now and say that I do believe homosexuality is wrong. However, in my posts (and I expect this as well in the comment areas), I will be respectful and take the mentality of an explorer, asking questions and seeking answers.
I hope this spurs honest discussion and that we can engage people respectfully and lovingly.
Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior.
This weekend my wife and I went out to dinner with a couple from our church. The wife noted that our last two worship gatherings felt more like a Friends Meeting than a Baptist worship service. Some in her family were Friends (Quakers) and she had been to several meetings. She noted this because I’ve started talking about the Spiritual Disciplines in worship. When we discussed meditation we actually took time in worship to meditate on scripture, re-write it in our own words, look for application and then pray over it. Twenty minutes of silence occurred while all that happened. In our worship gathering this weekend, we talked about prayer and so we actually took time as a corporate body to pray, and we ended with a big prayer meeting.
So I in this conversation I got to learn from her all about a Friends Meeting. It was quite fascinating and unique.Continue Reading …
Wow, just a fascinating article on this topic.‚ A paper has been released, Religion, religiousness and fertility in the U.S. and in Europe where “the authors observe that the United States is much more religious than Europe as a whole, and the average American woman is much more fertile than the average European woman. From this many intellectuals have adduced that these two characters exhibit a causal relationship so that the greater fertility of American women can be attributed to their greater religiosity.”
The author of the article cites the above paper, noting the decline of Europe culturally may result from the godlessness that exists in their culture.
Lionhead introduces us to their Project Natal-enabled interactive character named Milo. This demo is from E3 2009.
Russell Bishop at the Huffington Post, in a recent article, believes that we are in line for a spiritual awakening. His article, “7 Signs We Are Becoming More Spiritually Focused“, gives a list, albeit incomplete, of 7 signs that show we are becoming more spiritual and that pop culture is becoming more spiritual and his reasoning. The list notes:
- The Kabbalah has become increasingly popular, emphasizing various mystical aspects of Judaism, looking at the relationship between an infinite, eternal and mysterious Creator and the finite and mortal universe. Devotees explore the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, along with methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to attain spiritual realization. It’s an interesting comment on shifting aspects of life when you see that mysticism and mystical practices can now be followed via webinars and all things internet.‚ Celebrities such as Madonna, (now known by her Kaballistic name, Esther), David Beckham, Elizabeth Taylor, Demi Moore and Britney Spears have all embraced the Kabbalah.
- Yoga has become available in more consumer oriented settings, ranging from yoga on the beach in resorts to classes offered in traditional fitness facilities. 8 percent of Americans who have never practiced, indicate that they are very interested in learning more. Yoga has been embraced by celebrities as diverse as Ricky Martin, Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston, Jerry Seinfeld, Shirley MacLaine, and Charlie Sheen. Many credit their practice with an ability to remain centered and more at peace in these turbulent times.
- In 2004, What the BLEEP Do We Know‚¸ kicked off a huge interest in the impact each of us have on each other, our surroundings and life in general. Some call it a spiritual marriage between quantum physics and consciousness. While millions loved the movie, the critics were quick to dismiss it as pseudo-science or quantum mysticism. Regardless of any alleged errors in the message, the underlying question did get quite a few conversations going about the nature and purpose of life.
- In 2006, The Secret leapt all over us, as both a runaway bestselling book and a widely watched movie. Heavy weight celebrities were all over “the law of attraction” as a way to improve life through focus and thought (Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Larry King, etc). Critics again called it pseudoscience and some religious groups thought it more the work of the devil. And still, millions have flocked to it. Some see its appeal as a sign of desperation, while others would say the real secret is as old as the oldest of spiritual scriptures.
- In 2007, The Shack came out with little or no notice, but then in 2008 it exploded onto the New York Times list as #1 for 35 weeks and is still #29 overall for Amazon sales, and #6 in religious and spirituality sales. Well over 5,000,000 people have read the book. Some Christian groups are thrilled, and others see it as the work of the devil. One critic even called it “undiluted heresy.”
- In 2008, Ekhart Tolle partnered with Oprah to launch a hugely successful webinar series that went from hundreds of thousands of viewers to millions virtually overnight. While his books have been around since the 1990’s, something exploded with his 2005 book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. People seem captivated by the notion of creating a spiritual awakening through the transformation of consciousness. For Tolle, these are ancient spiritual messages which have become obscured by overlays of man’s attempt at religious structure or control.
- Dan Brown’s book, The Lost Symbol, sold over 2 million copies in the first week out! While it is a thriller of great proportions, it is also undergirded by an interesting marriage of the noetic sciences and various aspect of religion and spirituality. Amongst its many critics, the book was slammed by the Financial Times reviewer as “a novel that asks nothing of the reader, and gives the reader nothing back”, and further added that it “is filled with clichƒ©, bombast, undigested research and pseudo-intellectual codswallop.” No wonder it is doing so poorly.Continue Reading …
This is a beautiful verse. I have used it more times than I can count in the past two years to talk about truth. Jesus is The Truth. There is none greater. To think of truth in any other way is to think of a lesser truth. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was the highest revelation of God. Truth is found in Christ and through Christ. And it is only found through relationship. Truth is not a proposition, but a relationship. How else do you get to know Truth, Christ, except to be in relationship with Him?
While I enjoy the Truth, I had not spend time on the Way until I read Eugene Peterson’s book,The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way, in 2007. The book is a conversation on how people go about following the way of Jesus (1) It peaked my thoughts and pricked my heart. I found myself falling in love with the Way in a new way.
The way Jesus loves and interacts with the world is personal. It is the incarnation. Flesh and blood. Relational. Particular. Local.
The ways of our Western culture are quite the opposite. It focuses on programs, organizations, and detachment. It honors numbers over names, ideologies over ideas, and abstraction over interaction. (2)
Unfortunately, so many who have embraced the Way and wish to follow the Way have given themselves over to the culture’s way of doing things. The way of Jesus is not a supplement; it is the highest expression of life. To live any other way is to live a lesser life. Just as Jesus is the highest expression of the Truth, He is also the highest expression of the Way. Again, the interaction with the way requires relationship. To fill it with anything else is to at best weaken the Way and at worst abandon the Way.
Culturally, we have moved into the realm of consumeristic capitalism where life is about transactions of devoid of personal interaction. According to Benjamin Barber, there was a time when “a productivistict capitalism prospered by meeting the real needs of real people…Today, however, consumerist capitalism profits only when it can address those whose essential needs have already been satisfied but who have the means to assuage ‘new’ and invented needs…” (3) America has become the most consumer-oriented society in the world according to Juliet B. Schor. (4) Is it any wonder, then, that when 9/11 happened, and President Bush was looking for a metaphor to help us gain a sense of normalcy, he focused on shopping? (5)
This move towards consumerism is a move that results from the loss of our identity and the filling of our felt needs with transactions. Even our most intimate moments relationally, have culturally moved from intimate times of oneness to sexual transactions. We are filling our lives with transactions while our real needs, our deepest needs of emotional health and wholeness are hidden behind a credit card payment.
The transition from the Jesus way to the culture’s way has become the “get me stuff to bring me short-term comfort and keep me from addressing the real needs” way. That is the Western way.
Now the great American invention now has turned the church into a similar consumer enterprise. We have embraced culture’s way, not the Jesus Way.
We Americans have developed a culture of acquisition, an economy that is dependent on wanting more and requiring more. It is about getting our needs met. As a result, we have a huge advertising industry designed to stir up appetites and needs we didn’t even know we had. We are insatiable.
It didn’t take long for some of Christian to develop a way to meet those needs. In doing so, they created consumer-oriented congregations. If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and more effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their felt needs and recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving are some examples. This is the language we Americans grew up on. It is the language we understand. We are the world’s champion consumers so why shouldn’t we have state-of-the-art consumer churches? (6) Church now is about getting my needs met and having a non-boring experience.
Alan Hirsch, in Forgotten Ways, The: Reactivating the Missional Church, argues a similar point. He states,
In the modern and postmodern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church’s services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor. Worship, rather than being entertaining through creatively engaging the hearts and minds of the hearers, now becomes mere entertainment that aims at giving the participants transcendent emotional highs, much like the role of the “feelies” in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where people to the movies merely to get a buzz.
Church growth exponents have explicitly taught us how to market and tailor the product to suit target audiences. They told us to mimic the shopping mall, apply it to church, and create a one-stop shopping experience catering to our every need. In this they were sincere and well intentioned, but they must have been also totally ignorant of the ramifications of their counsel – because in the end the medium has so easily overwhelmed the message. (7)
He goes on to say:
Speaking to the insecurity of the human situation, it was Jesus who said “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things well be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:31-33, emphasis mine). Consumerism is thoroughly pagan. Pagans run after these things. (8)
The way of church is as important as who is behind the church.
In the wilderness setting of Matthew 4, we find the enemy trying to divert Jesus not from the end (or goal) but the way. Satan is not concerned with the end, because the end is not important if the way isn’t followed. In fact, the end is different if the way is not followed. Therefore, he attempts to keep Jesus from following God’s way.
His first temptation is to turn stones into bread. Jesus is hungry and Satan attempts to get Jesus to feed his own need. He urges Jesus to turn the creation into a commodity (stones to bread) and do something productive with it. The idea was that once he meet his own needs, he could then meet the needs of others in the same manner.
The temptation he uses for us it to do the same. We can follow Jesus but use Jesus to meet needs; our own first and then the needs of others. The temptation is “to deal with myself and others first and foremost as consumers. It is the temptation to define life in consumer terms and then devise plans and programs to accomplish them ‘in Jesus’ name.”. (9) We think people need to be entertained so they won’t be in a bored worship gathering so we meet that need by creating a production that rivals many rock concerts. We hope that the show will meet their need for entertainment and when that need is met they can hear Gospel. Or there is a program and organization for every member of the family so they get entertaining environments with good productions so that their needs are met and they can then hear the Gospel. Which leads us into the second temptation.
The second temptation was to jump off the roof of the temple. “The devil wants to use Jesus to dazzle the crowds of people on the street below with a miracle, to put a little excitement into their dull lives. ‘Jump, Jesus – these people will never forget it; it will change their lives…The temptation is to embark on a circus career in miracles. And what could be better than a career in God-miracles, religious miracles, entertaining crowds, supplying ecstasy on demand.” (10) Our temptation is to use Jesus as a commodity for weekend diversions. It is not a relational experience. It is a religious diversion that, for most, is in effect a transaction.
The third temptation was ruling the world. “The devil wants to use Jesus to run the world, take charge of the world…But of course it would have to be in the devil’s terms, a rule conditioned by the unholy if – ‘if you fall down and worship me.’ The devil’s way would necessarily be an imposed, impersonal way. The devil’s way would be absolutely perfect in its functions, but with no personal relations.” (11) The devil, according to Peterson, wants us to use Jesus to run our families, our neighborhoods, our schools and governments efficiently. But there is no love or forgiveness. It is the only way to have a just, peaceful, and prosperous government. Letting people have a voice will just cause problems. (12) So we use the words of Jesus to develop a smooth running organization devoid of the personal touch and spiritual investment. It is a way to achieve our goals of a growing (numerically) organization thinking we are doing great things for God.
What does this consumerism do to the church in America? Large churches are growing, medium-size churches are declining, and smaller churches are struggling. The larger a church grows, the smaller the kingdom grows, because in America, those larger churches are pulling from the smaller churches who cannot offer the same goods and services as the larger churches. The religious consumer, wanting the needs of their family met heads off to the big church where they are busy with activity and have entertainment for all ages. The smaller church suffers, to the point of having to shut down because it cannot sustain itself.
The churches who are surviving are trying to put together the right programs and activities that will attract those religious consumers. They are spending time, money and other resources on buildings and productions so that people will enjoy (or be entertained) by the show that is put on in the church.
But is this real success? The Jesus goal cannot be achieved unless the Jesus way is followed. The end does not justify the means. God’s goal is that we become like Him, conformed to His image and the image of His Son Jesus. The goal is not heaven, the goal is Cruciformity, or conformity to the Cross of Jesus. It happens through Faith, which for Paul was a “total response to obedience to the gospel (Rom 1:5;16:26). It is also…a death experience in which one enters into the experience of Jesus’ crucifixion.” (13) The Jesus Way is a process where God seeks to re-shape and re-form that person into his or her original identity, and to re-fill that person with His original purpose of relationship with God. In embracing the gospel of Christ, a person embarks on a journey out of brokenness and into wholeness that will only be complete as God works to restore all of creation. (14) The Jesus Way does not have as its goal the creation of people looking to have their own needs met. Why then perpetuate the climate of the consumer church in an attempt to see people conformed into the image of God?
Success then is not following the consuming way, but the Jesus way. Maybe our measure of success should be an expression of people being conformed to the image of Christ, obeying the Gospel, and living the crucified life that is an expression of Faith.
5. Ibid, 41.
10. Ibid, 31.
11. Ibid, 33.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, asks why we aren’t more compassionate more of the time.
This is a re-post of thoughts published in a past post.
I have been thinking and processing two interesting articles. One is on gossip and the other is on information addiction. The science of gossip is quite interesting. Of course, we all gossip, science would say it is part of our socialization processes. Used negatively, however, it really is an attempt to tear down and/or exert power over someone who has more influence than us or who is on the rise in their influence but whom those in control want to normalize and bring conformity to their behavior.
The gossip study comes from the October 1, 2008 edition of Scientific American Magazine. The article is entitled, “The Science of Gossip: Why We Can’t Stop Ourselves“. The author of the article, Frank T. McAndrew states,
Only in the past decade or so have psychologists turned their attention toward the study of gossip, partially because it is difficult to define exactly what gossip is. Most researchers agree that the practice involves talk about people who are not present and that this talk is relaxed, informal and entertaining. Typically the topic of conversation also concerns information that we can make moral judgments about. Gossip appears to be pretty much the same wherever it takes place; gossip among co-workers is not qualitatively different from that among friends outside of work. Although everyone seems to detest a person who is known as a ¢â‚¬Å“gossip¢â‚¬ and few people would use that label to describe themselves, it is an exceedingly unusual individual who can walk away from a juicy story about one of his or her acquaintances, and all of us have firsthand experience with the difficulty of keeping spectacular news about someone else a secret.
Gossip functions as a socializing process. In his book Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, psychologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Liverpool in England suggested that gossip is a mechanism for bonding social groups together, analogous to the grooming that is found in primate groups. Sarah R. Wert, now at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Peter Salovey of Yale University have proposed that “gossip is one of the best tools that we have for comparing ourselves socially with others.”
Gossip can be an effective means of uncovering such information about others and an especially useful way of controlling free thinkers who may be tempted to violate group norms. “Studies in real-life groups such as California cattle ranchers, Maine lobster fishers and college rowing teams confirm that gossip is used in these quite different settings to enforce group norms when an individual fails to live up to the group¢â‚¬â„¢s expectations”. In each of these groups, “individuals who violated expectations about sharing resources and meeting responsibilities became frequent targets of gossip and ostracism, which applied pressure on them to become better citizens. Anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer groups have typically revealed a similar social control function for gossip in these societies.”
According anthropologist Jerome Barkow of Dalhousie University, we tend to be especially interested in information about people who matter most in our lives: rivals, mates, relatives, partners in social exchange, and high-ranking figures whose behavior can affect us. Given the idea that our interest in gossip “evolved as a way of acquiring fitness-enhancing information, Barkow also suggests that the type of knowledge that we seek should be information that can affect our social standing relative to others.” Therefore, we to find higher interest in negative news about high-status people and potential rivals because we can exploit it. Negative information about those lower than us in status is as useful. Continue Reading …