Anyone who follows my blog and my writing, you know these names. Whatever you’re doing, find an hour and a half and see all three together at once.
The two convey knowledge in completely different ways. To begin, “myth” doesn’t mean “lie.” It simply means that knowledge is conveyed indirectly through narrative, and that’s exactly why the stories of religion have lasted so long and impacted so many people.
Let’s think about this: Can doing enough science teach you the importance of saving?
Go ahead, think about it. I’m sure someone really clever might come up with a good anecdote, but really there is little in science that would teach us the importance of self-sacrifice of goods we could use right now, on the hope that we will have some reward later on. Science would never have come up with the question.
Religion did, though.
Let’s look at the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Atheists love this Biblical tale because it captures all the barbarity of belief, that a distant, maniacal, and very vain God commands Abraham to sacrifice the beloved son God gifted him, just to show God how much Abraham loved him. If that’s what the story was, it would be barbaric, but there isn’t much chance that it would have lasted long.
Let’s also ask this, if that was the lesson, why is there no tradition of human sacrifice in Abrahamic culture? It was rather quite common throughout the world at the time, but not with the Hebrew or those that came after, even with this story where God asks specifically for it. Why is that not a thing?
A better answer is looking at the meaning of all these elements and what it says about the culture that gave us the story.
I really want you, the reader with an open mind and a willingness to see the world differently, to take yourself back to a time before our modern civilization, before civilization at all, and think about what it was like for our cavemen ancestors. In fact, even earlier than that. Think back to a time where our species lived on the margins in the strictest of means. Every day they could die from nothing more than starvation. Now, you ask how could our more ape than man ancestor be convinced to hunt some food and not eat it right then and there, when their entire life, the universe told them very clearly to take whatever you could right now or you will surely die. You couldn’t, but that is what we did some 20,000 years ago when we started taking these ideas necessary for the evolution of man and putting them in a narrative.
We looked around and said, “You know, if I eat this now, I will live well, but if I save it, then I can live longer with less risk.” How profound is that? How monumental was it that the first person who said this somehow transcended some plane of existence that apes before him never could. They didn’t even have words for such ideas, but still managed to become more than simple beasts with a few thoughts we today would think trivial, but to them, may have been the equivalent of single-handedly inventing the Saturn V rocket, which took man to the moon ()
That’s important – that knowledge is gained, but also lost, as well. We aren’t all descendants of that first guy who thought of saving his fruit or the first people who thought to share resources. I’d say that even if he did have that great idea, there was still a 99% chance a lion got him, or maybe some disease. It was probably tens of thousands of people who had the idea before one survived long enough to teach others who would survive long enough to have an actual behavioral advantage from the epiphany. Just as such, the first guy who thought to share probably got clubbed to death by some jerk who stole the rest of his food. That probably happened to thousands more who had the notion. Probably, many thousands more who did learn to get along were slowed down by the effort, as are all who are first learning to be friends, to say nothing of those who invented the concept. One of them died or was a drag on the relationship, and the better off of the two bailed. How many eons passed before a stable tribe could form based on the concept of sharing?
Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m telling you a story, and that’s what turned everything around for these people.
When people started telling how to survive, how to treat people, and how to view the world in the form of a story, we became something profoundly different than what we were. For two million years we wandered aimlessly, always on the brink of extinction, but then, 20,000 years ago everything started moving much faster. Our transfer of knowledge accelerated exponentially. People need to think about the fact that 6,000 years ago, there were no words. No one had any form of written language, but today we have our footsteps on the moon and people seriously believe we can have a colony on Mars within my lifetime. How amazing have the last 20,000 years been?
Now, we need to realize something. Religion did this. We saw our world and experienced what lessons it had to teach us. Then we crafted those lessons into narratives that gave us the guide by which to live our lives. The stories that impact people on deep, deep levels is what religion is and why we aren’t still living in caves.
Think back to Isaac and Abraham. Why isn’t there a human sacrifice cult in Hebrew tradition? Because that isn’t the moral of the story. It is the story about the willingness to sacrifice what you have to the unknown if you want better, and that that sacrifice has to be one of great meaning, to give up your food or your wealth, or your land to a risky future that you don’t know for sure will ever reward you back. This idea is the premise of everything from farming, where people could take seeds they could grind or eat and plant food, and even more so when they gave up their best crops for the seeds they bore, evolving the food we eat today. Just as much, this idea of sacrifice is the premise of modern-day saving, investing, and finance. Imagine the culture that could encapsulate that idea in metaphor, to pass on in a moving enough way to their descendants thousands of years later. Our students in school can barely sit through a Sciclassroom room they are paid to go to. Ask them if they remember any of it 10 years later. Good luck, but here we are 6,000 years later still wired for doing the wise thing of saving what we can, investing it in the unknown in a hope of future returns, talking about a culture that… for some reason… is still impacting our lives today.
Think about the original stories, the first stories of religion even beyond the Judeo/Christian tradition. Go back as far as we have records, to the time of the Ancient Sumerians, where the hero god-king slays a mighty dragon which was born from the sea to create the land and all the people. You think there is no significance to those metaphors?
The God-King, Marduk, born of gods, possessed many eyes and spoke magic words. He was born a powerful man from a powerful family, literally gods, and from this, we see that we obviously knew that children are greatly influenced by their families and that if you are a bad parent, your children and your line will also fail. He also had many eyes, which has long been narratively synonymous with wisdom, that someone with great vision is one who can see far off into the future, meaning that Marduk didn’t simply have many eyes, but that he was wise and knew many things. He also didn’t speak magical incantations but could say things that moved people in ways that others couldn’t. Sound familiar?
Or the dragon born from the sea. Do you think there is any reason why so many myths from the world feature the great evil as resembling a snake? Don’t you think that there is something deep-seated in our mind about the innate evil of serpents that is captured in these metaphors? Go back 80 million years and ask our rodent ancestors what they thought of snakes and you’ll find a very ancient and very primitive part of our brain that still fears them long after we became the master of slithering things. Now make it huge, give it wings, and make it spit fire. The dragon is pure and unadulterated fear, hardwired into our minds.
But even more amazing is what neuroscientists discovered later, that the part of your brain that is triggered by fear of snakes is the same part which is wired to ignore things we know we need to do, things that begin as something simple, but then grow into these overwhelming beasts that devour our lives. So every story you’ve ever heard about dragons since the beginning wasn’t some imaginative tale, but a deep, almost innately, understood strictly human narrative urging us to acknowledge our deepest fears and conquer them.
But why the sea? Long ago in narrative the sea symbolized chaos, not the type of chaos of high stress, but the unknown from whence everything came. It was a place of great creation, but also fear, because no one could know how far it went or how deep it went down. It was to them endless and unknowable, which made it terrifying. It was at the same time a source of endless potential and endless calamity and destruction.
So what does the hero do? He slays the dragon from the sea, creates from the corpse of the dragon that which makes all of our lives possible — the land. He creates order.
So the first story wasn’t just about a cool quest or even a creation myth to explain a universe in possibly the weirdest way imaginable. Let’s look at these metaphors, so complex that people of the age couldn’t have possibly understood why they felt the way they did, but they knew how they felt, and knew what needed to be taught, and through the power of narrative, told a story. It was a creation story, but quite honestly, no one then cared about that. They wanted to teach something far more important to the lives they lived then.
The story of Marduk was a story to teach men how to behave.
The story of Marduk is not a creation myth, but one of a wise and charismatic leader who confronts his fears, and defeats the chaos in the world around him and creates order for himself and for others. This is the quintessential text of how to be a man. So important, that the Sumerians kings had to always compare themselves to Marduk and ask if they were good. It’s also no surprise that once myths like these became widespread, the Sumerians rose up to become one of the first civilizations spanning multiple cities and lasting for centuries.
There is a reason that myths work as well as they do. They are stories built on many layers of understanding from the conscience to the subconscious, to the instinctual to teach lessons in ways that make them necessary for new people to survive. Science can’t do that. It can titillate our senses with the grandeur of new insights, but science doesn’t affect us in the way these old stories do. It doesn’t convey meaning to the world, give us direction as people, or in any way tell us who we are, what we were, who we are going to be.
And no, no it doesn’t. The moment you try to make science do these things, you’re personifying that which isn’t human. You’re giving character to data. You’re building layers of meaning above raw facts. To make people care about Science, you have to do it by telling stories, and conveying knowledge through narrative. You don’t believe me? Consider the apocalyptic overtones attributed to climate change, the gravitas and mystery of the black hole, or the vast and unknowable scope of the universe, both immense and small. Take Carl Sagan, one of the most famous scientists of not so long ago. He wowed the world with explorations of the universe and then terrified us with omens of “nuclear winter”, where dust and fallout from nuclear war would blot out the sun and lead us to a new extinction event. It’s odd this was so compelling, no? This image of nuclear winter combines the burning of the world by the fire of Biblical Revelation and also the freezing of the planet not unlike the religion of the Norse. Powerful themes, so powerful we still believe in this idea of nuclear winter even though it was proven that all the bombs in the world couldn’t cause the types of years of devastation Sagan predicted. Even in the 80’s, we knew that in the worst case scenario we could have a Nuclear Autumn, of the world a few degrees cooler for a few years. Still, the idea of Nuclear Winter remains to bring fear to children, to teach them how to live, and to guide our leaders.
While real scientists do their work well, the ambassadors of Science are little more than great clerics of a mythology that doesn’t look backward, but forward.
This isn’t a complete dismissal of Science. Good scientists even agree with the sentiment. Just ask them how hard it is to get published, especially when scientific journals only really want to publish findings that are “groundbreaking”, “revolutionary”, or “highly controversial”. If we are playing the work of good scientists, then most of what you do is boring and what is to be expected, however try to get a paper published that proves something no one cares about or one which has no political incentive to anyone, and the big one, one which disproves another discovery. There are whole journals which exist to doing nothing but provide a venue for scientific works which are examining the findings of other scientists, the fundamental act of Scientific research… because no one would read them. The problem of bad science becoming social norms is even worse and explored at length by one of my favorite scientific YouTube channels, Veritasium.
And have you ever tried to request funding for a research grant? Better bring the wow factor there too.
But while we continue with our P-hacked essays self-selected for their ability to wow the readership of science journals more than their ability to inform us on the nature of our world, and when only the most terrifying or awe-inspiring of this break out to touch us in the broader culture, usually through some post-apocalyptic thriller marketing itself as a “warning of a possible future”, rather than a “warning of science-based horror fiction run amok”, I have to ask… why are people so critical of religion for being the misleading institution?
And that’s also something worth noting. Science is progress, no? Science marches on, but can science alone predict the destruction of those who wield it carelessly? Don’t forget about the creation of narratives. Science can’t do that alone. Science only records things we see. That’s it, that’s all it does. The moment you try to make a story out of it… you’ve just created a work of fiction.
But religion does this quite well, giving us lessons against our own destruction and a caution against recklessness. Or do you think it coincidence that every great civilization has a Flood myth? It isn’t just the Abrahamic religions that believe in something like an ark. It’s interesting, don’t you think, that every religion has this same story, one which is perhaps 10,000 years old. I believe even India has a myth of the entire planet covered with water, and all the good people escaping to canoes to survive the waters and rebuild the world. Let’s not forget what waters mean, the chaos and the unknown. Did these civilizations experience some great war, famine, disease? Who knows, but they knew to be afraid of losing themselves. It is a story of caution, not just as individuals, but of whole societies from the disaster of losing their way; too much progress, as it were.
At the heart of this question, is a controversy — Creationism vs Science.
It picked out one of the most extreme cases in religion to justify a belief of all religions. The above image is, therefore, somehow representative of Religion, as in religion with a capital “R”. Literally every religious person on the entire planet falls under that description. Now, normally the creationist people are matched with evangelical Christians. Well, here I am a guy who argues for evolution, the Big Bang, carbon dating, and can probably explain most of these better than your average person who just loves their science. But I am also as Southern Baptist as they come.
So why is that such an extreme minority of extreme people are allowed become representatives of a much broader culture, even billions of people? We’re willing to call that out when other people do it. Look, you can point to creationists and say they represent all of us. I can point to Stalin and say that represents the other guy. If we are claiming the moral high ground here, I win with the guy who believes man and raptors hunted side by side rather than the guy who hunted down Christians and murdered tens of millions of people.
That’s because there are many people who know nothing of the sciences they preach. They don’t care. To them, “Scientism” is just the religion they choose because on some level they simply hate religion. This is especially true of Christianity. Anything which can make it easier to belittle the other rather than acknowledge what they bring to the table is much easier than respecting the fact that they survived and evolved civilization for thousands of years, even created the Scientific Method, not in spite of their beliefs, but because of them.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself to explain the fine-tuning argument.
As science allowed us to rid ourselves of the creation myths and “God of the Gaps” explanation for why things happened, we started to see that throughout our universe, the whole universe, every part of it followed certain laws which did not change and which the universe itself required to remain so that it could exist. Some of these constants were things like C, the speed of light. The speed of light through a vacuum is always 299,792,458 m/s, never more, never less. It isn’t like throwing a baseball on a train, you can’t add the velocity of one to the other. C is always C and nothing else. But there are others.
- N, the ratio of theto the for a pair of protons, is approximately 1036.
- Epsilon (ε), a measure of the nuclear efficiency of, is 0.007: when four nucleons fuse into helium, 0.007 (0.7%) of their mass is converted to energy. The value of ε is in part determined by the strength of the .
- Omega (Ω) is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the Universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1.
- Lambda (λ) describes the ratio of the density ofto the critical energy density of the universe, given certain reasonable assumptions such as positing that dark energy density is a constant. In terms of , and as a natural dimensionless value, the cosmological constant, λ, is on the order of 10−122.
- Q, the ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass, is around 10−5.
None of these sound like big deals but imagine a world where the electron rested some distance farther from its proton core, where the speed of light was different, where gravity itself was more, or less powerful. It wouldn’t just be that we would float away. Our universe would cease to exist as we know it. More importantly, the Universe would never have come to be at all.
- If N were significantly smaller, only a small and short-lived universe could exist.
- If ε were 0.006, only hydrogen could exist, and complex chemistry would be impossible. If it were above 0.008, no hydrogen would exist, as all the hydrogen would have been fused shortly after the.
- If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. On the other side, if gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.
- Lambda (λ) is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. If the cosmological constant were not extremely small, stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.
- If Q is too small, no stars can form. If it is too large, no stars can survive because the universe is too violent.
Virtually every fundamental law of the universe is one which cannot change or else life itself would not be possible, much less a life where you and I could sit around debating if it happened at all. This is theor the argument for a . It suggests that (not a scientific theory) the level of complexity, interrelatedness, and overwhelming chance required to create a universe where the evolution of a thinking sapient entity was not a chance event, but a foregone conclusion that would definitely eventually happen, suggests something greater than the Universe itself. It suggests that some thinking, planning entity structured those laws to allow such a universe to be created. To put it another way, when Sir Issac Newton began studying astronomy, he suggested that the uniformity of the planetary system is proof that someone chose to make it that way.
This isn’t science, but it does shake up many of the notions that science disproves God, however, atheism offered its own anti-scientific notion to counter it.
This is where multiple universes come in. The concept of the multiple universes theory suggests that our Universe is nothing special, but one of many universes, an infinite number of universes actually, in which the laws so happen to work for us to live as we do. The other universes are out there, but they function under different laws and are outside of our view, as any means we have to study them would be built instruments of this universe, and could never be made which could experience anything outside of it, nor especially something of a different universe with laws fundamentally different than our own in every way.
Simply put, let’s review why we have a hard time proving God.
We have no means to observe or measure something which exists beyond our physical universe and which functions under different laws than our universe, or as Christopher Hitchens, one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism” said:
“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Exactly the same argument can be levied against this idea that beyond our own is an infinite number of other universes that just so happen to not be so nice and which we can never detect nor disprove. So it isn’t that I don’t think the Multiverse is cool, especially when my favorite superheroes do it, but it isn’t in the slightest what good scientists would call Science. I mean, you can continue to believe it, but I just don’t have that kind of faith.
Here’s the bottom line, religion is not about disproving science. It isn’t about proving anything. Religious texts are not scientific texts meant to explain the universe as it is. They are moral texts created to help people lead better lives. Maybe they are divinely inspired guides by an all-knowing benefactor, or maybe they are simply the wises meditations of countless generations filtered to such a fine degree that they impact on us on deeply profound levels. Either way, science and religion are not at odds, and once the science and religion camps accept this truth, then both will lead happier and more productive lives. Furthermore, religion will no longer feel the need to be something it isn’t, while Science can finally deal with the reality that it simply doesn’t have all the answers, and maybe shed a bit of the arrogance when it starts accepting how many of the answers it does have are simply wrong.
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Today in Sunday School, my group was discussing the role of Barnabas to the early Church as noted in the book of Acts. Barnabas is lesser known to most Christians, but one act in particular is remembered. Early in our history, Barnabas welcomed a newcomer to the Church who others found difficult to accept. Before his conversion, this man was a former tax collector of Rome and a notorious persecutor of Christians. This individual was deeply feared and mistrusted by early Christians for his past sins and grievances against them. Barnabas, though, welcomed the man as an equal, encouraged him, and in time, became one of his first followers. Empowered by Barnabas’ encouragement, within this man’s lifetime, he would eventually become instrumental to spreading Christianity into modern day Turkey, Greece, North Africa, and even to the very steps of the Empire itself, in Rome. This man was the Apostle Paul. Without Paul, Christianity may have forever been viewed as just another sect of Judaism, and may have never reached outside of Israel in the way that it did. We certainly wouldn’t have the Christianity we do today without the acts of Paul, but perhaps more importantly, we wouldn’t have had Paul without the acts of Barnabas.
Speaking about how Barnabas encouraged Paul reminded me of a TED talk I once saw about the importance of the First Follower (in class I called it the Second Leader, but now we are just arguing about words.)
The video showed a goofy dude, we’ll call him Shirtless Dancing Guy, dancing wildly at a concert. For the longest time, he is just a weirdo dancing in a field. He gets weird looks and strange stares. Then someone joins in. It takes guts for someone to stand up and join in. You face the same scorn, shame, and stares of judgmental onlookers in the crowd. Green Shirt Dude bravely joins along, anyway. In doing so, he gives validity and acceptance to others of that leader’s effort. Shirtless Dancing Guy, like a good leader, welcomes him as an equal and with that, the first follower feels valued and appreciated, calling others to join the movement. In recognition of his good leadership, Green Shirt Dude calls up others and continues in the merriment, absent thought of all those staring. Through mutual encouragement, they endure the long and difficult times when they were just two weird guys dancing in a field, together but otherwise all alone. Then some special happens. A third comes along. Three’s a crowd, but soon, it goes from a few guys dancing in a field to a true movement where, in the matter of seconds, dozens are dancing, cheering, while hundreds flock to join in, and follow along. People look to people like Shirtless Dancing Guy for being a visionary, and a bold leader for standing up when no one else was, in spite of their eccentricities. We know, however, that without that first follower, the normal guy who decides to follow along, no one else would have given him a second thought. They wouldn’t have joined in and we wouldn’t be talking about either of them today.
It’s the same today as we see in the story of Barnabas. Barnabas was a necessary figure in the early Christian Church, but not like the other Apostles. Barnabas isn’t remembered like Paul is. Many can’t really place him in the historical record, but his purpose is crucial in the role he had in others’ stories. He was a respected member before Paul joined, but unlike others, he saw a leader in the repentant sinner others overlooked because of fear, mistrust, and apprehension. He welcomed Paul into the Church, allowing others to gain trust in him as well. He provided Paul encouragement during his early efforts. Because of this encouragement, Paul’s teachings were appreciated and he was empowered to go and become the most important single missionary in the history of Christianity. Today, we should observe to the overlooked leaders like Barnabas to serve as our role models. They teach us that, often, the most important leader to a movement isn’t the one on the pulpit, or the one holding the microphone, or the person in the corner office. Often it’s the supportive leader, the servant leader, the first follower who is the first to openly show support to that one with the vision and drive to the motivate the rest. Barnabas is a story of encouragement. It’s a story of people seeing the potential in others and being brave enough to be the first to innate action in others from the audience. Just like the story of Green Shirt Dude and Shirtless Dancing Guy – Barnabas teaches that the most important leaders to any movement, are really just the first people brave enough to follow.
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Hi, I’m Tanner Brumbarger, I own a blog called ‘Opinionz Matter. I use that blog to express my personal life stories as well as share my views on faith and politics. Recently, I have had the pleasure of getting to discuss some different topics with Jon via our two blogs, and have recently fashioned a formal, ‘blog alliance’ with him. I’d like to publicly thank Jon for his advice on difficult topics, as well as his service to our country. He is a fantastic individual with lots of insight and depth, a perfect role model to say the least. I hope this “guest blogging” strategy is a success!
But what I would really like to touch on with this opportunity to publish a post, is the disaster of the Costa Concordia. If you have noticed the events, you have realized that our true problem is much larger than a beached ocean liner.
One does not need to be a cable news junkie to know of the tragic events of the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise liner which struck a reef off the cost of Tuscany. As of this writing, 30 individuals have been lost. Most people in America have focused their attention on the captain of the ship, Francesco Schettino, blaming him for the accident, and rightly so.
The vessel was sailing by the island of Isola del Giglio, where a former officer of the fleet is retired. The captain of the luxury liner was planning on taking the ship a little close to shore in order to sound off the ship’s horn in salute to the retired naval officer. The rest explains itself, the ship struck a rock, tearing a 160 foot gash in the hull, causing it to list and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 souls. Many people who were onboard the vessel are coming out for the first time, speaking about their horrifying dance with disaster.
But as I watch a documentary on Fox News, regarding the catastrophe on the Tuscan coast, I am faced with many questions, just like you. I’m sure most of my questions are similar to the questions the mainstream media is asking. Such as: “Why there weren’t mustering drills before the ship took off?” “Why were their not enough life jackets on board the ship?” “What are the Italians going to do to the captain?” Those were the first logical questions that came to my mind. However after some serious thought and some opinions presented to me by other individuals, I am left with questions, and actually some anger about the entire situation. So, here is my take on the self-inflicted tragedy of the Costa Concordia.
I wrote an article, not quite a month ago, regarding the disaster of the Titanic. I asked my audience what they thought would happen, should some accident like the Titanic occur. Would women and children be ordered off of the sinking boat first? Or should it be anyone who could get on board? You can see the segment below:
“Despite this process, many men, regardless of their class would refuse to leave the ship. The ship had a policy of, women and children first. In spite of available room left, many men would remain on the ship to allow more women and children to board the lifeboats and reach safety.
The question I would like to pose is: If our society was faced with disaster today, would women and children be sent to safety first? Would men remain? Would women go first? Would our society enforce the same rules that it did a hundred years ago? I know what side of the lifeboats I would be standing on, do you?”
Well world, we now know what that real answer is. A modern day Titanic like accident DID happen. Praise God the fatality rate was not as high, but women and children were not ordered off the boat first, and that’s absolutely despicable. In fact, it’s repulsive and quite frankly, I would go so far to say it pisses me off.
The blame for this situation completely rests on the shoulders of the failed Captain Francesco Schettino. The reason why I would put my blame on him is because like a father, the passengers on his ship are his family and therefore his full responsibility. He was responsible for them and protecting the “women and children” first code of ethics.
God calls not only Christian men to a higher standard, but men in general to reach for a higher level of integrity than anyone else. We are called to protect and provide, to sacrifice and set an example. We are not called to jump on the life boat before the women who may not be able to swim, or ignore the crying child, if your ship is sinking and you’re a man, you should be bending down, putting a child in a lifeboat and holding a woman’s hand as she steps into the boat, even if water level is at your waist. This event only shows the erosion of true leadership in our men.
In my personal opinion and experiences, I have noticed that men in society, primarily the American society, are deteriorating away from a place of leadership. It seems that if you want to find a good group of men in leadership, you have to go to a local church and in some circumstances, it feels like I have slim pickings. Yes, even at churches. You can identify a man of leadership much quicker than you can a man who follows. All men must follow rules, and every individual must submit to authority, that’s the way the world should work. But all men must take responsibilities for themselves and for their families.
As an individual men are called to submit to authority. Consider the phrase, ‘God Kin & Country’ as your example.
Men are called to submit to the laws of the land and their elders. First, men should submit to their Fathers. Whether it’s a father/legal guardian or an elder in the church, we are called to obey. This does not mean you are enslaved, but a man is called to respect those who have gone before him, so that hopefully they lead the man in wisdom. I believe that when an individual reaches manhood, he gains a little leniency.
Secondly, I believe men are called back to lead their nation. That can easily begin at the community level. Men should lead in their communities, end of discussion. All men at some point should step up and lead.
Thirdly, Men are called to be disciples. We are called to set Godly examples as leaders of our households (when we have households) and overall, leaders in our society.
If I may be so bold, I believe that men have lost their chest hair. They have lost their backbone. If you translate that into a modern day white trash phrase, it means men today have lost their ‘swag.’ We have become a society of awkward boys in the bodies of men. A true man takes responsibility and leadership even at the cost to self. This is why I talked about the Costa Concordia incident. The Captain was not a leader like a real man should, nor did he take responsibility for his ‘family’ on board his vessel, like a real man should.
As men struggle to lead, looking for an example to model, I propose that they consider a carpenter. His name was Jesus Christ, the most powerful man of all. He took responsibility for his family and took away their sins; he accepted leadership and had a huge number of followers whom he taught, encouraged and even chastised at some times. A lot like man in the position of fatherhood would do. But what was his only requests for fulfilling such? That we followed him, acted like men, made disciples and became leaders in our lives.
So, I would close with this, the reality of 2012 spoke to us a couple weeks ago, the chivalry of 1912 is dead. Tragedy did come, men did not go last and for that they should be ashamed. It showed us that our society does is not filed with courageous men anymore. We are filled with cowardly boys in men’s bodies. I praise those men who are accepting roles of leadership and I pray that only more will emerge.
I am writing this article to address a few trends that seem to be affecting the church, specifically those in the youth about to be adults most like Tanner. Tanner, while achieving much for his age, is young and has a future ahead of him and now is entering the phase of life where he and those like him will be making the most important decisions of their lives. I feel the church, for the most part, has directed them toward a path where they can’t succeed in the modern world and can’t fully take part in shaping and guiding it anymore. This is part of why so many are steering away from the church and why the church is steering so far from the rest of American culture, bad and good. I wrote this article to try and focus on the direction being given to these young people and perhaps direct readers of Tanner’s and my blog in how they should encourage their youth in the future.
So have you ever said to yourself something to the effect of “Politicians can’t be trusted?” Have you ever said that “All businessmen are greedy and corrupt?” Have you ever wondered why? Because they aren’t Christian anymore. For the most part, Christians have stayed away from the business and political scene for the better part of three generations. But why? Let me put it this way…
Have you ever said any of these things… around your kids?
I know it is something most of us don’t think about often, but ask yourself, what careers am I pushing my kids toward? For many of Tanner’s younger readers, ask what careers where you pushed to? I think though, we should also consider, what are you pushing from?
Many are raised with the idea that ideal Christian careers involve hard work such as construction. Carpentry seems to be popular among Christians (wonder why?) Other career paths include careers that involve some sort of service like the medical field, doctors and nurses (but not gynecologists, that is for the sinners of medicine), and education to become teachers. Another career path widely encouraged in church circles is the military. I was a Marine and I am still a little baffled at why so many in my church were so proud of me for doing a job that on a good day killed people… But they did. My wife says it has much to do with the service and sacrifice aspect of the job, which I understand. I still think they just haven’t really thought about it much though.
But what about big business? What is the first thing you think about me when I say I would one day like to own the next Chase bank or be the next Bill Gates? What if I said I would like to one day be a successful venture capitalist? Would you think I was greedy? What if I said I wanted to be a successful politician? That I wanted to be a Senator and work on Capitol Hill? Would you think my goals are to be corrupt, filling my pockets with kickbacks before I become a lobbyist, making millions to influence others while manipulating the democratic system? You may not think that about me in general, but if you were to meet someone on the street with these goals, you wouldn’t think very well of career business people and career politicians.
Why is that? Over the course of history some of the most important people in American history filled these roles. Politicians were once also viewed as a noble profession, public servants, stewards of the community. Businessmen once were viewed as the fiercely independent founders of the American wealth and prosperity. John Pierpont Morgan was one of the most influential business leaders in America. He built massive companies in his day. He also engineered programs and deals that helped to prevent two massive American breakdowns in the American economic system. He was also a lifelong member of his church and one of it’s most influential leaders. His grandfather was a preacher and influenced him greatly. He could be found alone often in silent prayer for hours at his local church.
The founding fathers were also religious men as well as politicians. Benjamin Franklin is quoted to saying
“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshiped…As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, is the best the world ever saw, or is likely to see.”
Seems pretty straight forward. What about Thomas Jefferson, the supposed atheist of the founders?
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God?”
So it is possible to have moral leadership, both in business and politics. Then why is it that these two fields of achievement are so shrouded in the belief that they are corrupt, Godless and without morals?
Because good Christians aren’t supposed to want to do those things.
When I was a child I remember being told that the rich are nothing but greedy and that politicians are liars. I heard that a good Christian job was physical labor, medicine, teaching or the military and that these were the only honorable things available to me. Then I joined the Marines and during that time I realized that those who affect the most change, have the greatest impact on society are not on that list, not directly, not individually. Those with the most direct and individual influence on America are those people of business and leadership, which Christianity shuns.
The problem I see is that for three generations now, young Christians have been pushed by fellow Christians away from these fields and resulted in a growing movement where Christians do not welcome them and are not welcomed by them. And as a result of this, Christians are growing farther and farther from the socioeconomic center of America. They are losing their place as leaders in its future and are alienating themselves from its people. So while I see many posts going up about the Decline of Christianity in America and the general idea that we are becoming a Godless nation, I say to you “What did you expect? You teach your young people to join you in seclusion from the society they are part of.”
But things don’t need to be this way. In the future we need to encourage our young people to be those leaders of tomorrow. We need to encourage them with stories of great Christian businessmen and politicians, so that they can lead Americans with a Christian perspective. They can recommunicate the values of Christianity in a way society is able to understand and perhaps fix some of the problems we are seeing in society today from hatred of Christians to .
That’s why I am glad to be invited to speak on Tanner’s blog. He is an example of the future of Christianity and the future of America. In the next few years, people his age are going to be making the decisions that will put them in positions where they can have a great resounding impact on us all. I hope that you will encourage them to do something great.
Be entrepreneurs. Solve humanity’s problems with new ideas, new innovations and give people jobs. Make yourselves very wealthy and remember who blessed you with your success. Then tithe.
Be politicians. Become leaders who set a great example to all Americans of what a great person is and should be. Become directly involved in the decision-making process and therefore have greater potential to influence the aspects of society you see that can be fixed.
Don’t live a mundane life complaining about the rich, the wealthy and the powerful. Become them and set a new precedent.
***This post has been duel posted on Opinionz Matter by Tanner Brumbarger . I have been invited to guest post to Tanner’s blog and hopefully this will help drive a bit more traffic to Jon’s Deep Thoughts.
- Mass Exodus from Church (antwrites.com)
- Decline of Christianity in America (waylon1776.wordpress.com)
- How Will The Shocking Decline Of Christianity In America Affect The Future Of This Nation? (endoftheamericandream.com)
- The Reason Youth are Abandoning the Church (Principles #3 and #4) (worthyofthegospel.wordpress.com)
Have you seen the video yet? It is Jefferson Bethke’s poem about how Jesus hates religion. It went viral about a week ago and speaks a message that the country is ripe to hear. I’m not hating on it either. What he created is a good work and filled with very important ideas, ideas that strike deep to many who hear it.
If you haven’t seen it please direct yourself here before continuing on to view it. Otherwise most of this article won’t make sense. If you are up on your viral media and are now ready for my lecture please continue.
As I mentioned before, the poet Jefferson Bethke has captured some very important key points about the nature of Jesus and the church, and also what he calls religion. Before I start on the relationship between Jesus and the Church, I would like to point out another issue that many may have missed when they watched the video. This is also an important time in America’s development to be hearing this particular message. We are part of a generation that seems to be raging out against any form of authority we see unfit, and by unfit I mean anything that isn’t perfect.
We have seen decades of leaders, for many of us for as long as we have lived, fall horribly short of expectations. Many are resentful of political leaders who have let us down, like a President who had affairs in the oval office, or the one that sent us to wars we understood little about and couldn’t get us out of, or the President who didn’t give us back the jobs he said he would. Senators exposing themselves doesn’t shock us anymore, it is just time for a joke. But the failure in leadership doesn’t end there, and this where I think Bethke’s words hit most of us close to home. Our spiritual leaders have failed us too. Our generation has seen people kill thousands “In the name of God.” We also know that during the Crusades, reformation and inquisitions, Christians did much worse to far more people, even fellow Christians. Fanatics have spread hate in the name of God, like Fred Phelps who has led his cult/clan outside of fallen veteran funerals with slogans like “God Hates Fags” and “God Brought Down the Towers”. Christians have made war on science without considering the flaws in their own interpretation of the universe, leaving the enlightened members of our society with no place left to go but to feel shunned by God. Jokes about Catholic priests and alter boys don’t even get a reaction any more because we have heard it so many times. Major leaders in the Promise Keepers movement drove it to obscurity when they themselves committed adultery (a rare yet powerful blow to Christians and Politicians, thanks Mr. Ensign). Young people in the church see the older leaders acting against christian teachings. They see women gossiping and men telling dirty jokes as they frequent topless bars, all the while only a few actually still visit the widows, the orphans, the sick and the elderly. Even some of the most celebrated Christian leaders like Rev. Billy Graham are viewed by some as just a hoax dealer selling grace for as much as you can put in the bucket. How is it that, in a world of near infinite information, a young person should be expected to have such blind faith in the presence of such blatant hypocrisy?
They can’t. Young people are distancing themselves from the church. They are joining movements of self actualization in their own spirituality, making the path a solitary one. They are making statements like “I am spiritual, but not religious.” A few years ago, a religious person would laugh at such a statement, “How could someone know and understand God by themself?” but now we can see the divide clearly. People want to know and discover meaning in their life while not being part of a church that imposes rules, regulations, dogmas and passing judgements while making some feel welcome and ostracizing others. And the whole time many seeing them not living the lives they demand of others. Do you believe you are part of a perfect church? If you think you don’t, then why do you think others would want to join it? What good can they get from a less than perfect body? The conclusion… This is not perfect, it must have nothing to do with Jesus.
And there you see it. Our generation, with its abundance of information and its command of knowledge, are striking out against the “old ways” of religion. We are having a harder and harder time dealing with the dissonance between the idea of a perfect church made from imperfect people. This is why you see the individuals forming and leading themselves in spirituality. This is why you are seeing poems about how Jesus hates Religion and why you see so many openly denying the very existence of God. Christians today are personified in the world as self-righteous and condesending, hypocrites and ignorant. The world seems to hate us, and I can’t really say I blame them. We have been bad Christians, and now our families, our communities and our world are judging their walk because of us.
Up to this point you may or may not believe in what I have said. I do want you however to consider it and use it to focus on one point. Jesus is greater than religion. Religion is a construct of people to help learn about, understand, and communicate our faith. Jesus himself doesn’t need religion. Jesus does not hate religion, because he knows we as humans need it. What the author of the poem mentioned was that he loved the church, yet hated religion. This is what religion is. A community of believers, who teach the newcomers and the young the traditions and beliefs of their faith. This is called guidance to those in a community and indoctrination to those from outside. We teach the deep theology to our members when they have studied enough to receive it, such as the fundamental differences between sects of Christianity, the true nature of God and man. These ideas took thousands of years to develop and can not be arrived at by an individual without the guidance and leadership of a strong church. For example, it took the early church more than 300 years to arrive at the conclusion of the trinity, a deep and very complex philosophy about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that still leaves many Christians confused about their own faith. And people must practice the rituals of worship, they must repeat them over and over. This part is a mental exercise, a meditation, on why the act you are performing is practiced. Outsiders call this dogma with a self-righteous scowl, but these rituals, if done with a meditative mind, remind us of our promises, our commitments and the commitments that have been made to us. Without religion, being the acts, traditions, fellowship, and knowledge of a good church, how could a person truly come to know God? And if they do come to know God, how will their children? If this continues, what will become of our nation in the, void of religion?
I will put it to you this way. What happens when a person goes out and seeks spiritual understanding without religious guidance? I think about people who pray and don’t receive the answer they want quickly fall from faith because God either doesn’t exist or hates them. I think of people who wear a cross on their neck or get Jesus tattoos “because it brings me luck.” I also think of an episode of the popular show Glee. The episode was called “Cheesus Christ Superstar”, (don’t expect enlightenment here.) The episode grew around the students’ belief systems or lack of such, and centered on one of the characters discovering that he had grilled a sandwich into an image of Jesus. From that point on he prayed to “Grilled Cheesus” and when his prayers weren’t answered it supported the idea that God is either not there or doesn’t care. Many other topics were touched, but in general the entire episode is offensive to anyone who believes anything. My point here is that, though this is a dramatized and humorous account, it represents a real journey young people take on. They want to understand, but without good guidance in faith they are just as likely to worship a cellophane wrapped savior.
Many believers stand to idea that none of this matters because Jesus is coming back and the evil will get their come-up-ins’. If you believe this, you know it hasn’t happened in the last 2000 years, what makes you think it won’t be another 2000? Or more perhaps. Christians need to take a deep personal ownership of the religion. We need people willing to build it into something that can last another 2000 years in the way leaders like Peter, Paul, Marcus Aquinas and Martin Luther did. What religion needs is a new generation of true followers. Teachers to lead the young Christians in meditation and thought on their faith. To stop carelessly repeating the same lessons and get to the deep thoughts of the belief. End the hypocrisy that has grown rampant in the eyes of the world and be leaders of their church as they carry on the tradition that Jesus set forth.
I will close with this, I doubt Jesus hates religion. He knows it is a necessary part of the human spiritual experience. He built the early church and laid down the doctrines that would lead them after he was gone. Kevin Deyoung expounds on this idea in a similarly themed work where he said, “He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17). He founded the church (Matt. 16:18). He established church discipline (Matt. 18:15-20). He instituted a ritual meal (Matt. 26:26-28). He told his disciples to baptize people and to teach others to obey everything he commanded (Matt. 28:19-20). He insisted that people believe in him and believe certain things about him (John 3:16-18; 8:24). ”