Where I Hyde

Hyde here. Jekyll wasn’t a whole man either. I may be twisted, but he was fake. Not illusory nor ideal — but he was legitimately a lie. I am Narcissus. I am somewhat taken with the mad scientist and Van Gogh I see in myself. My emotions are mesmerizing. And I write much better when my emotions overcome the high walls of my inhibitions.

The women who show me love are beautiful and good and true. And I  value them primarily for their beauty. Yet, I’m not shallowly sensual. I’ve always seen their beauty on many levels. It is from their humility, gentleness, and courage that their beauty operates most powerfully. It summons my selfishness into inversion. It calls me out of myself while letting me be myself. It often inspires me to be a better man — but only for a while.

To manipulate, I imitate what is good. In pseudo-humility, I confess through boasts of analytic awareness. Its not hard to overcome denial when everything is plausible. And confession is an intimate act that invites reciprocal self-exposure.

A normative state of compliance assumes the value of every person warrants their equality in relation to insignificant entities such as truth and justice. I am a citizen of that state, so even my enemies tend to like me. My most aggressive acts often pass unnoticed; I secretly celebrate subversion in its most subtle forms; my insubordination is strongest in my compliance. You can’t help but trust me.

Even cynical assassinations of my own character only gain me accolades. Many people are too busy to push against my walls and to recognize the duplicity of my heart. Who want’s to tell the nice guy that he’s what’s wrong with the world?

Blessed are the pure in heart, but I’m both frigid and loose. This is where I Hyde.

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Poetic Prostitutions of Depravity

My premise in brief:

Prostitution of our depravity
exhausts authenticity, tolerance, and empathy,
fostering longings for justice and truth,
goodness and beauty.

So my depravity, I prostitute
that you may despair of your precious virtues.

Poem 1: Usurper
Acid am I
Not agent of grace
Rejecting the gifts provided

Supporter am I 
Concerns do I raise
To temper your initiatives

Corrosive-laced sweet
I pass lips in peace
Compliantly, I kill my masters


Poem 2: Arrogant
I'll earn it, I don't say
I know I've received grace
But I'll carrot myself with receipt 

Till my ways are higher
My own feet to the fire
And Christ's desire for me is misplaced

That's it! I now exclaim
New techniques I explain:
His love will certainly claim my heart

But control I retain (or frigid I remain) 
His love is a two-lane
And I will not release my own part.

Can you taste bile? Or does this arrogant usurper evoke your precious virtues? Authenticity, tolerance, and empathy bind human horrors to one another. Let us long for something more beautiful before we are damned together.

Instead, long for justice and truth, goodness and beauty.

Lord have mercy
from the place of your faithfulness!
But don’t let us think You are compromising
like a pragmatic politician saying “this for that”
or a free-market trader
thriving on the shared glory of collaboration.

Au Contraire: “in You there is no darkness.”

To Resist What God Has Appointed

The State cannot correct the Church through coercion [threats or force] but only through demonstration of a better submission to Christ. Then, the Church, in recognition of Her shepherd’s voice, should follow.

But should “[the church] do wrong, [it should] be afraid, for [the state government ] does not bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13:4).

Paul, the author of Romans, lived and died fully aware of an empire’s capacity for both order and tyranny. He saw their power and influence; he saw them through their prison bars on multiple occasions. He would eventually see their reflections in an executioner’s flashing sword.

He did not endorse the abuse of power or authority when he said: “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:2). Thus, sometimes, the Christian engages in obedient resistance to the authority God has appointed.

Two applications come to mind.

  1. When the state demonstrates a better submission to Christ through “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father,” the Sheep hear their Shepherd’s voice and obey Him by visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction.” Hopefully, their familiarity with God’s written word inspires the sheep also to “keep [themselves] unstained from the world,” as they creatively discover better ways to serve and disciple the orphans and widows among their neighbors. (James 1:27)
  2. When sexual abuse happens among the members of the Church, the incident is reported to the governing authorities and the survivor is shown the small, informed community’s regret. They are never abandoned to grief but always accompanied in mourning, so that the survivor is never alone in his or her suffering loss. Later, the Church can respond to the criminal’s repentance with forgiveness, examination, correction, instruction in righteousness and the possibility of eventual reconciliation. Perhaps if the survivor consents, the offender may even rejoin the assembly.

May the Church be eager to hear its Shepherd’s voice and willing to resist what God has appointed where obedience demands it.

I care about people, even though people say not to: codependency

The simplest distinction my mind can reason is this: I should care for people rather than caring for how people evaluate me. But, my ears cannot hear this distinction. All I hear is “you shouldn’t care about people.” So, I take a second look, and my second look carries emotional polemics: “he’s an individualist and doesn’t care about the community,” “he’s self-sufficient and doesn’t think he needs anyone,” or “he’s indifferent to those he tramples over.” These polemics identify the “healthy” person as arrogant and selfish.

I haven’t stopped “caring for people” yet. I imagine that it must look like cussing someone out. It must look like abandoning my friends. It must look like identifying a goal and destroying anyone who restrains or resists my efforts. But, my mind can reason a simple distinction which my ears cannot hear: “stop caring about their evaluation of you.”

Unfortunately, we are not the merely cognitive creatures, as we relate ourselves to be. Relationships are interactive: giving and receiving, asking and answering, talking and listening, offending and suffering offense. I may have the cognitive insight necessary to change a mere mind. But I do not have the relationship necessary to experience change.

I will never be the assertive man who ignores his wife. I will never be the rugged cowboy who proclaims the self-sufficiency of a self-made man. And for now, I remain, the generous person who blindly denies his selfishness.

Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner, unable to please the Father without faith. The pendulum of morality swings wide in rejection of evil, so that the perpetrators are shamed and I join them in a new way. But you never rejected sin in pursuit of pleasure. No. You rejected sin out of a long, suffering obedience. But I still want to be a good person more than I want to be united to You.

I don’t mind being this vulnerable.  Pseudo-virtues can be perverted. Voluntary vulnerability retains control and does not encroach on what is denied. So applaud me. I’m accustom to it. Or, if you want to help, pray in alignment with Hebrews 4:13: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Me, My Hope, and I

I placed the dusty light-toned smarties across my daily schedule. It may not have been the most sanitary. It may have been covered in pencil lead. But I had a system. And I was self-controlled. My flesh had not yet morphed into the indulgent form in which it now groans. But my sin nature had already plotted. It had big plans in this little boy.

Devos done.

Check.

Bathroom stuff done. Check.

Spelling done. Check.

Math was difficult. Worth about 3 smarties. Check.

So was grammar — and science. But I loved reading and history.

I’d pop the smarties to reward myself. And, yes, sometimes home-school students can finish their work by lunch. Afternoons in the sunshine entertained my little self playing soldier among our trees. I had a system. It worked for me. Me, my hope, and I.

It didn’t work for others. They lacked discipline. They indulged now. I knew a secret to productivity.

But it faded. School got hard. I realized that I couldn’t be satisfied pleasing merely myself academically. I had to exceed the expectations of others. Each paper I wrote had to be a masterpiece. And they never were. I tended to turn them in dissatisfied, fearful that they were inadequate. My grades weren’t good enough to persuade me otherwise. I just logged a lot of hours in my perfectionism. So, I lost my reward system. It no longer worked for me, my hope, and I.

But part of my thinking persisted: some tasks we face are more enjoyable than others. The opportunity to do the more important (and sometimes unpleasant) task replaced my smarties, but I was still my own motivator.

I became a deadline-dependent student; I worked until the opportunity passed.

If I did less than my best, I might be condemned.

If I did my best, I was justified.

If I tried my hardest, I excused myself.

Still a perfectionist, during college, failure started to bring relief. I could burnout and persist anyway. But when I failed, I could rest. And even last week, failure brought relief to me, my hope, and I.

I was my own hope. My own rewarder. My own unsatisfied judge.

But, once, I installed a piece of vinyl siding as though working for God, and not for men. Then I forgot about it and returned to college. “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence inspired me because this monk would wash dishes to the glory of God, and bend down to pick something up in the same way.

I can no longer be my own hope. Even my own comfort disappoints me. It’s not worth fighting for. I can still be me, but not alone, nor to serve myself.

My repentance is:

Lord, because You decide what my most important task is, I will stop using it to reward myself for accomplishing all the little jobs that distract me from obedience. And I will obey you first, come what may with the rest.

And my prayer is:

Almighty Father, your glory is matchless. Please strengthen me to worship You. And , through the Spirit, deliver me from this particular evil, as surely as, in Christ, you have delivered me from evil ultimately.

This Time of Turmoil

A Prayer for the Saints in a time of turmoil:

God, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!

Hindsight is now vague! Status quo remains.

Baby/Refugee: persons died today.

But, where is Your way? God, where is your way?

 

Christ, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!

Lazy “at church” people, each on the world’s worn paths.

Liberals, Conservatives, justifying their tasks.

Concerning your answers, the Bride forgot to ask.

 

Spirit give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!

My troubled soul to true peace and quiet rest, Spirit Counsel me

My eager heart to wisdom and insight, Spirit Counsel me

My passive hands to loving action, Spirit Counsel me

 

Holy Triune God, give me a way to walk, that I might walk in it!

Mishandled Anger 1: Passive-Aggression? (warning: explicit but not profane)

Have you ever experienced passive-aggression?

Let’s examine the morality of both passivity and aggression.

Passivity

stained-glass-window-depicting-adam-and-eve-in-the-garden-of-eden

Stain glass window in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

At its core, passivity is indifference toward a person or event. Indifference (literally Latin for: “not making any difference”) is conceived when one does not mark a difference or note a distinction in an “other.” Not regarding the “other” occurs when the “other” is considered to be insignificant by either an individual or a community. Thus some passivity is an axiological (having to do with value) judgement, not merely a behavioral phenomenon. In Genesis 3:6, Adam and Eve chose not to regard God’s command; they decided to judge God’s command as having a low value. That’s passivity.

The second form of  passivity does not necessarily make an axiological judgement. Ignorance necessarily occurs among finite individuals who are by nature unable to regard everything as the Omniscient is able to. We are passive toward much more than we are able to regard. This is a necessary byproduct of humanity’s finite nature.

Now let’s consider aggression!

Aggression

Is there anything wrong with aggression? Not inherently! There is a variation of aggression which is not  over-eager, unprovoked, nor excessive. This righteous aggression is patient, provoked, and measured. Righteous aggression is the reaction of the Just Person toward injustice.

Neither passivity nor aggression are necessarily sinful, so we must ask a curious question! When we encounter an action that is both passive and aggressive, is it necessarily sinful? I don’t believe so.

Can God be Passive-Aggressive?

Passivity occurs in two situations: 1) Ignorance of a person or event 2). Evaluation of a person or event as unworthy of regard.

Is there anything God does not know? As the Creator of everything, he knows everything. Therefore God cannot be passive toward anything through ignorance.

God can be passive only through evaluation of worth. And, value ultimately proceeds from God. So, if God determines not to regard a person or event, they are effectively valueless.  God has become passive toward them — indifferent toward them — permitting no value to proceed from Himself toward them. He evaluates them as unworthy of regard. They are dead to Him.

And those dead to God are?

If damnation is both passivity (that refuses to regard a person) and aggression (that is provoked, patient, and measured,) then damnation is righteous passive-aggression, is it not?

Conclusion

Why do I write a blogpost redeeming a behavior commonly regarded to be sin? Because I’m a troll (see upcoming post on trolling).

But since this post is entitled “Mishandled Anger,” I’ll get to the point: The opportunities for one human to assign another human unto damnation are very few. Yes, that is the moral of this story. Passive-aggression is a motion toward damnation. Most human passive-aggression is an ambitious attempt to sit in Christ’s judgement seat. The purpose of anger is to redeem those participating in evil and eventually subject those who resist redemption to “everlasting destruction.” Most human anger manifest as passive-aggression falls short of holy damnation. Most passive-aggression is mishandled anger.

Image source: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Stained-Glass-Window-Depicting-Adam-and-Eve-in-the-Garden-of-Eden-Posters_i9797417_.htm

Secularism as Grace

A new religion exists. Secularism is its name. The town square is its alter, silence is its sacrament. Privatization of religion is its social ethic. Community is its epistemology. Private convictions are its morality source. Tolerance is its spiritual discipline.

Secularism is declining. It’s doom should have been evident from the start. But the prophets were blinded by the ambition of humanity and the desperation of Europe to escape the prevalent scourge of religious wars. These blind prophets led the people people into a pseudo-salvation: secular humanism. Leave it to Nietzsche to provide the church with an assessment. Read as a Christian and feel the panic embroidering this terrified lament:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? -Friedrich Nietzsche “The Gay Science (Section 125, The Madman)”

Has the Church ever matched the beauty of Nietzsche’s lament? Do we recognize our futility apart from God? Can we echo Nietzsche in our desperation to be with the God who has been killed, once in crucifixion, and a second time in denial of the worship due him in our town squares.

The first time produced death God’s reality; the second time produced death in our perception.

The first death of God is overturned in resurrection. The second death of God shall be overturned in publication. We shall once again behold Him, and in regard for that day, all forces opposed to God tremble.

Secularism is not the enemy, it is grace. But, justice is never oppressed by grace.

Prosperity Gospel II

“Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”

As an underclassman in college, I overheard another student suggest that theology should be done in conversation rather than recitation.

I agree.

Someone engaged me in such a conversation after my last blogpost entitled: Trust Him… when Disappointed? This valuable friend (Prov. 27:17) brought up Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. He reminded me that Jesus considered the “deceitfulness of wealth” a significant threat to the sower’s seed. Here’s the text from Mark 4:

“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

In my last post, I asked: “What’s the danger of prosperity gospel?” Unfortunately, I down-played the dangers, reducing them them to merely “disappointment.” I neglected a greater danger: the “deceitfulness of wealth.”

Prosperity gospel would not pose a problem, except for the “deceitfulness of wealth.” This deceitfulness leads a person to treasure economic wealth and the comfort, success, and prosperity that often accompany it. Adherents to a prosperity gospel may unconsciously risk the elevation of economic prosperity over spiritual prosperity, which is found in the faithfulness of Christ.

We likely fail to appreciate our dearest treasures until they are threatened. One way to discern what your heart treasures is to test the effects of sacrifice. To ensure you own escape from the “deceitfulness of wealth”, make sacrifices that threaten your prosperity and your wealth, your comfort and your success. To the degree of seriousness to which you take this test, you will ensure that you treasure Christ over prosperity. A man named Job went through a similar test, though it was not self-inflicted. You can find the story in the Old Testament. Do you think he passed?

Anyway, what does the prosperity gospel say about Jesus Christ? If a deity sustains an individual through prosperity but not through poverty, the faithfulness of that god proves petty even when compared to a traditional wedding vow: “in sickness and in health” On the contrary, Jesus Christ is not the means to a financially prosperous end. Christ is the means and the end. Do you believe the prosperity gospel implies that Christ does not sustain a person through poverty?

There are two ways to address a questionable teaching: confrontation of error and proclamation of truth. To conclude, let’s meditate on this truth! A missionary from southern Turkey expressed the importance of Christ in a letter to the church in Italy.

“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.”

Read it again… slower this time please.

 

 

 

Trust Him… when Disappointed?

Let’s take a look at the Prosperity Gospel. Matt Slick describes it like this: “God has promised to the believer financial and physical prosperity” (https://carm.org/doctrine-prosperity). Sounds like a good deal, right? But, though it sounds “good”, it’s not actually “the deal.” And I’m thankful for that, because my experience of the Christian life has been pretty disappointing relative to the expectations created through Prosperity Gospel. However, the passages used to teach prosperity gospel are NOT to be neglected or ignored; rather, they are to be properly understood in accordance with this quote:

“Scripture stands in stark contrast to the narcissistic [selfish] and autonomous [independent (of God)] thinking of our self-absorbed world. God wants to remake and redeem our needs before He meets them. He calls us into a culture formed by the Cross” (Van Yperen, Jim, Making Peace).

Thus, when Jesus teaches “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8), He doesn’t propose a dangerous riddle. He doesn’t say “pick a door” and leave us to embrace “The Lady or the Tiger.” Christ is Good, and he will guide us to what is good via the best means. All we need ask is ourselves is:

“will we trust Him?”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) And it’s definitely possible to steal and kill a person’s joy by giving them what they desire. Think of our sexual desires, our taste for sugar, the allure of power – all of which “are permissible,” despite not always being “beneficial”                   (1 Corinthians 10:23).

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Scripture does address “financial and physical prosperity,” indirectly, in 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” God knows of our needs more exactly than we do. Don’t think that God prefers poverty over wealth or that poverty benefits us more than wealth. This is not the case! But instead of looking for wealth, let us ask God to “call us into a culture formed by the cross.”

Now, being “a culture formed by the Cross” is distinct from being a culture entirely characterized by the cross. Being formed by the cross means being made possible through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement (That’s fancy for “He took our place”). A grace-giving, yet holy culture can only be birthed when the demands of justice are met in Christ’s holy life and innocent death.

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On the other hand, being a culture entirely characterized by the cross means over-emphasizing the suffering of Christ and neglecting the victory of Christ. After all, Christians can experience victory both in self-sacrificial suffering (where Christ defeated sin, death, and the devil) and in peace (where the resurrected Christ reigns in glory). The absence of suffering does not negate the presence Christian community. Heaven will be a Christian community unoppressed, and at peace – and, (no surprise) we’ll still be Christians! The belief that Christianity is characterized by the sufferings of the cross approaches the danger of “martyr complex.” Nevertheless, each Christian should be ready to follow Christ to the death.

Image: http://catholicnow.weebly.com/saint-of-the-day/march-7-sts-perpetua-and-felicity

So what’s the danger of a Prosperity Gospel?

Disappointment.

It is disappointing when our expectations are not met. Unmet expectations may cause one to ask, “why doesn’t God love me?” But we are not obligated to ask this question. After all, faith in Christ that is dependent upon results is conditional faith based on what is seen – which is nonsense. Faith is by definition: “the assurance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). So, personally, I don’t see a grave danger in prosperity gospel. Sure, there will be disappointments, but as long as we desire Christ more than the “Prosperity Gospel” our faith will endure!

If you like speculating, ask yourself: “Is it possible that ‘Prosperity Gospel’ might actually be a sound doctrine in heaven?” Nevertheless, while here on earth, God asks us to have faith in Himself. He doesn’t promise that He will jeopardize our wellbeing by making it dependent upon the purity of our desires. He loves us more skillfully than we can love ourselves because He knows us more holistically than we can know ourselves.

P.S. Why does this appear on a blog devoted to peace? Because it’s not necessary to shun, distance yourselves from, or condemn advocates of prosperity gospel. Instead, remind them that Christ is faithful to His people regardless of their moments of unfaithfulness to Him. Encourage faithfulness to Christ (“in sickness and in health; in poverty and in wealth” as traditional wedding vows describe it). This should, in accordance with the subtle process of “survival of the fittest,” dissolve Prosperity Gospel. Watching this process may sadden us – especially when watching someone we care about suffer this disappointment and the temptations that accompany it. Trust God to work through you. Once God’s Word is spoken, it will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11). Love the disappointed and point them to Christ. Don’t proudly drive them away by celebrating their downfall. They need Christian community more than we may realize.