Taste Test

Yesterday America’s pastor Billy Graham passed from this world into the next. As Christians and even non-Christians celebrated his life and legacy, one dissenting voice rang out in stark contrast to the positive thoughts of so many. An obscure internet troll and writer for Teen Vogue (yes, that same magazine frequently filled with stunningly inappropriate content) named Lauren Duca tweeted, “The big news today is that Billy Graham was still alive this whole time. Anyway, have fun in hell, bi–h”.

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “the proof is in the pudding”. It’s one of those phrases that gets tossed around but is incomplete. The actual saying is, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. (More info here if you’re interested.) Both mean essentially the same thing, that you must test something out once it’s completed in order to assess the value of that thing.

It’s important for me to interject here that I am a libertarian. Essentially, I believe in a free market place of ideas allowing anyone to speak what’s on their mind with the one caveat that no one cause harm to another. So I have no issue with Ms. Duca’s right to make her comment. She is free to say what she likes even though I do not condone what she said. In modern debate the alarming trend from both sides of almost any issue is a desire to censor the other side. Duca has already tweeted that she is receiving death threats from Christians because of her comment, and that’s ridiculous. Freedom of ideas and freedom of speech mean anyone has the right to say what they please, again as long as they do not slander or libel someone or provoke violence.

However, in a free market of ideas individuals become consumers of ideologies and this is where I want to focus. While I believe anyone can toss anything they like into the online ether, we must test out their ideas and see if they hold water…or, the proof the pudding is in the eating. Herein lies the major difference between Duca and Rev. Graham. One espouses a set of ideals that promotes peace and love and the other promotes a set of ideals that promotes hate and intolerance.

Somehow, over the last few decades, the progressive leftist movement has marketed itself as the keepers of the ideology of peace and tolerance. But consider the hateful statement Duca made within hours of Billy Graham’s death. How is such rhetoric tolerant or peaceful? And when did ad hominem attacks become standard in American public discourse? How did the nation founded by brilliant thinkers like Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin devolve into Pee Wee Herman-esque comebacks…”I know you are, but what am I?”?

Without belaboring the point further, my encouragement is for you to investigate this yourself. Much like recommending a restaurant, you simply cannot confirm or deny the referrer’s opinion without sampling the food yourself. Simply google some of the loudest champions of the various ideological camps in America today and read what they have written, or listen, or watch, and sample their ideas for yourself.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. As you sample their ideas and consider the implications of the truth statements each group makes, ask yourself some guiding questions:

  • How do these ideas promote harmony and peace between humans?
  • Will these ideas promote equity among groups of people?
  • Does this group and its ideas foster freedom of speech, religion, and thought?
  • How do adherents of this ideology treat each other and other people, especially those who disagree with their views?
  • If I subscribe to these views, will I like the person I become?

As a libertarian thinker, I would not force my beliefs upon anyone, but I firmly subscribe to the theory that genuine, absolute truth always triumphs when free thinking is allowed. This is why I am not a progressive leftist. In response to the last question in the list above, I would not like the person I would become if I accepted and acted upon their ideological views.

When someone like Ms. Duca trumpets hateful thoughts like she did yesterday, it only exposes the dark underbelly of leftist thinking. It’s no different than the Westboro Baptist folks spouting their own version of hate, just from a different camp. I’m content with freedom of speech, but it’s only fair that the ideas put forth by individuals be examined for consistency and plausibility. Duca, and those in the leftist camp, claim to be champions of equality and free speech, but in truth they are leading the charge for government censorship of any and all viewpoints in opposition to their own.

Don’t believe me? Do your research, ask questions, investigate, and see for yourself. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.


Eggs & Chickens

Popular music is something I do not follow closely anymore. As musicians were replaced by “beats” and poetic turns of phrase by crass, inane lyrics, my patience ran thin and I exited the pop music bandwagon. While there are still some popular groups and songs I enjoy, I no longer pay attention to the nonsense happening in pop music today.

However, I want to maintain some sense of the pulse and pace of my own culture, so every few weeks I check the Billboard Top 100 and Apple’s iTunes charts to see what is popular with the kids these days. If you, like me, do not follow current trends in music, I recommend doing this from time to time. It’s fairly shocking, actually, and really exposes where our culture sits artistically, morally, and spiritually.

What struck me reading through lyrics and listening to snippets of several popular tunes last night was the consistent objectification of women. More than a dozen songs portrayed women as “bitches” or sex objects to be used by their “nigga” or some other crass term. Men were described as “players” whose sole purpose is making money, often through illegal methods, and handling their “bitches”. I apologize for the crass language here, but it drives home the point…today’s music is vulgar, rude, and describes a state of being that is unsustainable.

The #MeToo movement over the past few months purports to detest the descriptions of men and women used in popular songs today. On the surface the movement talks about empowering women and protecting them from unwanted sexual contact. But how can our culture take ourselves seriously when we talk out of both sides of our collective mouths? How can we affirm the vile descriptions of women in dozens of popular songs, elevating the “artists” who “sing” them to celebrity status, while simultaneously decrying the message their songs convey?


What we have here is a classic “chicken and the egg” scenario. Our society has created a cultural environment where women are portrayed as powerful and in control of themselves and men are portrayed as lotharios who have that “24 karat magic”. When we saturate the minds of people with this imagery, reinforce it with blockbuster films like “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and award its purveyors with trophies and money and fame, why should we be surprised when women are damaged by men who are equally damaged?

I would never advocate a return to “old school” gender roles and stereotypes because those were just as broken as today’s insanity. However, to escape future pain and conflict between men and women we would be wise to affirm positive imagery for our young people. Without delving into real or perceived differences in genders, we should all agree that teaching people to realize their intrinsic value and the value inherent in others is paramount to escaping the cultural malaise exposed by today’s music and movements.

People desire to be valued, protected, and loved. Songs that degrade women, and men for that matter, and reduce them to stereotypes should not be applauded. Perhaps if we denigrated the vulgar tripe pulsing in the ears of people today, we might open people’s minds and spark their creativity and teach them kindness for others so that tomorrow we would never need a #MeToo movement.


My wife and I will soon open a new chapter in our lives. As we near our middle years (according to human averages anyway) we decided to return to university to expand our education and being new careers. Many factors contributed to this decision, but one in particular led the way…the issue of intrinsic v. extrinsic living.

Several months ago I was researching a sermon and discovered a story by Heinrich Böll that helps define this concept well:

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

American Dreaming

Growing up in America I understand the attitude of the Harvard educated businessman. Our educational system and culture are geared toward achievement and a drive toward success in finances above everything. American culture is extrinsically driven, for the most part, and we see this in our attitudes toward one another and life. We want fast food, entertainment on demand, high paying jobs, and long vacations. Everything we do is extrinsically driven because we are taught to be motivated by money and success. We even call this insanity the “American Dream”…American Nightmare might be a better appellation.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18.1% of Americans are affected by anxiety in some way. I believe this stems from our culture’s obsession with extrinsic motivators. Sports champions receive rings, trophies, cash, and fame…extrinsic. Musicians or actors are rich and popular (seemingly anyway) and we fawn over them constantly…extrinsic. Business people are given bonuses, focus on metrics and numbers, and knock people down to grow the bottom line…extrinsic.

Extrinsic motivations are not entirely bad, however. We all need a paycheck and we enjoy accolades and trophies and there is nothing wrong with people recognizing excellent work done by others. We must not throw the baby out with the bath water, but we cannot expect to live entirely driven by extrinsic motivations and find inner peace and happiness. Indeed, the very concept is antithetical because inner peace and happiness are intrinsic by definition.

Peace Within

Intrinsic motivations are driving my wife and me to make a major life and career change in our middle years. If we only cared about extrinsic motivations we would stay put and push on to larger bank accounts and the acquisition of things. We don’t care about those things anymore. Things are nice, but inner peace and joy are far greater than an expensive car or beautiful home.

Ultimately, we find our inner peace through Jesus Christ. It is through our faith that we experience what Galatians calls the “fruit of the Spirit”. This “fruit” is now the driving force in my life. My thoughts and focus are on growing the intrinsic values of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. For what good are things if I am unable to enjoy them because my inner life is in turmoil?

My encouragement to you today is simple: find your intrinsic motivators and begin to live according to them. Before you go out and quit your job and move to Mexico, please understand that being driven by intrinsic desires does not require such radical change. Most people can experience deep and lasting changes in their daily lives simply by adjusting their focus from extrinsic motivators (all of which eventually fade) to intrinsic motivators (which are more permanent).

In Christ we can discover peace and love and joy, and that allows us to be truly free because we are no longer held captive by extrinsic motivators. Experience Jesus and experience freedom and peace. I can think of nothing greater or more pure than being driven by those intrinsic motivators that saturate our lives with hope and joy and love.


Static Cling

Facebook’s data logs will one day be a treasure trove of information for anthropologists, historians, and psychologists to sift through when learning about this era. Social media has its uses, of course, but on the whole Facebook and Twitter have become places for people to proudly display ignorance, bias, and misinformation. Parsing unending streams of information to determine fact from fiction will be the most beneficial skill for future humans.

Today’s post was prompted by an exchange of ideas on a friend’s Facebook post. One of the authors in the thread angrily told the original poster that they would not change the way they did things. The angry comment was laced with profanity and poor grammar, which is common on social media, but it is the sentiment behind the post that drives today’s thinking.

When presented with an alternative option…

To clarify, the argument between Original Poster (hereafter O.P.) and Commenting Poster (C.P.), centered around the usage of language. C.P.’s remarks on O.P.’s post contained profanity. O.P. objected to such language on their page, stating that posting on someone else’s page was akin to being a guest in their home, and asked C.P. to refrain from such language. C.P. angrily and sardonically retorted they would not change for O.P. or anyone else, continuing with the foul language of course.

Back to the discussion at hand…

When presented with an alternative option, C.P. refused to alter their behavior to accommodate O.P. because “that’s the way I am”. That’s the way I am…a phrase designed to take advantage of our culture’s penchant for self-actualization. When we are asked to alter our behavior by another person and we respond with “That’s the way I am”, we reflect the request back to the offended person.

In other words, if I behave in a way that is irritating or offensive to another person, that person asks me to adjust my behavior, and I refuse, citing the “That’s the way I am” argument, I am actually asking the first person to alter their behavior to accommodate me. Perhaps it would be apropos when someone claims the “That’s the way I am” argument to counter with your own “That’s the way I am”. Essentially it would be an adult version of the “Did not…Did too” arguments you had with your siblings as a child.


What drives the “That’s the way I am” argument? Why do people feel compelled to return to this ridiculous claim over and over again? The answer lies in fundamental assumptions and choices and how they affect us.

In the example given, C.P. uses foul language with regularity according to their comments. At some point, this person chose to incorporate “four-letter words” into their daily speech. Perhaps they struggled with advanced language or perhaps they had a parent who frequently cursed, we cannot know for certain without further investigation. Whatever the cause, they now see this aspect of their speech as indispensable. They simply do not know how to respond without using foul language because that manner of speech is now part of who they are as an individual.

When we make life choices we are confronted with obstacles. Choosing to use foul language in everyday speech, C.P. likely faced opposition in some form from society. However, the opposition was eventually overcome through continued positive reinforcement of the behavior. Whether such reinforcement came from internal justification or from outward sources (e.g., friends or family), in the end the person hardwired this behavior into their system hence the argument “That’s just the way I am”.

We cling to such static behaviors and refuse to adapt or change because we associate most of our behavior with our identity. Humans are born with two powerful desires that are diametrically opposed: the desire to be known as an individual and the desire to be part of a group. It is possible for the “That’s just the way I am” argument to morph into “That’s just the way WE are”, but the concepts behind each statement are essentially equal. Because we are driven by these desires, as we grow and develop we seek out behavior patterns and make choices to validate who we have decided to be in the universe.

Whatever decisions we make about who we are fundamentally, whether those choices be existential, practical, or spiritual, we cling to them as if our life depended on them…because in a way it does. Most individuals have not reached the point of self-examination and self-awareness to become flexible. Most people are static creatures built on choices, often made decades ago, and as such they cannot see how to change…thus the “That’s the way I am” argument arises.

God is My Rock

Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Powerful words for us to consider. 

God should be the static cling in our lives. We can connect with Him and cling to Him because He does not and cannot change. Fundamentally God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same in a billion trillion years. God’s design for humanity was for us to connect to Him as individuals and then He would walk with us through our life’s journey and we could adjust our thinking and behavior to reflect His unchanging thinking and behavior.

We find ourselves on unstable ground emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually when we become self-referential. The “That’s the way I am” argument is built on self-referencing.

Think of it like this…imagine everyone’s life is a painting that we work on for decades until we cross over from this world to the next. We can paint our own image while looking into a mirror (self-referencing) or we can paint what we see outside of ourselves that God has provided. While there is the option of painting external sources other than God, all of those external sources can be traced back to a self-referencing source.

Only the God of the Bible, Yahweh, and Jesus Christ, provide a fully other source of reference for our life painting that also incorporates our personal identity into the picture. God is our rock to which we cling, but God does not ask us to abandon our created nature entirely. Instead, the amazing beauty of Christianity, is that God desires us to become what He desires us to be…and that is always a reflection of inborn desires.

To put it another way, we are each born “bent” certain ways. We may have a proclivity for the arts, sports, mathematics, or any number of things. We may be extroverted or introverted, quiet or boisterous, thinking or feeling, and on and on. Numerous personality tests detail data about the varying types of people on earth, but all people were created by God and He placed desires within us that are reflective of Him.

Part of the Christian journey is discovering which parts of ourselves are God-designed and which are not and choosing the God-designed parts to focus on. When we live life in this manner we become flexible rather than static. Learning to adapt to God and flow with His thinking will destroy the “That’s the way I am” argument permanently.

Believers in Christ should have one response, “That’s the way HE is…and that’s the way I want to be too”. When we reflect those traits and abandon those parts of us that are in opposition to God’s beautiful static nature, we begin to change and find peace and joy in our journey.

Being Right

Another famous person committed suicide this week. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, another 123 people committed suicide today…but most of us will never know because they aren’t famous. Every day in America and around the world people suffer from sickness, poverty, political oppression, and mental illness just to list a few. We live in a broken world and we see the effects of this constantly.

If you dwell on those negatives, the world can be a very depressing place. For those, like the young celebrity who killed himself, they found themselves in exactly that place. As their minds focused on the darkness within them and around them, they were overwhelmed by it until they finally broke. Darkness surrounds us every day if we choose to focus on it, and it’s still there even when we don’t. It’s inescapable.

On Facebook earlier today I scrolled past a post by a friend with very different theological views. His post was attacking another Christian because of their views, which do not align with theirs of course. Now the person being attacked is a well known television preacher with a large church.

This person has written books and made videos and has a massive media presence, so from one viewpoint they should expect to be attacked by detractors. On the other hand, I doubt anyone was seriously swayed by the critical views from this preacher’s opponent. What I have found following decades of time spent in American churches, are myriad insular groups each convinced of their own place in the universe.

There’s an old joke that goes like this:

A man arrives at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, Religion?

The man says, Methodist. 

St. Peter looks down his list and says, Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

Another man arrives at the gates of heaven. Religion?


Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

 A third man arrives at the gates. Religion?


 Go to Room 11, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.

The man says, I can understand there being different rooms for different denominations, but why must I be quiet when I pass Room 8?

St. Peter tells him, Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think theyre the only ones here.

Feel free to swap the punchline’s denomination for one of your own choosing, as the joke is ecumenical.

It’s a humorous little joke, but it exposes a deep issue in the American church. We are all so concerned about being “right” we are willing to sacrifice other Christians on our altars to appease our theological gods. When we start tossing around the term “heretic” for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to our form of orthodoxy we are treading along thin ice.

The Bible is an incredibly complex and nuanced book, and anyone who has spent serious time studying it should readily admit this fact. As I have studied it over the years, I am amazed at the wide differences of opinion among decorated scholars over fundamental issues of theology and interpretation. We cannot ignore this. We cannot pretend like our little group, or big one, has the market cornered on theology and simply dismiss everyone else out of hand and label them all heretics.

We are all human and all of our interpretations carry some measure of error no matter how many letters follow our name. As we interact with others, especially those who profess Christ as Lord, we would be wise to remember this. Recall the story of Jesus restoring Peter and then noticing John was following them. Peter was irked that John was eavesdropping and indignantly pointed to John and (I imagine this line in an accusatory tone) says, “Jesus, what about HIM?!?”

Jesus’s response should be enough for each of us, and it should cut us to the quick and remind us of our proper place in things. Jesus turned to Peter and said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow ME.” The Word goes on to say that a rumor started because of what Jesus said to Peter. Since the scripture only says that John, Peter, and Jesus were present when He made this statement, one wonders which of the three started the rumors…I have a guess.

Orthodoxy is a necessary part of our lives. Everyone lives with some form of orthodox belief system, even if they are not Christian. Humans require boundary lines and we invent them for ourselves if we reject those God has designed. However, our theological views should not lead us to degrade others even if the other person is wrong.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned suicide and pain and the darkness surrounding us all. When we follow Jesus we become light-bearers, the only beings on earth capable of dispersing the darkness and replacing it with beauty and goodness. By focusing on “being right” we are covering our light with a basket, becoming those who are more concerned about attacking those who disagree with us rather than shining into the darkness.

Should we, and will we have orthodoxy in our beliefs? Absolutely. But can we be kind to others even when we disagree with them? Without a doubt.

If Christians spent a little less time hammering away at each other and a little more time focused on the fruit of the Spirit, those things that actually matter, we might dispel even more darkness than we ever thought possible.

Just remember that some of what you believe isn’t true. You do not have all the answers. You do not understand everything in the Bible. No human does, has, or ever will. God’s revelation is accessible but never fully comprehensible because His full revelation is greater than humanity…and that’s how it should be.

See, He designed us so that we could each carry a portion of Him but never all of Him. Because of this design, we require Jesus and each other. God created humanity to live in community with one another and with Him. We are designed to live as a family.

So the next time you see someone bashing another person because of their views, move along. Find those who will be respectful of others and their beliefs. Connect with those who desire to live a life of love and kindness first and put orthodoxy second. Live within God’s defined boundaries, but do so in a way that spreads light rather than accusations.

Above all things, seek Jesus first and His Kingdom and then everything else will flow into your life. He tells us what the results of life with Him entail: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Walking Past the Daylight

Walking past the daylight

Colors forming against the grain

Washing away all those memories.

Coattails riding away

Into the sunset

Light shifting, moving outward streaming

Walking past the daylight

Feeling morose, joyous, enraptured,

Currents – undertones cascading across

Swollen eyes after hard summer rains

Curiosity drives his own fashion

How to tell him it’s sometimes overrated?

Walking past the daylight.


Today is Martin Luther King day in America. We celebrate this day each year to commemorate Dr. King’s unique impact on American culture. Quotes from King abound today and his speeches are replayed as we remember his legacy. My favorite quote from Dr. King comes from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech where he said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Brilliant. In the midst of racial tensions, King focused on deeper things of the heart. Our character drives our actions and sets the tone for our lives. Who we are as people should matter. Others should be free to judge us on who we are as people, not what we look like.

Character is defined as “the distinctive qualities that make up an individual”. Qualities are attributes that provide value to our lives and others. When our individual qualities reflect God and impact those around us in a positive way, our character deepens and grows.

I believe this is what Dr. King meant in his speech. That we would dwell in a nation so free that individuals could grow their character and be judged on that alone. As we walk through life and encounter people, our character should be what matters. When we are people of Godly character, we will be judged well.