Tag Archives | Christianity

They are not all Israel, which are of Israel

I’ve been thinking about how the culture we live in can influence our belief systems and livelihood, and it occurred to me that true Christians will always be at odds with those who take on the label simply for appearances’ sake, which describes the vast majority of Christians today.  They don’t really believe anything they hear in church (or in the Bible), they don’t actually read or follow God’s word, they’re just going with the flow so they don’t stick out from the crowd and risk becoming a social pariah.  In America today, especially in our more conservative states, they are a dime a dozen.

There’s absolutely no variation in this no matter where people live.  Muslims being Muslims not because they believe it but because they don’t want their heads chopped off.  Or someone who pretends to be Mormon so he doesn’t get treated like a second class citizen in Utah.  And so on, and so forth.

I made the mistake of assuming if I went to the most beet red states in America, I would be ensconced in a sea of fellow believers, but the actual truth is the remnant of believers would be just as hard to find there as they would be to find in places like Iran.  Just because they assume the identity of Christianity (because this is the culture they live in) doesn’t mean they are one.  They are not all Israel, which are of Israel.

But rather than this fact vexing me, I have peace when I finally stop treating cultural Christians like real ones.  I’m sure there are many things we would still have in common, maybe similar political beliefs and also a love for America, but I don’t fellowship with them, and take what they say and profess with a grain of salt. I’m able to recognize my own, and I gain more out of the fellowship with the rare few that I’ve become blessed to know, and consider my family in Christ, than to subject myself to those who “say they are Jews, but are not.” (Revelations 3:9)

Exploring a world that harbors a subtle bigotry against introverts

Walking on RailroadI’ve been reading the book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and while I haven’t finished it yet, it has truly been an eye-opening read.  (If you’re an introvert, seriously, GET THIS BOOK.)  Incredibly, it touched on nearly everything I’ve come to observe about the world of Christianity, dating, education and work that always felt… wrong to me.

The book exposes what was in fact a culture-wide shift in perspective on how one succeeds in life that began in the early 20th century, spearheaded by none other than Dale Carnegie.  Evidence of this shift could be found in part by simply making a comparison of the advice manuals in the 19th century to the manuals of the 20th century that Carnegie helped to shape.  Using word counts, the 19th century guides often resorted to words like these:

  • Citizenship
  • Duty
  • Work
  • Golden deeds
  • Honor
  • Reputation
  • Morals
  • Manners
  • Integrity

Cain writes:

But the new guides celebrated qualities that were–no matter how easy Dale Carnegie made it sound–trickier to acquire.  Either you embodied these qualities or you didn’t:

Magnetic
Fascinating
Stunning
Attractive
Glowing
Dominant
Forceful
Energetic

Now why does this sound so FAMILIAR?  I realized that this described almost to a T the VERY same traits the “manosphere” has long since recognized as the necessary qualities a man must have in order to attract women.  Far from being a case study on sexual attraction, this actually appears to be part of a MUCH larger cultural phenomenon, one that engulfs nearly every area of life and dictates how successful we would be not only in dating and relationships, but also in our careers and education too.

Speaking of education, Cain quotes a dean in her research as an example of what college admissions officers look for in candidates:

“…in screening applications from secondary schools it was only common sense to take into account not only what the college wanted but what, four years later, corporations’ recruiters would want.  ‘They like a pretty gregarious, active type, so we find that the best man is the one who’s had an 80 or 85 average in school and plenty of extracurricular activity.  We see little use for the brilliant introvert.'”

This bias against introverts runs so deep that some view introversion as a pathology, not merely a distinctive personality trait, or at the very least a problem that needs to be dealt with.  Rather than being able to embrace their introversion, introverts are forced from the very beginning of their adult lives to abandon their natural proclivities if they’re ever to have any hope of getting ahead in life.

In today’s world, it’s no longer about quality, but appearance.  It’s the one who speaks the loudest that gets promoted, not the one who actually put in the work.  In the book Cain described a Toastmasters meeting in which an attractive brunette performs an exercise called “Truth or Lie,” where she must tell a group of participants a story, after which they must decide whether to believe her or not.  She tells her story, and when the room is queried, everyone believed her story was real.  She then gleefully admitted that not one word she said was the truth.  She confided later on that because of the competition in the workplace, it was important to keep her “skills” sharp.  Um, what?

Cain notes:

But what do “sharp skills” look like?  Should we be so proficient at self-presentation that we can dissemble without anyone suspecting?  Must we learn to stage-manage our voices, gestures, and body language until we can tell–sell–any story we want?  These seem venal aspirations, a marker of how far we’ve come–and not in a good way–since the days of Dale Carnegie’s childhood.

In another example Cain spoke of a group exercise conducted at Harvard Business School, the theme revolving around trying to survive at a hypothetical arctic substation.  The idea was to promote working together as a group and improve collaboration.  One group in particular had a member with extensive experience in the backwoods, yet because he was an introvert, he suggested his ideas too softly, and was hence ignored.  Of course the group failed miserably in their exercise, because they listened to the most vocal participants (despite their utter lack of experience in survival skills) rather than the soft spoken man who had been the true wellspring of knowledge.

I’ve met these loud, braying types before, and I never ceased to be amazed at how easily they could forcefully sell themselves as experts in whatever field they were working in, despite not having one ounce of actual knowledge in it.  The hubris is just incredible.  They basically lie, BUT they lie very well, and because of it they’re the ones that get the plush assignments, the best jobs, and the highest paying gigs.

It works in dating too.  Of numerous examples I can think of, I still remember one where the guy flat out lied about everything to the girl he was dating.  He simply played the game he needed to play to attract a girl, and it worked just long enough for her to marry him.  Once he had her though he dropped the charade and of course their marriage went to pieces as a result.  It’s hard to argue the effectiveness of his approach though: had he always been honest about himself she never would have been attracted to him.  And for an introvert who believes honesty is the best policy, it can be painful constantly watching a world succeed and get ahead on lies and deceit while he continues to trudge in the mud.

Even worse, this cultural infatuation and bias towards the extroverted has plagued modern Christianity as well.  Cain also took the time to interview an introverted pastor named Adam McHugh while visiting Rick Warren’s Saddleback church.  As examples of this bias she mentioned a few job advertisements she read recently on what large churches require of those interested in being a rector:  “The priest must be… an extrovert who enthusiastically engages members and newcomers, a team player.”  “If the first letter {of your Myers-Briggs personality score} isn’t an E [for extrovert] think twice… I’m sure our Lord was [an extrovert].”

McHugh tells Cain:

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion.  The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people.  It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out.  And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension.  It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.’  It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.”

Cain further writes:

Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved.  It also emphasizes building community among confirmed believers, with many churches encouraging (or even requiring) their members to join extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable subject–cooking, real estate investing, skateboarding.

Discussing the experience of the Saddleback church service, McHugh notes his discomfort with it all:

It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions.  The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of Saddleback’s culture doesn’t feel natural.  Not that introverts can’t be eager and enthusiastic, but we’re not overtly expressive as extroverts.  At a place like Saddleback, you can start questioning your own experience of God.  Is it really as strong as that of other people who look the part of the devout believer?”

“Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme,” Cain writes, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love.  It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.”

{McHugh} knows that meaningful change will come slowly to a religious culture that sees extroversion not only as a personality trait but also as an indicator of virtue.  Righteous behavior is not so much the good we do behind closed doors when no one is there to praise us; it is what we “put out into the world.”  Just as Tony Robbins’ aggressive upselling is OK with his fans because spreading helpful ideas is part of being a good person, and just as Harvard Business School expects its students to be talkers because this is seen as a prerequisite of leadership, so have many evangelicals come to associate godliness with sociability.

Astonishing.  I’ve always felt like a fish on dry land, but that feeling extended to almost every aspect of my life.  It didn’t matter if it was church/Christianity, my job, or trying to find the girl of my dreams: there was a common denominator that seemed to define my frustrations with it all, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly, until I read this book.  In essence, I’m dealing with a culture that has evolved to reward only the extroverted.  It’s not so much that being extroverted in and of itself is wrong, but that society has come to revere it in its most extreme form, all the while regarding the introverted at best as a peculiarity, and at worst as a pathology or disease.  Not even church can provide a respite from this.

Cain’s book helped me gain an immense understanding of the world we live in, but I’m still left to wonder where I go from here.  Should I play the game like everyone else, push myself to become more extroverted and “fake it till I make it?”  That does seem to be the advice of many.  If I’m ever to attract women, move up the career ladder, or establish an authoritative presence in the Christian community, then I have to get with the program.  Adapt as they say, or die.

But as a Christian, do I really have to resign myself to playing the world’s game of extreme extroversion in order to succeed?  Or did God assign me another path to follow, one different from the path the world (and most Christian churches) expect me to travel on?

I know in some respects, I could afford to be more outgoing, to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to people.  But I also know there’s a line that can be crossed, where I’m not merely learning to become extroverted in a way that’s still comfortable to me, but where I start to deny who I am.  There’s a reason why God made me an introvert, and I can sense the danger in trying to repudiate His work.   I may not like it, and may resent how my introversion has “handicapped” my ability to succeed in life, but then again, I also feel an inner sense of peace when I stop (to use a biblical phrase) “kicking against the pricks.”

Rather than blindly accept things as they are, maybe it’s more important that I accept who I am, and let the chips fall where they may.

In my continual bid to alienate every girl on the planet and send them into an unhinged foaming rage, I shall now explain why I HATE tattoos

So I read lately that Kate Upton got a tattoo.  Of a cross, because she’s like, religious and stuff.  I guess she probably got that idea as a result of hearing so many men exclaim “I’ve found religion!!!” every time they stared at her gabzumbas.

Anyhoo, so because someone had once taken her cross necklace away, she got a tattoo of a cross inked on her finger instead so she could always show her “devotion to God.”  Well here’s an idea: how about showing your devotion to God by, oh I dunno, acting in a godly way?  And what’s a godly way to act you ask?  Hmmm, well, I would suggest wearing actual clothes and not injecting yourself with Hepatitis C infested tattoo ink for a start.

But since dear Katie has touched on another subject I’ve pondering over for a while, I might as well get this off my chest and explain why I generally avoid dating Christian woman who sees absolutely nothing wrong with tattoos and body mods.

Jesus loves me and my tattoos slogan

Exploring this from a biblical perspective, there are only a handful of places in the Bible where tattoos are addressed, mostly in Leviticus:

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I [am] the LORD. – Leviticus 19:28

There are two arguments used by proponents of tattoos to address this, one is that this is an Old Testament rule that no longer applies for today, and two, that this refers only to the specific practice of mourning for the dead.  The former is a glib dismissal of what the OT can teach us about God’s law, and should invite us to understand why God commanded the things that He did.

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. – Roman 15:4

Now all these things happened unto them {the Israelites} for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. – 1 Corinthians 10:11

When we examine these verses more closely, we find God also instructed the Hebrews not to cut their beards and hair a certain way as well.  (Leviticus 19:27)  These things would seem utterly trivial compared to other more obvious sins (such as adultery), and because of that it’s easy to disregard them as commandments that don’t really “count.”

But these practices were forbidden not because God was being petty, but because they reflected the practices of the heathen nations that surrounded the Israelites.  The marring of the skin and hair were idolatrous traditions they made for their gods (or for the dead).  Thus for an Israelite to do the same meant he was giving respect to false gods rather than the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As you read through the OT laws it starts to become obvious the message God was conveying to His people:  STOP ACTING LIKE THE WORLD.  Stop mimicking their traditions, stop imitating them, and be a peculiar and holy people.  “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I [am] the LORD your God. – Leviticus 20:7

Sanctify by the way means “to set apart.”  Our lives should carry with it a distinctive separation from how the world behaves.  Yet rather than eschew the world’s trends, Christians co-opt them and then slap a Christian label on it, not just for tattoos, but for nearly everything.  We even co-opt commercial slogans to give them a more Christian spin.  (Got Jesus?)  So the idea of “Christian” tattoos is not unique unto itself, but part of an overall pattern.  Nothing in the Bible validates this approach either.  God never says, if you sport the same haircut/tattoo for Me, THEN it’s ok.  Instead God wants us to avoid the practice altogether.

Testamints

Now you can enjoy fresh breath AND grow in the faith!

Yet sanctification for some Christians evidently seems to mean merely sanitizing worldly trends by attempting to “christianize it.”  So while the standard tattoos that depict odd or even demonic images would be bad, a tattoo of a Bible verse or cross is a-ok.

This is why I don’t think I can be with a girl who can’t see what’s really going on behind the prevalence of tattoos and body modifications.  For me, I don’t merely see the acts, I see the overall picture, and that we’re actually regressing as a society to the point that in the near future body mods will become mainstream and almost indistinguishable from tribal cultures such as the ancient Mayans.  The body mods we see today is going to be considered tame compared to what we’ll see 20 years from now, as more and more of humanity become driven to mutilate their bodies as much as they can, just as the heathens have done for thousands of years.  Everything old is new again.

So it’s disappointing to me when I meet a girl who professes to love God but at the same time tries to rationalize or excuse pursuing worldly customs, rather than make a point of eschewing them in the interest of distinguishing herself from the world.  This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t date someone who already has tattoos, but I do want them to be OPEN to the idea that the growing prevalence of tattoos today is not an accident, and is certainly not of God.  A woman who chooses to go her own way rather than chase after every worldly fad is someone more likely to understand me and the life I’ve lived.  Otherwise I suspect the disparity between our opposing beliefs is symptomatic of irreconcilable differences that would result in either a failed relationship or marriage.

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