SOTUS-The Imperial President

SOTUS-The Imperial President

Last night, President Barack Obama addressed the nation to declare that “this can be a breakthrough year for America.”  But, in order to achieve the wonderful opportunities awaiting for all Americans, President Obama must assume some necessary powers to create a better tomorrow for everyone.  This may include the need to sidestep the legislative process.

Now some of you may say that I’m being too conservative, and I’m overreacting to last night’s speech.  The State of the Union Addresses have always been a media stunt and a political platform since the first one was broadcasted to the American people by radio.  However I’m not simply responding to the speech because of party ideology or personal spite against the current administration.  Rather it is both the content and spirit of the speech which cause me to look negatively toward this President and his agenda.  Let me explain.

Before Tuesday night, I read various opinion pieces and news articles to see what seasoned political analysts were expecting to hear.  Everyone had their own policy issues which they felt required the most attention.  Some of these ranged from reviewing and modifying the Affordable Care Act to Pre-K education, immigration, and income inequality.  But they all agreed on one thing: they expected the President to begin using Executive Orders more liberally during his final years in office.  Executive Orders, or EOs, and their close relatives, Presidential Proclamations, are a means for the President to enact a policy with the weight of a law without the hassle of the legislative process in Congress.  And they have no constitutional basis.  Try as you might, you’ll find nothing in Article II of the Constitution which grants the power of quasi-legislating to the President.  Yet they have a legal precedent since the time of George Washington.

Because of their questionable nature and tendency to assume legislative powers, members of Congress and concerned citizens often resent their use.  And thus presidents have tried to minimize their number of EOs and their effects to protect the current lawmaking procedures as well as their reputations.  So one would think that President Obama would follow suit as well particularly after having an awful year in 2013.  Unfortunately such is not the case.

After spending a couple of minutes emphasizing the need for bipartisanship and compromise to strengthen the economy and provide greater socio-economic mobility, Mr. Obama declared himself to be an independent agent unwilling to let the frustrations of a democratic process get in the way of his agenda.  “But America does not stand still, and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation…that’s what I’m going to do.”  And after describing the federal projects he would like to see Congress accomplish, he claimed all rights to curbing government spending and regulations.  “But, but I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects…”

Such words, dear readers, are not the words one should hear from the leader of the free world.  They are not the words one should hear from the president of a nation state that prides itself for observing the rule of law and for its democratic republican system of government.  Rather these are words of a self-proclaimed dictator.  One can almost hear Julius Caesar or Sulla explaining why the people’s ancient constitution must be put aside in order that they can set the social and political orders right.  Ave Caesar!  Ave Caesar!  All hail the imperial president!

Now again, someone might accuse me of being melodramatic and an adherent to the rumor that Obama is secretly trying to find a way to win a third term.  I can assure you that I find such a conspiracy unrealistic and outlandish.  And my “dramatics” are only means to pointing out a serious problem: the president of the United States openly and unashamedly dismissed the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution.  The president may not have plans to try and run again.  He may not have an intention of overriding Congress at every chance he gets.  And he may not setup secret police and turn us into Stalinist Russia or even into another N. Korea.  All of these things are indeed extreme and shouldn’t be considered likely.  However, it does set a dangerous precedent for future presidents.  And we the people should start paying attention, or else it may be too late for a Brutus.

A full text and video of the SOTUS can be found here.
EOs have been frequently used by presidents, and Pres. Obama is among those to use the least in the past century.  A list of EOs and their presidents can be found here.
For more information about EOs and the Constitution, check out www.usconstitution.net.

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Rape and the Bible

Rape and the Bible

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver.  He must marry the girl, for he has violated her.  He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”-Deut. 22:28-29 NIV (emphasis mine)

Perhaps it is just me but today’s society is obsessed with anything and everything to do with sex.  We see it in pop culture as celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga try to upstage each other with the most provocative and shocking outfits (or lack thereof).  We see it in our politics when politicians are caught having affairs or using it to promote healthcare.  And we even have social movements trying to raise awareness and eliminate sex crimes like rape.  Which is what makes the above verses so interesting.  One would think that the God who inspired Matthew to write “Love your neighbor as yourself” and John to say “God is love” wouldn’t be the same God who would command the Israelites to marry rape victims to their rapists.  Yet as Christians we’re not given the choice to pick and choose which parts of Scripture we want to follow and which ones we’ll ignore.  So what should we do with these passages?  What should be our response?

Let’s start with the one above.  What’s the context for these verses?  They’re found in the book of Deuteronomy which is about Moses going over the basics of the Law to the Israelites, the promises they and their parents had made to God, and the promises God has made to them.  At this point in the book, Moses is reviewing sexual offenses involving married couples and virgins.  Like Hammurabi’s Code in ancient Babylon, the text describes the crimes and follows it with the punishment due to the guilty party.  And for the most part this occurs consistently.  The guilty get stoned, throne out of camp, pay fines, make sacrifices, etc.  And the innocent are given restitution.  But here it seems that the rapist gets off easy while the victim is now forced to live the rest of her life with her tormentor.  Sure he has to pay a hefty fine, but what’s money to the person who’s been molested?  Isn’t this proof that the Bible relies too much on ancient culture and customs to be an accurate guide for people?

Before we jump to conclusions, let’s think about the punishment for the rapist.  If he is caught, he must first pay fifty shekels, or 62.5 lbs., of silver.  That’s a lot for that time period and society where much of a person’s wealth depended on certain possessions like livestock.  Even today, depending on how pure the silver is, that much silver could cost up to $20,000.  This is a huge amount of money that could easily bankrupt or put the rapist financially at risk.  And while it is true no amount of money can ever cancel out the harm done, it does actually work in the victim’s favor.

First, consider that marrying the victim to the rapist is actually to protect the woman’s well-being.  In ancient times, families wanted their men to marry virgins.  Perhaps they liked the idea of a sexually innocent girl or believed if the girl had remained a virgin then they knew they were dealing with an upright family.  Whatever the reason, a maiden had a better chance to improve her lot in life than a woman had lost her virginity.  Thus giving the victim to her molester was to guarantee that she wouldn’t have to worry about living without an income and a husband to protect her interests.  Second, understand that the woman’s father had a say in the matter.  Despite criticisms about ancient people and the law codes in the Bible, Israelite fathers were very much like their modern counterparts.  Most loved their families and wanted to protect and seek out their children’s welfare.  And according to Exodus 22:16-17, if the father didn’t want to give up his daughter, she didn’t have to marry the man who wronged her which probably happened quite often with families who could afford to do so.  Also if the rapist proved to be fiscally unable to support a wife, then the father could decide that he could find someone else who could better provide for her.  While this can’t compensate for what was done, it hardly let’s the guilty party get off easy with no regard to the innocent.

Of course this passage isn’t the only one which is used to show that the Bible promotes rape.  Deut. 21:10-14 permits the marrying of a captive woman.  The problem with this passage is that is all it entails.  Rape is never mentioned or implied.  Instead the Law once again provides women legal protection in a cultural society where they had very few rights and privileges.  While it was true that women who were prisoners of war were and are often subjected to humiliating treatment like rape, this passage actually has the Israelite men treat each of these women like one of their own.  They were given time to mourn for their dead and were given all the rights and privileges their Jewish counterparts had in marriage which included the freedom to walk away if the husband didn’t want her afterward.  Plus this was only if the men wanted to marry them.  Any other situation would be considered rape or adultery which were punishable by death.  While not a great situation, it did put the onus on the men to act fairly and honorably toward their female captives.

So it would seem then that the Bible doesn’t promote rape and we’re not seeing two different gods giving polar opposite commands.  Rather, these passages appear to be taken out of their cultural and societal context which shows that they were very beneficial for the women of their day.  But that doesn’t sound quite right.  Why would God give commands based on a person’s finite and subjectively cultural values when he judges mankind’s action on objective and universal values?  Why didn’t he just provide a bill of rights for Israelites and increase the status and social mobility of women?  And that’s a good question and I’m not entirely sure what the answer is.  I guess that God does use the norms that people accustomed to, but I don’t believe that he is bound to them and unable to convey truth through them.  For example, God didn’t abandon Abraham because he had married his half sister Sarah.  God wanted Abraham to learn what it meant to fully trust in the promises of the Lord even if they don’t come in to fruition during his lifetime.  When Paul, inspired by the Spirit, described the roles people had in the Church, he could have declared husbands and wives were equal in authority at home and in society.  But rather he took time to explain how God wanted believing men and women to relate to each other despite what the world around them said.

With this in mind, I think God was trying to tell the Israelites that women shouldn’t be seen as living objects who worked and bore children.  Rather they should be given respect and honor.  A truth which I believe needs to be relearned even in our “enlightened” modern era.

Pres. Clinton 2016?

As we enter Pres. Obama’s 6th year as president, political analysts and the news media are all buzz to see who’ll succeed him in 2016.  Currently Republicans appear undecided, if not divided, as to who is the most “conservatively pure” pure choice.  Democrats on the other hand are almost silent except for a few die hard fans of former Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton.  They are absolutely convinced that she is the long awaited messiah for the nation who will fix every problem in America.  And that confuses me.

First, Pres. Obama was the messiah figure for the Democratic Party and clearly he hasn’t lived up to expectations.  Even if it took over five years to realize it, liberals and left-wingers are starting to realize that Obama ringing in their American utopia.  So if I were the Clinton fans, I’d be steering away from any form of idolization until history had taken its toll on the current administration.

Second, what would be her platform?  From what I can remember and find about her previous political pursuits, she is most memorable for pushing healthcare reform during her husband’s presidency and her campaign for women’s rights (political jargon translated as abortion and contraception) in 2008.  Both are really good issues, except Obama has already implemented much of Mrs. Clinton’s policies in the Affordable Care Act.  Not only has this be a source of criticism from conservatives, the problems with the website roll-out and Pres. Obama’s lie about keeping your doctor and insurance has tainted the public’s view on the subject.  It isn’t impossible to overcome, but not necessarily something Hilary would want to be connected to.  Also, I don’t think abortion is the “sexy” policy issue anymore.  Sure it creates a heated dialogue whenever it is brought up, but it isn’t in the spotlight like it did a few years ago.

I suppose someone might mention her time as Secretary of State, but all a Republican candidate has to do is say “Benghazi” and play tapes of American consulate being attacked.  They might even thrown a statement of her testimony before a Congressional hearing like “At this point in time, does it really matter?”  The deep pride of American patriotism would be stirred and Clinton will be doing everything to persuade voters of her own loyalty to the country and the citizens serving overseas.  Again not impossible to overcome, but definitely a setback that she’ll need to address.

Third, do we really want a “Clinton dynasty”?  Sure her husband Bill Clinton was suave and is the most recent president to have created a budget surplus, but aren’t those reasons for reelecting Bill than Hilary?  Plus can family dynasties coexist with freedom and democracy?  Think about it.  Our nation is a liberal, democratic republic which means we can freely choose and elect officials to represent our interests in government.  This was because the Framers of the Constitution didn’t want an aristocratic class to rise up and feel entitled to a public office as if it was their birth right.  And American political history is a documentation of this evolution for diverse candidates and statesmen.  Once it was only property owning men of a particular race.  Now anyone who is a citizen and meets the necessary age and residency requirements can run and hold office.  By electing Hillary Clinton, we would be reinforcing the notion that only a select few from certain families can run for office.  Yes, we did vote in George W. Bush as the 43rd President even though his father was the 41st.  However I would point out that Democrats believed a second Bush was a wrong choice for America and therefore they shouldn’t make the same mistake.  Also there have been only two family dynasties for the presidency, the Adams family with John and John Quincy and the Bush family.  Both sets had small opinion ratings afterward.

So I’m still puzzled by all of this.  I simply do not understand the fascination with her.  And it isn’t as if I’m only seeing this from one small group of friends on Facebook.  Turn on the TV to MSNBC or Fox and they’ll bring her name up if they’re discussing potential candidates in 2016.  Even the WSJ and NY Times are guilty of this.  I suppose for some it is because she is most likely to be the first woman president at the moment.  However, I don’t think that will get her elected.  While a good number of people voted for Barack Obama in order to elect the first non-European American president, he had other things going for him like charisma and youth which Sen. McCain didn’t have.  And I don’t believe very many Americans are as excited to vote in a women as they were to vote in a racial minority.

So perhaps, good readers, you can tell me why she’s practically a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination.  Because honestly I just don’t see it.

Why I Can Say “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

A few weeks ago, a couple of blogs were appearing on my FB newsfeed with the authors describing why they will no longer use the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  One was posted on the Huffington Post and another by Jarrid Wilson.  And while I read them I found them to be very upsetting.  I didn’t know why, but I felt the messages being offered were not being entirely honest or fair in their arguments.  In fact I’ve wrestled with trying to decide if I should even write about it.  Then it came to me why these blogs bothered me so much.

In the first one, the author claimed that by labeling someone a sinner you deny the person’s humanity and any relationship with God that they may have.  Because, as he reasons, people are icons of the living God, to call them a sinner is to dirty the image of God.  And to some extent, I can agree with this.  In America we are often caught up in “culture wars,” debates of ideology, and even theological divisions.  This sometimes results in stereotyping which then leads to over generalizing where one person believes that everyone who does or believes a certain thing belongs to a particular group.  And that group, because it opposes or is different from one individual’s views, are considered dangerous, evil, or wrong.  Those people easily stop being individuals and become members of a collective that should be despised.  And history has shown that this has occurred in the Church at multiple times.  However, that isn’t the point of the article which is ultimately to eliminate the word “sinner” from Christian vocabulary.  Read this excerpt from the article:

“Because of Jesus, “sinner” is not how God sees me. It’s not how I see myself. And it shouldn’t be how I see my brothers and sisters in the church.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. To look at my gay Christian brother and say “God loves the sinner” is to set myself against Jesus and bring condemnation again to those he’s already redeemed.”

At first it seems the author is correct.  Jesus is the reason we no longer have to worry about being seen as a sinner in the eyes of a holy and just God.  Therefore we shouldn’t be calling our brothers and sisters in Christ sinners.  But after a second a third reading, a couple of things begin to sound wrong.  And that’s because there are a couple problems with this statement.  The first is “my gay Christian brother.”  The whole point of the article is to say our sin shouldn’t define us as a person or as a believer, yet the author does that very thing to his friend.  So the whole article is now confused on what it is trying to say.  The second is that author suggests that to say “God loves the sinner” is somehow anti-Christian.  Consider John 3:16.  It says because God loved the world that he sent Jesus to be our means of salvation.  Now if we are given a means of salvation, that implies that we need to be saved from something.  And what is that something?  Sin.  We were once sinners and God loved us.

Now some might quote to me Romans 5:10 and Col. 1:21-22.  However, I would point out that they don’t indicate that Christians never sin.  If they did, then the comment “my gay Christian brother” is both an oxymoron and even more damaging to the purpose of the article.  Also, many great adherents of the faith sinned after knowing God.  Abraham, the father of all the faithful, deceived men about his relationship to Sarah.  Moses, the man who spoke with God face to face, disobeyed the Lord in a fit of rage.  David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer.  Peter, spokesman of the apostles and keeper of the key of heaven, played racial favorites for a time.  And Paul, defender of the faith, admitted that he was in conflict with himself over sin.  All of these and more sinned even after walking with God.  Yet no where do we find where God stopped loving them.  So to say “God loves sinners” is not only true but also biblical.

The second article makes similar mistakes in reasoning, so I won’t go over that.  Instead, I want to point out its greatest flaw which is summed up in the following quote: “The more we would love another, the less people would revert to sinning.”  As mentioned above, many churches and Christians haven’t shown the love of God like they needed to.  I’m guilty of that as well.  However, love isn’t the deciding factor of whether will sin or not.  People sin out of their own desire, not because they are not loved.  Noah, according to II Peter 2:5, was a preacher or herald of righteousness.  Yet only eight people survived the flood, despite the testimony of Noah.  Again, for God so loved the world he sent his son for us.  God’s very act to love the world should have stopped all sin from ever occurring if love is all that is needed.  But it isn’t.  People may be more attracted to the faith if we were more loving and kind, but it won’t end sin.  That it is a personal decision made by those who are tempted to sin, which is everyone.

Now why is any of this important?  Am I just overreacting?  Maybe, but then again I do know that these ideas are very attractive.  Who doesn’t want to just say, “Just love like Christ” and never confront the problem of sin in our world and in ourselves?  Using words like love, brother, sister, and icons of God are so inclusive and inviting while saying sinner, hate, etc. are nasty and exclusive.  But I have to say God uses all these words because they all accurately portray the reality that we live in.  Humanity is sinful in God’s eyes.  But he still loves and we should do our part as Christians to love each other.  Yet we shouldn’t get so concerned about offending others or ostracizing the world that we banish terms that we don’t like.  We need to get over our “love fest” with love and start maturing our love that recognizes sin and the problems it causes.

Because I want you, dear readers, to come to your own conclusions here are the links to blogs I discussed a few of the Scripture passages I referred to:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/micah-j-murray/why-i-cant-say-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-anymore_b_4521519.html
http://jarridwilson.com/why-hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner-isnt-working/comment-page-3/#comments
Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-18
Numbers 20:10-13
II Sam. 11-12:25
Romans 7:15-20
Gal. 2:11-14

America and the Middle East Pt-2: Syria

Last week, I described how America mishandled Egypt because of confused priorities and a misplaced confidence that our way of doing things is the way everyone else wants to do them.  Similar problems occurred with Syria.  However instead of promoting the overthrow of a dictator who was somewhat friendly to us, the Obama Administration and a number of House Republicans chose not to support rebels against a dictator who didn’t have good relations with us.  In fact Syria is friends with our international rival Russia and our enemy Iran.  Syria is even responsible for supplying terrorist organizations like Hezbollah with the means to attack Israel, our ally, and run amok in Lebanon.  Obviously Americans and their leaders desperately need to decide who are friends are.

However, this wasn’t the biggest policy problem with Syria.  If one thinks about domestic unrest in Egypt, Rwanda, and the Sudan over the last 30 years, America has set a precedent in not becoming involved with civil conflicts.  While this has damaged America’s credibility to be a global leader in civil rights causes, it isn’t surprising that the US would choose not to get involved with Syria.  Instead, it was how country’s decision not to intervene was handled.

Of course I’m referring to the infamous “red line.”  In 2012, President Obama had declared that if chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war that it would be crossing a red line for the US.  Now for many people a “red line” is a condition that must never be made or an action that won’t be tolerated and will result in dire consequences.  Of course he didn’t say what those consequences were.  In fact ABC news described the president’s statement to be “little less than clear.”  This vagueness allowed him to avoid taking direct action against the Syrian regime when rebels claimed Assad had used chemical weapons in August of 2013 outside of Damascus.  When pressed by GOP leaders why he had put the US on the spot to take action under such circumstances, Pres. Obama replied that “the world had set a red line” against chemical weapons and not America.

To an extent this is true.  Since the Great War, nations had been hesitant to use chemical and biological weapons in warfare.  Even Hitler refused to attack Ally soldiers with them.  Most recently, America participated in the Chemical Weapons Convention in the 1990s signing a resulting treaty to begin systematically destroying such WMDs.  Unfortunately Syria wasn’t a member of the Convention and it was the President of the United States who publicly declared a red line, not a representative of the CWC.  For this reason, among others, the White House did feel pressured to retaliate with airstrikes as Assad was unwilling to cease using chemical weapons and surrender them to a neutral party for destruction.  It seemed as if America would dragged into another Middle East affair, until Russia spoke up.

Throughout most of the conflict, Russia had been supplying and supporting the Assad regime.  For the US to attack would be to threaten one of Russia important allies in the region.  So Pres. Putin offered to talk to Bashar al-Assad about surrendering its weapons.  Pres. Obama quickly, and gratefully, dismissed the airstrike and asked the American people to wait for news from the talks between the Russians and Syrians.  This is the second problem with the Obama Administration’s handling of Syria.  Instead of utilizing America’s position as the global super power and taking the initiative to stop the Syrian conflict or choosing to ignore it, the White House deferred its right to lead to a rival who has already creating a foothold in a nation once amicable to the US.

Because of how the president has mishandled the situation in Syria, America’s image and credibility has once again be detrimentally damaged in the eyes of the world.  Instead of standing firm on our principles, we’re seen as talking loud and carrying no sticks.  Instead of showing leadership and resolve, we’ve declared a preference to let our rival do what we want to do but refused to do.  Because of this America will have to spend decades to regain the trust and friendship that has been lost in this fiasco.  And what is so sad about that observation is that it is unlikely there will be very many future statesmen in America to do that job.

For more reading about Syria and the “red line”, read the following articles:
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/08/president-obamas-red-line-what-he-actually-said-about-syria-and-chemical-weapons/
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/12/transcript-obama-state-union-speech/
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-i-didnt-set-red-line-syria_752712.html

Social Justice vs. Equality

Asbury is like most universities in that it promotes the need to help the community and sponsors various campus programs which reach out to the least fortunate.  And like most American colleges these days, the terms “social justice” and “equality” are thrown around fairly often and are sometimes used synonymously.  However, there is often some tension when they are brought up.  A die hard libertarian student may shout, “I’m John Galt” or a group of students may decide to set up camp on the quad to show support for Occupy Wall Street.  Why is this?  What is it about social justice that makes it such a hot topic?

First, let’s define what social justice is.  If you go to dictionary.reference.com, it is defined as “the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.”  Or if you went to businessdictionary.com, it would say, “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.”  Both of these definitions are what most people think of when they talk or hear about social justice.  They know that certain demographics are unable or being denied the ability to enjoy life and or their rights and freedoms in America.  Organizations like Threedom Front, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and others do amazing work to help correct these situations.  And generally Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, don’t have a problem with any of these NGOs or activities.  No party or political faction has made a stand against citizens being charitable or compassionate to the poor.

So why is it that there’s such a split on the issue?  Its because that is not how people typically use social justice in conversations, at lecture halls, or public debates.  Instead they’re more likely to use the Merriam and Webster definition which defines it as “a state or doctrine of egalitarianism.”  And that’s when people feel their neck hairs rise and start slinging mud at each other.  Why is this?  Because unlike the other definitions which acknowledges disparities among people and attempts to resolve it, this one is focused on creating equality which is hard to do because everyone’s standard of equality is different.  For example, some believe that it is unfair for 50% of the nation’s workers make less than $51,370 while 1% earn about $380,000 or more.  Others would say the black community has historically faced social and academic inequality and therefore need special privileges to correct this problem.  Then there are those who say everyone should only have the equal right and opportunity to succeed despite differences in income, race, etc.  And naturally when there is a differences of opinion, friction is likely to occur.

But there’s always been differences of opinion, so that can’t be the sole problem.  Think about it.  If a bill comes before Congress to raise taxes on the very wealthy to fund programs like universal pre-K education, anyone who raises an objection is seen as cold-hearted Scrooge who wouldn’t give a few extra bucks at tax season to help needy families set their children on the right path for education.  It doesn’t matter if the objection is sound and has more to do with numbers than a personal vendetta against the needy.  Because the bill was presented as an attempt to equalize the living experience of the poor, any objection is treated as being insensitive.  And this can be seen when Pres. Obama praised the tax deal reached last year that raised taxes on Americans in the higher income brackets.  It can be seen in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration address when he says New Yorkers “will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes” to pay for preschool and after school programs.

Another example of this is displayed in our country’s discussion about race.  Many schools use race as a factor in their admissions processes.  They may even offer scholarships specifically for minority applicants.  Why?  Because historically non-whites do not excel in school like their white peers and in order to prevent “white culture” from dominating the school, admission teams use racial preferences to create an equal playing field.  Again, objections or statements and questions which challenge this idea of equality are met with negativity.  In this case instead of being called a Scrooge, you’re a racist.

The problem then with demands for equality is that they aren’t being honestly portrayed.  When Mayor de Blasio wants the wealthy citizens of New York to pay “their fair share,” he isn’t advocating for equality.  If he was, he would demand that all New Yorkers pay the same amount for the new education programs.  Rather he what wants is the ability to access and use money that doesn’t belong to him.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is theft plain and simple.  When a college or an organization offers scholarships for African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans or gives them preferential admissions treatment, it isn’t seeking to make those ethnicities more equal with their European peers.  It wants to keep government funding and avoid bad PR stories from the press by pandering to certain races.  That is discrimination by race or racism.  And in neither situation is justice being promoted, socially or otherwise.  For this reason I urge you, dear readers, to stop the next person who tells you about the social justices and injustices in world and ask them, “Are you really discussion social justice?  Or what you want me to think is equal and fair?”  Because the two are not the synonymous and are not being used to achieve the same goals.

Let’s Get Down to Business…

If you love Disney or have kids, you’re probably aware that the title is the beginning line of one the most popular Disney music numbers “Be a Man” from the movie Mulan.  The song occurs as the title character tries to adapt male mannerisms during military training without revealing the fact that she is a woman.  And the famous chorus line gives four different characteristics of what it means to be a man including being as “swift as a coursing river” and as “mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”  A fun song for an enjoyable film, but it does create a rather thought provoking question: what does it mean to be a man?

And several answers have been offered in our society.  I was listening to the radio the other day and a commercial came on saying guys who don’t know their way around a car are like a baby trying to do a push-up.  “Its just sad” the ad declared as it tried to sell me some tools and hardware to make fixing cars easier.  I was shocked that the basis of the commercial was that cars and auto-repair was what made a guy a man.  Another I’ve noticed lately is from Facebook and is usually posted by girls and a few women.  This is typically a meme or a picture of a couple that lists what guys need to understand about women or how people need to be more flexible toward the men in their lives.  Generally they depict men as being sentimental creatures who are either denying their sensitive side or being denied to accept it.  And, if the description is about the ideal boyfriend or husband, there is generally the sense that men need to be just big emotional punching bags to whatever crisis their women are having no matter how silly or over the top it may be.  And each time I see these memes, I immediately envision Marlon Brando as Don Corleone slapping these sensitive push overs shouting, “You could try acting like a man!”  Of course that is yet another version of masculinity that humanity has created.  Men don’t cry, they tough it out.  Women and little kids can wail and cry.  Men have to be emotionally dead to everything but romantic love, duty, honor, and possibly hatred.

The ones I mentioned and the others going through your head are often portrayed in a secular setting.  So surely the image of being a man that the Church promotes will be utterly different, right?  No, and don’t call me Shirley.  John Elderedge, author of Wild at Heart, has represented a growing movement among some churches which paints Christian men as guys who want challenges with high risks, to be outdoors, and looking for the next great adventure.  I can remember a men’s retreat at Asbury University that used scenes from The Return of the King and 300 to drive home the message for the weekend.  There’s also the hipster, “mystic,” guitar-wielding man that is sometimes on stage playing in the worship band.  And there’s the mission or ministry driven man who must have his head in a Bible or his body in the field reaping the harvest.  To be brief, the Church as a whole is rather confused on what it means to be a man.

Now usually this is the part of the blog where I’m supposed to disclose some piece of over-looked insight.  However, I don’t believe I can do so here.  It is simply too complex of an issue for me to be able state authoritatively “This is how it is.”  At best I can only offer what is wrong with some of the “man myths” which have taken residence in the Church.  First, let’s look at what I call the “Elderedge men.”  These are the go-getters, high risk takers, and adventure loving men.  They don’t want to sit in a pew and be good little boys while the pastor talks about love, gentleness, and Jesus “meek and mild.”  Instead they want the world to know that they are men who are wild about life and God.  If they could choose a mascot from the Bible, it would be King David the man who fought with lions, bears, and giants.  (Insert sports joke here).  The problem with this myth is that like the car commercial above it believes that doing certain things make you a man and not the other way around.  When you think about it, what made David so admirable wasn’t that he killed so many ferocious beasts and enemies of God.  Rather, he was and is loved by the saints because he willingly did what had to be done.  He never went out of his way to kill lions unless they had threatened his father’s flocks.  And he didn’t choose to kill Goliath to win the rewards Saul had promised, but to remove the dishonor the Philistine had brought upon Israel and the Lord.  In fact David would probably fit well in a church that sang hymns and discussed the “weaker” characteristics of men since he wrote several hymns about those very topics.

Another myth within the Church is the “hipster worshipper.”  To be honest, I’ve really only been exposed to this at Asbury and I haven’t heard of a particular author or pastor trying to establish this myth the way Elderedge has.  However, I’ve seen other blogs and read the Buzzfeed article “You Know You Went to a Christian College When” which acknowledge its existence.  Basically this is the guy who is like a spiritual willow who bends whichever way the Spirit leads him.  He might wear something to show that he supports fair trade, small businesses in 3rd world villages, and missionaries.  Nothing necessarily wrong with any of this except it seems to be more of a cultural fad than the result of being grounded in the faith.  The teachings of Christ, the prophets, and the apostles were not meant to be conversation starters for superficial coffee shop discussions but to be active agents of transformation.  Again, there’s not a set standard of what this myth is supposed to entail so it is hard to say what’s wrong with it beyond its faddish tendencies.

This last one I’ve heard about from others who grew up in a churches that almost have a cultish mindset or from an occasional chapel speaker.  Everything needs to be biblically based or ministry driven.  All other motives are secular and therefore evil or opening the door to serious temptation.  Here are a couple of examples.  The guy who went fishing just wasted time that could’ve been used preaching on the street corner.  And the guy describing his latest rock climb is clearly full of pride and needs to read the Bible and pray God teaches him humility.  As you can see this “Bible Thumper” would have a heart attack after meeting one of the “Elderedge men.”  This need to biblically centered is so strong that it denies men, and even women, to enjoy life the way God had intended it.  After all when God made Adam and Eve he didn’t give them a Bible and say, “Everything you do you need to be able to back up with a precedent or reason in this book.”  Instead he gave them free reign with only one warning, “Don’t eat this tree’s fruit.”

Now I said earlier that I didn’t have a particular bit of insight on this matter because of its complexity.  I was wrong.  While it is too complicated to give a solution for, I have noticed that most of these “man myths” are the result of apparent apathy among men in the Church and society in general.  Thus these myths were created in order to fix this problem.  Unfortunately they created some of their own in the process.  So I guess the message of this post is that while we need to get men more involved, we need to leave their masculinity out of it.  No two men are the same and shouldn’t be expected to act the same.  We can point out people like David, Paul, or Jesus to show what men do and can do, but they shouldn’t become the standards of what it means to be a man.  Its not reasonable and, dare I say it, biblical.