The Worldview that Makes the Underclass

Image links to source

Image links to source

This is a really great article from Imprimis (publication of Hillsdale College) that discusses the mentality of poverty. It’s a really good read.

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ANTHONY DANIELS, who often writes under the penname Theodore Dalrymple, is the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Born in London in 1949, he qualified as a doctor in 1974 and has worked in various countries in Africa and elsewhere. From 1990 to 2005, he worked as a doctor and psychiatrist in a prison in Birmingham, England. He has written a column for the London Spectator for 14 years, and writes regularly forNational Review and the Wall Street Journal. He has published more than 20 books, including Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics & Culture of Decline, The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism, and Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on May 20, 2014, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Dearborn, Michigan.

I worked for 15 years as a doctor and psychiatrist in a general hospital in a poor area of a British city and in the prison next door, where I was on duty one night in three. The really dangerous people were in the hospital, perhaps because of the presence in the prison next door of very large uniformed men who exerted a strangely calming effect on the prisoners. In the hospital, I personally examined many thousands of patients who had attempted suicide or at least made a suicidal gesture (not quite the same thing of course). They were overwhelmingly from poor homes, and each patient told me of the lives of the three, four, or five people closest to them—and I spoke to many of those people as well. I could not, of course, have spoken to so many people, and heard about so many others, without some general impressions forming themselves in my mind. One abiding impression was of the violence of their lives, particularly that between the sexes—largely the consequence of the fluidity of relations between the sexes—and also of the devastating effect of prevalent criminality upon the quality of daily existence.

Before I did this work, I had spent a number of years working as a doctor in Africa and in other places in the Third World. I also crossed Africa by public transport, such as it was, and consequently saw much of that continent from the bottom up. These experiences also helped me in my understanding of what I was later to see in England. As Dr. Johnson put it, all judgment is comparative; or as Kipling said, “What should they know of England who only England know?” Indeed, what should anyone know of anywhere, who only that place knows?

On my return to England, I used to visit the homes of poor people as part of my medical duties. Bear in mind that I had returned from some of the poorest countries in the world, where—in one case—a single hen’s egg represented luxury and the people wore the cast-off clothes of Europe that had been donated by charity. When I returned to England, I was naturally inclined to think of poverty in absolute rather than in relative terms—as people not having enough to eat, having to fetch water from three miles away, and so forth. But I soon ceased to think of it in that fashion.

In the course of my duties, I would often go to patients’ homes. Everyone lived in households with a shifting cast of members, rather than in families. If there was an adult male resident, he was generally a bird of passage with a residence of his own somewhere else. He came and went as his fancy took him. To ask a child who his father was had become an almost indelicate question. Sometimes the child would reply, “Do you mean my father at the moment?” Others would simply shake their heads, being unwilling to talk about the monster who had begot them and whom they wished at all costs to forget.

I should mention a rather startling fact: By the time they are 15 or 16, twice as many children in Britain have a television as have a biological father living at home. The child may be father to the man, but the television is father to the child. Few homes were without televisions with screens as large as a cinema—sometimes more than one—and they were never turned off, so that I often felt I was examining someone in a cinema rather than in a house. But what was curious was that these homes often had no means of cooking a meal, or any evidence of a meal ever having been cooked beyond the use of a microwave, and no place at which a meal could have been eaten in a family fashion. The pattern of eating in such households was a kind of foraging in the refrigerator, as and when the mood took, with the food to be consumed sitting in front of one of the giant television screens. Not surprisingly, the members of such households were often enormously fat.

Surveys have shown that a fifth of British children do not eat a meal more than once a week with another member of their household, and many homes do not have a dining table. Needless to say, this pattern is concentrated in the lower reaches of society, where so elementary but fundamental a means of socialization is now unknown. Here I should mention in passing that in my hospital, the illegitimacy rate of the children born in it, except for those of Indian-subcontinental descent, was approaching 100 percent.

It was in the prison that I first realized I should listen carefully, not only to what people said, but to the way that they said it. I noticed, for example, that murderers who had stabbed someone always said of the fatal moment that “the knife went in.” This was an interesting locution, because it implied that it was the knife that guided the hand rather than the hand that guided the knife. It is clear that this locution serves to absolve the culprit, at least in his own mind, from his responsibility for his act. It also seeks to persuade the listener that the culprit is not really guilty, that something other than his decisions led to the death of the victim. This was so even if the victim was a man against whom the perpetrator was known to have a serious grudge, and whom he sought out at the other side of the city having carried a knife with him.

The human mind is a subtle instrument, and something more than straightforward lying was going on here. The culprit both believed what he was saying and knew perfectly well at the same time that it was nonsense. No doubt this kind of bad faith is not unique to the type of people I encountered in the hospital and the prison. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edmund, the evil son of the Earl of Gloucester, says:

This is the excellent foppery of the world: that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behaviour—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!

In other words, it wasn’t me.

This passage points, I think, to an eternal and universal temptation of mankind to blame those of his misfortunes that are the natural and predictable consequence of his own choices on forces or circumstances that are external to him and outside his control. Is there any one of us who has never resorted to excuses about his circumstances when he has done wrong or made a bad decision? It is a universal human tendency. But in Britain, at any rate, an entire class of persons has been created that not only indulges in this tendency, but makes it their entire world outlook—and does so with official encouragement.

Let me take as an example the case of heroin addicts. In the 1950s, heroin addiction in Britain was confined to a very small number of people, principally in bohemian circles. It has since become a mass phenomenon, the numbers of addicts having increased perhaps two thousandfold, to something like 250,000 to 300,000. And with the statistically insignificant exception of members of the popular culture elite, heroin addiction is heavily concentrated in areas of the country such as the one in which I worked.

Heroin addiction has been presented by officialdom as a bona fide disease that strikes people like, shall we say, rheumatoid arthritis. In the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction quite baldly as a chronic relapsing brain disease—and nothing else. I hesitate to say it, but this seems to me straightforwardly a lie, told to willing dupes in order to raise funds from the federal government.

Be that as it may, the impression has been assiduously created and peddled among the addicts that they are the helpless victims of something that is beyond their own control, which means that they need the technical assistance of what amounts to a substantial bureaucratic apparatus in order to overcome it. When heroin addicts just sentenced to imprisonment arrived, they said to me, “I would give up, doctor, if only I had the help.” What they meant by this was that they would give up heroin if some cure existed that could be administered to them that would by itself, without any resolution on their part, change their behavior. In this desire they appeared sincere—but at the same time they knew that such a cure did not exist, nor would most of them have agreed to take it if it did exist.

In fact, the whole basis of the supposed treatment for their supposed disease is rooted in lies and misconceptions. For example, research has shown that most addicts spend at least 18 months taking heroin intermittently before they become addicted. Nor are they ignorant while they take it intermittently of heroin’s addictive properties. In other words, they show considerable determination in becoming addicts: It is something, for whatever reason, that they want to become. It is something they do, rather than something that happens to them. Research has shown also that heroin addicts lead very busy lives one way or another—so busy, in fact, that there is no reason why they could not make an honest living if they so wished. Indeed, this has been known for a long time, for in the 1920s and 30s in America, morphine addicts for the most part made an honest living.

Withdrawal from opiates, the fearfulness of which, reiterated in film and book, is often given as one of the main reasons for not abandoning the habit, is in fact a pretty trivial condition, certainly by comparison with illnesses which most of us have experienced, or by comparison with withdrawal from other drugs. I have never heard an alcoholic say, for example, that he fears to give up alcohol because of delirium tremens—a genuinely dangerous medical condition, unlike withdrawal from heroin. Research has shown that medical treatment is not necessary for heroin addicts to abandon their habit and that many thousands do so without any medical intervention whatsoever.

In Britain at least, heroin addicts do not become criminals because they are addicted (and can raise funds to buy their drugs only by crime); those who take heroin and indulge in criminal behavior have almost always indulged in extensive criminal behavior before they were ever addicted. Criminality is a better predictor of addiction than is addiction of criminality.

In other words, all the bases upon which heroin addiction is treated as if it is something that happens to people rather than something that people do are false, and easily shown to be false. This is so whatever the latest neuro-scientific research may supposedly show.

I have taken the example of heroin addiction as emblematic of what, with some trepidation, I may call the dialectical relationship between the worldview of those at the bottom of society and the complementary worldview of what one might call the salvationist bureaucracy of the government. In the old Soviet Union there was a joke in which the workers would say to the party bosses, “We pretend to work and you pretend to pay us.” In the case of the heroin addicts, they might say, “We pretend to be ill, and you pretend to cure us.”

One of the possible dangers or consequences of such a charade is that it creates a state of dishonest dependency on the part of the addicts. They wait for salvation as Estragon and Vladimir wait for Godot in Samuel Beckett’s play; they wait for something that will never arrive, and that at least in some part of their mind they knowwill never arrive—but that officialdom persists in telling them will arrive someday.

Dishonest passivity and dependence combined with harmful activity becomes a pattern of life, and not just among drug addicts. I remember going into a single mother’s house one day. The house was owned by the local council; her rent was paid, and virtually everything that she owned, or that she and her children consumed, was paid for from public funds. I noticed that her back garden, which could have been pretty had she cared for it, was like a noxious rubbish heap. Why, I asked her, do you not clear it up for your children to play in? “I’ve asked the council many times to do it,” she replied. The council owned the property; it was therefore its duty to clear up the rubbish that she, the tenant, had allowed to accumulate there—and this despite what she knew to be the case, that the council would never do so! Better the rubbish should remain there than that she do what she considered to be the council’s duty. At the same time she knew perfectly well that she was capable of clearing the rubbish and had ample time to do so.

This is surely a very curious but destructive state of mind, and one that some politicians have unfortunately made it their interest to promote by promising secular salvation from relative poverty by means of redistribution. Whether by design or not, the state in England has smashed up all forms of social solidarity that are independent of it. This is not an English problem alone: In France the word solidarité, solidarity, has come to mean high taxation for redistribution by state officials to other parts of the population, which of course are neither grateful for the subventions nor find them sufficient to meet their dreams, and which are, in fact, partly responsible for their need for them in the first place. And not surprisingly, some of the money sticks to the hands of the redistributionist bureaucracy.

By a mixture of ideology and fiscal and social policies, the family has been systematically fractured and destroyed in England, at least in the lowest part of the society that, unfortunately, needs family solidarity the most. There are even, according to some researchers, fiscal and welfare incentives for parents at the lower economic reaches of society not to stay together.

Certainly the notions of dependence and independence have changed. I remember a population that was terrified of falling into dependence on the state, because such dependence, apart from being unpleasant in itself, signified personal failure and humiliation. But there has been an astonishing gestalt switch in my lifetime. Independence has now come to mean independence of the people to whom one is related and dependence on the state. Mothers would say to me that they were pleased to be independent, by which they meant independent of the fathers of their children—usually more than one—who in general were violent swine. Of course, the mothers knew them to be violent swine before they had children by them, but the question of whether a man would be a suitable father is no longer a question because there are no fathers: At best, though often also at worst, there are only stepfathers. The state would provide. In the new dispensation the state, as well as television, is father to the child.

A small change in locution illustrates a change in the character and conceptions of a people. When I started out as a doctor in the mid-1970s, those who received state benefits would say, “I receive my check on Friday.” Now people who receive such benefits say, “I getpaid on Friday.” This is an important change. To have said that they received their check on Friday was a neutral way of putting it; to say that they get paid on Friday is to imply that they are receiving money in return for something. But what can that something be, since they do not appear to do anything of economic value to anyone else? It can only be existence itself: They are being paid to continue to exist, existence itself being their work.

It has been said that the lamentable state of affairs I have described has been brought about by the decline, inevitable as we now see it, of the kind of industry that once employed millions of unskilled workers, whose wages, though low by today’s standards, were nevertheless sufficient to sustain a stable, though again by today’s standards not rich, society. And I do not think that this view can be altogether dismissed. But it is far from the whole story. One of the curious features of England in the recent past is that it has consistently maintained very high levels of state-subsidized idleness while importing almost equivalent numbers of foreigners to do unskilled work.

Let me here interject something about the intellectual and moral corruption wrought by the state in recent years—and I don’t know whether it applies to America. The governments of Britain, of both political parties, managed to lessen the official rate of unemployment by the simple expedient of shifting people from the ranks of the unemployed to the ranks of the sick. This happened on such a huge scale that, by 2006—a year of economic boom, remember—the British welfare state had achieved the remarkable feat of producing more invalids than the First World War. But it is known that the majority of those invalids had no real disease. This feat, then, could have been achieved only by the willing corruption of the unemployed themselves—relieved from the necessity to seek work and relieved to have a slightly higher subvention—but also of the doctors who provided them with official certificates that they knew to be bogus. And the government was only too happy, for propaganda purposes, to connive at such large-scale fraud. One begins to see what Confucius meant when he said, 2,500 years ago, that the first thing to do to restore a state to health was to rectify the names—in other words, to call things by their right names rather than by euphemisms.

There are three reasons that I can think of why we imported foreign labor to do unskilled work while maintaining large numbers of unemployed people. The first is that we had destroyed all economic incentive for the latter to work. The second is that the foreigners were better in any case, because their character had not been rotted; they were often better educated—it is difficult to plumb the shallows of the British state educational system for children of the poorest homes—and had a much better work ethic. And the third was the rigidity of the housing market that made it so difficult for people to move around once they had been granted the local privilege of subsidized housing.

I will leave you with an anecdote. As Mao Tse-tung might have put it, one anecdote is worth a thousand abstractions.

I had been asked by the courts to examine a young woman, aged 18, who was accused of having attacked and injured her 90-year-old great-grandmother, with whom she lived, while under the influence of alcohol and cannabis. She had broken her great-grandmother’s femur, but fortunately it did not prove fatal. (Incidentally, the homicide rate, it is said, would be five times higher than it is if we used the same medical techniques as were used in 1960.) I asked the young woman in the course of my examination whether her mother had ever been in trouble with the police.

“Yes,” she replied.

“What for?” I asked.

“Well, she was on the social,” she said—“on the social” in English argot means receiving welfare payments—“and she was working.”

“What happened?” I asked. “She had to stop working.”

She said this as if it was so obvious that my question must be that of a mental defective. Work is for pocket money, the public dole is the means by which one lives.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the view from the bottom, at least in Britain: but it is a view that has been inculcated and promoted from the top.

 

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And She Smiled As She Died

(c) eyes of odysseus. Click for source.

(c) eyes of odysseus. Click for source.

This is a poetic response to the viral video of Emily Letts, who filmed her abortion and posted it online. The video can be found here. It is non-graphic. My overall impression was just pure sadness and I tried to convey that here. I’m not attacking Ms. Letts, I’m just letting my emotions run their course over her decision. 

Raw, cold emotion

Nothing, I feel

An image of “progress”

On a cold silver reel.

 

Words are not with me

As violence starts smiling

I struggle for breath

And am not smiling.

 

A picture plays on the screen

Of a woman sweetly

She says her name is Emily

And this is her story.

 

She just wants to talk

She just wants to speak

To tell her story

Of a life she wants not to keep.

 

So she tells me what she’s going to do

Of how she plans this mistake to undo

Her mind is set, it can’t be changed

The child inside must not be named.

 

Her eyes, they smile

But her words cut deep

She lays on the table

And hums to a beat.

 

While the whirring machines

Stills another heart’s beat.

 

She admits it’s a baby

But what does that mean?

She says she’s not ready

To bring a child on the scene.

 

So she hums while the doctor

With his cold, gloved hands

Snuffs out the warm life

That she’d carried, unplanned.

 

She says, “I’m empowered”

Because it’s her choice,

To silence a child

Who has not a voice.

 

So she hums on the table

As she undoes her “mistake”

With a smile in her eyes,

At the life that she takes.

 

 

 

 

Why The Church Should Not Embrace Environmentalism

earthrise-wide This is a response to this article at Venn Magazine and this post has been submitted to the magazine for consideration. 

Words matter.

In our communications driven culture, it’s important to use the right language to convey our message. When we read certain words, we bring to the reading experience a host of associations, feelings, and memories. These are not easy things to ignore, and that makes the task of carefully choosing our words an important one.

Such is the case when we talk about the Church and environmentalism. The word “environmentalism” is fraught with political connotations, and is steeped in a long history of liberal progressivism. While the Church is given a charge to take care of our earthly home, the principles and language of this movement run contrary to God’s word.

In America, environmentalism began its political journey in the counter-culture of the 1960’s, which was a time of seeking spiritual fulfillment in anything but Christianity. In this atmosphere, environmentalism was infused with a spiritual quality of finding oneself through unity with nature, which has continued to this day. In this regard, environmentalism began as a movement that was about treating nature as deity, which flies in the face of a Christian ecology.

But in principle, shouldn’t at least some of the tenets of environmentalism appeal to Christians? After all, on the surface it’s about sustainability and making sure that the natural resources we have now are there for future generations. It’s about getting pollution out of our water and air so that we can breathe a little easier about the future of our world. Isn’t that something we should want? And on the surface, the answer is yes.

This is a world that we as Christians are absolutely called to preserve. There are hundreds of references throughout Scripture to Creation reflecting the glory of God (try Psalm 19 on for size). God created our world and took care to make it beautiful. He specifically told us to take care of the Earth, and to nurture it (Genesis 1:28). In fact, the first man Adam was primarily a gardener, whose task was to improve the Garden. Many of the patriarchs in the Old Testament were farmers and ranchers, who developed and cultivated the earth to bring forth abundance.

But the reason that Biblical Christianity stands in opposition to environmentalism is because a Biblical understanding of the world places the environment under the care and nurture of humankind, while still recognizing the inherent value of nature because God created it. Environmentalism in its widely understood form is practically a religion in of itself that places worship of nature above that of the Creator. In his book, Pollution and the Death of Man, Francis Schaeffer understood the modern environmentalist movement to be glorified pantheism (meaning it was an attempt to find salvation through a sense of oneness with nature). But Schaeffer also said that while man and nature are distinct, we have a responsibility to recognize that nature has value because God created it.

It is because of this spiritual ethos surrounding environmentalism that we should seek to stay away from aligning it with a Biblical view of ecology. Traditionally, Christians have used the terminology of “stewardship” to refer to our responsibility regarding nature. The terminology of “environmentalism” brings echoes of something very un-Christian with it and we should seek to avoid parading any “ism” around without investigating its roots. We want a Christ-centric view of the environment and because Christ has redeemed us in our entirety, including our speech, we should be careful to use words that reflect a Christ-centric ecology.

This is not just a matter of preference since the language of environmentalism is steeped in the counter-culture tradition of the 1960’s and a pantheistic view of the world. The associations, feelings, and historical meaning of “environmentalism” won’t go away simply because we start slapping a Christian label on it (just think of the debate among Christians about the pagan origins of our various holidays, a debate that has raged for many, many years). The language of stewardship rightly puts the emphasis on our God-given responsibility to care for what He has given us.

Let’s celebrate our Christian heritage and our charge from Jesus to take care of our home. Let’s recognize that nature has value because God created it. But let’s remember to use language that draws attention to the Creator over the creation.  

How Sick Is This World?

 

(c) pol ubeda on flickr. Click for source.

(c) pol ubeda on flickr. Click for source.

This world is sick.

We all know it. We all feel it. We all live it.

Sometimes being a Christian feels like a shadow walking through a party. You don’t really belong there, your presence is fleeting and you’re easy for the guests to ignore. C.S. Lewis once presented this metaphor in his book The Great Divorce where he alluded that this world is a world of shadow and illusionment, and the realness of the spiritual world is beyond our comprehension, so real that the blades of grass in heaven would pierce our feet; the feet of shadows. It’s an apt metaphor because in this dying world, we really are strangers. We are meant for another place and our time and mission here is fleeting.

Being a shadow  allows you to see the emptiness of those whom you flit between. Their drawn-out eyes, loud, empty laughs, pasty makeup clinging to dying faces; nothing but mascara on a corpse. It reveals a world of death and decay hidden beneath a facade of merriment and amusement. A viciously self-destructive whirlwind that claims equality and justice and truth yet cannibalizes itself in a never ending battle of competing equalities. A world that screams for egalitarianism and yet is hurriedly engaged in the business of undoing the foundations of justice.

It’s a world of fine contradictions, of carefully levied jabs at each other, of private distaste and public acceptance of various ideological threads. We fight each other with sharp words and take stands against perceived injustice and a great tragedy looms above us that so many do not realize; the tragic irony of no longer knowing what a true injustice looks like, for we have nothing solid to compare it to. We rail against threats to our comfort; against restrictions to our sexual freedom; against 140 character manifestos that cross our inner-moral compass of right and wrong. It is a compass that has changed with the times. North is south, east is west, but where shall we go? Our cultural compass points us to sex and drink and having fun and letting it be and standing aside while true injustice carries on under the lethal banner of “progress”.

And yet we continue on, moving along in our shadowy existence. And do we remember our God’s words, the God who made our world, the God who gave us life, the God who gave us a noble and true standard by which to measure injustice? Do we remember the words of the Lamb who was slain, of the Lion of Judah, who viciously and ruthlessly struck down true wickedness? Do we remember that He told us to love Him first, and everything else second? Do we fall to our knees because we are faced with a knowledge that is so deep, so profound, and so wretchedly uncomfortable that we cannot bear it? Do we believe Him when He says that He has a plan? Do we bow our bitterly prideful heads in submission to a true King? Or do we sit in our broken castles, lamenting the loss of “the good old days” when our problems were more carefully concealed?

We won’t always be shadows. We won’t always be unnoticed. But while we are, we have a profound and terrifying call upon us, to reach out to a broken, contradicting, disgusting, filth-ridden world and say, “There is justice. There is truth. There is love. And He has a name.”

May God give us the grace to see how we have failed Him, and to crawl back for the grace to stand up against true injustice. May He give us clarity to know the difference between the empty screams of the world against bloated insecurities that masquerade as deep issues, and the silent screams of the truly oppressed, of the broken human being made in the image of God who so desperately needs something real. May God help us to be shadows, so that others may look through us and see Him.

 

To Him be the glory.

 

Why I’m Not A Heterosexual Anymore

funny wedding pic

Marriage!

I’m not a heterosexual anymore. That may seem strange coming from someone like me, but hear me out.

Let’s talk about what it means to “not be heterosexual.”

You’re probably thinking, “Oh boy…he’s gay.” But that’s not the case. I’m not gay, I’m very happily married to a woman. But I’m also not a heterosexual anymore…and neither is my wife, for that matter.

Here’s the thing: heterosexuality is a myth. By implication, this also means that homosexuality is a myth. In an article published in First Things magazine by future-monk Michael Hannon entitled, “Against Heterosexuality,” a case is clearly laid out against sexual orientation. Hannon writes:

First of all, within orientation essentialism, the distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality is a construct that is dishonest about its identity as a construct. These classifications masquerade as natural categories, applicable to all people in all times and places according to the typical objects of their sexual desires (albeit with perhaps a few more options on offer for the more politically correct categorizers). Claiming to be not simply an accidental nineteenth-century invention but a timeless truth about human sexual nature, this framework puts on airs, deceiving those who adopt its labels into believing that such distinctions are worth far more than they really are.

Basically, what he is saying is that the idea of a sexual orientation is deceptive in that a LOT of people believe that heterosexuality is the norm, the eternally changeless state of how people “should be” and homosexuality (and by implication, homosexuals) is a giant mistake. It’s deceptive because the concept of sexual orientation is less than 150 years old.

Hannon argues that sexual orientation is something we should dismiss from our minds and vocabulary precisely because it goes about defining people and sexuality entirely backwards. Sometime in the 19th century, scholars decided to start defining sexuality, not by it’s obvious natural function (aka, having kids), but by the object of sexual desire. This short circuit of the old view of sexuality removed the motivation for chastity by removing the common good from marriage: children. Sex became purely about passion and feelings, and without a concrete tie between it and nature/reality, the very idea of “heterosexuality” began to lose its meaning. (See Hannon’s article for a deeper analysis of this thought.)

Perhaps the most powerful truth that Hannon unlocks is that when we think about people in terms of heterosexuality (or “normal”) and homosexual (“abnormal”), the sexual orientation lens we are looking through colors our view of people’s actions. Suddenly, we aren’t seeing sexual sin the way the Bible describes it, as equally damning no matter the sin (by that I mean that any sin, no matter how small, is enough to incur God’s holy justice). We see “heterosexual” sin as one thing, and “homosexual” sin as another. Do we see what has happened here? In essence, we are using categories that classifies one group as socially normal (“heterosexual”), and thus free from moral judgement, and the other group as socially unacceptable and the target of all moral judgement. As Hannon so succinctly says:

The most pernicious aspect of the orientation-identity system is that it tends to exempt heterosexuals from moral evaluation… Nevertheless, as a general rule, identifying as a heterosexual person today amounts to declaring oneself a member of the “normal group,” against which all deviant sexual desires and attractions and temptations are to be measured… Of course, we do have a model norm for the evaluation of sexual deviancy. But that model is not heterosexuality. It is Christ Jesus himself, the God-man who both perfected human nature and perfectly exemplified its perfection, ‘one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.’ For the self-declared heterosexual to displace our Lord in this position is the height of folly.

By saying we are heterosexual, we are putting ourselves into a special category that has a different standard of judgement than the homosexual category. Not to mention that the very idea of sexual identity removes responsibility from one’s attractions. We’ve all heard the refrain, “I was born this way.” It’s offered up as an excuse for one’s actions, but as Christians, we know that we are born sinful, and yet are still responsible for our actions. The sexual orientation idea clouds this truth.

In accepting this paradox of heterosexual vs. homosexual, Christians have given up their greatest weapon in combating sin and immorality. For years, people have said that homosexuality is sinful, when such a thing is impossible for the Bible to condemn, simply because the idea of sexual identity and “homosexuality” is less than 200 years old! What the Bible has always condemned is sexual sin outside of marriage, same-gender sexual acts included. By putting these acts into their own category, then inextricably attaching them to the individual performing them, we have denied the power of the Gospel to free sinners by denying that they really are sinning.

In light of this,  the question, “What do you, as a Christian, think about homosexuality?” becomes meaningless because it’s the wrong question. The question is, “What do you, as a Christian, think about sexual sin?” We have had such difficulty answering questions about homosexuality, all while struggling to convey that the Bible has a message of love and redemption. We are seduced by the pridefulness of being “normal heterosexuals” because at least we aren’t “abnormal homosexuals”. It’s strongly implied that “homosexual” sin is worse than “heterosexual” sin. And that has been a fatal mistake.

We are all sinners. We need Jesus Christ and His redemptive blood covering our sins. It’s time to repent of being prideful because we’re “normal”. We’re not. We are broken and in need of healing, “heterosexual” and “homosexual” alike.

Because we’re all human.

I highly recommend reading Hannon’s article. It was incredibly enlightening for me and he covers a lot of ground that I didn’t. I hope I gave a good account of this subject; please let me know in the comments!

She Died And Wasn’t Discovered for 3 Years

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The other day I watched a documentary on Netflix called Dreams of a Life. It tells the story of 38 year old Joyce Vincent, who died in her apartment in 2003 and was not discovered until 3 years later.

The film itself was very well done and wasn’t so much about the logistics of why she wasn’t missed earlier but rather the social reasons for why she was so alone that nobody noticed she was gone for 3 years. The filmmaker interviewed former boyfriends and co-workers that she had, and painted a picture of who this woman was.

You can go watch the film yourself, but it all amounts to the fact that she wasn’t really connected to any kind of community  and she had no real relationships. Whenever she got a boyfriend, she simply adopted that person’s network. Her boyfriend’s community was her community; his interests were her interests, etc. She was afraid of letting people in and thus never really developed strong friendships.

It made me think how thankful I should be to have a church community that cares and to be in a place where someone will notice if you’re gone. (Sidenote: That’s why it speaks volumes if you notice somebody isn’t at church and you check up on them to see how they’re doing. It shows that you care.) In pre-marital counseling, we’ve talked about how our deepest longing is to be significant, and important and to be remembered. When we are God’s children, we are never forgotten. We may die and leave this earth but our names are forever written in the Book of Life.

Still, it says something about the cultural fabric of society when community has lost its place. Church communities are powerful because they are centered around the worship of the one true God. The Bible talks about putting others before yourself, and being a servant. American Individualism flies in the face of that and encourages people to go it alone (the woman in the film was from the UK, but I’ve digressed). When you go it alone, don’t be surprised to find yourself lonely.

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, it’s important to treasure what matters most. Our God, our salvation, our family, our friends, our church. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of his thankfulness for the church in Corinth and their faith and God’s faithfulness. Let that be your model. And don’t be that person that never reached out and connected with others. Don’t coast through life. In the end, we all die. But for the Christian, death is just a doorway.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

P.S. Sorry if the post is a little disjointed…I have a headache the size of Texas. But if you read it, let me know what you think!

Do You Practice These 9 Essential Habits?

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This post is reblogged and summarized from the Art of Manliness article The Child Is the Father to the Man: 9 Foundational Habits Young Men Should Start Now to Raise Themselves Right

Good habits are hard to make and hard to break. Everyone needs a routine that they can settle into; something that adds purpose to their life and gives it structure. Brett McKay over at Art of Manliness is a big proponent of intentionalism (the art of acting with intentionality, foresight, and planning in order to accomplish your desired goals; as oppose to just flying blind). Recently, he posted about 9 habits men need to start in order to make themselves the men they want to be in the future. I think it applies to women to, so without further ado, here they are.

#1. Save 20% of your money

It’s important to start good habits early. McKay recommends that you start saving 20% of your paycheck as soon as you are earning one. It doesn’t make sense to wait until “after high school” or “after college” because that turns out to be a big regret for many people. Start saving now, and that will help you prepare for the unknown.

#2. Exercise daily

I can’t agree with this one enough. It’s so important to establish an exercise routine so that you can avoid numerous health problems down the road. Along with conquering excessive weight gain and weight related diseases, exercising daily helps you feel better about yourself mentally and emotionally. Get up earlier in the morning to get your workout in, and the rest of the day your body will feel the strenuous effects from your workout. It’s a highly satisfying feeling.

#3. Eat healthy

This may be the hardest of the 9 habits McKay lists. The reason for this is that planning your diet takes a significant chunk of time out of your schedule, and then you have to stick to it. Once you get the planning done, the implementation isn’t so hard, but it does present it’s unique challenges. Of course, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, and this habit is really necessary to living a long and happy life. Better to implement it now than after a serious illness that prompts it.

#4. Plan weekly and daily

I admit to not having implemented this one yet, but I’m getting closer. McKay is a huge fan of this as it’s the core of intentionalism. Basically, the principle is that you sit down and plan out your week and then each day you plan out what you need to get done. McKay has used this extensively, planning his week down to the minute in order to get everything done. I have no doubt that this habit yields great benefits, but I have yet to implement it. Check back with me on that…

#5. Read for pleasure

This one is so key in a digital world, where everything is about speed. I love reading articles, but books have so many benefits that it’s hard to discount this advice. Although he doesn’t say this explicitly, it’s implied that this means physical books. I like that idea, but if you can’t get to a physical book, read a book on your smartphone or tablet device. I just finished “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and have just started another Holmes adventure. Another method I would recommend is listening to audiobooks while driving. I have a lengthy morning and evening drive, so I am currently listening to “Kidnapped” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Another good habit along those lines would be to incorporate listening to sermons into your drives. That’s a great benefit for your spiritual life.

#6. Brush and floss

This one seems obvious, but don’t let it slip away from you. Keeping up on your oral hygiene can save you a lot of pain and expense later on in life. If you need convincing, let Owl City instruct you. 

#7. Meditate

McKay is talking about a more abstract kind of meditation that’s focused on relaxing and disciplining your mind. That’s really great, but meditating is actually a very Scriptural practice. Pick a Bible verse and just set aside a few minutes to just think about it. The challenge is actually focusing on what you’re trying to think about, as many distractions are waiting to lure you away.

#8. Journal

Keeping a journal is actually quite fun because you get to look back at what you wrote  years before and laugh at yourself. But in all seriousness, it’s a great practice but hard to make time for. It’s a lot easier to blog nowadays, but there’s something about actually having a book that makes it more worthwhile. This is definitely a habit to seriously consider adopting.

#9. Serve

This is a really great addition to the list. As Christians, we are already called to serve our fellow man, but it is a good reminder that service requires intentionality As Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We should take that to heart and adopt a servant attitude towards our God and fellow human beings.

The only habit that I would add is getting up early to do your devotions. It’s so necessary to read the word of God everyday. Jesus is the living water. If we don’t drink, we will die. So read your Bible everyday and be intentional about what you’re reading!

 

That’s all folks. Be sure to check out the original article over at Art of Manliness!

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