What General Motors And Christian Subculture Have In Common

In case you missed it, there was a recent controversy over the surfacing of a General Motors policy prohibiting the use of certain words in their safety reports. Since about 2008 General Motors has, evidently, outlawed the use by their employees of over 68 words in any account regarding the safety of one of their products.

First of all (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m going to suggest that General Motors ought to hire less former English majors and more engineers. What with phrases like: “disemboweling”, “maniacal”, “lacerating” and “Hindenburg” included on the list, it seems as though they could use less energy on the right side of the brain and a greater understanding of math beyond 2+2 in the hopes of building cars that aren’t “grenadelike powder-kegs”. English majors may do wonders for your marketing department but, as a general rule, we also tend to be fairly incapable of building cars that won’t lure the description “Kevorkianesque”.

Secondly, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no way in the name of heaven, hell and this sneezing panda

that I ever want to buy, lease, drive or be within fifteen feet of a General Motor vehicle, lest the safety report was completed by an engineer and, in a lapse of creativity, they couldn’t find a sufficient way of warning that it tends towards “spontaneous combustion”.

This is also why I don’t trust Christian sub-culture.

If there’s any movement that’s subjected itself to the siren-call of censorship, it’s Christian subculture. For within the realm of Christian music, books, films, art and our culture in general, we have adopted the notion that removing certain words thoughts and phrases from our vocabulary will somehow produce a beautiful, functioning product. “Christian” music is known for it’s lack of profanity and refusal to chant about any gender-specific body parts. “Christian” books are centered on 1 Corinthians 13 romances (in the most boring way possible). “Christian” films refuse to show any females who ignored the one-piece swimsuit policy and turn the camera from gambling, drinking, smoking and similar deviances (unless the offender is an atheist). I’m making massive generalizations here. But if you want to prove my point, walk into a Christian bookstore and search all the materials for one inclusion of the word “shit”. That’ll put the brakes on a scavenger hunt.

And yet what General Motors is currently learning via a $35 government fine is the same lesson we Christians should have learned years ago had we taken the moment to remove our heads from the sand: flowery language can’t cover up a shitty product.

Words describe things, things that need describing. Censorship and the abhorrent belief that we can escape this world without using phrases that have a sting to them do not make problems go away, they just allow them to be ignored.

If Christian culture and the products of said culture are truly based off a Biblical worldview, then it should start with an uncensored look at the Bible itself. Song of Solomon is an X-rated document. Read it slowly sometime in the most literal translation you can find and you’ll be like:

Jesus referred to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers; I can assure you this wasn’t a polite gesture for use over the dinner table. The book of Job describes Satan using a phrase we English folk have translated to “skin for skin”, mostly because a literal contextual translation of this would make a sailor blush.

And here’s the thing: the Bible is a good book. Even people who don’t agree with what it teaches and label it as fictional poppycock can at least agree that it’s interesting and timeless. The same cannot be said for some, uh, lots of, okay most of our censored “Christian” artistic endeavors today. If the Biblical meta-narrative required some colorful language for diagnosing the problems of sin and the pervasiveness of grace, then you can damn well bet ours do too.

Literature does not need profanity to be good, that’s not my point at all. And most if not all of the objectionable material we find in culture is neither necessary nor edifying. And I am not proposing that Christian families swap Veggie Tales with Kill Bill for family movie night. I am not proposing that our playlists must include Michael W. Smith and Flo Rida (although come on: “Friends Are Friends Forever” and “I Cry” remix? Just a thought).

What I’m saying is that we open up our minds and allow ourselves to see that quality products sometimes involves the use of squeamish words, that our basis of “good” and “bad” ought not be the MPAA rating system. Furthermore, just because we describe our wonderful little subculture as “Christian” does not mean it isn’t in fact “ghastly” or “horrific”.

When we operate under the notion that the only good literature is literature that doesn’t say “damn” or “hell”, when we pretend that the only music worth listening to are songs that include the words “worship”, “Jesus” and “Lord of Heaven and Earth”, we are not promoting quality products, we’re just whiting out words on a safety report. Meanwhile, the cars we’re producing, the culture we’re propagating, does not safely transport the gospel message from us to the world outside but rather acts as a “rolling sarcophagus” (that’s a word for tomb or coffin, I had to look it up too) in which our message suffocates and dies.

Personally, I’d rather purchase a General Motors “powder keg”.

 

 

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The Fallacy Of A Happy Marriage

In a recent article posted on CNN titled “How Affairs Make My Marriage Strongeran anonymous blogger explained how she and her husband share a mutual understanding of the other’s promiscuity. She proceeded make the argument that this arrangement actually strengthened her marriage. As one could imagine the comments thread exploded on this article. And it was one of those threads that ranked high for moments in which I really just wanted to hit “Reply All” and tell everyone commenting:

Because not only were many of the comments somewhat arrogant and, at times, Neanderthalic to the extent that it seems only internet comment threads are capable of (“Ur soo stopid LOL!”) but I also really failed to see logical basis of the objections they raised.

Because, personally, when I read the article, I couldn’t help but think “yeah, okay…

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard the argument a million times that mutual agreements of this sort can add vitality and life to a relationship. This is not a new statement, nor is it one without logical coherence. It really depends on one’s belief in the purpose of marriage.

The common held notion is that marriage should make you happy. This line of thought is strewn across our romantic lingo and sexual ethics. Although most of us will admit that marriage, love, and relationships take work, we still hold the practical belief that said work is for the end goal of our happiness. Thus, though all relationships require effort, there are some that are like old cars: no matter how much effort you put into them they’re still not going to function well. Though they once ran smoothly their glory days have faded and it is time to move on.

When attached to this train of logic, there is strong evidence for why affairs might be helpful in a marriage. Just like one mechanic may say one thing needs to be fixed on a car, and another says it doesn’t, so a marriage that is geared towards happiness may have numerous avenues of attaining it. Inasmuch, it makes completely logical sense why someone who is used to sleeping with the first person they flirt with at the grocery store (“Mangos, eh? Ever watched Seinfeld?”) would need such liberty within a marriage in order to be happy. And hey, if their spouse is happy too (which could easily fall under the “what they don’t know don’t hurt ’em” category) theennn:

And I expect this from American culture. I expect this from a consumeristic society that is based on subjective morality and self-satisfaction. So while I am saddened by the apparent pain of someone suffering under a lifestyle they chose but obviously isn’t working out for them  (the author of the article lamented, among other instances, the first part of their pregnancy when her husband was still having affairs while she was home sick), I am also neither surprised nor angered that someone who doesn’t hold my personal beliefs would fail to adhere to them.

But what is surprising/frustrating/demanding of reform is that Christians think the same way.

If you don’t think that’s true then take the time to compare divorce rates, percentages of infidelity, and pornography use between Christians and non-Christians.

Okay, so I’ll do it for you:

A poll done by Barna Group in 2008 revealed that 34% of Protestant Christians had been divorced at some point in their life while only 30% of atheist couples could make the same claim. According to Christian Post, a poll of 1,000 confessing Christians found that 50% of the men and 20% of the women were “addicted” to pornography. While Barna Groups poll revealed that Christians are 30% less likely than non-Christians to approve of extra-marital affairs, a Christianity Today poll found that 45% of Christians confessed to engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior outside of their marriage. Compare this to a recent poll of the general population which concluded close to 50% of women and 60% of men have engaged in extra-marital affairs and you’ll see the problem. The statistics show that there isn’t a lot of discrepancy between the two groups. Certainly not as much as there should be.

What’s more is I can’t help but notice how Christians talk about marriage no differently from the world. For instance, give yourself a point for every time you’ve heard any of the following statements from Christians in the last year, two points if you said it yourself (I scored 24!!) :

  • “The wedding was a success! They’re happily married.”
  • “He/she just makes me so happy.”
  • “I’m happy when I’m around you.”
  • “I’m not happy in this relationship anymore.”
  • “I just wish we had a happier marriage; don’t you remember how it used to be?”

I could go on. Or I could just rip a page out of a Nicholas Sparks novel and type the dialogue verbatim. But let’s be honest:

Ain-t-Nobody-Got-Time-Fo-Dat-sweet-brown-31241125-480-330

The point is Christians, from a practical standpoint, strive towards happiness in a marriage just as much as our secular counter-parts. The difference is nil. We date the people who make us happy, marry the ones we’re convinced will make us happiest, and stick with the marriages that produce happiness. We might sing worship songs on Sunday morning and jam to K-Love en route to our nuptials but we’re really clapping to the same tune.

This is our greatest fallacy within marriage and the reason our marriages can’t exist as a testimony in contrast to the relationship featured in this article. Because what’s the difference between us save for our tactics?

The cruel irony is that a marriage aimed towards happiness is really rather hopeless. I don’t mean to be a downer here, but if you think about it, no matter how happy you are at any point in your marriage it’s still going to end one of three ways: death, divorce, or abduction by rogue aliens.

really
Okay, maybe not the last one

So from a utilitarian standpoint, if you’re pursuing marriage for the sake of happiness then it would behoove you to think again. Rather, save your money, sleep around, retain your independence, lock your heart in a drawer somewhere deep within your soul and be done with the whole thing. I guarantee you’ll have less heartache, conflict, disputes, sleepless nights and despair. Probably a lot more “happiness”.

And so it would make sense that the end goal of a Christian marriage is not happiness, just like the end goal of a Christian life is not happiness. Instead, it’s aim is sanctification.

A Christian marriage points not to the comforts of this life but to the hope of eternal life; it glories not in the happiness evoked by being dedicated and committed to another person but in the testimony of being pursued and redeemed into permanent relationship with Christ. Thus a Christian perspective of marriage offers that marriage ought to refine a person, to push them to be more like the Object Of Our Faith. Marriage ought to exist as a living, breathing, fighting, forgiving, loving, laughing, crying testimony of two imperfect persons attempting to illustrate the perfect love of a perfect God. In short: marriage ought to reflect Christ’s love for the church. Unless crucifixion was actually a Greek word for some obscure form of happiness, then we’ve really lost our way.

Now, if I could get personal with you for a moment:

how about no
Eh, I’m going to anyway.

I married a saint of a woman. Not only is she a saint but she is also infinitely cute, like “OMG I saw this in an indie movie once and it was adorbs!!!” cute. Like “dude, she’s ten times out of your league in combined score of looks and personality” cute. But I am not always happy in my marriage. In fact, sometimes I’m very unhappy in my marriage. Mostly because my selfish desires don’t always co-align with the needs of another reasonable human being.

But I find encouragement from the fact that my marriage hasn’t always made me happy. Because though it may not be making me happy, it is making me better. And I pray for the fortitude, understanding and determination to stick it out through times when happy moments are few and far between.

Such determination must be built on a proper perspective of marriage. Because if happiness is my goal, then this game will end quickly and poorly and my tactics will never reflect eternal hope or Christ’s love.

The Christian fallacy of pursuing happiness in our relationships is that it takes our eyes off the true purpose of marriage. If our aim is happiness then our testimony is diluted, both in and outside of the marital covenant. Pursuing an affair to maintain marital satisfaction may be more drastic than the measures the rest of us take but that doesn’t mean we Christians are free of blame.

Rather, the Christian marriage would to well to understand that:

And if we set our eyes on sanctification, if we aim to be living testimonies to the love and sacrificial dedication of Christ, we will find that our relationships, our marriages and our lives are all working towards a greater purpose. This is a purpose that goes beyond us and our desires. It is a purpose into which we have been adopted and granted a role, not by our own merit, but by the love we now seek to imitate.

Indeed, it is a purpose that exceeds anything that happiness, marriage, sex, dating, affairs, and definitely Nicholas Sparks books could offer. For it exceeds, oh-glorious thought, anything that world could ever offer.

 

 

Keys To A Theologically Correct First Date

First dates can kinda, sorta, mostly suck. You’re usually anxious, sporting sweaty palms, wet armpits and a nervous twitch in your right eye that makes it look like you’re constantly winking at your date mid-conversation. There’s always the mandatory questions: “So what’d you study in school?”, “How many siblings do you have?”, “What do you do for fun?”, and “Mhmm yes, the weather has been a bit queer “ (read: old English, not a political statement) “lately hasn’t it?”.  These are all (naturally) followed by an awkward silence and the dreadful realization that you both have nothing in common, this is going nowhere, you still have to pick up the tab (why didn’t chivalry die with feminism?) annnndddddddd your fly has been open the entire time. It only takes a few of these to realize that vows of celibacy have their perks.

celibacy Of course, Christians have their own set of rules and stigmas that bring an entirely new set of pressures in the form of an anxious chorus in your mind:

I wonder where she goes to church?

What’s he think about pre-millienialism? Infant baptism? Rob Bell?

What if she’s not in the same denomination as me?

 Could I date a Baptist?

Anglican?

Church Scientist?

Hahahahaha okay, let’s be serious.

Do I let him kiss me…or is that too far? Hold my hand? Touch my arm? Okay! He totes totally just touched my arm!

Do I tell her she looks beautiful? Or hot? Or is that improper? Or wait…is it okay that I think she’s pretty? OMG AM I LUSTING!?!?!!?

 With so many questions swirling in our heads, it’s a wonder most of our dates don’t result in spontaneous combustion from at least one side of the table. But the thing is, dating doesn’t have to be so difficult, and it doesn’t have to be so damn nerve wracking. You just need good theology.

5f0e0501-401c-4527-940b-9dd1f756b076
Give me a moment…

When I sit down across from someone, whether it be on a date, at church, the library…basically anywhere but the DMV, I have to realize not necessarily who, but what it is, that I’m sitting across from. They’re not just a human being…they are a human being.

confused

Meaning they’re not just a pile of skin and bones that evolved into walking and cognitive abilities which will now roam the earth, work from 9-5 and (if they can get past a first date) one day pass genes down the line before retiring to Florida and dying of old age. No, they are a human being whose existence will bridge into eternity. image_of_godThere, sitting before me, twiddling their thumbs and trying to think what three books they’d read if they were stranded on a desert island, is a foreshadowing of something of greater and more mind-blowing significance than I could ever imagine. They’re a human being, made in the image of God Himself.

Of course, that all sounds fine and dandy unless we can grasp what it actually means. This is a realm in which Christian’s tend to objectify.

“Objectify!?” you cry, “you must be talking about the pornographers and sexually deviant masses!!!”

Nope, I’m talking about us: Christians. For we have developed a wonderful and very apt ability to point the finger at secularism and, with many a “tisk tisk” and shake of our heads, condemn the objectification of pornography and Beyonce’s halftime show. This is not to say that we are wrong in our identification but that we still have a log in our eye.

Because too often we have “a date” for the night. We’re gonna meet our “date” at an agreed time, swap customary information, chat over a meal, try to send the right signals and, if it goes well and they like Neil Diamond enough well, then maybe we’ll have another “date” the next night. If things progress, they’ll become “our girlfriend/boyfriend” and maybe our “fiancé” or “spouse”. If things go poorly, well then, they’re just immature, stupid, childish, selfish, hurtful, liars that we label our “ex”. Am I being nit picky about our terminology? Perhaps. Am I proposing that we stop calling it “dating” and start calling it “courting”?

no

My point is that, especially in the context of dating, we have a tendency of ceasing to view the other person as an eternal entity and instead cram their existence into a nice little box we can comprehend and place on the shelves of our egos. The person we sit across from in Starbucks, is first and foremost, a child of the utmost God and secondly is our brother or sister in Christ, which means we’re going to be together for a lllloooonnnnnggggg time. I’d rather not start off an eternal relationship with an attempt to whittle that person down to some identity I can label and carry around on my arm or add to my Facebook profile. But this happens all too often and I get tunnel vision. I lose sight of the eternal picture and instead focus on the immediate situation; I cease to see the person as anything other than who they are in relation to me in this moment. The failure to view another person as an eternal child of God doesn’t just result in terrible first dates, but leads to dysfunctional break-ups, damaged or destroyed marriages and terrible, God-awful, bubble-gum pop music

...that I may or may not listen to on repeat daily #confessions
…that I may or may not listen to on repeat daily #confessions

This brings us to a lil’ caveat. As Christians whose life is centered on Christ, we must make it a priority to only pursue romantic relationships with Christians. This is a position that I advocate and encourage for several reasons, the least of which being you will have much more in common. I mean, c’mon what’s a dating relationship without a common jab at the Left Behind Series, comparison of favorite preachers or mutual bonding over the high school rebellion stage?

Good. Moving on...
Good. Moving on…

Of course, unless you attend a Christian college, work in a Christian organization, or only date people whom your set up with by that nice old lady who sits in the front row and church and (God knows she means well) asks you if your “married yet” every g$@$% Sunday…. then you may not know right off the bat if the fine lad/damsel you who just agreed to meet you at Starbucks is a God-fearing Christian or not. While long-term committed romantic relationships with non-Christians isn’t the best of ideas…there’s nothing wrong with a cup of coffee and awkward questions for an afternoon. Furthermore, a first date is not shot to hell when you find out the person is not a Christian, although that can be

hawkwardbut I would strongly advise that your romantic aspirations come to a screeching halt. That said, I would also wave a finger at any gut reactions to whip out some Billy Graham pamphlets and go evangelize their (oh, so) hot self.

In case you wanted to see the worst idea since the Chicago Bears, Gigli and canceling The Magic School Bus on PBS.
In case you wanted to see the worst idea since the Chicago Bears, Gigli and canceling The Magic School Bus on PBS.

But if you find out that you’re date isn’t a Christian, what you have isn’t a train-wreck of an evening but yet another opportunity to interact with a being of eternal significance. We Christians have a wonderful knack for wasting such opportunities on our own intentions.

“Oh mah gawsh….I came into the evening hoping for a date and beautiful woman with whom I could whisper sweet nothings for years and years and what I got instead was a chance to show the love of Christ to another human being…”

deal with it
#seriously #obamasays

I realize that in writing this that I may bring upon myself the perception that I have half a clue as to how Christians ought to date. I really don’t. My assertions and suggestions are just as much of a shot in the dark as anyone else’s. The world of dating is a complicated, twisted, skewed and (more often than not) painful labyrinth of emotions and questions no one can ever maneuver perfectly. I’m no exception; my attempts at the task have hardly been something to brag about . Luckily, eternal grace envelops all of our lives…even the awkward dates and nasty break ups.

Furthermore, I’m convinced that for every awkward date, every broken relationship and all the tattered remnants of a romance I’ve weathered or caused, I’ve got a glorious, smiling and forgiving reunion waiting for me up in heaven. That’s the beauty of the common bond we all share; all of our petty conflicts will, upon inhabiting the New Jerusalem, boil down to a “hey…remember when? Man, were we stupid…”. I plan on having many of such conversations with some recipients of my less-than-successful romantic aspirations over a good, heavenly beer. And yes, they’ll have beer in heaven.

So when you sit down from someone on the first date take a deep breath and relax knowing that however awkward it is, however the relationship with that person ends, however many times you find yourself saying:

If you've ever been on a blind date that involves cheap Mexican food...this ought to be relative.

… you have an eternity of laughter, worship and true community to make up for it. Our promise of heaven is one that extends to every area of our worlds, especially our love life, and removes the need for objectification, stress and especially Taylor Swift. It’s not to say that all the questions swirling through your head aren’t good ones or that they shouldn’t be considered. They probably are and probably should…you just need to start with a proper view of who your date really is; you need to start with good theology.

Also, make sure your fly is up.