Like a Life Saver Candy

For years Ive been an advocate of the Marriage Savers program. Created by Mike McManus, it is a cooperative effort amongst local churches in a given community whereby, through a covenant commitment, pastors adopt certain programs and policies that show remarkable efficacy in decreasing the rate of divorce in defined populations. They have years of data from each successful deployment (meaning a sufficient critical mass of proximate churches participate) showing fantastic results. You can scan the site and see for yourselves.

I receive regular emails from them and in the past have engaged them in conversation by email. I asked what I thought were blunt tough questions and never was disappointed by the responses, even from McManus himself who seems to be a real gentleman with real concern about divorce in the church (and in general, but his program is about churches). I failed, however,  to dig in and actually read the covenants to which churches commit..

An email I received yesterday , subject line : “A Lenten Pledge to radically Reduce the Divorce Rate” , listed off new community successes including the before and after statistics. They are impressive. Then it goes on the summarize the church covenant in numbered parts with my simple description following their headings:

  1. Preparation….premarital counseling.
  2. Enrichment….reinvigorate stale marriages
  3. Restore…using mentors to help repair hurting marriages
  4. Reconciliation…Here is where the bomb went off

I found this quote in the Reconciliation section text about helping separated couples:

a 12-week Marriage 911 workbook course taken by the spouse who wants to save a marriage when a partner wants a divorce. The course is taken with a friend of the same gender, who acts as an accountability partner, using a Support Partner Handbook to know what questions to ask each week. It is designed to help the committed spouse grow so much that the errant spouse is attracted back. It saves more than half of the marriages. Cost: only $28 plus shipping. [my emphasis]

I fear the “cost” is far more than $28.00. This is nothing more than a fancy new specialty tool added to the toolbox of the unhaaaapy wife. Its the full weight and force of the churches under covenant, the staffs, the elders, the mentors, and the support people back at Marriage Savers, all working to fix the man ( fix the man ≅ fix the marriage).

He knows its men who find themselves “the committed spouse” in the vast majority of cases. My pastor acknowledged as much a few weeks ago at lunch, sharing that his next meeting was with a wife who had refused to see him for four months during which the husband had more than remade himself per her complaints.

The advice to men is comfy chair stuff. “Don’t beg, don’t push”, just polish yourself into a Dove-scrubbed glow so fresh looking and smelling she will take you back if for no other reason than it will allow her to sit the fabric softener aside when washing the sheets, so fresh your aura will be. (fresh enough to overcome the miasma of passive aggressive manipulation).

Saving the marriage is unarguably good. Kids benefit enormously. The cost is born by the husband who has had this laid upon him by degrees for years with each argument that she uses to leverage out another chunk of who he is. This kind of program cuts short her rock chipping and blasts the crap out of him leaving a plodding long suffering steadfast man who will find no succor in the law, in friends and family, nor from his church.

Like the candy mentioned in the title, there is a hole in the center of marriage savers. It beats the alternative though. In this game some people do not get trophies. But for the victory with points at the buzzer….marriage wins 51/49.

Two snowflakes make a pile of…

I was sliding off to sleep last evening, suffering a horrible back strain injury and having laid on a heat pad most of the evening, and, no surprise to me, I still harbored thoughts of intimacy when my wife came to bed. No potential for translation to action. Zero. But the thoughts…

It made me think about how women perceive sex drive in men, and in their husband. I stated it that way intentionally because the evidence Ive seen suggests that Christian women in particular see “men”, and then separately, their husband. The church may accidentally have a role in creating this dichotomy.

Its easy to see how “men” and their sex drives are perceived, by women as a collective and individually. “Men only want one thing” is as common an expression as “taken to the cleaners” (I take great umbrage because I was the cleaner while owning dry cleaning businesses). Oddly, men at large buttress that expression in one of the most seemingly un-selfaware proclamations frequently heard. Pastors say it.

Women  lap it up. Its low fruit for moral stratification. Betty Church can put her hate on men while….rubbing circles on her husbands back.

OK Empath, so what, women do that with all of these issues don’t they?

Sort of. But its different because there aren’t many things with stakes as high as how a wife views her husbands sexual needs.

Ive read the extreme view, which is handy for illustration of my point. One woman would comment that her husband had such control, God given no less, that he “never ever even had a fleeting thought about sex”, even with her as the  partner, if she wasn’t in physical proximity to him. He’d been delivered. All men can thus be delivered.

Then in another context she’d say that men only want one thing.

That is the far end of the spectrum. I suspect that most women have created a reality in which they can go hearts aflutter while considering how their husband is fine with the sexual frequency she controls. He considers her very generous with it…per–her.

Ive seen this skewed view of men manifest innocently in my own life when on occasion my wife remarks, “I was under the impression you didn’t feel well or you are tired or you are in a down mood”, expressing surprise at my advances. Not understanding that under even moderate discomfort the sex drive persists. My wife’s innocent misconceptions are not her thinking that men only want one thing….except for the one man that she chose to marry.

The silliness of this thinking  is that women sort for it in advance when they use cyber-chastity-belt language in dating profiles.

“If you want to hook up, move along”

“Friends first, see what happens”

“Not looking for anything physical too soon”

She believes that HER (future) husband is like her. He is an outlier among men. She hears all of her married friends saying that they married a real winner, a man who is not at all concerned about her sexual availability but rather he wants her for her heart.

This is partly old ground covered many times before. But the idea of women assigning snowflake status to husbands and the cognitive dissonance required to do so is something Id not read or considered before. Many Christian men embrace the descriptor…unique in their lack of drive save for when they see it is safe to activate it.

Like someone somewhere recently wrote of women who are being admonished by sermon, these men hear it said that men want one thing and think, “thank goodness I’m not like that”.

If you put two snowflakes together it makes a pile of…what?

Unhappiness, stress, and…..what?

This nugget was buried in an article I was reading. The title is a statement of the painfully obvious. But the subtitle begged that i at least scan it

26 Percent Of Adults Stressed About Money Most Of The Time

More than half have at best just enough money to make ends meet, and women, the young, the less affluent, and parents are hit hardest

All I was after was the specifics about women and financial stress. To wit:

Women continue to experience more stress than men, at 5.0 versus 4.3, and 30 percent say they feel stress all or most of the time about money, whereas only 21 percent of men report that. Almost half of all women say paying for essentials is a somewhat or very significant source of stress.

Lots of possible directions here. The simplest is that we’ve seen recent surveys showing women significant less happy with life than men, now add that women stress about substantially money than men.

Is it me of is there a lack of the most basic kind of intellectual curiosity today?

Possible questions/further issues (no particular order):

  • Breakdown of families
  • Women flooding job markets over past decades
  • Women control vast majority of consumer spending
  • Women create single parent homes either by baby-momma route or by converting nuclear families to split families
  • Women worry worry worry non-stop about every little thing generally, often losing sleep while reviewing mental notes, dropping incongruity into conversations by raising some list of things to do or bill to pay or bizarre concern right in the middle of a light conversation.
  • Women seem to enjoy being concerned…the furrowed look.

Those questions could add color to any further analysis of the data in the survey. But they said all they needed to say. Women are having a problem, men less. Must be some dudes fault and we all gotta pull together to fix it.

Long tailed cats and hypnotherapists, do they have a grievance?

Long tailed cats were slighted but even my Hemingway-esque no-tail cat went to bed pissed (and sober) last night.

Perversely, long tailed cats would have loved to have been the subject of a PSA that played during the Super Bowl.

Its bad enough that dogs and horses are heroes. But these damn cats actually wanted to hear an airy announcer say, ” Go on, show me how you’d be as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs”.

It is a valid complaint. Nervous people need their self image bolstered. As we saw last evening, when women decide that despite the weight of an entire culture, codified law, church dogma, the pope, and the President of the United States skewed their way, they crave more and more ridiculous levers with which to pry away any vestige of gender differentiation.

That the cis-hetero-white-patriarchal-establishment sometimes says…..”run like a girl” must be really bad to commend the cash to run ads during the Superbowl. My nine year old daughter said, “Dad, what was THAT about?…..Stupid”. Proud dad says she is a gifted child so I cannot fail to be vigilant with her, that she not become the kind of person who has enough free time to concoct said idiocy.

The tastiest irony was that the women and girls who were, at first, asked to run like a girl actually, naturally, comfortably….ran like girls. I don’t care how they run, just run in a direction away from me and mine.

Rock stars are pitching  “Party like a….” adverts.

A handful of hypnotherapists are trying to figure out where they come down on the whole “bark like a dog” thing.

Some kids don’t play with the power cords

Recall I had signed my wife and I up for a marriage conference a few weeks back. My research uncovered nothing so polarizing about the conference leaders that I felt repelled like an opposing magnet. Alas, the conference was canceled. Staying with my magnet theme, it wasn’t the polarity of the conference leaders, it was that the weather got very polar. So our pastor swerved his teaching temporarily to try and not leave the conference topics unaddressed.

Today our pastor was talking from Colossians 3:20. This, following lessons from verses 18 and 19 the previous two Sundays.

One of the things I like about our smallish church is that he normally teaches through books  of the bible thoroughly, not pop-topically using one or two scriptures. Start to finish in logical chunks. Here, he interrupted a one year study of Romans to speak on family, touching Col.3 and Eph 5. expressly because the conference was cancelled. He doesn’t fancy himself a marriage expert or counselor.

I only had two red flag moments in the first two weeks. They ended up being false alarms, nothing of concern. I was ready with extra paper and sharp pencils to make sure I recorded all that was wrong with his teaching. When he noted at the end of week one, after teaching through Col 3:1-18, he said, “but we’ll see next week that we are to submit to one another”. Gotcha bub!

Not so much. He did not use it the following week to apologize for submission or to equivocate in any way. he was not harsh, militant, in the face, defensive, nervous, he did not self efface…not even once…when he offered the only example he used from his own marriage he did it perfectly, without agenda or apology describing how he and his wife differ on a certain thing and how they both can get it wrong because of their tendencies. Especially shocking was that he didn’t magnify his bad against her bad. He described bad, clinically as if he didn’t know the identity or gender of the perps. Outstanding.

To the point about the cords.

Today he was on verse 20 and 21, talking to parents about children. His point was that moral conformity is easier than a change of heart. Not in the sense that we CAN conform to the law. But we can improve our conformity. The heart change requires a miracle, and its not of our doing.

He told a story about his family going to the YMCA for a workout. His youngest girl was five years old or so. He is young so this is recent. When they stopped by the childcare place to pick her up they asked if she’d had a good time. She responded yes, but said some of the kids had gotten in trouble for playing with the power cords in the room. Her posture and expression said, “see dad and mom, I”m not like those kids who did that”. She had established a frame by which she could step up the ladder of moral conformity, and end up rung by rung, high above the rest.

Prior to the kid story he had spoken of a study done in 2005 of 3000 kids 12 to 18 years old where they were asked about their beliefs…their faith. The author listed five characteristics that the majority of the kids responding shared. I do not recall them one by one, but essentially it was that they should be nice, they should live a happy and good life, and that there is a god (little g) that made all of reality and that he will, if needed, intervene if they call on him.

He tossed in a quote from a Lutheran leader who was taking issue with the common observation that young people, 18-35, are “leaving the faith”. The Lutheran leader asked, “what does that mean? Because yes, they leave the church, they leave the things OF church done by their families perhaps, so they are leaving something. But they are not leaving the faith because [as the aforementioned study illustrates] they never had it to begin with.”

I ask now, in the context of the mega-themes that Christian men’s blogs general focus on, if you put the tale of the kids and cords, the results of the study mentioned, and the comment of the Lutheran leader and add the lack of accountability placed upon girls and women later in life when the sins are not about playing with electricity, put that all into a bowl that sits in a room whose atmosphere is comprised of 28% oxygen and 72% secular feminist miasma, mix it all up, does it not make batter for a cake of churchianity iced with pure solipsism topped with a little plastic Personal Jesus?

That made me feel like I was onto something. Then it hit me that the man preaching is 35. the young Christians I know who are in that age bracket, while getting on my Whole (Foods) Nerve, seem to be more settled in their marriages and family lives. Sure, there are less of them that proclaim Christ. But of those that do, they seem less agitated by talk of submission and loving as Christ the church, of simplicity and lowered drama. And more animated by life and home.

Is the tide turning among a chosen? Or is familial dysfunction just lessened while other more subtle things rob them of the things of God?

Profound wisdom from a mouth in Broken Bow, OK

The recipient gets this post as the reward.

Fox news site ran an article a couple days ago called “Seven Ways to Stay Married”.

I read it expecting the predictable drivel. It was actually even more drivel-esque then the supplicating male stuff we normally read in these types of articles because it is just a statement of some obvious things done in quasi folksy septuagenarian voice. Harmless.

It was almost as if the people interviewed were thinking, “watch this…this person interviewing me is going to treat whatever I say as sage wisdom whether they think it is or not, so I’m going to give them such simplistic things that it will make their faux interest in me even more difficult”

But one guy had to be a formidable alpha personality to have done what he did.

You can read the first six bullets at the linked piece. But number seven :

7. Are we hungry? Here’s one that surprised me. When a couple is having an argument that threatens to become a truly major blow-up, the elders suggest that what you may need is – a sandwich. (emphasis mine)

Go with me briefly on an imaginary trip. We are in a living room in broken Bow Oklahoma where Brittany Bigtata of Fox News is interviewing Floyd Baumgartner and his wife Clydine for this article.

Clydine, the wife, was offering all the responses, just as had occurred with the other couples Brittany had visited. After about an hour it felt like wrap up time. Brittany tapped her papers to square them, made sure she kept her knees together because she holds a 50 cent piece between her knees so old men don’t look up her too-short skirt, and Floyd suddenly animated in his La-Z-boy recliner that was covered in bubble wrap (and it has a remote control caddy and hot/cold beverage holders). his eyes twinkled.

Brittany was pleased. A man was going to speak up. “Do you have something you’d like to add Mr. Baumgartner?” she asked. “Sure, I’m thinking it is important we have a read on whether or not we are hungry, one or both of us.” He continued, “Sometimes hunger makes us irritable”. Floyd Baumgartner, husband of 52 years, father of four, grandfather of 9, and great grandfather of 2, Floyd who worked at a factory that refurbished oil pipeline valves for 45 years, Floyh Baumgartner of the Broken Bow, OK Baumgartners, he had just told Britanny Bigtata to:

Go make me a sammich

Bless you sir.

The Aryan-Jewish cabal gets in on the ground floor of the new racism

Now I’ve found the conspiracy. Its a messy one.

In 1992 Jeff Hawkins started the company Palm Computing. In 1996 The Palm Pilot was responsible for small groups of businessmen standing in circles smashing their fingers on the buttons of these plastic hand held devices, ostensibly beaming infrared copies of their “business cards” to each other. Weird. I know, I was one of them.

He made bank and plowed that money into his pursuit of artificial intelligence through his company Numenta, whose stated goal is

to simultaneously create a theory of how the brain works, and a computer algorithm to implement this theory.

The first product is called GROK, which is obviously (based on that nomenclature) a stealth-racial-discord stirring algorithm.

At the same time, in the 90’s a German (read Aryan) company called Thyssen acquired two American elevator manufacturers, U.S. Elevator in 1993, and Dover Corp. in 1999. Notable is that across the globe the elevators were marketed under many names, most of which included the name Thyssen.

Wait for it…

Except in Israel. There it was called Israelift.

At this point in the chronology I’m going to let you, the reader, do your own research and find the connection between Hawkins,  Thyssen Elevators, and he who shan’t be named (cough, cough, Al Sharpton)

It exists. The connection.

Here’s how I know.

Erlanger police officer Darryl Jouett had just had dinner and was heading back to his car with his wife when his duty-issue .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun discharged inside the elevator. The bullet ricocheted off the wall and struck him in the stomach, according to Capt. Mike John, District 1 Commander for the Cincinnati Police Department.

[bold is my emphasis]

Erlanger_police_Darryl_Jouett_1420388296191_12181609_ver1.0_640_480

Somehow the software controlling that elevator KNEW there were racially divisive incidents occurring in the U.S. The Israelis, with not a wit of U.S. best interests at heart, and fresh from having Bibi called ugly names by members of the U.S. administration in D.C.,  loaded these elevators with the ability to just KNOW when the right time would be to have a gun discharge in an elevator striking, you got it, a black man who was returning to his car after dining with his wife.

Officer Jouett will be fine, thank goodness. But the hand of the Aryan – Jewish cabal lift maker left a digital , um, PALM print, uh huh, that I’ve managed to tease out of these co-developing stories.

There…I’ve thrown it down.

The dung on the elephant in the room

Not much here but some disjointed thoughts and anecdotes.

I’ve driven about 2000 miles since December 28. Not so much for a man with a Texas address on his resume. Folks born in Texas learn how to pass the time counting mile markers through the window of a motor vehicle. Worse, a man like me who moved to Texas as a young adult, creating two centers of family that are galaxies apart, we REALLY learn the ways of the road.

I should write a folksy set of road warrior anecdotes but intentions are not sufficient motive. Ah shucks, there was the time we were passing through Memphis and a massive duffel slipped off the top of the Yukon, landing broadside in the center lane of I 240. I went to the side and stood, feinting at fits and starts towards the bag as if I had appeared inside the video game “Frogger”. Traffic was heavy. My chance of retrieving the bag before someone ran over it or caused an accident avoiding it were slim to none.

Suddenly I sensed a break in the traffic. Two lanes were calm…the outer lane, which I needed to cross, and the middle lane which held my bag captive. I craned my head and looked to my right, noting two identical extended Econoline vans blocking those lanes. In each one the driver’s seat was occupied by an octogenarian man with heavy framed glasses having thick lenses. They were grinning and waving frantically for me to deal with my problem and allow them to release the traffic they were holding back. I saw row after row of blue hair and magnified eyes filling the seats in the two vans.

As I dragged my bag onto the shoulder I glanced back over my shoulder and saw twenty or so smiling members of some local Baptist church all waving at me from inside the marked church vans.

I cling to that memory whenever I see hell in a hand basket on cable news.

The past few days my 18 year old son and I  picked up on a theme we’ve shared on other trips. We often joke about the simplicity of Mexican restaurant names across the southern states, and the humor value if they are stated in English. Examples: Friends, The Friends, 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 Friends, Kids, Children, Little Boys, Little Girls, Cousins, Brothers, Sisters,  Hand, Two Dogs, Crazy Cat, Tasty Food, Kitchen, House, Ranch, etc.

On this trip we followed a new tangent. Because so many of those names are family descriptors, my son and I were brainstorming names for American restaurants opening in other countries and how to similarly name them with a hint of the cloying odor that wafts off our decaying culture .

“Step Dad’s, Half Brother’s, Second Husband’s”, I rattled off quickly. Then my son trumped me, ending the exercise by suggesting a name that we could not improve. His idea for naming an American restaurant in a non-English speaking country was:

Legal Guardian’s

Good boy. (My son, not a restaurant’s name)

Other travel notables:

A family member told me about his acquiescence to his wife’s headship. He didn’t say that, literally, but as he explained that he had “figured something out” awhile back, the code he broke was a code of honor indeed. As some internecine drama (destructive and inter- family) ensued he was ushering me and other men a safe distance away from what is effectively the women’s tribal council. There was no need for us men to hear what was being discussed.

I found out why by planting my rear and not budging. Classic elephant in the room scenario that pit one young man of letters (who was being compensated at a scale set in six minute increments) against five women…sisters…from 45 to 54, and one other woman (Mom) age 78.

When it broke up guess what I did. Yes, great guess. I threw a Hindu wedding, riding on the back of that same elephant they’d ignored but covering it with robes and dung so it assaulted the visual and olfactory senses.

After that first day, I did lots of quiet reading in the other room(s) until New Years Day when Hershel Walker tells Doug Flute to get in the kitchen and get him some edamame while I’m watching the best football game Ive seen in some time (Though I didn’t want Baylor to lose). That was good fun.

On the way home, still in Texas and very near one of the other bloggers who lives in that great state, I spied a jewelry store billboard that bugged me. After some Google I see I’m not the first to take umbrage at one of these. It pictured a gaudy piece of sparkle, a bunch of stones and mounts congested on a pin or broach or ring or necklace of some hang-it-off-her-crap…..and a low price of $99.00 per month, referring to the, uh, piece in question as Wife Insurance.

Today, in the fog of post traffic traumatic stress, I overheard Lucille Ball explaining to Henry Fonda, on TV,  that he isn’t stupid… he is just a man. And those conditions are often times one in the same. Yours, Mine, and Ours was released in 1968. Lucille Ball, in all her iterations, is known today as family entertainment, and Henry Fonda is not known for playing the part of a wimp on a stick. Still, forty years ago, man = stupid. (not news).

Happy New Year

As if I was there to chew bubble gum and kick @ss

When Roddy Piper showed up at the bank lobby in the movie They Live, his special sunglasses allowed him to see that some of the patrons, a teller, and the security guard were not the humans they were pretending to be. The glasses enabled him to see the skull-with-red-eyes that was truly the face of a conquering alien race. The aliens were able to somehow cloak themselves so that they could move freely through the population while folks went on blissfully unaware. So, when Piper, pump shotgun in hand, sees the room mixed with aliens and humans he famously says, “I’m here to chew bubblegum and kick @ss and I am all out of bubble gum”.

I really like that movie. It was exciting when it was new. It is iconic and funny in parts if I watch it today. Like the expression red pill, the sunglasses have been used to describe the awareness of men’s issues that are cloaked by the normalcy bias.

I finally had an empathetic experience with Piper’s character.

The past few weeks our church has shown a video to segue into the sermon. This has been done quite well. They make the videos themselves and it is usually someone from our relatively small congregation sharing some personal anecdote. Yea, I know, lots of churches do this. I was specious when they started. I had seen too many of these that were more testimonial adverts for the wonderful church or pastor than any truly God honoring expression of awe or reverence.

They have been great. For example, a man I know by face and nod only, who sits a few rows in front of my family, was featured a few weeks back. When he began to speak it was clear something was wrong with the moving parts that form voice. It was the result of one of many radical surgeries he’d had due to multiple recurrences of some form of cancer. He is 49. And he shared an experience that if it left anyone unmoved, they are already dead.

Good videos for several weeks. Then last Sunday I must have had my special sunglasses on. A thirties-ish attractive blond woman began to share how her trial was that in her divorce they had fought over custody of their child. She spoke earnestly that she was begging God to see to it that she won, that the judge would render in her favor. It seemed to me that when custody is at stake, that meant one or the other parent having custody. That the dad lives in another state, which she revealed, did give it a tone of gravity and consequence.

Then it got weird.

In the end she weepingly said things did not go in her favor. She explained (I paraphrase), “Child will be with dad three weeks in summer and every other Christmas…….so forth”. I was stunned. BUT, she added, since the child had subsequently accepted Christ, she (the mom) felt God was telling her that this custody arrangement was OK because the dad would have a little witness around him.

I was in shock. And I was alone in shock. “Custody” wasn’t at stake here at all. That is a clever choice of wording that a woman would uniquely choose for the drama and empathy inducing power it contains. What was really at stake was, a dad did or did not get to spend time with his child. Further, that the man is in another state, and not knowing anything about the case, we must assume there is not even hint of a reason the man should not have his child for significant bits of time. If there were any issues with the dad that could remotely be construed as harmful to the child, it was obvious the mother would have had those at the forefront of the case. Yet the judge said the dad gets some time with the kid.

Knowing how that kind of case skews statistically, I’m safe assuming we have a fit father who was going to be defrauded time with his child. If unfit, dad would have had zero chance.

So, the takeaway was that she was praying for God to win her case for her. That God would choose up sides in a case like this. Then, when God didn’t respond the way she wanted, it was God’s grace that settled on her allowing her to see that actually this is OK because the child will witness to the daddy and that is such a wonderful thing.

Until now there had been nothing irritating my man-nerve at this church. I couldn’t discuss it with anyone because no one would even understand what I was on about. I didn’t check, but I’d bet there were women crying and rubbing circles on the backs of husbands who managed to look sufficiently vicariously disturbed by the plight of the pleading woman.

I wrote to the pastor. Ive engaged him a few times on lighter topics. Never anything even relevant to the things of this blog. He may have been shocked when I opened with “The idea of a woman praying for God to render, via a judge, that a fit father be denied time with his child is morally repugnant.” I went on to state that I neither had, nor was a curious to have any back story. But, I told him, judges do not do what that one did if a father is unfit. they just don’t.Regardless the circumstances of the divorce, I cannot cede the point that this was not inspiration for the ending of some future made Christian version of Eat Pray Love.

My email was four or five paragraphs. Rewritten and edited many times to take out angry voice, remove redundant points, like that. The pastor replied the next day. He opened with “Thank you for your candor”. That was good.

I’ll not reveal any more of what he said, nor anything more about the subject family. But I do intend to try and have as conversation with the pastor about the bigger picture. In my email I left him with a question, and he answered it. My question was, “was mine the only email you received about the video, was it the only negative email about the video, and if the answer to the second part is yes, can you fathom what that is telling you/us?”

He didn’t answer that directly. Indirectly I could infer it, however, and plan that as my opener for any discussion we may have.

I didn’t think, “I’m here to chew bubble gum and talk to the pastor” had much moxy as a title.

Onward, Christian Soldiers Ill Prepared for War

We should change the hymn to that. I recently watched Kirk Cameron’s documentary “Monumental” on netflix. Looking at people reviewing it on youtube I saw mostly nonbelievers criticizing what they felt was a poor grasp of history and believers praising the film, feeling it was ‘enlightening’. A brief summation is that the film presents the idea of tracing the pilgrim/puritan roots of America and suggests that the National Pilgrim Monument is a ‘Matrix of Liberty” that demonstrates how a country should be founded and remain established on a basis of biblical values in order to be a good and well functioning society.

I wondered what Kirk Cameron and his friend, the historian Marshal Foster, really understand about the Bible. While there are themes of establishment of strong community upon faith in God in the Bible, there are also stories of martyrs and wanderers, outcasts and of the importance of faith in the face of despair. We are told in the Bible that the body may die, the soul endures.

Recently I’ve been teaching on the last chapter of the book of Ephesians. I find it at times depressing that Ephesians, which like most Epistles is not very long, is so hard to teach to people. I found it difficult to learn but I find it sad that it is socontroversial among supposed Christians. The most poorly maintained of the items listed in the full armour of God is the Word, in my opinion. Christian people seem to love testimonies, movies, concerts, huge celebratory gatherings, seminars, but time spent in the Word of God is so lacking.

In the documentary, there is a lack of mention of how many generations of suffering and struggle went before the Puritan movement in the British Isles and the Reformation in mainland Europe. There’s not even a mention of the constant striving towards having the ordinary person be able to study the Bible for themsevles, and the reasons why it was considered dangerous–the danger of false interpretation, of civil strife in society and so on. Like so many approaches in modern Christianity, there’s this expression of a desire for a ‘fix’ that will make things better. There is little mention of the idea that evil beyond mere kings and parliaments are in the world opposing the faith.

While in the documentary Kirk Cameron says he isn’t setting out to blame, his words outside this documentary contradict that. He blames things like the Gay Agenda, for instance, and that the government doesn’t allow prayer in schools for a degradation of Christian values. However to me this is not really the fault of people who don’t believe in the Bible. I look at how few Christians I know really read it, really know what it contains, focus on it, prefer to let pastors or other ministry leaders do the studying for them, prefer to enjoy the praise and worship and easier mental stuff, and think “well, that figures. We dropped the ball.”

Without the sword–the Word–what good is all that armour we supposedly have but to crouch in a defensive position? How do we know what is morally true and right? If we do not discuss it and challenge one another on it, how is it proven and tested so that it is true in the face of a real battle?

Having done kendo myself, I know that sword work requires real work. Leave it, and you get soft, your reflexes get slow, you do not have the right instincts. In human beings, instincts need to be trained, because our basic instinct of the flesh is selfish, cowardly and lazy for the most part. What the Bible teaches us in the parables Jesus told using seeds as an analogy for faith is that faith is developed carefully over time with care and effort. The challenges to it–distractions, offenses and direct evil–are serious, and can stop its growth or kill it. The shield in ancient combat, which Paul the Apostle uses to describe faith, is paired with the sword. They are stronger together.

Paul emphasizes the whole armour of God for a reason. Salvation as a helmet makes sense–a sense to the very core of our thinking that it is salvation that is at the core of our thinking. A breastplate of righteousness–the very sense of our life itself wrapped in righteousness, because as Christ taught us virtue is better than bread. But do most Christians really live by that?

Shod in the Gospel of Peace–what moves us forward, what gives us purpose is the absolute belief in Christ’s message of peace for the spirit, freedom from sin, unity with God.

When I hear about things like the divorce rate, the lack of moral compass of our society, I can’t help but look at how the Church is really little different from society. I know this has been said before, but I felt after seeing this film it needs to be said again. I need to remind myself of this too.