The Unthankful

When people are trapped within a binary paradigm of thinking the world divides into winners and losers, rich and poor, right and wrong, valid and invalid, sinners and saints. I say trapped intentionally because duality is a prison, a poison, and a darkening of the soul.

Our country, if you can’t tell, is horribly stuck and as a result our sense of gratitude has morphed. Thankfulness within a binary system is possible only 50% of the time. It’s a sure sign we have lost the ability to discern.

Once again our political environment serves to illuminate a deeply spiritual consideration. I didn’t vote for either main candidate because I saw neither of them as fit for president, so these comments come from a non partisan perspective.

It’s time we all wake up from our anesthesia. The machine is enslaving us more by the minute. Slaves are smug and condescending. Slaves are unwilling to accept results of a fair election. The hypocrisy, rhetoric, and divisive criticism is at a fever pitch and few seem to have eyes to see that nobody wins in this scenario.

Who really wins on the long, silent drive home when fighting with a spouse or child?

The whole game is to get both sides to blame each other. Then everyone loses:

  • We lose our power.
  • We lose our freedom.
  • We lose our time.
  • We lose our life.
  • We become unthankful.

Luke 18:11 tells a story of the proud Pharisee who stands up in front of everyone and prays a dualistic prayer that says: “God, I thank you that I’m not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like those tax collectors.”

The dualism machine creates Pharisees on both sides. The end result is false pride which makes us losers while we think we are winners. It’s pride that can’t handle reality. It’s pride all day long. Pride is the most unthankful we can ever be.

By contrast in the story, the tax collector (the loser by the dualistic definition) stood far off, not lifting his eyes to heaven, beating his breast and asking that God would have mercy on him, a sinner.

The end result was that he went down to his house justified. While the Pharisee did not. CAN YOU SEE THIS???

The one who is supposed to be right, wasn’t. The one who is supposed to be wrong, wasn’t. To be justified is to be made whole, to be accepted, to lose the division that separated him from God and all others.

Being united is within our grasp. It’s not by the republicans way, and its not by the democrats way. It’s by God’s way, the way of love. Pride separates, humility unites. The immigrant and the unemployed factory worker want the same things for their kids. We only differ from each other in minor ways, and only the truly thankful (justified) can see this. God’s path forward is never regressive nor against one group or another, it is always inclusive and progressive. God is not on one side of the isle.

A New world is obtainable the moment we let go of our pride and become thankful people. So stop protesting! Stop gloating! Start repenting and watch the world become new again.

The Food Network and Porn

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What constitutes immoral behavior?  This question initiated my Doctoral Thesis. Sometimes it’s based in societal law.  It’s mostly illegal to steal or murder, although our law does permit both on a regular basis.

Sometimes it’s religious law. Adultery is seen as a violation of religious law but not civil law. Some prohibitions of behavior go well beyond the Ten Commandments. Mormons strive to follow the word of Wisdom by avoiding “strong drink” (alcohol, teas & coffee). Jews and Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. Breaking religious or moral law is known as sin, and many view religious law as superseding civil law and this is why issues in politics become extremely heated.

But what makes a sin sinful?

To find out let’s compare two religious sins: Sexual Immorality and Gluttony

In scripture, sexual immorality (Greek word Porneia) is the junk drawer of sexual behavior that is outside of a committed marriage of two people. We get our word pornography from this term. Gluttony is scripture’s term (Hebrew “Zalal” and Greek “Phagos“) for the over indulger in food or drink.

Sex and food are both biological drives required for life. Religious law instructs people to manage both drives because they are so powerful and uncontrolled they are harmful. The teaching is that it’s ok to have the impulse for sex or food, but it’s not ok for that impulse to have us. Food and sex are both celebrated within a context, not outright condemned.

What is shocking is how religion vilifies the sexual impulse but celebrates the food impulse.

  • The Food Network is ok, but late night Cinemax is not.
  • It’s sinful to touch a weiner (especially if its yours), but its ok to be obese.
  • A woman cannot dress provocatively at church, but the bake sale is held in the foyer.
  • No heavy petting allowed in the back seat of the youth group van, but feel free to have as many donuts as you want.

Consider this:

What if our Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t a celebration of our abundance in food, but our abundance in sex? Not only would a family thanksgiving take on a new level of creepy, but Plymouth Rock would be the stage name of your sweaty uncle and not the location of the first Thanksgiving.

What if there was a time of the year where we looked forward to a season of sexual binges? “It’s a tempting time of the year, all the different kinds of sexuality everywhere, in all the stores, and at the company party. I’ll be paying for this after the New Year.”

So what makes a sin sinful? Why are some people reading this and resisting the correlation here? Why is a gourmet pastry chef celebrated but a porn star shunned? Why can the church have a potluck and not an orgy? The answer is not because sex is bad and food is good. Sin is sinful because it’s the loss of a key aspect of our humanity.

If we push the boundaries of food and sex exploration, we discover new horizons of tastes and delights but only up to a point. I’d argue that this is the good part of the dominion mandate to go forth and multiply (Gen 1:28). In it, sex is implicit. We were meant to turn apples into apple pie, but apple pie is the exception and not the rule. If all we eat is apple pie, then we begin to lose something of our humanity because we are no longer eating to live, but living to eat. The result is death.

Can you see the difference?

If our sexuality has become completely about our personal satisfaction then we lose something of our humanity because we have separated it from love, depth and intimacy with another. When we carve sexuality out of the whole human experience we diminish it. Pornography doesn’t show us too much it shows too little. The admonition to avoid sin is not the killjoy of the party but it is the threshold beyond which we hurt ourselves and others. God and health coaches share one voice.

A sin is not a bad thing we do. Sin is when we go after the best things in life in harmful ways. It’s not that sex or food is the sin, it’s thinking we can find validation, acceptance, or love through sex or food that is the sin. Sin is making an end out of the means.  We can do the right thing the wrong way and its a sin like the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:11. Or we can do the wrong thing in the right way and it isn’t a sin like breaking the sabbath in John 5:8.

Right and wrong are not established by God in the same way that religion establishes them. God offers far more freedom than our institutions.

       “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:22)

This Thanksgiving, I hope we are fortunate enough to experience the full range of human creativity in cooking and celebrate a tremendously enjoyable feast and I hope we feel all the love and care that goes into each dish. But let us reflect on just how much goes beyond the feeding of our bodies. If we look at our plate and feel that our feast is not unlike most meals, then let’s heed the voice of scripture and health coaches so that we can regain our humanity and place eating back into its proper context.

And this goes for sex and all transgressions. Then watch as our world becomes new again.


Elections, Erections & Reflections

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I care far less for our ideology (system of ideas) than I do for our epistemology (system of knowledge). Human transformation is more about how we think than it is what we think.

For years I’ve been striving to help liberate people from the prison of a dualistic mindset. From my vantage point, those who possess a binary framework are the epitome of what it means to be poor.  The gospel of good news for the “poor” is expanded beyond giving food to the hungry. In our culture, the poor are those who can’t get out of their own way and continually imprison themselves by their thinking. Our culture thinks this is about knowledge, but its actually about the skill to use the knowledge we possess, or wisdom.

Wisdom is never binary. Wisdom transcends the on/off, win/lose paradigm. Wisdom is both/and as well as neither/either. Wisdom is love expressed in the intellect.

Leading up to the election, I used the candidates to illustrate just how stuck in an toddlers mind most of America really is.  If we are either really excited or really upset over the results, chances are pretty good that we are stuck in a win/lose binary system. I say this with the utmost respect for what we know. I’m not discrediting the facts that we believe to be true nor the knowledge that we each possess. I’m pointing to the distinction between what we know and how we know it.

Think of an election where the world is divided between day and night. If in exactly one minute we are to vote for whether our world is daytime or nighttime, which do we vote? Some are at dusk and dawn and will be forced to pick the closest binary choice. Our minute is almost up, which is it? Examine the facts and vote.

Do you see my point?

It doesn’t do us any good to pick a particular team because both completely opposite truth claims are equally true and equally false at the same time. Only a transcendent perspective can illuminate how this is possible. To get the best vote, we must move beyond binary votes and look at things from higher up and further back. This takes wisdom, maturity, and skill. While a view from outers space can lay to rest the silliness of my example, far too many in our world are still stuck on either the losing or winning team. Is that you?

We love to erect monuments to our side which is always the right side. We erect and promote champions and heroes who tell us what we want to believe about ourselves. The winners go around with a smug hard-on and a sense of vindication. The losers go around with an angry hard-on and a sense of retaliation. The displays on both sides are pathetic and childish. Smugness is just as ugly as a tantrum.

If this election gave you hope or made you hopeless then please consider my example above. Our pain or joy is directly related to whether we think it is daytime or nighttime right now. We may even be 100% correct, but it doesn’t make us wise. Either extreme proves we are stuck in our myopia and the result is more poverty.

Focusing on one side of the coin will always result in our present state. We come here every four years and have for ages. We will be back here in four more years still no better than today, perhaps even worse unless we change our perspective. It does us no good to flip the same coin over and over when there is another coin, a third thing, something other, something transcendent, something beyond us that can enter and truly change the story.

As long as we pick a side, we are lost. For centuries, Christianity has been trying to model this by insisting that Jesus was both God and man. Picking a side diminishes both realities and misses the greater story. Yet most Christians today still live and promote a binary system. It is our collective lack of wisdom that puts on this endless feedback loop. Our ridiculous pride makes us so certain of our convictions and re-establishes our belief that we are on the right/winning team. By default all others are losers and we can dehumanize them. This is par for the course for both Republicans and Democrats and all duality.

If we would truly be a free nation, we must grow up and find wisdom.

    “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.” (Proverbs 4:7)

We must recognize the foolish poverty of our binary system and gain the third way. The transcendent perspective, the middle way, the gospel that sits crucified between the two thieves that have successfully stolen the soul of America.

Keep your ideologies. Keep what you think. Just change how you think them. Then watch everything become new again.


Politics and Seeing

If two people negotiate their plans for lunch, they have engaged in politics. If a family shares different expectations for vacation, politics is the process that strives to align everyone.

Every small business, classroom, community church, team, HOA, or group is political. At first, smaller organizations align people around a common goal or purpose that brings individuals into something bigger than themselves. For example: a softball team is capable of more softball experiences than a single player in their yard.

As organizations get bigger, greater infrastructure is required to promote the common goal of the group. As the group gets bigger it bears greater influence within the larger culture and at a certain point becomes its own sub-culture or counter culture. A great example here is religion.

By the time we get to the agenda of a city, state, country or world power we are talking about the monumental task of influencing and organizing hundreds of millions of people. Obviously not all people share a common goal, be it lunch or the foreign policy, and so the net effect is a binary system of winners and losers. Every organization reaches a size where its “bigger purpose” becomes secondary to its self interests. Regardless of size, those with the power get to establish the rules and the goals of the group. Thus power is the central thrust behind all politics.

I think most people have eyes to see this and no doubt everyone of us has felt the bite of the powerful when we dissented from the herd sometime. It always feels bad. The system is designed to crush the stray.  Remember Church and State put Jesus on the cross.

Too often the stray begins its own organization so that it too can can have power and take on its opponent. This happens in a school yard when one is outnumbered by bullies and then recruits others to get even.  If we can see it here, we must gain eyes to see it in the big show going on right before our eyes in the daily news.

Big politics is big power.

Big politics only succeeds by getting people to pick sides. If the power machine can lure you into alignment with either side, then it gains power. If the schoolyard divides and rally’s behind the kids, then the fight expands. If a wise neutral party, a third way, can intervene the power diffuses.

Despite the arguments of big politics, neither side has ever taken anyones freedom, all freedom is freely abdicated by each of us when we pick a team. The power to take our freedom was given to the politics machine when we voted our party line. Most of us don’t see this. We just assume we have to join a team and like sheep

United people are a threat to institutions. We don’t need to create an opposite power, we need only take back our power and the machine will die. It is the most basic truth of all politics, and it is the crux of why the machine works so hard to keep us distracted, angry, and fearful. So long as we feel we need to fight, then the machine wins. Politics runs on self-interest.  Love of others and self emptying is a power strong enough to dissolve the petty impulses of what fuels our politics and competition.

Sadly, the vast majority of people cannot see this aspect of reality. Most would rather fight than love because it doesn’t require the soul work of humility. But things are changing. There is a growing minority that has regained its power, it has learned to love again. It has gained the eyes to see the “man behind the curtain” in our real life version of Oz. This group is going to change the world.

Politics is the perfect subject to access this core component of our heart. Next Tuesday we will be tested. Will we abdicate our power by giving it to one side of the same machine or will we join the ground swell of people who say enough is enough? We cannot complain about the brawl in the school yard if we pick up sticks and join in. The one who shows up with guns and shoots all the kids has hardly solved the problem.

We must have eyes to see that the war is not “out there” against “those people“, but within each of us as we own our prejudices, fears, and our indignations.

We have the power to pull people out of the fight and restore order to the world. It’s the power of love. It is the greatest power in the world. Any religion that says it loves but votes for war is completely false (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Those who are brave enough to do the work of love are called the people of God, the Church.