Thursday, October 30, 2014

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

This debate seems to come up every year, and some seem to be very passionate about it. Should Christians participate in Halloween?

Abolitionists cite Halloween’s pagan origins, and its preoccupation with witchcraft as reasons why Christians should not participate.

Advocates of the holiday claim that whatever Halloween's origins were, they are irrelevant (or aren’t as bad as people say). How could a kid dressing up as Superman and receiving candy be wrong? What is so satanic about a child putting on a costume and receiving a Baby Ruth candy bar, or perhaps some Starbursts, or maybe—if you’re lucky—one of those coconut-filled Almond Joy bars which make your mouth want shrivel up and die the moment you take a bite? This is all just innocent fun.

Personally, I have never liked Halloween. I have never been a fan of dressing up. I remember in public school, we would have a Halloween party/parade where we would all walk around the school in our costumes for all of the parents to see us. In fourth grade, I had made up my mind not to go Trick-Or-Treating, and so had no costume. 

It was rather awkward walking around, single-file, the only non-costumed-kid among a crowd of princesses and Grim Reapers. Peer pressure working it's unholy magic, I was beginning to doubt whether or not I had made the right choice when one of my classmates asked me if my costume was meant to be the “Kid-Next-Door”. “Yeah, that’s what it is,” I agreed, feeling a bit better about my decision not to wear a costume. People will just think I’m the kid next door! Whatever that means…

Speaking of awkward, I can only think of few more awkward things I've experienced than being an Elementary school kid and having to hand-out candy to high schoolers. They were always the loudest ones coming up to the door, traveling in their packs, but they would always get quiet for some reason when I handed them the candy. Perhaps they sensed the awkwardness too.

I don’t know what it was. The whole Halloween thing always seemed bizarre to me, even from a young age. 

Asking strangers for candy? I thought taking candy from strangers was bad? But it's not if you have a costume on? On top of that, I wasn’t a candy-obsessed kid. Halloween seemed like too much of a hassle for my introverted self just to get some candy that may or may not be any good. Plus, we always had candy left over from what we handed out, and it was always better than any of the candy I got from strangers. Why not just sit at home and munch on the good stuff while everyone else runs around in silly costumes just to end up with disgusting Almond Joys? My young peers thought I was missing out when I thought I was capitalizing. 

But that was just me. Perhaps you have fond memories of Halloween (or maybe you still Trick-Or-Treat?). My younger siblings don’t seem to share my outlook on Halloween.

Every year, I propose we start a new tradition. I have come up with several very good ideas (in my opinion) but I’m always outvoted.   I think my best proposal was a tradition which started with the placing of an empty bowl out on the front step, along with a sign that says, “take one.” 

Perhaps this was my emotionally scarred Halloween childhood coming out. I remember several times trudging up to a house as a boy, carrying the weight of my costume and Almond-Joy-laden, pumpkin-shaped bucket of candy, only to find an empty candy bowl with a sign stating “take one.” Obviously, somebody had taken more than one. At that age, it was hard for me to imagine such fiends existed. What kind of kid would take all the candy when the sign clearly said take one? ONE!

Well, in my proposal, this new generation was going to have to pay for the sins of their older siblings.

But, this is Halloween after all. What is more frightening to a kid on Halloween than an empty bowl of candy? Don’t judge me. I think I was being very loyal to the Halloween theme with my proposal.  

In addition to this empty bowl with a sign politely instructing to only take one piece, we would turn all of the lights off in our house, and play hide-and-seek in the dark, with flashlights. To the outside world, they would just see a dark house with spooky beams of light flashing this way and that way. Very festive I thought.

Alas, it seems SOME people (whom I love) are stuck in their ways and prefer to stick to tradition. We never got to try out my amendment to the Halloween holiday.

My sentiments aside, is Halloween something Christians should participate in?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Vote for This Candidate or The Country Dies

One of the quickest ways I know to start feeling depressed about the state of current events is to watch the news. I think there actually might be something to the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss.” When it comes to politics, it can be easy to get caught up in the feeling that everything is going to fall apart if we don’t elect the right person. Well, the sad truth is it doesn’t matter who we elect.

Or is that the happy truth?

In America, the elected government officials are a reflection of the society as a whole. If we have someone in office because they approve of big government, abortion, or they are just simply good-looking, then they are in office because those are the things that the voters of America care about. Getting someone else elected won’t change that, or at least not very much, and not for very long.

If the state of the country is going to change, it’s going to have to change person-by-person: bottom up, not top down.

Sure, politics is still important, and we need Christians voting for the right people…but what do you do when there is no right person to vote for? It seems that voting for the Christian today is a process of deciding which evil is lesser. That can be rather discouraging.

What I find encouraging is that, while important, politics isn’t the root of the problem. The sorry state of our country’s morality isn’t really the result of who got voted in, but who voted for them. Us. We; individual persons. If we are to change the country for good, we must begin at the foundational inter-personal level of everyday life. Impacting others for good, raising godly children, and teaching others the truth are the things that will start to make a difference for good. Treating the cause, not the symptoms.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why I Listen To Secular Music

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To say I love music would be like saying I love breathing. I’m pretty sure I would shrivel up and die without music. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Being a writer, I spend a lot of time at the computer, and Spotify is my faithful companion. According to my Last.fm account, I’ve listened to over 5,000 songs by 532 different music artists in the last 6 months on Spotify alone. As I look at the top 15 artists I’ve listened to, none of them are “Christian” music artists (though I know at least one is a Christian). One of the bands is named “Chvrches” though, so maybe that counts as Christian?

Confession: I don’t like Christian music. Nearly all the music I listen to is secular.

Some won’t bat an eye at this confession, but I have encountered others who believe “Christian” music is the only acceptable music to listen to. I’ve walked into church youth group rooms and seen that Christian-music-substitution poster which never fails to disturb me. You like the band “Satan Is My Buddy”?  Here, listen to this Christian group, “God Is Awesome,” which sounds, looks and feels just like “Satan Is My Buddy”, but they’re Christian.

Well, if everything is practically the same...why is one wrong and the other good?  Sure, if the secular has copious amounts of foul language or perverted themes this would make some sense, but what if it doesn't have such filth, and it's otherwise just the same as the Christian band? How is the Christian band really any better for copying the secular band? This copycatting is major reason why I don't like a lot of Christian music today. 

Of course, there are a few exceptions. I like Mat Kearney and Relient K (though RK’s latest album can hardly be considered Christian). There are a few songs here and there by other Christian artists that I like, but by and large, I do not like Christian music.

In fact, I am in the middle of making a music album myself, but I don’t think it would be considered "Christian." I don’t mention God by name, and you won’t find the words “grace, faith, or cross” in any of my songs (although I do say “heaven” and “creation,” if that counts).

That being said, all my songs are about God (to me at least). This might sound odd, but to me, a lot of the secular songs I listen to are about God, too.

What?

One of the things I like about music is that it can have a lot of different meanings to different people. This is one reason I generally prefer more vague lyrics to in-your-face-let-me-shove-my-worldview-on-you lyrics (which a lot of Christian music seems to be). Even if I agree with the worldview, I prefer a more poetic approach.

Now before you call me a universalist, I will be clear and state I am not a universalist. I don’t believe the truth is whatever you make it. However, music creates emotions. Sound creates emotions. That’s why music is vital to film. Music is used to create suspense, fear, dread, happiness, joy, mirth, and even tears. Music creates moods and feelings, and these moods and feelings can vary slightly (or a lot) from one person to another depending on the sound and lyrics.

That issue addressed, here are a few quick reasons why I listen to secular music:

Friday, October 17, 2014

3 Ways To Help People Remain Insecure

This might be hard to believe considering the content of my blog, but I used to be insecure. I didn’t know I was insecure at the time, but I was.

My insecurity began when I started to attend public school. No longer surrounded by a supportive family, I began to encounter people who didn’t like me very much, or who excluded me. I know what it’s like to be picked last for a pick-up football or soccer game at recess. In public school, there was always the subtle desire and fabricated need to try and be like the “cool kids.” In the words of Echosmith, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ‘cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.”

Unconsciously, I strove to be “cool” and to be liked by my peers. Being good at sports helped. Eventually, I went from being the last one picked during recess to the first one. I played football and basketball and soccer and lacrosse. I mingled with all the “cool kids”, and I was respected for what I could do on the football field, or the basketball court. But I still never really “fit in.”

Academics weren’t much different. While I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, what drove me to do well in academics was to be respected by my peers. It felt good when everyone came to me when they needed help with their history homework. When I did well on a test, I would sometimes ask the person sitting next to me how they did, just waiting for them to ask me the same question back so I could tell them without appearing to brag. When I did bad on a test, I was silent. Yes, pride and insecurity are very much connected. 

I had been struggling with Geometry my freshman year of high school, but happened to get 100% on one test. One of my football teammates saw my score and remarked that I was a “beast at life” since I was good at sports and school.

How could someone who was “a beast at life” (like being good at sports and academics says anything about how well your life is going) possibly be insecure?

I was insecure because I had become accustomed to such compliments. I began to expect them. I needed them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Your Crying Baby Is Sending People To Hell

Children are a blessing…except when it comes to getting people saved. I think Jesus said something along the lines of, “Let the little children come to me…unless I’m trying to get people saved.” And yet, parents don’t seem to understand this. Crying children in church are jeopardizing souls, people! Your offspring is shepherding people into the lake of fire with their ululations of damnation!

I mean, who would want to convert to a religion with a crying baby nearby? Would you? I certainly wouldn't. I thank God every day that there was no crying baby around the day I said "the prayer". I might not have ever been saved otherwise. Yes, I know, this is quite a troubling prospect to think about; the party in the sky in the life to come would be so much duller without me. 

Now, some of you might be thinking I'm exaggerating just a tad. A crying baby can't disrupt a person's salvation. 

WRONG! YOU ARE SOOO WRONG!

Don’t believe me? Then listen to this woman, a pastor’s wife, who left the following comment on this blog post:

“Sorry, but I personaly know of someone that didn't get saved because of a crying child. We appreicate children, but when they are not even close to salvation they do not have to be in the service. Many many many times when the preacher was getting close to salvation, a baby would start crying and ditract him! PLEASE DO TAKE YOUR CRYING CHILD TO A NURSERY OR A CRY ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It may make a difference in someone getting saved or going to Hell!
Please from a pastor's wife!” [sic]

Don't take my word for it, take her's. This woman is a pastor’s wife. She would know. I can only imagine how many frustrating and heart-wrenching conversations she and her husband must have had over the plight of the unsaved in their congregation. Again and again their would-be soul-saving is thwarted by crooning babes.  

I mean think about it. What if you were unsaved, going to church to try and find out how to be saved from Hell (if there is one) and yet the crying infants drown-out the pastor’s amplified voice. These babies are clearly tools of the devil if their frail voices are enough to over-power the latest in audio technology.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Okay To Doubt Your Faith

Yes, if you have doubts about your faith, that’s okay. Actually, it can be good!

Huh?

Yes, it’s healthy to have doubts. I think within some sectors of the church, a heavy emphasis is placed on believing the right things, and having the correct head knowledge in order to have a healthy faith. The problem is, to some extent, we can’t really control our beliefs. We can’t just choose to believe something, even if we want to.

Belief can be defined as, “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” Perhaps one might say they believe in the existence of God, for example, but if they don’t place their trust, faith, or confidence in God, then they don’t really believe (even if they feel they believe, or say they believe).

If someone said they believed that it was going to snow, but went out in shorts and T-shirt, then they didn’t really believe it was going to snow, or perhaps they have a desire to experience hypothermia, or possibly frostbite.

In order to have true belief, that belief has to influence our actions. Sure, we can sometimes make ourselves believe things if we try hard enough, but sometimes we need more evidence. I would really like it if ice cream was good for you, but no amount of believing is going to change the chemistry. I would need some new evidence or data to influence and change my beliefs.

In the same way, sometimes we need more evidence to believe in God or a certain doctrine. This is good, after all, we are instructed to love God with all our mind, as well as heart and soul. Nowhere in the Bible are we asked to make a “leap of faith.” Faith is to be founded on knowledge, not wishful-thinking.

If someone doubts the existence of God, or some doctrine, that is perfectly fine. We should frequently doubt what we believe, otherwise, we run the risk of deceiving ourselves or being close-minded. We want to follow the truth wherever it leads, and question everything. Yes, even our faith.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Are Catholics Christians?

This past weekend, I visited a small conservative Catholic university, which is basically the opposite of Ohio State in every single way. I really enjoyed my visit, and felt right at home, which is perhaps why just about everyone I interacted with thought I already attended. At the same time, I also witnessed quite a few things which were very alien to me, having had very little exposure to Catholic culture. Overall, it was a very good experience, and I think it would be fascinating to attend a Christian college.

"Not so fast," some Protestants might be saying. "Catholics are not Christians. They believe in salvation through works (sacraments), and that’s not what Jesus taught."

If someone actually believes salvation comes through works (which not all Catholics believe) then I would agree they are incorrect. It does not mean, however, that they are not a Christian, and the reason why is pretty simple.

The reason why Catholics can still be Christians and have salvation is precisely because salvation comes through faith. We are incapable of saving ourselves through works or sacraments. We gain eternal life by faith alone (John 3:16).

Friday, October 3, 2014

This Pastor Hates His Children

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:15 that, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

What a harsh-sounding verse, and yet, it’s true. Children are not born perfect. We are all born sinful (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23). Children need to be taught, by their parents, and especially fathers (Ephesians 6:4) what is right and wrong. As we all know, children are very impressionable, and can easily be swayed one way or another by their parents’ teachings.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents to raise godly children, and to teach them how to become like Christ. This is what is best for children. To do otherwise would be very unloving.

Recently, I have seen several people post this article on Facebook about a pastor who would support a lifestyle of homosexuality for his Children. What is even more disturbing is that these are Christians who are supporting this man, calling his article “beautiful”. It is despicable, and this pastor hates his children. 

True, this pastor does say some good things in his article. He says that he will love his children if they are gay, 

“I don’t mean some token, distant, tolerant love that stays at a safe arm’s length. It will be an extravagant, open-hearted, unapologetic, lavish, embarrassing-them-in-the-school cafeteria, kind of love.”

Yes, parents should unconditionally love their children. No matter what their children do, parents should still love their children. This is the love that God has for us. But this isn't limited to affection.

The problem is this pastor thinks love means you have to support and agree with whatever decision a child makes. That is not love. Love is wanting and willing what is best for someone, and a homosexual lifestyle is very far from healthy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is Social Media Making Us Arrogant?

Social media allows us to express ourselves like never before. We can share our opinions on Facebook and Twitter, post pictures of ourselves on Instagram, and create virtual boards full of things we like on Pinterest. Social media allows us to create a whole world devoted just to ourselves.

It seems that this virtual world we create for ourselves often goes to our heads, or does it? I’ve been trying to figure out if it is really social media which is making us arrogant, or if social media only reveals our arrogance. Regardless, it’s quite obvious through social media that we think a lot of ourselves.

The most tangible evidence of our arrogance has to come in the form of the selfie, which actually was named the word of the year last year. We are taking a lot of pictures of ourselves. 

Allow me to tell you a story from Greek mythology you’ve probably heard. Narcissus was a hunter who was legendary for his beauty. In fact, he was apparently so good-looking that when he happened to gaze at his reflection in a pool of water, he couldn’t look away. Paralyzed by his own beauty, Narcissus died.

My, my. How tragic.

Perhaps the word Narcissus sounds familiar to you. This is because our word “narcissism” (a fixation with oneself) is derived from this Greek myth; however, it’s not a myth. This story is being lived out today, only instead of pools of water, we have pixels on a screen.

It amazes me how some people seem to be obsessed with selfie-taking. They’ll change their profile picture every week it seems, and post extra pictures they took of themselves (nicely edited) on their Facebook page, or Instagram, or what have you. If you really think you are so good-looking that you feel you must take a picture to capture your beauty, okay, but then to post it all over social media? That just screams, “Hey everyone! Look how narcissistic I am!”

The epitome of this is the bathroom mirror selfie. Really? The bathroom? What? Are you really so proud that you were able to have a bowel movement that you had to take a picture of yourself in your glory, and then post it on social media for everyone to know that you look good even when nature calls? Incredible.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Do Guys Have To Be Modest Too?

A frequent objection I've heard raised when the topic of female immodesty arises is, “Well don’t guys need to be modest too?” This is a legitimate question; however, more often than not, this is only meant to be given as an argument for women to dress more immodestly, rather than a call for men to be more modest. In fact, we even have women participating in topless protests today. Men can take their shirts off? Women should be able to do so as well, right? Or so goes the reasoning of such protesters (if equality really is their true motive.)

The argument that women should be able to be less modest because men are less modest strikes me as incredibly juvenile. It is children who often think, “Oh, my brother didn't put his plate in the dishwasher, so I don’t have to put my plate in either.”

I also find it insanely ironic that these Feminists are still letting men dictate what they do. Feminism is supposed to be about equality, and independence and empowerment for women…and yet it’s still, “Men do X. It’s considered improper for women to do X. That’s not fair. I want to be like men and do X too.”

What others do should not dictate what we do, rather, we should do what is right and good for others.Young Keepers of The Home wrote a great article about this which I recommend you check out if you’re a girl.

However, while it’s true that how guys dress should not dictate how girls dress, it is certainly true that the Bible calls for everyone, not just women, to be modest.

Female immodesty gets more attention because it seems to be much more noticeable. Practically every girl and woman these days is dressing in revealing clothing, whereas guys typically wear adequate clothing which isn't as revealing.  I think male immodesty generally takes a different form unrelated to clothing.

As I’ve said in previous posts surrounding female modesty, the core of male modesty is the same. It comes down to humility, and humility is a matter of the heart.