Disordered Desires

One of the most important realizations about humanity in general, and about ourselves is that many of our desires are not only bad, they are bad for us. We love to hear gossip, to avoid taking a costly stand for the truth, to see the misfortune of those we resent. Like children we consume to the point of immoderation, and our own sickness. The list of examples is as long as there are people.  The voices of our culture want us believe that the path to true happiness  is unrestrained indulgence.  Sadly, our longings are so disordered that these are the lies we want to believe.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Sterilization

This article is from Bari Weiss’ substack My thoughts on the article below.

It is an important snap shot of our current cultural moment. It is sad to me and feels a little hopeless.  This article is NOT really about children. It is about a belief system. This is what happens when you trust secularism to describe and fix your problems. It doesn’t work. The result is an existential hopelessness that leads us to throw up our hands and bury ourselves in meaningless pleasures. This conversation is not actually about children.  It is about an attempt to redefine what it means to be human.

A couple of things come to mind:

The world is really good at evangelism and discipleship. We have a generation that has completely adopted the dogma that has been given to them. And they can repeat the words and phrases handed to them like good disciples.    There is deep irony in all of this. We have a generation sincerely convinced they are victims even though we live in one of the most prosperous and egalitarian moments in history.  There is a cultural and political machine that feeds our victim complex.  And we love it. It makes us feel important.

Historically we mock and despise members of religious cults.  How can they continue to trust the leaders that make so many false predictions? That  gullibility is alive in a generation that gives unfailing trust to the prophets of the climate apocalypse. And that in spite of decades of false predictions.  It is truly impressive. The space ship has not arrived, yet has not weakened their credibility.  “Ideas have consequences, and some ideas have victims.”  Clearly, this apocalyptic vision has consequences. 

For me, I believe the situation is far worse and yet far more hopeful. Why? Because I don’t believe that humans can be the problem and the solution at the same time. Humans are certainly at the heart of the problem, but the answer is outside of our resources or wisdom. My hope is in a king that loves and redeems difficult and demanding humans, even miserable children and self-absorbed adults. He died and rose from the dead and is bringing an everlasting kingdom.

Repenting of Sin Against the Greatest Commandment

“We have not loved thee as we ought, nor cared that we are loved by thee”-Thomas Pollock 

These are a few searching words from a great hymn of repentance. It  sounds strange to our modern conception of sin to think that we need to repent of not loving God as we ought.  But if loving God is the greatest commandment, then failure to love him has to be one of the greatest sins. 

Trauma isn’t the explanation for everything

I am getting weary of hearing that “trauma” is the explanation for everything.


Periodically the world, and the church, swallows a new perspective that promises to answer all of our problems, explain why our programs aren’t working, and show the way to health and happiness. The winds of these fads blow every 5 to 10 years, sometimes two or three rolling in and out at once. It is not that these topics have no value at all. Sometimes they have some important things to teach us. But they can take on a collective inertia, that leads to a blinding group think. Once these social science fads become popular, they are often associated with weak or shoddy science, a host of buzz words, careless definitions, unwarranted implications, a new army of “experts” to show us the way, and dog pile of lab coats pushing shoddy research that resists any criticism. 

Sadly, in the church this can result in a new hermeneutic that uncritically reads these ideas back onto scripture. I was not surprised to see see an article in Christianity Today calling for “trauma-informed bible reading”. I won’t be surprised if there is a whole study bible devoted to the idea somewhere in the pipeline.


I have been recently reading the book “The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills” by Jesse Singal. The author explains in detail the ways in which many of these social science trends (e.g. the self esteem movement, the implicit association test, positive thinking, the judicial concept of super-predators, etc) have persisted throughout the last 30-40 years in spite of being scientifically discredited. It feels like the current emphasis on trauma is in danger of following suit. I don’t think I had heard about experts on “trauma” before 5 years ago. But recently I seem to hear about them every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I am sure that understanding trauma is important, but also pretty sure that it is not the silver bullet to explain all our unhappiness and insecurities.  When ideas like this become popular there is a greater need for healthy skepticism.

By the way, the author is a science writer for the New York Times. He is obviously really smart, and is politically on the left. He is really adept at pointing out the bad judgment of many of the authors tied to these bad ideas, but he seems unaware of the force of his own political and philosophical assumptions about the world. 

Neil Postman and Twitter

I started re-reading Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and the big idea is the the medium of television actually drives and trivializes our entire cultural conversation. The medium always affects the message. He wrote that 30+ years ago. I think we need to revisit this in terms of social media, especially the short form of Twitter, and the democratizing of the video sound bite with Tiktok, etc. we are losing the ability to think deeply, to communicate, to listen long to one another.

Back in 1985, Postman wrote that the hairdresser an image consultant had replaced the speech writer for our national leaders. I wonder what he would say today? and since the average person now has the potential for an international audience, what would he say to the rest of us? It definitely seems image management is more important than truth and content.

Fighting Hate with Hate (it doesn’t work)

All of the most spectacular sins and crimes in the history of the world are rooted in a justification that often sound like justice.

Cornelius Plantinga wrote  “Victims victimize others, who then send their own vengeance ricocheting through the larger human family. Nobody is more dangerous than a victim.” His point was not that being a victim is dangerous but that seeing your primary identity as a victim is one of the most dangerous things because it allows you commit acts of further evil and atrocity with boldness and a sense of justification and even moral superiority.

It is very important for Christians to understand and oppose this temptation. We are specifically called not to repay evil with more evil. This is so important it is repeated 3 times. Romans 12:17, I Thess. 5:15, and I Peter 3:9.

We are seeing many examples of this phenomenon play out as Critical Race Theory is more widely applied.

Here is an example from a lecturer at Yale school of Medicine, who has focused in his studies on Critical Theory. You should go to the link and see all of the disgusting tidbits: “I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a fucking favor.  (Time stamp: 7:17)”

Why are so many of us concerned about Critical Race Theory and its various iterations? For many reasons, but one really obvious reason is because it the foundation for the growing, open, bold, unopposed racial hatred and scapegoating of “white people” as the source of all evil. The current conversation is not about uniting diverse people or ending racial hostility, and you can see this clearly by listening to the words of the people that are applying these ideas. 

This kind of talk is unapologetically evil, and determined to justify its hatred as a virtuous response to past sins. We have heard this kind of talk before leading to the gulags and concentration camps that grew out of the ideologies of hate. If you care about diversity and racial harmony and love, you should oppose this kind of thinking. 

More quotes:

This is the cost of talking to white people at all. The cost of your own life, as they suck you dry. There are no good apples out there. White people make my blood boil. (Time stamp: 6:45)

White people are out of their minds and they have been for a long time.  (Time stamp: 17:06)

We are now in a psychological predicament, because white people feel that we are bullying them when we bring up race. They feel that we should be thanking them for all that they have done for us. They are confused, and so are we. We keep forgetting that directly talking about race is a waste of our breath. We are asking a demented, violent predator who thinks that they are a saint or a superhero, to accept responsibility. It ain’t gonna happen. They have five holes in their brain. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall. It’s just like sort of not a good idea. (Time stamp 17:13)

We need to remember that directly talking about race to white people is useless, because they are at the wrong level of conversation. Addressing racism assumes that white people can see and process what we are talking about. They can’t. That’s why they sound demented. They don’t even know they have a mask on. White people think it’s their actual face. We need to get to know the mask. (Time stamp 17:54)

Sad Radicals – Quillette

Dang. This is one of the most insightful essays I read this month. It offers some serious insight into the mindset of members of current radical groups such as the Anarchists (the author is a former deep member of one of these anarchist communities). Since this was written about 18 months ago I think it has a peculiar relevance to our current national conversation. I don’t agree with all the conclusions but there are some really powerful insights here. Check out these choice 3 paragraphs.
 
“There is an overdeveloped muscle in radicalism: the critical reflex. It is able to find oppression behind any mundanity. Where does this critical reflex come from? French philosopher Paul Ricœur famously coined the term “school of suspicion” to describe Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud’s drive to uncover repressed meaning in text and society. Today’s radicals have inherited this drive by way of Foucault and other Marxo- Nietzscheans.
 
“As radicals, we lived in what I call a paradigm of suspicion, one of the malignant ideas that emerge as a result of intellectual in-breeding. We inherited familial neuroses and saw insidious oppression and exploitation in all social relationships, stifling our ability to relate to others or ourselves without cynicism. Activists anxiously pore over interactions, looking for ways in which the mundane conceals domination. To see every interaction as containing hidden violence is to become a permanent victim, because if all you are is a nail, everything looks like a hammer.
 
“The paradigm of suspicion leaves the radical exhausted and misanthropic, because any action or statement can be shown with sufficient effort to hide privilege, a microaggression, or unconscious bias. Quoted in JM, the anarchist professor Richard Day proposes “infinite responsibility”: “we can never allow ourselves to think that we are ‘done,’ that we have identified all of the sites, structures, and processes of oppression ‘out there’ or ‘in here,’ inside our own individual and group identities.” Infinite responsibility means infinite guilt, a kind of Christianity without salvation: to see power in every interaction is to see sin in every interaction. All that the activist can offer to absolve herself is Sisyphean effort until burnout. Eady’s summarization is simpler: “Everything is problematic.”
 
The larger article is intellectually challenging to read and understand but offers some insights about radicals that are significant.
  • What are some of the burning questions that drive people to this kind of radicalism?
  • How do these groups function like religious fundamentalists?
  • Why are they doomed to such misery and failure? And how does that offer inroads for the hope of the gospel of Christ?

 

Source: Sad Radicals – Quillette

A Few Observations On The Pandemic

I just spent several hours on the phone with people from our church. Checking in with folks and trying to Pastor them remotely. I was able to listen to them talk about themselves, their families and friends and their work. A few observations.

  1. I am so thankful I get to be a spectator in seeing how God’s grace sustains people through trials and lead them to selfless service. Faith and hope in Jesus are deeply practical.
  2. Even if serious measures have been called for, shutting down non-emergency healthcare is causing a real suffering and a separate disaster for many people and the healthcare system.
  3. One of the biggest elements of suffering is lack of face to face human contact. This is real. Digital fellowship is not as good as live friendship.
  4. One of the biggest groups that has been adversely, and unequally hurt are small business owners. For many, all of the financial “help” is non existent, to little, or too late. People don’t want handouts, they want to work. Many elements of the essential/nonessential distinctions are arbitrary, not rooted in science, and inconsistent. I hope the courts will settle some of this, and I hope that folks will remember this during future elections. But my ultimate hope is in the care and justice of God.

Coronavirus Response: Sweden Has Avoided Isolation and Economic Ruin

I believe that the Covid outbreak is serious. It’s not just the flu and I am really sad at all the folks that are dying.  We must be taking action. But the seriousness of the problem doesn’t lend support to whatever drastic action our leaders must be taking. What if we are being asked to do a bunch of stuff that is unproven? What if what we are doing actually makes little to no difference in the outcome? That is what this doctor suggests in his NY Times editorial.  What if what we are doing causes more harm in terms of health and human suffering than it prevents?  We don’t have to look to hard in the history of medicine to see examples of this.

Sweden is not doing the same thing as the US. Read the article below for more details. Are they doing the right thing? Time will tell.  So far they are not worse off than other countries.  Yet almost all the news articles that come up on a google search involve hand-wringing accusations.

I think it will be important to have some places to compare the outcomes. What if Sweden and the handful of American States that have not issued severe lock downs have similar outcomes as the places that chose the nuclear option?  We (globally and in the US) are doing things to address this situation that we have NEVER been done in human history. I think this article in National Review expresses some things well:

“This is, in fact, the first time we have quarantined healthy people rather than quarantining the sick and vulnerable. As Fredrik Erixon, the director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, wrote in The Spectator (U.K.) last week: “The theory of lockdown, after all, is pretty niche, deeply illiberal — and, until now, untested. It’s not Sweden that’s conducting a mass experiment. It’s everyone else.

”We’ve posed these simple questions to many highly trained infectious-disease doctors, epidemiologists, mathematical disease-modelers, and other smart, educated professionals. It turns out that, while you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person of theft and throw them in jail, you don’t need any actual evidence (much less proof) to put millions of people into a highly invasive and burdensome lockdown with no end in sight and nothing to prevent the lockdown from being reimposed at the whim of public-health officials. Is this rational?” (emphasis mine)

Source: Coronavirus Response: Sweden Has Avoided Isolation and Economic Ruin | National Review

My prayer this morning

God thank you for these days of trial and adversity. Thank you for working through them to empty me of my pride,
to challenge my love of comfort,
to destroy the stubborn illusion of control over my life and the world,
to teach me to rely on you,
to see your hand at work in unexpected ways,
to give me eyes to see needy people who are usually invisible,
to remind me of mortality and eternity,
and to show me even more of my savior’s love. Jesus was born into a world groaning under the curse of sin. That “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” – – Galatians 3:13