Category: Culture

Post that present observations of cultural tendencies and / or idiosyncrasies.

“There Is Hope For Everybody”

Mini_Logo

Prominent Democratic Media Personality, James Carville has been married to Former Republican Political Consultant Mary Matalin since 1993.  Their relationship illustrates the notion that not only may opposites attract, they can also compliment each other. It has been said that if you’re both identical, one is unnecessary. How can two high profile and high powered individuals with such divergent opinions maintain a successful marriage relationship?

In preparing for this post I discovered that Matalin recently left the Republican Party and figured that my premise was dead in the water. I presumed that her fiery husband must have worn her down and converted her to liberalism. That is not the case. Matalin changed her party allegiance from Republican to Libertarian, which seems to be a common transition by several GOP adherents.

G_010814_Carville_Matalin

When asked about their unusual relationship in a CBS interview in May of this year, Matalin said that when they fight it is about the air conditioning, sometimes money. She said that her and Carville can both be ferocious fighters and implied that they know better than to engage in political discussions that would almost certainly lead to brutal arguments.

The lesson for all of us is this. When we commit to a marriage relationship with someone we love so deeply that we have promised to endure sickness and health, prosperity and adversity together; it is imperative that we choose to place the relationship above any issue that could be a “hot button” causing damage to the unity to which we are committed.

The unity and love we share in our relationship is of greater value than any issue that we allow to divide us.

Advertisements

“The Zen Of Jesus”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgI had an interesting thought. How might the teachings of Jesus line up with the teachings of Zen Buddhism? I began to search the Gospels for teachings by Jesus on peace, love, contentment and the avoidance of worry among other topics.

Then I figured that there must be others who have had the same thought so I Googled “The Zen of Jesus”. On the first page alone I found six books available on the subjects of “The Zen Teachings Of Jesus” and “Christian Zen”.

I am not advocating doctrinal synchronization among world religions but I am so confident that Jesus truly is “The Way, the Truth and the Life” that I am compelled to present Him as more approachable to individuals hindered by preconceived notions resulting from the toxic rants delivered by a few of his vociferous followers.

There are countless individuals who are struggling so deeply with the trials and tribulations of this life that they aren’t concerned with theological discussions about the afterlife; like, if there even is one.

Jesus said that He was anointed to…

“Proclaim good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”                                           Luke 4:18-19 / Isaiah 61:1

 images    DIY-tabletop-zen-garden-ideas-mini-rock-garden-mini-Japanese-garden-ideas

Anyone who is grieving, disenfranchised, marginalized, depressed, ill, confused, in pain and / or simply wondering why they exist would do well to consider examining and meditating on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Even if one is not searching for salvation or eternal life but simply for some meaning to life and relief from the pain that can be so prevalent in our world, Jesus will meet you where you are. I am confident that one will be surprised and even impressed by encountering Jesus apart from the “trappings” of religion and just might find something even deeper and more wonderful than the existential meaning and relief they are seeking.

“Commandments, Suggestions & Relationships”

2004 vacation 095(I haven’t posted in a few months but the following thought came to mind. After arriving at my conclusion I figured that it is a good subject to post)

God gave us the Ten Commandments as the foundation of the Law (Torah). As people of faith we need to look at the Law through the lens of God’s heart.

Why did God give us the Law? What does God ultimately want? Does He want our obedience or our love and devotion?  He wants both but how should they be prioritized?

Jesus said that the Law, all of the Law and Prophets, were summed up in the Greatest Commandment, which is, from a human perspective, two commandments intertwined as to be unable to be separated.

Mark 12:30-31                                                                                                                                             “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’”

Relationship is the key. God wants us to love Him first and foremost. He does want our obedience but He wants our obedience to be an outflowing of love and devotion to Him rather than an act of self-protection from divine wrath.

The best way for me to illustrate this concept is as follows…

The seventh commandment instructs us to “not commit adultery”. In our household that has never been stated as a house rule or law. (We don’t really have house rules, just an implied code of conduct developed over years of relationship.)  it would however, be a violation of a vow I took over 30 years ago to be a “true and devoted husband, faithful to her and to her only…”

I have never committed adultery, I have never cheated on my wife. Why have I not committed adultery and why will I not do so? Is it because I do not want to face the consequences of breaking that rule? That could be a secondary motivation but the primary reason that I have not nor will I ever commit adultery is because I love my wife. I am madly in love with her and I could not bear to hurt her, break her heart or betray her.

iStock_000009976314_Medium

While the consequences of such an act would be devastating to me that devastation on my part would be warranted but the pain that my wife would endure would be incomprehensible and I could never recover from knowing that I had inflicted such an atrocity on someone so special and so important to me.

My reason for obeying the no adultery rule or not because it would be a violation of law but because I would be hurting someone I love deeply. Our relationship would at best be damaged and at worst, destroyed.

God wants us to get to know Him on such a level that our adherence to His commands are motivated by love for Him, not of simply doing good.

“On Gun Control”

2004 vacation 095(Note: This post will not sit well with many of my closest friends whom I dearly love but, just as we have the right to bear arms, we also have the right to share our opinions.)

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  -Second Amendment-

“Guns don’t kill, people, people kill people”. While acknowledging the truth of that statement let us please consider the following…

Cars were created to transport people or cargo from one place to another. When misused they can be dangerous.

Alcoholic beverages exist to augment or accent a culinary experience. When misused it can be disastrous.

Guns were created to destroy a target. Whether that target is a piece of paper, a block of wood, a metal sign, a deer or a human being, guns launch projectiles with the sole purpose of causing destruction. The design of the first firearm was intended to provide superiority over the hand held weapons being used at that time.

With that said, the use of weapons by responsible, law-abiding citizens for recreation is relatively harmless. But even in recreation the objective is to destroy something even if it is a harmless clay pigeon. The notion that guns are no more dangerous than cars, alcohol or knives, in my mind does not stand up.

The argument that countries with strict gun control laws see an increase in knife attacks, as a reason to dismiss gun control is so ridiculous that it is laughable. Not that it isn’t true, no doubt it is but it is no stretch to consider that a significant number of those knife attacks would have been shootings had there been more access to guns. After the recent shooting of students at Umpqua Community College one advocate suggested arming all students. That is nothing more than a massacre waiting to happen.

If faced by someone standing 25 yards away intent on doing me bodily harm I would prefer he had a knife rather than a gun.

I would also like for gun rights advocates to acknowledge that the initial intent of the Second Amendment was to equip a “well regulated militia” for the purpose of community security particularly in the absence of any organized law enforcement. It also took into account the fact that a nation’s own government could be a malevolent enemy as was and in some cases still is the case with tyrannical monarchs and / or dictators.

Our founding fathers were unusually visionary but I wonder if they could have foreseen automatic assault rifles. The Gatling gun was still 70 years away from being invented.

I don’t begrudge responsible citizens exercising their constitutional right to bear arms but the rationalization that guns are not any more dangerous than many common household items is ridiculous and potentially reckless.

(For statistics on guns being used for homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings click here.)

“Black And White In A Gray World”

2004 vacation 095 - Version 2In the 1980’s Christian singer, Leslie Phillips sang “Black and White In A Gray World” describing the challenge of living with a distinction between right and wrong in a world that is becoming increasingly ambivalent regarding good and evil.

I do not advocate a gray world but we should acknowledge that there can be different shades of both black and white.

What do most Christians really know about Islam? We are quick to point out verses from the Qur’an calling for violence against “infidels”. I acknowledge the existence of such verses but can we really judge the entire religion and its practitioners based on these hand-selected passages?

Have we forgotten the murders of abortion doctors, the bombings of abortion clinics (Granted these have largely declined in recent years) and beatings of homosexuals all in the name of God?

How do we respond when a new skirmish in the Scripture Wars erupts with…

“’Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”  1 Samuel 15:3

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

As Christians, we understand the contextual application of such verses but it is difficult to generate a solid position regarding handpicked verses in the Qur’an when we see how our own Scriptures are misquoted, misused or simply taken out of context. It would serve us well to recognize that all religions have their own “Westboro Baptist Churches”.

The Muslims I know personally are devout and they are kind, peaceful, friendly and often exhibit a warm and welcome sense of humor. They choose to live in the United States because they want to peacefully practice their religion in a nation where all religions are free to worship according to the dictates of their particular creeds and scriptures. They are fully accepting of me as a Christian and respect my devotion to Christ. I am quite certain that they don’t believe that I will go to paradise upon my demise but they are supportive of my devotion to my faith and to my Savior. I can accept that. I don’t have to affirm heaven as their eternal destiny in order to respect them as people created by God, loved by God and worthy of respect.

Should we be any different in our treatment of the practice of other religious observers when there is no violation the laws of our land?

I am not naive – ISIS and Al Qaeda among others have clearly revealed a clear and present danger but doesn’t mean that we should paint all Muslims with the same brush.  We are to consider them individually through the lens of God’s love.  We need to follow Jesus’ council to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.

“On Gum Control”

img_2076

2004 vacation 095I love Seattle! Few cities have the character and unique charm of the Emerald City. Some might even describe our fair city as quirky. Where else can one find a giant cement troll “hiding” under a bridge? I know of no other city in America that displays a 20-foot statue of Lenin; not John Lennon, Vladimir Lenin!

One of the quirkiest features in Seattle has to be the Market Theater Gum Wall known locally as simply the Gum Wall. Located Post Alley just a few steps south of the iconic Pike Place Public Market the Gum Wall is exactly what one would imagine. Standing fifteen feet high it stretches  50 yards and is an artist’s canvas where patrons of the nearby Unexpected Productions Theater began sticking their chewed gum around 1993. The tradition stuck. Public Market officials named the wall a tourist attraction in 1999. In 2009, the Gum Wall earned the distinction of being named one of the world’s “five germiest tourist attractions” second only to Ireland’s Blarney Stone.

Some people consider the Gum Wall disgusting and unhygienic. Others find it quaint and endearing. Then there are those of us who say “all of the above”.

When I initially heard that the Gum Wall was going to be pressure washed on November 3 of this year for it’s first ever cleaning I was mildly disappointed but was then relieved when it was revealed that the cleaning was not the end of the Wall and that once it is clean the tradition will begin again.

5av-Gum_Wall_Cleanup.transf

People are a lot like the Gum Wall. We are at once unhygienic and disgusting as well as quirky, unique and endearing. Fortunately, God sees us as the latter. Some see us as one or the other and others label us “all of the above”. Every so often, whether physically or spiritually, we can all use a good cleansing affording us a fresh start and return to our life experience anew.

“So, I Guess I’m Purple”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgThe death of “ism” is exceedingly liberating.

Somewhere in American history, Republicans were painted “Red” and the Democrats tinted “Blue”. Republicans aligned with conservatism and Democrats sided with liberalism. (Of course, they have traded positions from time to time.) Based on this palette I have euthanized my “isms” and assumed the color “Purple”.

My blood may be RED but not RED enough for Fox News junkies and my alignment with the RED Party withers daily. My one-time connection with the BLUE Party as an 18-year-old was merely a rebellious reaction toward my very RED parents and didn’t survive a full term.

My individual opinions are unique treasures.

I oppose abortion – RED.

I oppose the death penalty – BLUE.

I support conservation – BLUE.

I support infrastructure progress – RED.

I advocate for the second amendment – RED.

I advocate reasonable gun control – BLUE.

I cheerlead the search for alternative energy sources – BLUE.

I drive a vehicle that is lucky to yield 20 MPG – RED.

I love Jesus Christ – REDDISH PURPLE.

I respect a Muslim’s right to worship openly in America – BLUISH PURPLE.

Politics frequently inspire division so I endeavor to avoid bitter and futile discussions on the subject. However, responsible citizenship requires one to participate in such muddy conversations in order to further the social and cultural common good. To do so one must occasionally dance into the political ballroom in order to be aware of the issues that affect society .

A possible next step would be to invent new words like “Libervative” or “Republicrat”.  But for now…

I am free! Color me PURPLE!