Our Own Worst Enemies.

My black card was due to be revoked years ago, along with Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell, by the likes of people who have no credibility at all on issues that matter most. They have worldwide platforms yet sit idly by when they should make some noise or at least call out self-destructive nonsense.

I saw these pictures of Charlize Theron and her son several months ago, and was quite frankly, speechless. It was one of those moments when I was offended viscerally, as a black woman, and that doesn’t really happen very often to tell you the truth. My outrage meter was damaged beyond repair several years ago. Or at least, I thought it was.

With news of Bill Nye the Pervert Guy making the rounds, it was easy to be reminded of the assault this generation of children is under. It was also a reminder of the disgust I felt at the realization that this white woman, adopted a young black boy and started dressed him up as a girl because he “identifies as female”.

Yesterday I decided to see what the black media had to say about all this. There was the expected outrage one would expect to find on social media. There were small black-authored blogs who expressed their dismay, but that’s not what this search was about. Instead, I was looking for condemnation from the big guns of black media: BET, Ebony, Essence, et. al.

I found nothing. BET offered a very neutral presentation of the story. On this, they decide to be “just the fact, ma’am”. Rather than deal with it head on, Ebony dismissed the relevance entirely and used it a jumping off point for another round of “how black men are failing black women.”   Because the crisis in the development of black boys is not at all connected to the way they will connect with their women later.

Let’s just bash men now, and never mind how they got to be that way. If there is a high level of misogyny found among black men (and I’m not at all convinced that this is true), it’s their own fault. Upon turning 21 years old, Jerome just woke up one morning and decided, “I thnk I’ll mistreat women.” Does that even sound plausible?

This isn’t  the only instance of short-sightedness to be found in the way black America approaches issues of importance, the way we major on the minors. Given the extensive bit of debate that has taken place here on the subject of black wealth or the lack thereof, this story was of interest as well.

Shea Moisture is a very successful black-owned beauty products company. It got its start catering to the needs of the fast-growing numbers of black women who were shunning the tradition of straightening our hair and deciding to go back to our roots. Go to any big box store in the country which sells health and beauty products, and you will find a hefty amount of shelf space devoted to Shea Moisture.

Since their products are all healthy and natural based, they can be used by anyone. I have, on a few occasions, noticed their products being purchased by women of other races at the supply store I frequent. In a bid to increase their revenue share (black women only make up about 7% of the American population), they launched an ad campaign to attract women of other races. Since the ad was targeted at a wider range of women than just those f us who are already aware of and patronizing Shea Moisture, the ad included a plurality of the women they were trying to attract.

Backlash ensued, complete with calls to boycott Shea Moisture. I fail to see how this is helpful to the push to increase the amount of black wealth in the U.S.

So…they ignore the public and unapologetic emasculation of a future black man because the black “elite” long ago sided with the sexual deviancy community. Then they decide to cut a hugely successful black-owned company off at the knees because they want to sell their products to more than 7% of the consumer market.

We really are our own worst enemies.

 

 

 

 

A little, or even nothing, goes a long way.

The subject of language has been front and center in my mind of late. In part because of its continual decimation due to the ever shifting meaning of words and phrases for the purpose of political posturing, but also because we tend to utter words without proper forethought. Silence can reveal -or at least leave room for- assumption of knowledge. It’s an opportunity few of us take advantage as Proverbs invites:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.Proverbs 17:28

The type of speech we engage, or don’t engage in, speaks volumes. It draws questions without any faith identification. I spend most of my social and outside interaction with other home schooling mothers. The variety of people my family is exposed to, however, is one I haven’t experienced consistently since our children finished elementary school several years ago.

Two years ago for example, my husband spent a year working at a large company overseeing the transition of some of the internal workings of their system. During that time, he developed a rapport with a young man there. The young man never expressed any religious belief, and my husband never engaged in any sort of faith based dialog with him.

Near the end of his contract there, the man asked my husband to do something that startled him. He had a girlfriend and a young baby. He figured it was time to make it official so he asked my husband if he would be willing to marry them. They could do it right in the cafeteria of the office building over lunch, since they weren’t interested in any kind of big wedding event.  He assumed my husband was a minister of some sort. As an Asian man raised without any religious tradition, he didn’t know what sort of clergy my husband might have been and I don’t know that he cared. He simply respected him, and wanted his blessing on their union.

My husband’s first question was why this young man assumed he was a minister. There isn’t anything noteworthy about my husband which indicates minister, or even typical church guy. The response was telling: “It wasn’t anything you said. It was what you didn’t say. You’ve been hear nearly a year, and I never heard you curse.”

Our daughters have had a similar experience on their jobs. Usually after about 3 months, someone notes that they never hear them use a curse word. Apparently, unlike when I was a child, profanity is like a tattoo. You don’t stand out if you do it. You stand out if you don’t.

I find this interesting because none of us flinches, winces, or gets offended when anyone uses profanity in our presence, and we don’t assume that people who do so are necessarily  irreligious or bad Christians. It’s basically a holdover from how each of us were raised. My husband’s father wasn’t a saint, nor would he ever be mistaken for one. He just didn’t curse. Neither did my parents. We just sort of picked that up, as did several (though not all) of our siblings.

Profanity is an example I used here because it recently came up in our conversations about language, but it’s just one example among many. I am keenly aware of the issues that can come from mistaking propriety for piety. It’s one the thing I loathe most about certain strains of American Evangelicalism. But there is a lesson to be learned here about the importance of keeping a lid on it.

It really is possible to get through an election season without getting into a debate with your family members whose political opinions are different from your own. It’s possible to inspire or motivate others in areas where you may have been especially graced or worked hard to overcome without preaching to everyone you know or beating them over the head with your hard won knowledge.

People naturally tend to ask questions of those they see succeeding or accomplishing at the things with which they struggle. They almost always solicit the prayers of the least vocal but straightest walking believers they know. We don’t need to be nearly as vocal as many seem to think in order for others to glean from the wealth of knowledge and wisdom we presume we have acquired. Most of all, we can all save ourselves a lot of trouble if we would learn to be quiet:

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.Proverbs 21:23

I think about this often in the rough and tumble world of Internet communication, where people feel not only compelled but entitled to say whatever pops into their head with as much veracity and acidity as they can muster to get their points across. There also the saccharine treatise laced with contempt, and veiled in passive aggressive attacks. After a while the stealth sweetness is lost and the malice seeps through. Whatever the tactic, it’s the opposite of this:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24.

Using the logic of if this, then that, it is safe to conclude that: rude speech is like wormwood, bitter to the soul and sickness to the body.

I think I’ve said enough, so I’ll stop right here.

Hank Hanegraaff’s Switch to Eastern Orthodoxy, Why People Make Such Changes, and Four Ways Evangelicals Might Respond

As someone with loved ones who have rejected evangelicalism for what I consider a more legalistic faith tradition -something other than Orthodoxy or Catholicism- I appreciate the call to unity and understanding in this piece. I agree with about 2/3 of what is offered here.

Intentional Faith

Follow Jesus, focus on the Bible, and think like missionaries.

This past Sunday, the ?Bible Answer Man? Hank Hanegraaff was welcomed into the Greek Orthodox Church. For a man who has built a valuable ministry on clear answers, this has sparked some questions within the evangelical community.

Now, I don?t know Hanegraaff, though I have benefited from his ministry at times. And I don?t know his motivations or concerns?though we get a glimpse of his reasons in the Christianity Today article on his change.

However, I have given thought over the years to the tendency of some to convert to Orthodoxy (for reasons that will become clear in a moment). Not all will fit the descriptions I give, and Hanegraaff may not, but perhaps it might give some context to Hanegraaff?s decision and to how evangelicals might respond.

Of course, I?m not giving every reason for every person…

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The right way is often the most sensible way.

Hearth tipped me off to this article which was tinged with alarm over the fact that young Americans have decided that families fare better when one parent is dedicated to the care of home, hearth, and offspring. Why is this generation of young adults so willing to turn back the decades of gains that have been made in pursuit of “gender equality”?

At our core, people sense what makes sense and what doesn’t. The utter unhappiness and relational chaos that accompanies our proliferation of choices surrounding the family dynamic isn’t lost on young people. They have more access to competing perspectives and information than any of us ever had. They can also see that more often than not, traditionally structured families* seem happier overall.

Funny how that works.

Here is another excellent piece I read, written for single women. It’s written by the Botkin sisters, and is a very encouraging perspective on how to approach life as a Christian woman, not solely as a maiden-in-waiting. They really do a great job of dismantling a lot of Neo Trad nonsense here.

*Please, no references to people who believe the “traditional” family structure is the perfect venue to control and constrain the behavior of women. That is not Biblical and it’s not what I am referring to.

Adam’s father was perfect, and yet…

It is characteristic of American culture, and increasingly by extension American Christianity, to view life and temporal prosperity in it as accomplished through the successful execution of specific formulas. While there are certain areas of life where formulas produce success, for most people this is usually most readily seen in areas where we are dependent more on the immutable laws of nature.If you burn more calories than you eat for a long enough period of time, you lose weight. If you get enough sleep for enough nights you tend to be less fatigued. Some formulas work.

When human nature is added to the mix, however, the wheels can fall off no matter how well we execute the formulas we believe will produce a spiritually superior church, happy marriage, or well behaved children.

Most Christians have reduced the Bible to a formulaic rule book. If you’re not prosperous, you haven’t worked hard enough. If you don’t have a blissful marriage, you weren’t a submissive enough wife, or you didn’t lead well enough as a husband. If your children are not walking in truth (in ways that compel others to compliment you on the way they turned out), you didn’t “do” Proverbs 22:6. If you did, you didn’t do well enough or consistently enough to produce the right results.

There seems to be a total disconnect from the reality that God has given husbands, wives, and children all the same opportunity he gave each of us; the choice to choose the right way and walk in it or not. We thrive on the belief that when things turn out well, we can take some credit for it. We are very careful to give proper lip service to God for His word and its formula that we followed so well, but we cannot resist the urge to determine that what has gone well in our lives is because of our innate goodness or execution of the formulas. In other words, God couldn’t have done it without us.

Where parenthood is concerned, even as someone whose children are regularly commended, I have always felt sub-par. All of our children’s best character traits are easily recognizable as having come from their father, or as gifts from God that they seemed to have come with standard. All their worst traits? Those seem most easily recognized as having come from their mother.

As a wife, however, wallowing in haughtiness comes easy to me. I *get* how to be a good wife, or at least that’s how I used to view my wifely tenure; as perfect execution of the Biblical formula to be the perfect wife.  See? I recognize the tendency. None of us is immune. The trick is being willing to recognize it and shut it down.

None of this is to say that what we do doesn’t matter, or that there aren’t directions on how to live given us in the Bible. Of course we are supposed to study and obey. This is to say however, that when we think that we have the power to direct how others act or turn out, we have gone far afield of the message of Scripture.

Enter this message from Voddie Baucham which I listened to over the weekend. Twice in fact, because it’s that good. Bro. Baucham reminds us that we are all just sinners in need of redemption and that whatever good we do, if it’s not done to the glory of God, or we are tempted to take any credit for it, we are back to square one. Square one is our need for redemption because the minute we say, “I did X and my children turned out God fearing, obedient people as a result” or “I did A, so my marriage is the best one I know of bar none” we are guilty of the sin of pride. Time to confess. Back to the cross we go.

One of the best parts of his talk is indicated by the title of this post. If there were anyone who was graced with perfect everything (parenting, surroundings, companionship of the Lord Himself), it was Adam and Eve.

And yet…

Listen to the sermon here.

Don’t take credit for things you had little to do with.

Still ruminating on the topic of our tendency to suffer from what Voddie Baucham calls “The Elder Brother Syndrome”. I invite you to listen to his message here. If it doesn’t drive the Pharisee right out of you -or at least offer you the opportunity for self-examination- you might be too far gone. Stop reading right now.

One of the things we have tried to instill in our kids is not to misinterpret the perception of their goodness as evidence that they are better than anyone else. And the second thing is something I have discussed here before; our tendency as westerners, and Americans in particular, to mistake the circumstances that come from being born in the West with blessings.

This tendency manifests itself in many ways, but when you strip it down it always comes down to our desire to take credit for things that often have little to do with any great skill, virtue, or effort on our part. I like the hard hitting way Bro. Baucham puts in his message so do listen, but he basically admonishes Christians to remember that to the extent that we haven’t experienced tragedy or wallowed in gross sin, it’s God’s grace often coupled with the kindness of others that has kept these things far from us. It is NOT evidence that our souls are any less dark than anyone else’s.

Some things we need to be careful about flaunting as if they mean we’re good people:

  • Becoming a more submissive, easy going wife after the kids are all grown up: And when you’re free of the attendant expenses and time limitations that come with being a mother of many little ones. For those of us who managed to be submissive and easy going in the midst of harried motherhood, we should praise God rather than ourselves.
  • Being a Christian from an early age. See the parable of the workers in the vineyard. And re-listen to the sermon I linked to above.
  • Building a materially prosperous life during times when economic fortunes were less difficult. In other words, making the mistake of believing that because you (like Amy Dacyzyn) thrived on 30K and bought a home  in the late 1980s and early 1990s using frugal tips, then a family of similar size should be able to do the same thing on 30K in 2017. A family would need to make nearly 60K to do what yours did, while still using frugal tips. Most neighborhoods are markedly less safer than they were 30 years ago. Show some understanding for couples making hard choices.
  • Getting through high school and college without engaging in debauchery or sexual sin. Bro. Baucham hits this one hard and square on but not everyone will listen to his message so I’m adding it here. Not everyone is born into families where they are taught right from wrong from birth, are well protected (like I was), or had access to God’s word. If you were so blessed, it is something to be humbly grateful for, not to feel smugly superior about. Under those circumstances it’s also very easy to forget that Christianity-true Christianity- is a faith of conversion, not birth. So examine yourself to be sure…
  • A happy marriage: That’s a pretty subjective term to be sure, but when you hear about your good fortune often enough, you learn not to take it for granted. If you’re smart, you know full well not to take credit for that, and just count your blessings.
  • For any and all good fortune that comes your way: Attribute to Providence rather than your stellar morality and decision making skills. Even if you did everything right, something still could have gone terribly wrong. Every good decision that yielded a positive result for you may have been helped along by the fact that your husband has usually been gainfully employed and in good health, you have maintained reasonably good health, your children have had good health, you haven’t had any debilitating injuries from accidents, etc. I could go on and on. The point is what I noted at the top of the post:

Don’t be so quick to take credit for the good things in your life. I understand the temptation because every one of the fortuitous circumstances I listed above could be applied to me and mine.

Make a habit of always looking for someone else to whom you can give the honor you are tempted to take for yourself. I know this flies in the face of everything we have been taught about self-esteem, self-empowerment, and being true to yourself. What good does it do the world to deny how awesome you are?

I used to find it strange how pervasive this is, even in the Church, until I remembered that the fall was all about someone wanting to be like God, and have special knowledge into things that were none of her concern. Now I don’t find it strange at all that we have to fight against the desire to steal glory for ourselves.

But fight we must.