In defense of echo chambers.

Got your attention, huh?

This really isn’t a defense of echo chambers. Perhaps it is, but not the way echo chambers are commonly referenced. After only a week of serious winnowing, I almost immediately recognized a more consistent and prolonged state of peace in my mind and heart.

This is off the cuff, and I’m not going to spend time editing it, so bear with me and use your stellar intellects to fill the things that should go without saying. I know that’s sometimes hard in 2017 America, but just try. Really hard.

It is commonly accepted as a virtue in American life to be willing to have our assumptions challenged and hear other points of view. To the extent that we are willing to do that, no matter how destructive the form in which these challenge and viewpoints are offered, we are considered “reasonable”, “tolerant”, and “open” to other points of view.

In general, I am a big fan of hearing other points of view. I think it’s good to evaluate ourselves, our actions, and our ways of thinking rather than assume that we’re all good all the time or that nothing about us needs to change. This morning, however, I had a light bulb moment and realized that it’s one thing to be open to examining other points of view. That is a good thing.

It’s an altogether different thing to engage in repeated dialogue with people who have starkly different points of view from you, who disdain your perspective and whose perspective you equally disrespect.

So for example, if I want to read a thoughtful critique of another sister’s view point on marriage and family order or birth control, it is best for me to do that with the intent to read it, walk away from it and examine it without engaging in a dialog with her about it. In other words, I can read Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, consider her perspective (with which I still vehemently disagree even after reading the book) and walk away with my soul unscathed by a knock down drag out debate on some Internet forum.

Perhaps I am more cognizant as I am getting older. The husband said last night, “I still can’t believe we have three kids out of college. Where did the time go?” Things like that certainly give one pause about the importance of how she spends her time. I don’t even mind acknowledging that I am getting older because I have not -for the most part anyway- wasted my life.

It is simply healthier to have the lion’s share of our discussions on love, life, and even politics, with those who will encourage us in the values we truly believe are right. Echo chambers -particularly of the Christian variety- serve a distinct purpose.

If and when I engage in dialog with someone whom I disagree for any reason other than to truly understand or offer something to think about for the purpose of trying to help that person from a place of love rather than snobby, smug superiority, I am better off not bothering. To just keep my thoughts- and my fingers- to myself.

America: One big fun house mirror.

President Trump’s latest undignified, poor impulse control theatrics has the media trotting out the “beneath the dignity of the office” line. Indeed, before i heard any news report, I even used the words: “That is so undignified”.

All it took however, was one good cup of coffee and clarity took hold. This is who we are, and by we I mean collective America; undignified, impulse driven, show boating, shameless, and daring anyone to confront our right to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Of course we elected a president who does exactly the same.

One would certainly hope that by 70 years of age, a bit of maturity would kick in, yet I am reminded of one of my stepmother’s cardinal sayings: “Wisdom done not come from age, wisdom comes from God.”

That a media and corporate complex which relentlessly pushes exactly this type of emotion-driven, flesh-fueled approach to life would start to yell “undignified” when the man the people they service elected behaves in precisely the way they prescribe and reward crystallizes how distorted our self- images are. It’s as if we’re surrounded by fun house mirrors with no sense of how the behavior we condemn is part and parcel of American life.

This is occurring as I am reading books that touch on these themes as well. One of them is very recently published, and I have been dissecting and writing on it chapter by chapter.

The next installment includes a chapter on how unbecoming, unchaste, and embarrassing behavior is the new normal as a direct result of the current technology. The Anthony Weiner incident is used as a prime example, which speaks for itself.

For every person who understands full well that their antics are on display, there are others who find themselves having their naivete and sense of intimacy betrayed by people they thought they could trust. In a sane world, most people would refrain if only for fear of public shame, but that no longer exists either.

The other book, Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch, was published in 1978, and yet somehow, with no knowledge of what life would be like in 2017 he tapped into the pulse of what we see today. America has been headed for this, complete with a nutty, no holds barred, undignified commander in chief for quite some time.

The president’s antics are simply an extension of the way many Americans live their lives and share their thoughts; unfiltered and without reservations for all the world to see. The pause button has been disabled until after the fact and when it’s too late.

So pardon me if once again, I find my outrage meter mysteriously on the fritz at the latest round of American pearl clutching. My ironic humor meter, however, is working just fine and we got a good laugh this morning here at our house.

The bliss of ignorance in a world of pots projecting and kettles kvetching.

This is a reboot of the conversation on faith that wrestles. The first post is here.

Projection is as much a part of being human as breathing. We all do it, since we cannot help viewing things through the lens of our experiences. However, as we grow up, and particularly as we grow spiritually the desire, followed by the skill to temper that impulse, should grow as well.

This culture however, offers us every opportunity to spend our entire lives projecting our issues onto other people, judging, and engaging in smug, self-righteous finger pointing while neglecting to confront sin in our own lives. The Internet exacerbates this tendency for obvious reasons. I don’t want to park here yet, although I will return to this point. When our older girls were young I told them often:

“Respect others’ right to be different from you.”

General principles of right and wrong are one thing. Expecting that to translate into the same look for others as it does for you means you’ve overstepped your boundaries. To the extent that you need to pick someone apart over the insignificant, it reveals discomfort with yourself, your choices, and your life, regardless of claims to the contrary..

With our younger children I find a different lesson emerging more often and it’s very helpful that it can be quoted verbatim from the pages of Scripture. Paul admonishes those who judge others for the very things that they themselves do:

in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

To use a well known colloquialism: The pot calling the kettle black may annoy me, but more than that, it annoys God.

I also recently reminded them how strongly God hates our complaining, using Numbers 21 as an example. We err when we presume upon the grace we have been freely given and use it as an excuse to live a life without intention, ignoring the “minute” sins we engage in daily. Sins which we condemn in others and yet excuse in ourselves. Everywhere you look, listen and read, our culture is full of this. Complaining is the most ubiquitous.

Women complain about men complaining about women. Men complain about women who complain about men. Whites complain about blacks who complain about whites while both complain about Hispanics. Democrats complain about Republicans complaining about Democrats. Communists and Alternative Righters complain about them both. News articles and programs are speculation masquerading as facts. OpEds are mistaken for news, and we are constantly invited to point and stare at personal train wrecks made news which in years’ past we were able to live blissfully unaware.

Whole forums and platforms are chiefly dedicated to picking apart and condemning others for their views, lifestyles and choices. On and on they go. The most ironic and catchy title is one called ‘Get Off My Internets.” Christians, who should know better, have increasingly joined the fray.

I’ve made a pretty big push over the last couple of months to eliminate these kinds of things from my life, but as I noted before, old habits die hard, and it’s very hard to un-know something once you know it. None of this is to say that it is wrong to commiserate online or offer commentary on controversial topics. I have no intention of fully withdrawing.

It is, however, becoming increasingly obvious to me how much happier are the people who live blissfully ignorant; not only of news which they can do nothing about, but without a care in the world with regard to anyone but Christ’s opinion -along with those they are truly accountable to- about what they do, what they think, and how or whether they express it.

It’s one thing to understand clearly and without wavering that stealing is wrong, that lying is wrong, that divorce is bad, or that murder is evil. It’s also wise to be willing to acknowledge that not all choices are equal regardless of circumstance. These are things that we should encourage one another in so that we all come to a fuller measure of faith. Too often however, we use the worldly maxim “public knowledge means fair game” to allow ourselves a wide berth in condemning others without ever once stopping to consider how we might feel if we were in their shoes.

All of this points to something we neglect to consider. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too do our spirits. Absent the spiritual sustenance we need to think on the Beautiful, the intellectual stimulation we need to think on the True, and physical challenge required to keep us actively productive, we’re left with nothing more than spiritual death, mental junk, and physical atrophy.

This approach to life outside of eternal matters and minding our own business is greatly underrated:

don't know don't care

 

Wonder Woman fails as an empowering feminist trope.

At least it does in my opinion.

We were a family of four for most of the weekend and our twins wanted to see the new Wonder Woman flick. I was curious about it more than anything, and Benevolent Dictator went along in the interest of togetherness. He was tired, needed a nap, and slept (literally) through half the film.  Of course he has been known to doze during films he attends solely because his girls desire his proximity. This is no way offends us.

But I digress.

One would assume, given the feminist hype and press surrounding this film, that it’s a patriarchy crushing, glass ceiling shattering romp to make the suffragettes turn to one another in their graves and fist bump. One would be wrong. If there was ever a film which exemplifies the idea of feminists grasping at straws for evidence of an empowered woman, this is it.

Oh yeah..spoiler alert.

Despite the reports of grown women crying with joy during Wonder Woman’s fight scenes, there really is nothing novel here. Wonder woman is hardly a new character after all, and there have been other movies with strong, kick butt, human women in the leading roles. Those films were mostly far fetched drivel which received less commerical hype, but at least they fulfill the empowered woman trope.

How does the stellar fighting ability of the female progeny of Hippolyta, Queen of the [mythical] Amazons and Zeus, King of the [mythical] Greek gods in any way translate into something an average girls can aspire to? A goddess is portrayed as powerful.  Perhaps I am missing something because I left the theater telling my husband, “I didn’t get it”.

Despite The Guardian’s going on about Wonder Woman’s questionable sexual orientation, the central theme of her awakening is the love story between her and Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine. The only slight hint of anything resembling what this article implied was Diana Prince’s revelation that her sexual education (acquired through books on her island homeland) revealed that men while men are vital for procreation, they are not necessarily needed for pleasure. This is human sexuality 101, not female empowerment.

It makes you wonder, if this is what the film makers really wanted to convey, why Diana Prince and Steve Trevor spend a night together as a pivotal moment when their love is “sealed”, given that they were not married and procreation was not the intended aim. If she does not believe men are necessary for pleasure, and she does not want a child, what is the point of their union? It just smacked of more grasping at straws in an attempt to give professional SIW the nod they demand from Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

There are the obligatory scenes to reveal what ife was like for women in government and military settings at the dawn of the 20th century. Again, no new ground was tilled here, and it was nothing that you don’t see in any number of movies set in the early half of the 20th century.

The denoument, however, is where the feminist trope really breaks down. As Diana Prince/Wonder Woman comes to terms with the reality of human nature, she has a choice to make about who she wants to be in this complex human world. It isn’t her personal convictions or strength which drive her to make the right decision.

Rather, the audience gets to go back with her through memories of her moments with Steve, the wisdom he imparted to her, and the love he shared with her before heroically sacrificing himself to save the lives of thousands of people and instigate a moment so pivotal it turns the war toward it’s much needed end. In other words, it was the love a good (not to mention well above average) man which saves Diana from the despair that threatened to overtake her as she comes to terms with human corruption.

Like I said before, as celebratory feminist characters go, this one falls far short. They’d have done better to revamp Thelma and Louise with younger actresses.

Lest I am understood, and for those who don’t know, I have a healthy disdain for feminism and no desire to sit through a film which celebrates the notion of women empowered apart from men because girl power. As such, I was rather pleased that this movie is not at all what the left leaning press portrayed it to be.

The film itself was pretty well done. From an artistic standpoint, the visuals were nice and according to my comic book loving daughter, it stayed true to the original character. Gal Gadot is stunning, as any actress playing Wonder Woman would have to be.

The love scene between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor was reminiscent of the way it was done in eras of more propriety.  In other words, even though you know what happened, you weren’t subjected to the assault of having to watch it.

There is one scene where Chris Pine is 80% naked (not a sex scene, but still). Be warned if you’re tempted to take younger children because it’s a super hero film. DC Comics films are usually edgier than Marvel films anyway as a general rule.

If you’re looking for girl power you’ll find plenty of it, but it’s tempered. Diana Prince gushes over babies, relishes the taste of ice cream, and falls madly in love with a handsome hero. While she may not need him for physical protection,  Wonder Woman is not portrayed as a strong independent woman who don’t need no man.

I was reminded of fight scenes where one fighter taunts another with the question: “Is that all you’ve got?”

Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

Contentment with ordinary life marks you as extraordinary.

…most modern women are not even themselves. They’re grasping after some notion that they’re supposed to have moxie (when they don’t) or are hyper-sexual when they’re clearly uncomfortable with it. ~Wannabefarmwife

If not those things, they are trying however they can to be special. This is partly due to the overwhelmingly successful childhood self-esteem campaigns of the past thirty years. Some of it is due to the proliferation of platforms available for self-promotion. No small part is owed to the watering down of education which induces most people to believe they are smarter than the average bear.

Recently, Benevolent Dictator acquired new subordinates, millennials who had to be disabused of the notion that they know everything. After working primarily with older men who respect hierarchy, knowledge, skill, and problem-solving ability, it takes supernatural patience to deal with youngsters who know little yet think they know it all.

This isn’t unique to the young.  Generation Me notes the trend began in earnest earlier, with my generation in fact. The erudite concluded that the best route to stable, confident children was to convince us that we are all smart, kind, and important. Additionally, to convince children that they possess these qualities in at least equal measure to every other child, regardless of whether it was true.

The goal is to convince everyone that they possess large amounts of whatever attributes are currently deemed valuable, and to ignore or reject anyone who would insinuate otherwise as a jealous hater trying to extinguish their light. Everyone must feel good about themselves, whether they are good or not. I’ll offer examples from the 80’s onward.

I’ve read several commentaries which debunk the assertion of the 80s as the zenith of American materialism. That the lifestyles of average Joes and Janes at the time paint a starkly different picture. The materialism of the 1980s, however, was mostly of aspiration. Unlike today, television was the primary source of entertainment for most and television shows promoted lifestyles of the rich and famous as the American ideal.

The result was a people willing to pull out all the financial stops to be “middle class”. That is, the pursuit of material wealth was less the issue than the pursuit of the image that you weren’t working class, which described most Americans at the start of the 80s. To be middle class represented attainment of the ‘American Dream”. It’s a subtle difference but one with implications that extend until now.

The 90s began the education bubble and credentials  became a marker of intelligence. When I graduated high school at 17, no one assumed college was a prerequisite of success. Most of my siblings did fine without it, and expectation of my college enrollment was based on the assumption  that I was “college material”, not that college was necessary for a good life.

By the time I married 5 years later, college was something assumed necessary for a full and prosperous life. Enrollment in prepaid college programs exploded in the 90s, and “responsible parents” invested in the program. By the end of the decade, nearly everyone matriculated, although few graduated. In other words, going to college was no longer exceptional, especially as the response to the exponential increase in enrollment was to implement policies that increased graduation rates. As a result, college no longer meant you were necessarily smart. Not to worry because, in typical American fashion, the goal posts of specialness shift accordingly.

The 90s contained the last gasp of community ties and geographical connectivity. In the 2000s, the mark of superiority is less about the degree itself. Today’s bachelor’s degree is less impressive than it was 20 years ago. IQ testing and the ability to do higher math and science marked the special. This overlapped the increased exaltation of beauty and fitness, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Tech is king now and those who can navigate it, understand it and are otherwise at home with it are the people able to check off all the boxes of superiority. They can make good money, graduate college quickly from a high IQ degree field, and are “smarter” than the rest of us. To quote the theme of a hit television show marketed to girls in at attempt to lure them into STEM: Smart is the new cool.

Of course, there are some of us who despite our best efforts, will never quite *get*  Einstein’s theory of relativity, for whom the differences between a MAN and a WAN is outside of our wheelhouse. However, the other marker of being special in this era is one I alluded to before: fitness and beauty. All of us, we’re told, can accomplish this. With some blood, sweat, tears, and sufficient willpower, it’s easy to push ahead of the masses addicted to junk food and sedentary lifestyles.There are countless books, strategies, apps, and products we can partake of to help us as we work hard and achieve optimum beauty, fitness, and health. In that order.

In the interest of transparency, as I type this, I have sore triceps, lats, delts, and quadriceps from pushing myself via torture of a boot camp class. I track almost every calorie I eat; 1500 most days, and 1800 on Sundays I try to be a good steward of my  “black don’t crack” genes. I’m not against taking care of yourself nor insinuating that it isn’t important.

I am against pretending that this face of a 45-year-old mother of five, is anywhere near the level of youthful beauty young women enjoy as a result of being young. Going to irrational lengths to pretend otherwise is madness I can’t be bothered with.

This is the bill of goods women of every generation are being sold, that if we just try hard enough, we can be *hot* at any age. Rather than chase the wind, I appreciate more with each passing year that I have a man who has looks at me and sees a beautiful woman. The jig will soon be up, anyway. It’s better to embrace reality rather than delusion. There is so much grasping that I concur with the commenter quoted: most people, especially women, have no idea who they really are.

Most of us are varying degrees of average: average intelligence, looks, income, and accomplishment. We’re conditioned to believe that this is bad, but since God made us all, and called His creation good, we insult Him when we chase the shadows of the culture. We should be good stewards, rather than shallow pretenders.

We can be above average in character, in faith, in our relationships, in the way we take care of the people and things we’ve been blessed with. We can be sure not to take for granted that we have families and friends who value us beyond measure. In other words:

Contentment with ordinary life is extraordinary all on its own.

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.