Tag Archives: marriage

What Alex Haley’s Roots taught me about real Freedom

When I was a teenager, my Dad introduced me to a book that has had tremendous impact on my thinking.  I am referring to Roots by Alex Haley.  Despite the numerous historical inaccuracies presented in both the book and film adaptation, the overarching message is quite important.  It follows the plight of a 15-year old African taken to America.  In America, this character, Kunta Kinte, refuses to accept his condition as a slave.  Not even when the slave catchers removed half of his foot after an escape attempt did his desire to be free diminish.  At one point, his daughter is caught aiding another slave in an escape and is literally ripped from his arms and sold away.  Several years later, her son George gains his own freedom.  However, because the law in that state dictated that a freed slave who stayed put for more than 60 days would lose his freedom, George is faced with an incredible dilemma.  Does he become a slave again and stay with his wife and children, or keep his freedom but leave?  He asks his wife for guidance.  She levels an incredibly potent and powerful line:  “I am married to a free man.  I will never be married to a slave.  Never.”

The ultimate freedom that exists is the freedom from sin and from death.  If we are in Christ—we have that freedom now!  Being free however, doesn’t come without sacrifices.  We must give up our lives in order to live in the glory and freedom of our Lord.  The thing that frustrates me is that even though I enjoy freedom, I continually flirt with a return to slavery!  Paul talks about this as well!

Each week as I worship Him though, I am constantly reminded of the image of chains falling off my hands and feet.  It happened! I have the scars to prove it!  The song says, “I once was blind but now I see.” It’s an amazing line.  But, in my personal experience, I can tell you that I once was bound—but now I’m free.

Jesus truly is the great emancipator.  It’s hard to keep a message like that to a whisper.

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Uhh, so you know that “study” about kids raised by same sex couples…?

There is a new study out by Dr. Simon R. Crouch at The University of Melbourne in Australia, which was published June 21 by the journal BMC Public Health. Here are how a few news organizations headlined it in their subsequent articles:

 

CBS News: “Children of same-sex couples healthy, well-adjusted, study finds

 

NBC News: “Children of Same-Sex Parents Are Healthier: Study

 

The Huffington Post: “Children Of Gay Parents Are Happier And Healthier Than Their Peers, New Study Finds

 

Vox: “Largest-ever study of same-sex couples’ kids finds they’re better off than other children

 

Well, it seems pretty obvious from those that children raised by same sex parents turn out; well, better. Right? Cased closed. I mean after all, this is science. Anyone who disputes such findings is a proverbial “flat earther.” This is 2014.

 

Well, I don’t want to sound like a homophobe who just walked into a New Jersey bathhouse, but—I don’t know how I feel about this.

The study itself puts forth that children raised by homosexual parents tested better in areas of general behavior, general health, and family cohesion than the rest of the children in Australia. Another area measured by the study was how often the parents themselves felt stigmatized for being homosexual. The study purports that a high number of stigmas were negatively correlated with measurement of the children’s physical activity, mental health, and family cohesion. Here is the author himself:

 

“It is liberating for parents to take on roles that suit their skills rather than defaulting to gender stereotypes, where mum is the primary caregiver and dad the primary breadwinner. Our research suggests that abandoning such gender stereotypes might be beneficial to child health.”

 

In short, homosexual parents are better—and better yet—homosexual parents who have never had their objective view of human sexuality objectively adjudicated, seem to raise happier kids.

 

This is something we already know though. The entire idea of marriage is a fraud. After all, gay marriage isn’t about redefining marriage, it is about destroying it. Do you ever wonder as to why the same societal groups who assured us in the Seventies that marriage was either a “meaningless piece of paper” or institutionalized rape, are now insisting it’s a “universal human right?”  Just like Bill Ayers learned that destroying the core institutions of society is easier from the inside rather than setting off bombs, these shrewd people have figured out exactly what to say.

 

This study is concerned with fairness and with good triumphing over evil. Those are always the liberal progressive motivations and because they masque their agendas in these terms, they always have the moral platform. You have to admit, for a great deal of America’s history, our country was disfigured by idiotic rules about who could sit where on buses or lunch counters. The overall opinion today is rightly: Anyone can sit anywhere. If a man identifies as a woman, why can’t he sit on a women’s toilet in the women’s latrine? If a woman wants to be a soldier and sit in a foxhole, let her do it! If a mediocre high school student who can barely make it through a Dr. Seuss story wants to sit in an elite college classroom, that is only fair. For many Americans, the idea of rights have taken on the same idiotic character as adolescent sports: Everyone must be allowed to participate and everyone who participates gets a trophy.

 

In the name of fairness, we should see what is fair or unfair about this study. It’s only fair to do so.

 

One of the first problems is the contradictory reporting that we have seen from the author: Ironically and in contradiction of his own research, in 2012 Crouch was promoting same-sex parenting by quoting “longitudinal research from the United Kingdom” that supposedly shows that children with lesbian mothers have “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families; he also suggested that studies from the United States showed that children with lesbian mothers “were more connected at school.” The contradictions continued in his 2014 study when Crouch emphasized concerns “about the impact that stigma and discrimination could potentially have… in countries where there’s a lot of perceived stigma — most notably, the United States.” He went on to assert, “Children face definite challenges coping with homophobic attitudes.” (Yet, he claims, they suffer no ill effects!)

 

Boston University Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel also claims that the gender and “sexual orientation” of parents is irrelevant to children’s well-being, saying that “many studies have demonstrated” that children are much more affected by the “relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”

 

Knowing this, shouldn’t we ask the question: If homosexual parents in the Crouch study see a lot of sigma, how is possible that their children have higher outcomes in some categories than children from heterosexual families? If these parents undergo a serious sense of sigma, and they think that the culture is doing the same to their kids, how can they honestly report a strong sense of security in their kids?

 

A couple issues that should be raised by all the news organizations posting this study—but aren’t:

 

First, This study did not randomly sample children. You say “big deal;” but, to make a conclusion about a population, scientific research needs a large sample of the population—a random sample or representative sample. This is not what we see here.  The Crouch analysis seems to be a study that used a convenience sample—not a random sample. The participants in the study were recruited specifically through LGBT listervs and through ads posted in LGBT-friendly press. There was no random sampling.

 

The sample engaged 315 parents of 500 children. 80 percent of the children had their study completed by a female. Only 18 percent had a male parent. The remaining parents described themselves as “other gendered.” What does that even mean? “Other gendered?” That is for another day.  Knowing that, isn’t it strange that the study says: “Every effort was made to recruit a representative sample, and from the limited data available about same-sex parent families it appears that the [study’s] sample does reflect the general context of these families in contemporary Australia.”

 

Now, you have to admit that convenience samples can be important when probability samples are hard to come by. I grant the need of convenience samples in testing, but, we should be careful about drawing conclusions about a general population based on such a sample.

 

The second problem is that the study didn’t compare homosexual parents to biological parents.

 

Previous studies have shown that kids do best when they are raised by their biological parents and those parents are married. Instead of comparing these children to children raised by biological parents, the researchers instead compared its children to the general population. The general population includes single parents, step parents, foster parents, and even other same-sex parents.  I think it is a reach to say that children raised by homosexual parents have better or worse lives than children raised in traditional households.  This seems obvious, but the next problem is in the recording of data itself. The study relied upon parent-reported outcomes. The results are based upon what the parents say. Now, the parent reported measures were used ubiquitously—even the “general population” folks reported in this manner. The problem is, if an LGBT person knew what they were volunteering for, wouldn’t it follow that some of these parents might overstate their outcomes at a higher level than those with no dog in the hunt?

 

It just so happens that this study was conducted while Australia is going through a national debate on the definition of marriage. Part of that debate obviously includes raising children. To the government in Australia, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. Traditional marriage advocates argue rightly that this is the best institutional structure suited for raising kids.

It is in the interest of gay marriage advocates to show this to be false. Those who participated in the study understood this more than likely. Is it hard to imagine not lying, but perhaps, inflating results? Do you think that perhaps homosexuals raising children who had bad outcomes may have been hesitant to report honestly or even participate in the study at all?

Perhaps the biggest problem with this study is that using probability samples, or random samples that actually represent the population yield poorer outcomes for gay parents than this one.  There are 2 recent studies that did use probability samples and showed some poor outcomes for children of gays and lesbians.

 

The New Family Structures Study at the University of Texas reported that participants who reported that at least one parent had a same-sex relationship had poor outcomes along a range of variables. Some of these variables included the potential to be depressed, unemployed, have more sex partners and report negative impressions of their childhood.

 

Similarly, a study published last December by economist Douglas W. Allen took a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census and showed that children from homosexual families were less likely to graduate from high school than children raised by heterosexual couples and even single parents.

 

The honest truth is that the issue of homosexual parenting is highly sensitive and highly politicized. What I think we tend to see is left wing media trying to exaggerate the findings and conservative media reporting the research that confirms their position.

I think there are distinct differences between the way all these groups, Crouch included, report their findings. For one, Allen and UT didn’t report their findings as conclusive. The issue of gay parenting is tough in part, because it is a new phenomenon. It has really only recently become culturally accepted. Surely these studies need more research, large and more random sampling—and frankly, more time. We need to see what happens when these kids grow up and become working adults. We need to then be able to compare. This is precisely the kind of thing that Crouch and his team did not say, but is what UT and Allen said.

 

For the time being, research has shown that biological, two-parent households provide, on average, the best outcomes for children compared to all other family types. Additional research has demonstrated the unique contributions of mothers and fathers to child development. (One study, for instance, found that fatherlessness harms the brain.) These studies should be sufficient to at least raise suspicion of the studies suggesting that kids raised by parents of the same gender have the same, or better outcomes as kids raised by both a mom and a dad.  The social scientist who report that there is no difference are making far reaching generalizations based on questionable data. It seems like they justify their position through the construction of their own data, rather than letting the raw data inform their position.

 

In his discussion of the findings, Crouch notes (without providing evidence) that same-sex parents “construct their parenting roles more equitably than heterosexual parents.” He laments rightly that studies like his “are fraught with problems” (though his fans get livid at the suggestion that there might be problems associated with the study) and notes that the parents’ level of education is skewed to higher education — 73 percent have at least an undergraduate degree, with nearly half (46 percent) holding graduate degrees. Income level, too, is skewed, with 81 percent earning at least $60,000 and more than a quarter earning more than $100,000, nearly 20 percent earning $150,000 to $249,999, and 14 percent earning $250,000 plus. The author notes the significance of the differences in education and income; both he and others note that having more lesbian index parents and a shortage of male ones also significantly skews the data.

Perhaps the biggest criticism made by the left toward the more conservative studies is that they should be dismissed because they are run by conservative Christians. That would be worth looking at until you notice that Crouch himself, is a gay man raising children with his partner. Why wont the left denounce the findings because the author is personally invested in the results?

 

So, that being said, here are eight questions that I think should be asked:

 

  1. Considering Crouch’s assertion that convenience samples “are fraught with problems,” why is it that many supporters of this study become livid at the suggestion that there might be problems associated with the study?

 

  1. In 2012 Crouch was promoting (http://theconversation.com/dont-believe-the-hype-kids-with-same-sex-parents-are-well-adjusted-6998) same-sex parenting by quoting “longitudinal research from the United Kingdom.” This research was supposed to show that children with lesbian mothers have “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families. He went on to suggest that studies from the United States showed that children with lesbian mothers “were more connected at school.” If these children “were more connected at school,” doesn’t it follow that their “social acceptance, close friendships and peer relationships” that are “no different” from other families—are indeed different?

 

 

  1. In this 2014 study, Crouch emphasizes concerns “about the impact that stigma and discrimination could potentially have… in countries where there’s a lot of perceived stigma — most notably, the United States (Strange that he didn’t mention your pick of any number of Islamic countries).” After saying this, Crouch went on to assert, “Children face definite challenges coping with homophobic attitudes.” So are there ill effects or not?

 

  1. I read where Boston University Professor of Pediatrics Benjamin Siegel also claims (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/07/children-of-same-sex-couples-are-happier-and-healthier-than-peers-research-shows/) that the gender and “sexual orientation” of parents is irrelevant to children’s well-being, saying that “many studies have demonstrated” that children are much more affected by the “relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.” So, with that being said–Knowing this, wouldn’t it be wise to ask this question: If homosexual parents in the Crouch study see a lot of stigma, how is possible that their children have higher outcomes in some categories than children from heterosexual families? If these parents undergo a serious sense of sigma, and they think that the culture is doing the same to their kids, how can they honestly report a strong sense of security in their kids.

 

  1. While I think there is a need for the study, why do you think it is that the study didn’t compare homosexual parents to biological parents? This is obviously the dichotomy they intend us to consider. Previous studies have shown that kids do best when they are raised by their biological parents and those parents are married. Instead of comparing these children to children raised by biological parents, the researchers instead compared the children to the general population. The general population includes single parents, both heterosexual and homosexual convicted felons, both heterosexual and homosexual parents from a variety of economic or religious “castes,” step parents, foster parents, and even OTHER same-sex parents. Considering this, don’t you think it is a reach to say that children raised by homosexual parents have better or worse lives than children raised in traditional households? This wasn’t what the study looked at.

 

 

  1. What about the recording of data itself. The study relied upon parent-reported outcomes. The results are based upon what the parents said in their reporting. I do understand, and grant the fact that the parent reported measures were used ubiquitously—even the “general population” folks reported in this manner. The problem is, if a homosexual parent knew what they were volunteering for, wouldn’t it follow that some of these parents might overstate their outcomes at a higher level than those with no dog in the hunt?

 

  1. In a similar vein, it just so happens that this study was conducted while Australia is going through a national debate on the definition of marriage. Part of that debate obviously includes the issue of raising children. To the government in Australia currently, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman. Traditional marriage advocates argue rightly that this is the best institutional structure suited for raising kids. It is in the interest of gay marriage advocates to show this to be false? Those who participated in the study understood this more than likely, right? I am not accusing anyone of prevarication, but it hard to imagine inflating results? Do you think that perhaps homosexuals raising children who had bad outcomes may have been hesitant to report honestly or even participate in the study at all? I mean, isn’t this what the advocates of Neo-Darwinian theory like Dawkins, Dennett, PZ Meyer and their ilk say in denunciation to those who are proponents of ID Theory? “You guys aren’t real scientists. You are just putting together junk science in an attempt to keep prayer out of schools!?” So in one area, it is ok to potentially inflate results, but in another, even the non-evidenced accusation of it can destroy careers. Couldn’t someone on the other side of the homosexual parenting debate say: “Look at that study. It was self reported by folks who have a dog in the hunt! It is just junk science being propagated to keep right wing evangelical Christians from spreading their view of marriage on the campus!?”

 

 

  1. In talking with a friend of mine who happens to be homosexual, he rejected my citing of a study put out by Mark Regnerus at UT Austin (that shows data favoring traditional marriage being the best situation for parenting) because in his words: “He is biased and fudged his data. After all, he is a conservative Catholic.” For a few minutes I didtn know what to say, but then I replied, “Crouch is a homosexual, and he is raising his children with his partner. Are you willing to denounce this study because the author is personally invested in the results?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happiness, The Christian Faith, and Why We Insist on Hurting Ourselves

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Would you say that purpose of the Christian life to ultimately achieve happiness?  Is God ultimately concerned with making us happy?  Think about it like this:  Many Christians will say, “I was unhappy, but when I came to Jesus He brought me joy.” Or, “I have found happiness because I have found Christ.”  I have even heard, “Come to Jesus if you want to find happiness.”  These statements aren’t bad in and of themselves, but, the purpose of following Jesus isn’t to make ourselves happy.  They are means to an end, not an end in and of themselves.  C.S. Lewis, the English writer once quipped that a man can be made happy by alcoholic beverage; he doesn’t need God for this.  If our only reason for coming to God is to find happiness, this is a worship that is based in hedonism.  If we are fixed ultimately on serving ourselves, this is a form of idolatry.

Could you imagine this situation?

Let’s supposing, I have been away for a while on a trip, and when I come home, I stop at a local floral store.  I buy my wife her favorite arrangement of flowers, a card, and chocolates.  On my way home I call a babysitter unbeknownst to my wife and arrange for them to watch our child so that we can go out to dinner upon my return home.  When I arrive home, I knock on the door—and when my wife opens the door, I say nothing.  Instead, I just present the flowers to her.  Her response will be something like, “John, you shouldn’t have!”  She will respond immediately out of happiness.  My reply to this would be, “I know I didn’t have to, but I love seeing you happy. I know how happy flowers make you, so I wanted to get them for you.”  Guys, if you are single—and you haven’t employed this level of gesture, this could be a clue as to your singleness!

Now, let’s consider it this way:

What if I stopped at the floral shop—arranged for dinner—came home—presented the flowers—but this time, I added this:  “I got you these flowers because I know it makes you happy.  I am happy when I see you happy.  In fact, I have arranged for a babysitter so that you and I can go out to eat tonight and spend an evening alone.  There is no one else I would rather be with tonight than you.”

What if her response to my proposal was: “No one you would rather be with?!  Why are you always thinking about yourself?  You are so selfish!”

This is absurd.  I could almost guarantee you that if you employed the same rhetoric and action that we saw in the second example, you would not get that response.

Why?

It is the nature of love to delight one’s self in the joy of the other.  My gleaning of happiness out of the happiness of my wife is not an act of selfishness.  This is the nature of love.  There is a distinction between loving to do something and loving to have something done for you.  If our service to God is done because we delight ourselves in God, we will truly be happy.  If we only find happiness in what He will do for us, the moment His will doesn’t match up with our plan, we will feel estranged.  If our entire faith is based on our own happiness, it will not weather any storms.

So if our happiness doesn’t come from gratification through God serving us, it must come from us serving God—willingly.

Serving is a key theme of Jesus’ own ministry.  The Bible says in Mark 10 that

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

He delighted himself in the joy of the Father.  Look at this:  The Son served the Father.  In the Son serving the Father, He delighted Himself in the joy of the Father.  What was the joy of the father?  That his creation could be freed from sin.

Happiness is an elusive thing when it is an end in itself.  You may be aware of the current state of global financial markets and all that have surrounded economic collapses in the West.  Do you know at the root level why this has happened?  Simply, because people are making myopic choices—or they make choices that are only based on short-term fulfillment.

Think about it—people do what they do because they think it will make them happy.  If someone does what they do because they think it will make them miserable, I think you should seek help for them.  Look—happiness is superficial and temporary at best when it is based on finding things in this world that are meaningful.

Are you familiar with Joseph Stalin?  A story is told by his daughter about when he was the Russian dictator.  Someone asked him once, how he could ensure people would follow him once he had employed all his cruelness on them.  To this, he replied with calling for a chicken.  He took the chicken and plucked out all of its feathers and then returned it to the ground.  He then threw bread crumbs on the ground and the chicken came to his feet and began to eat.  Stalin told the questioner that if you are the source of food for those whom you torture, they will never leave your feet, despite the mistreatment.  Are we any different today?  Now, granted we don’t have Joseph Stalin, but we do have a tormentor.  Sin is anything that we do that deviates from God’s purpose in our lives.  The word sin in the Bible doesn’t only refer to evil things we do, but it also describes a power that can control us and take us captive.  Satan torments us, yet, because we desire our idea of happiness, we are willing to follow him.  How is this analysis incorrect?  It’s not.

Our idea of happiness is completely wrong.  When we desire happiness, at the expense of doing God’s will, we are not seeking happiness.  Instead, we are seeking misery.  Who knowingly does this?  This is myopic choice.  You know, if you look at a modern economy textbook today, it doesn’t seem to say that the idea of a rational consumer exists.  On the contrary, it will say that all consumers today are myopic in nature.  This says a lot.

I was at a hair salon once, and the lady cutting my hair was the owner—I knew this because at one point, she turned to the lady next to her and said, “business is good, but there has to be more to life than that.”  Now—I am a sort of evangelist, and I love apologetics.  This doesn’t mean that I evangelize people and then apologize to them for doing it.  On the contrary it means, I give evidences or reasons for my faith.  This was a golden moment.  I caught her eye in the mirror and said, “If you ask me, we aren’t made happy in life by what we acquire, but instead, by what we appreciate.”  She put down her scissors and walked off.  She came back and produced a notepad and a pen and said, “You couldn’t say that again could you?”  So I repeated myself.  She wrote it down frantically.  As she was writing I went on—I said, “The problem that most people have is not that they have nothing to be grateful for, but instead they live their lives as if they have no one to be grateful to.”  She put down the scissors again and asked me to repeat it.  Now—this turned into an hour-long haircut!  I don’t have an hour-long hairstyle, I just have hair.  This was very interesting.

I then asked her if she had every loved someone but wasn’t able to express it.  She replied in the affirmative and told me how trapped that made her feel.  I went on to share with her what C.S. Lewis says about that very thing.  I told her once we are able to share that love with the other, it liberates us from our own monotony.  She agreed.  We then talked about sin and how it consumes us.  She asked me an interesting question—she said, “Im pregnant.  The problem I have is, how do I bring a baby into such an evil world?”  I told her that she had raised a great question—but then stealing a line from Ravi Zacharias, I said, “You are right when you point out the evil outside, but what about the evil inside you?”  She again affirmed that she was aware of this but didn’t know what to do about it.  She said to me, “Its like I know what I do is wrong, but I do it anyways.  I want to do right, but I can’t.  I just seem trapped in myself.  I need someone else to help me.”  I looked at her in the mirror and exclaimed, “You are saying you need a—savior?”  No lie—she looked at me and said, “oooh that’s a good one.  Savior.  I like that.”  I mean, face it—we don’t go around saying words like savior a lot.  unless you have grown up in the church, when will you use this word?

I then went on to talk to her about God and how he hates sin.  I told her that there will be a time when God will judge the world—and that the ultimate question is what have we done with our sin.  She seemed perplexed.  She asked how we could be rid of sin, if we are trapped by it.  I then told her about Jesus and how God was fully merciful but yet fully just.  I told her about how Jesus paid the penalty of death that we deserved—and has provided a way for us to be free from sin.  Our conversation ended with me saying, “You cant sit on the fence forever.  You have to decide, what are you doing to do with Jesus?”

Now—I went back 2 weeks later.  I have never had hair this short in my life.  As soon as I walked in, she said, “John, I will cut your hair!”  So she sat me down, and put an apron on me.  She asked me, “Do you remember our conversation?”  I told her that I could vaguely remember it.  She then said something interesting:  She said, “I went straight home and told my husband everything you said.”  I thought to myself, “Oh this is interesting—yikes.”  I asked her what he said in reply.  At this, her face dropped.  She said, “He told me I was preaching at him!”

Of course she was.  He gets home from a long day at work and sits down at the table.  She produces a notepad and proceeds to say:

“You know that in life you aren’t made happy by what you acquire, but what you appreciate.  It isn’t that you have nothing to be grateful for, but you live your life as if you have no one to be grateful to.  The reason you feel trapped is because you are incapable of expressing love.  You are both enslaved to and engaged in evil.  The only way that you can get out of this evil existence is to find Jesus.  If you don’t find him, there will be a judgment and you will have to pay for your sin.  I ask you, what will you do with Jesus?”  

Why did she respond graciously, but he responded closed off?  Simply put, because she was asking questions.  He wasn’t.

A fish doesn’t know it is wet, but it is.  You and I don’t realize we are dry, but we are.  People who are apart from God do not understand the concept of happiness in a Christian sense.  It is an idea that is totally alien to them.  They are engaged in sin, and they do not know it.

It is interesting—I read a book a while back by this guy who is the Chichele Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford. To be honest with you, the reason I read it was because I wanted to be able to say, “I read a book by the Chichele Professor of Economic History at Oxford.” That title alone was worth reading the book!

The book is called The Challenge of Affluence. In it, he basically says that the perpetual flow of new rewards in our Western affluent economy undermines our capacities to actually enjoy them.

In other words, when you don’t have a lot of money, you are limited by scarcity. You can’t do everything you want. You can’t buy everything you want. You can’t do it. Scarcity is a natural regulator.  However, in affluence, scarcity becomes scarce. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want to.  The rub is, no matter what psychometric study you use—and they are all uniform—it doesn’t seem to matter—they all agree: In the presence of affluence, Happiness seems to decrease.

In affluence, the things that naturally limit us, disciple us, and train us, are taken away. The danger is we indulge in everything, we take pleasure in nothing—and we get caught running on a hedonic treadmill.  It seems as if we are running faster and faster to get the same amount of pleasure, and every amount of pleasure that we get must become more extreme just to meet our need for our increased tolerance for pleasure. This pattern becomes self-destructive and some individuals at the top actually lose it altogether from time to time as a result.

In the face of plenty, the well-off increase their satisfaction, not by increasing their consumption but by limiting it—not by increasing the pace, but by slowing it down.

The kind of moral command God has given us for life, provides that very framework.

Now, the thing to realize is this: breaking that framework doesn’t make us happy. There may be a short-term lift, but a long-term problem is bound to follow.  We may experience what seems to be a short-term feeling of happiness, but in the long run—we will eventually lose out.

Now—economists talk about a principle called Myopic Choice. If you look at economics—most models rest upon the ‘premise’ that basically says that the study of economics could be modeled in terms of rational consumers. Milton Friedman, the brilliant economist, said that a rational consumer is someone who is ‘aware of their motives, options, goods before then, and the consequences.’  You could call this being bilaterally and voluntarily informed. The problem is–if you pick up an economy text today in a university, it will basically imply that there is no such thing as a rational consumer. It will say we make only myopic choices.  A myopic choice means we know our choices are bad, but we make them anyways.  We know that printing money is not wise, but we do it regardless.  We know raising a debt limit is fatuous, but we do it.  The short-term gain outweighs the price of the long-term reward.

Why do you think we sin? We are convinced that the short-term pleasure outweighs the price of the long-term reward. “Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.” It isn’t our pain that lets us down. It is our constant drive toward pleasure that destroys us.

When we break God’s moral law–we get hurt.  We hurt ourselves while proving His law in the process.

Do you know why many people are so unhappy and experience so much hurt in their lives rather than happiness?  Simply ,because they are trying to do the impossible.  They are trying to break God’s moral law.  It  is impossible.

If I asked you to put a cape on, draw a red ‘S’ on you chest and go to the top of a tall building and jump off—would you break the law of gravity?  No.  You would break something else while proving the law of gravity in the process.  It is in this same way we are unable to break God’s moral law.  When we try—we get hurt—and we hurt those around us.  Do you remember what happened to Jonah when he tried to run from God?  Not only did he get hurt, but the innocent sailors around him got hurt as well.  God has warned us—if you continue to live like this, you will break yourself—yet we do it anyways.  Myopic choice.

So, where does happiness come in?  We have to understand that happiness isn’t about us.  Happiness comes from God—and it is a derivative of our willingness to serve Him.  When we learn to disconnect ourselves and our desires from our definition of happiness, happiness will take on an entirely new definition.  It isn’t about us anymore—but it becomes about God.  When we delight ourselves in God, there is no greater measure of happiness available.

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Does Sin Exist?

We live in period of history in which nothing is wrong, well except to claim unequivocally that there is such a thing as wrong.  We live in a society that that feels that nothing is off limits, well except the idea that there are things that are off limits.  We happen to live in a world that dogmatically asserts that what we do is what we are wired to do.  That is, in the words of Richard Dawkins, it is our DNA that dictates what we do, “and we just dance to its music.”  We have moved a long way from Flip Wilson’s, “The devil made me do it.”  Now, we are prisoners of our own material body.  My DNA made me do it!

Before you you go believing this rubbish, let me just plant a word of doubt and skepticism in your mind (and yes you can be skeptical of the self styled freethinking skeptics).  When someone says that you are pre-wired to behave a certain way based on your DNA or molecular makeup, what they are saying is:  You are determined.  Determinism is the view that there is no free will and that we are captive to time, matter, and chance.  In a sense, it is the belief that Darwinian evolution is in business, and it will do what it likes–including controlling your behavior and thoughts.  Here is the problem.  If one holds to determinism, by definition, they did not come to hold this view based on weighing the pro’s and con’s for the argument.  They weren’t persuaded rationally to believe that determinism is true.  Instead, determinism would purport that they just hold the view because they were determined to do so.  If we are determined to do the things we do and believe the things we believe, how can we rationally affirm anything?  How can determinism be rationally affirmed if we are predetermined to believe it?

Don’t buy this stuff. Well, that is, if you are determined not to buy it, don’t buy it.  If you are determined to buy it, you have no choice. (please sense the sarcasm)

 


 

Now, the more interesting question is,does sin exist? Is man by nature good, or is man evil? These are questions that must be answered.  And trust me, regardless what worldview a person holds–whether they are a theist, atheist–whatever–they have a position on these issues.

Consider a story:

“Two brothers were notorious around town for being as crooked in their business dealings as they could possibly be. That notwithstanding, they continued to progress from wealth to greater wealth until suddenly one of the brothers died. The surviving brother found himself in search of a minister who would be willing to put the finishing touches to the funeral. He finally made an offer to a minister that was hard for him to refuse. “I will pay you a great sum, he said, “if you will just do me one favor. In eulogizing my brother, I want you to call him a ‘saint,’ and if you do, I will give you a handsome reward.” The minister, a shrewd pragmatist, agreed to comply. Why not? The money could help put a new roof on the church.

When the funeral service began, the sanctuary was filled by all the important business associates who had been swindled through the years by these two brothers. Unaware of the deal that had been made for the eulogy, they were expecting to be vindicated by the public exposure of the man’s character.

At last the much-awaited moment arrived, and the minister spoke. “The man you see in the coffin was a vile and debauched individual. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did every dirty, rotten, unconscionable thing you can think of. But compared to his brother here, he was a saint.”

Every group of students I tell this joke to laugh out loud.  Why?  What is it about this story that resonates with all who hear it, regardless of cultural background or place of birth? Why can a stadium of people hear this story through their respective linguistic interpreter, and all at once let out a seismic roar of laughter at the punch line? The answer is quite simple. We are all aware of what man can be at his worst. We know the evil that resides within all of us and what it can do if allowed to prevail. If this was not a common understanding, there would be no laughter. Am I wrong?

I am reminded of the great English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote in the first volume of his two-volume biography, a story that dealt with sin.

Working as a journalist in India, he left his residence one evening to go to a nearby river for a swim. As he entered the water, across the river he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come to have her bath. Muggeridge impulsively felt the allurement of the moment, and temptation stormed into his mind. He had lived with this kind of struggle for years but had somehow fought it off in honor of his commitment to his wife, Kitty. On this occasion, however, he wondered if he could cross the line of marital fidelity. He struggled just for a moment and then swam furiously toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. His mind fed him the fantasy that stolen waters would be sweet, and he swam the harder for it. Now he was just two or three feet away from her, and as he emerged from the water, any emotion that may have gripped him paled into insignificance when compared with the devastation that shattered him as he looked at her.  Muggeridge writes:

“She came to the river and took off her clothes and stood naked, her brown body just caught by the sun.  I suddenly went mad.  There came to me that dryness in the back of my throat; that feeling of cruelty and strength and wild unreasonableness which is called passion.  I darted with all the force of swimming I had to where she was, and then nearly fainted for she was old and hideous and her feet were deformed and turned inwards and her skin was wrinkled and, worst of all, she was a leper.  You have never seen a leper I suppose; until you have seen one you do not know the worst that human ugliness can be.  This creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask, and the next thing I knew was that I was swimming along in my old way in the middle of the stream—yet trembling…It was the kind of lesson I needed.  When I think of lust now I think of this lecherous woman.” 

The experience left Muggeridge trembling and muttering under his breath, “What a dirty lecherous woman!” But then the rude shock of it dawned upon him—it was not the woman who was lecherous; it was his own heart.  He was the lecher.

Muggeridge himself admitted the real shock that morning was not the leper, as mind-banding as that would be. Rather, it was the condition of his own heart, dark, with appetites overpowering his weak will. He writes,

“If only I could paint, I’d make a wonderful picture of a passionate boy running after that and call it: ‘The lusts of the flesh.’”

Muggeridge, who was himself a latecomer to the faith, would go one to say,

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”

Are instances like this reserved for the elite caste of the most lecherous and morally repugnant individuals in society? Hardly. Think back to the great figures we know from the Bible. David, a man after God’s own heart. He let sin overcome him and it let to lust, immorality, deceit, murder, prevarication, and dishonor. Why? All because of sin that was not dealt with properly. Think of King Saul. Perhaps Saul is a man who could have been the greatest King to ever live. What was his problem? Pride. He could not stand the fact that David had slain the giant, and as a result the songs were being sung about him, and not himself. This sin led to problems. Remember Jonah? His sin of disobedience didn’t only affect him, it affected all of the other men on board the ship!  If you remember, it took the pagan captain of the ship to get Jonah to pray to God!  You know things are messed up when sin takes control of your life to the point that unbelievers are willing to ask YOU to try God out.

I was once talking to a woman about the Christian view of the world, and she admitted,

“Being a woman about to give birth, I do wonder to myself how anyone could bring a baby into such an evil world.”

I responded to her,

“You are right about the evil out there, but what about the evil in us–in you?”

You know, the Bible refers to sin not only as being something that we do, but also as a power that controls and consumes us.  It isn’t that we do sinful things, but rather, that we are sinful.

Sin is a problem!

 


 

Fast forward to our modern age. Sin has become a problem “no more.” Sin is now seen by the postmodernists, liberals, and relativists as merely a concoction and archaic holdover from fundamental Christian dogmas.  Jacques Derrida, Michael Foucault, and their ilk will tell you there there is no absolute truth (though didn’t they just state an absolute in making their claim?). There is no absolute truth; so, how could there be something called sin?  It was Foucault who noted,

‘To die for the love of boys: what could be more beautiful?’

and,

‘all the rest of my life I’ve been trying to do intellectual things that would attract beautiful boys.’

 

Isnt it a shame that a man could admit these things, but his biographer only refer to them as the “passions of Foucault?”  This isn’t passion, this is depravity.

 

This refusal of sin as a reality affects more than just sexual freedom, however.

C.E.M. Joad once noted that

“It is because we rejected the doctrine of original sin that we on the [political] Left were always being disappointed”

Unfortunately for the Left,  this is right (pun intended).  Why is it that we can erect all-powerful legislation and control the lives of all citizens, yet still stand in complete shock when something tragic happens at the hands of human beings?  I posit that it doesn’t matter how many laws are instituted.  If man doesn’t realize that sin is real, and that evil is a reality, then I agree with Dr. Johnson who lamented:

“All the laws of heaven and earth are insufficient to restrain them from their crimes.”

 

I think G.K. Chesterton can teach us a few things when it comes to this issue of objective sin.  First of all, objective morals do exist.  Chesterton once noted that,

“Though we may differ over whether or not abortion is virtuous, we all agree that they should be performed with sterilized instruments.”

That quote may seem a bit harsh, but think about it.  Two people may disagree over the virtue of abortion–that is to say, whether it is right or wrong.  What they do not disagree over is the medical necessity of universal precautions.  Why are precautions universal if there werent a moral mandate to take care of the patient because–well–life matters?

This is the essence of the medical mistake.

G.K. Chesterton taught us that in medicine we all agree on what a well person is, but disagree on what sick is. In social and political theory however, we agree on what a malady looks like, but tear our eyes out over what a well-functioning society looks like.  The problem is, politicians and social critics continually use medical terminology to talk about social issues–“The health care situation in this country is sick.  It needs to be reformed.”  OR  “The country is sick–vote for my policies, and we can return it to health.”  This is a fallacy says Chesterton.  How can they talk about what ‘well’ is in absolute terms, if the idea of well is the most disputed issue in all of academia?  Only in medicine can this terminology be used.   It is a fact that a man may have pain in his leg and walk into a hospital, and due to medical necessity, come out with one leg less. Never will that man walk into a hospital and in a moment of creative rapture, walk out of the hospital, having being given one leg more.

Absolutes do exit.  Wrong exits.  Good exists.  We just refuse to say what it is.

I believe that Oliver Sacks, an M.D. who is no Christian said it best in his blockbuster book, Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness-and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost; and one day, perhaps, we will suddenly find it. And this will be the miracle, the millennium !”

Did you understand that?  Isn’t that interesting?  Billions of dollars have been spent on research–and here we are–stuck at Genesis 3.

Along those lines, here is an interesting quote from the renowned professor of psychology; and one time president of the American Psychological Association, Hobart Mowrer. This man was also an atheist who took his own life in his seventies:

“For several decades we psychologists looked upon the whole matter of sin and moral accountability as a great incubus and acclaimed our liberation from it as epoch making. But at length we have discovered that to be free in this sense, that is, to have the excuse of being sick rather than sinful, is to court the danger of also becoming lost… In becoming amoral, ethically neutral and free, we have cut the very roots of our being, lost our deepest sense of selfhood and identity, and with neurotics, themselves, we find ourselves asking, “Who am I, what is my deepest destiny, what does living mean?”

What is the solution?  The modern man has a solution for what the archaic man calls sin. That solution is education.  Notice that the boundaries of this debate are enforced by the self styled intellectual caste.  Is this really the way things should be?  Wasn’t Oliver Wendell Holmes correct when he stated, “The life of the law is logic not experience”?

Contrary to the beliefs of modern utopianists, education does not change the way people behave. This has been exemplified by various instances of white collar crime where ivy league university graduates are the ones committing the crimes. What then is the difference between the common street criminal and the thoroughly educated high class criminal? Method and magnitude! The common street criminal will employ crude weapons to steal a car from the other end of town. The educated criminal will employ his academic degrees to gain prominence and steal millions of dollars from the corporation that he runs. The uneducated criminal will break into a house and rape a woman. The educated criminal will use position and power to rape a nation.

As D.L. Moody put it,

“If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track.”

It is a snobbish assumption that the ignorant are the dangerous criminals. The most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. All education does is to make the criminal more sophisticated.

The only solution to sin can be found in the person of Christ. Listen to what an the avowed skeptic, E.H. Lecky had to say on the matter:

“It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has not been only the highest pattern of virtue, but also the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortions of moralists.”

G.K. Chesterton said that original sin is as “practical as potatoes.” We may try to deny it, overlook it, or re-describe it, but the fact remains. We are capable of many kinds of evil. The diseases of the body are not nearly as hideous and grotesque as the diseases of the soul.

It is not merely external behaviors that vex our souls, but our internal intentions as well. Jesus explained this clearly when he said that if we lust after a woman we commit adultery with her in our hearts; that if we are unforgiving of our brother, it is like murdering him. Jesus brings ethics from the social sphere to the personal one by showing how intentions can be just as wicked as actions.

Have we taken stock of our soul recently? Have we sensed the nuances of evil in our own hearts? We need to stand guard today, and every day, with humility that we are capable of terrible evil. And at the same time, we need to avoid those things that draw us into it. Sin starts at the heart level and works its way outward.

Comparatively, leprosy on the body is not nearly as ugly as the pockmarks of sin on the soul. The good news is that Christ has broken the power of both and asks us to begin eternity now by building a soul in this world appropriate for our glorified body in the next.

How do we find the answers?  What worldview gives us a hope? Ravi Zacharias gives us an interesting method:

First, there are 3 tests that a worldview must pass.  It must be:  1)Logically consistent (its teachings cannot be self-contradictory), 2)Empirically Adequate (its teachings must match with what we see in reality, 3) experientially relevant (its teaching must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.

Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:  1)Origin (where do the universe and human beings come from?), 2)Meaning (What is the meaning or purpose of life?), 3) Morality (how do we know what is right and what is wrong?), 4) Destiny (What happens to us after we die?)

Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to comprehensively study a worldview:  1) Theology (the study of God), 2)Metaphysics (the study of what is ultimately real), 3)Epistemology (the study of how we can know things), 4) Ethics (the study of moral right and wrong), 5) Anthropology (the study of what and who humans are).

You will find that only a worldview based upon God and through a relationship with the person of Christ will one view hold up to this test.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Do your own work.  Try it.

Joseph Damien was a missionary in the 19th century who ministered to people with leprosy on the island of Molokai, Hawaii.  Those suffering grew to love him and revered the sacrificial life he lived our before them.  But even he did not know the price he would pay.  One morning before he was to lead them in their daily worship, he was pouring some hot water into a cup when the water swirled out and fell onto his bare foot.  It took him a moment to realize that he had not felt any sensation.  Gripped by the sudden fear of what this could mean, he poured more boiling water on the same spot.  No feeling whatsoever.

Damien immediately diagnosed the problem.  As he walked tearfully to deliver his sermon, no one at first noticed the difference in his opening line.  He normally began every sermon with, “my fellow believers.”  But this morning he began with, “My fellow lepers.”

In a greater measure, Jesus came into the world knowing what it would cost Him.  He bore in His pure being the marks of evil, that we might be made pure.  “For this I came into the world,” he said (John 18:37).

The gospel points to the person of Christ who went to the cross, not just to transform the Jeffrey Dahmers and the money-grabbers behind the scenes, but to renew even those whose self-righteousness blinds them to their own need.  It wasn’t just the prodigal who squandered the fathers love, it was also the older brother—for he was so close to the fathers love the whole time.

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