Canaans Rest

Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: October 2015

A Victim Culture

Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning in a paper entitled, “Microaggression and Moral Culture” contend that we’re in the midst of a key cultural change in our culture.  Prior to the 18th and 19th centuries we live in an “honor culture” in which people earned honor and were called upon to avenge insults to their honor on their own. But because personal insults would require a personal response, people would count the cost of confrontation.  With the emergence of our elaborate rule of law, “a dignity culture” replaced the honor culture.  Violence was replace by the courts or administrative bodies dealing with major transgressions, while minor transgressions were dealt with personally.

Today we are becoming a “victim culture,” in which we are encouraged to respond to even the  slightest unintentional offense.  Redress is found by appealing for help from powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom we can make the case that we have been victimized.  David French observes, “This is the culture of the mirco-aggression where people literally seek out opportunities to be offended.  Once victimized a person gains power – but not through an personal risk.  Indeed, it is the victim’s hypersensitivity and fragility that makes them politically and socially strong.” The authors of the article warn us, “…victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood. Young people on the left and the right get sucked into its vortex of grievance.  We can expect political polarization to get steadily worse in the coming decade as this moral culture of victimhood spreads.”

French goes on to say that the present victim culture is killing American manhood.  “There is high incentive for conflict, with little or no personal risk to balance the desire for vengeance.  In a victim culture, a person cultivates their sense of weakness and fragility, actively retarding the process of growing up.  There is zero incentive to mature, because maturity can actually decrease your power and influence……Developing toughness used to be a defining male characteristic.  The idea of appealing for help because one’s feeling were hurt, was frankly bizarre.”

As I write, I think of Peter’s invitation to follow Jesus.  What a dramatic contrast to the coming victim culture. “This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived.  He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.  He never did one thing wrong; Not once said anything amiss.  They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back.  He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.  He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way” (I Peter 2:21-24 – The Message).  We are invited to face the same victimization as did Jesus.

Men, the days of soft, cultural Christianity are fading fast.  The “squishy middle” is eroding. Those committed to Jesus will face opposition from those opposed to the way of  Jesus. The words of Jesus will become more our experience. “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got it start hating me.  If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own.  But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you” (John 15:18-19 – Message).  May God give you grace as we become a victim for Jesus and accept it with joy.  “Your blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom”  (Matt 5:10 – The Message).

The Protector and the Beta Male

In the recent mass shooting in Roseberg, Oregon, among the survivors was one man whose heroic action gained national attention.  Chris Mintz, a 30 year-old former Army infantryman, was shot five times while attempting to protect his fellow students.  Mintz has been hailed a hero. The day after the shooting he said, “I just hope that everyone else is okay.”  To me he exemplifies the God-given instinct given to men, to be the protector.  He is the opposite of the “beta male” who would more then likely defends his refusal to act out of valor and courage, while being dependent on the courage of others.

In our egalitarian age, men are not encouraged to act manly, by  displaying valor and courage.  This kind of manliness is seen as a legacy of our sexist past, a mark of white male privilege.  The New York Times ran an article recently entitled “27 ways to be a Modern man.”  “The modern man cries.  He cries often,”  was one characteristic, along with “On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon.  Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.”  The implication is that there is no significant difference between men and women, no virtues or qualities that can properly be called masculine or feminine.  My contention is that every man, especially those who are married,  have a God given instinct to protect.

In the beginning of the creation story in Genesis, we find in the call of  Adam, the archetype of the warrior/protector, but also of his failure to protect Eve from Satan. Adam was to guard and protect the garden (Gen. 2:15), which included his help mate Eve.  Bill Donaghy has suggested viewing  the Garden not only as a physical place, but  Eve herself.  “The Song of Songs alludes to woman as an ‘enclosed garden, a fountain sealed'” (Song 4:12), that is, someone to be protected. When Satan first approaches Eve in the temptation, Adam was right beside her but remained silent,  allowing Eve to be tempted and confronted by evil alone.  “He allowed the garden of Eve to be plundered by the Enemy.”  Men don’t allow yourself to become passive, allowing your voice to go silent in the midst of the spiritual struggles for your family.

Interestingly, the late Pope John Paul II said that original sin was an attempt to “abolish fatherhood.”  If there is truth in this observation, it should be a wake-up call for modern men, and especially fathers.  From the very beginning, Satan has tried to diminish man’s courage, from being  defenders and protectors.  When the voice of the father goes silent the family will suffer.  Even in the best evangelical homes, fathers do not defend their families against the evil one.

Here are some tips that I learned the hard way when I was a Dad, raising a family  many years ago.  First, as father I was to be the priest in my family.  I was to “precede”  over the spiritual climate of my family.  I tried to protect my family from all the “polluted’ spiritual air in the culture that surrounds my wife and children. I was like the watchman on the walls.  Secondly, I did battle against the spiritual forces that were arrayed against my family.  That meant I prayed for my family. Men, never underestimate the power of your prayers as the priest of your family.   Thirdly, I did not want to be silent and “go soft” in the spiritual struggle for my family.  Fourthly, above all else, I placed myself in submission under that lordship of Jesus, in order to keep my family safe.

The Soul and the blizzard of life

Farmers in the Midwest used to run a rope from their house to the barn when a blizzard was coming, knowing that in a whiteout they might not find their way back to the house.  Parker Palmer refers to the “blizzard of the world” that can separates us from our souls.   What we need is a rope from the back door to the barn so we can find our way home again.  “When we catch sight of the soul, we can survive the blizzard without losing our hope or our way” (Palmer).  Leonard Cohen notes, “The blizzard  of the world has crossed the threshold, and it has overturn the order of the soul.” Jesus warns us, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matt 16:26)  Men are you in danger of losing your soul in the blizzard of life?

Dallas Willard maintains that, “The soul is the capacity to integrate all the parts into a single whole life.  It is something like a program that runs a computer, you don’t usually notice it unless it messes up.”  In his view an unhealthy or ruined soul is a lost soul.  To lose my soul implies that I no longer have a healthy center that organizes and guides my life.  Another way of view the soul is to see it as the conductor of our lives, helping make our life a symphony.  Neglect produces a cacophony.

Ronald Rolheiser, a catholic spiritual writer, prompted me to write this blog when he pointed out the soul as being both the principle of life and  energy inside us as well as the principle of integration.  “Since the soul is double principle doing two things for us,”  Rolheiser points out, “there are two corresponding ways of losing our souls.  We can have no vitality and energy and go dead or we can become unglued and fall apart.”  We can weaken the God-given life inside us by either petrification or dissipation. We are in danger of losing our soul by not having enough fire or we can lose our soul by not having enough glue.

The soul is built on awareness and  attentiveness.  Pay attention to what your soul is telling you.  The soul is shy and waits to be heard.  We can easily neglect or deny the life of the soul. When we think of soul, we are not visualizing a substance or a place, but rather  a “reflective space” (Benner) that is at the center of our personality.  “Soul is,”  in the words of Eugene Peterson, “the most personal term we have for who we are….[It] is an assertion of wholeness, the totality of what it means to be a human being.”  So my cry again is for the readers of this blog to be “soulful men,” who do not lose their fire or become unglued in the midst of the blizzards of life.

Here are so tips on attentiveness.  First, know that soul will take you down into the realities of your life, the good, the bad and the ugly.  The soul withers when we live with illusion; on the surface.  The soul thrives in reality, the way life really comes to us.  Secondly, don’t let fear keep you from your reality, because Jesus meets you at the center, not in the place of our own preference.  Thirdly, spend time listening to your soul.  That means being quiet and accepting  of what “bubbles up” into your awareness.  Fourthly, find a “soul friend” or a group of guys that are comfortable with soul talk. Too many evangelical men are afraid of their own “evangelical, religious shadow.”

Raul Castro & Pope Francis in dialogue

What do you think of Pope Francis?  I view the Pope as a humble, compassionate man, desirous of making us aware of the need for dialogue in a day when, as Harold Smith at Christianity Today put it, “the tone of our rhetoric, across most media and even behind some closed church doors, is more rage than redemption, more disgrace than grace.” He calls for “a beautiful escape” that “transcends the bitter realism in and outside the church.”  My biggest take away from the Pope is this – stick to your convictions but have an open and gracious spirit to those who oppose you.  His primary concern is showing mercy, not trying to please either the left or the right.

I am fascinated by the relationship between Raul Castro and Pope Francis.  Remember the Castro brothers (Fidel and Raul) have governed Cuba as an atheistic society since the early 60’s.  Last May Raul payed a visit to the Vatican.  He can away from his meeting, being quoted as saying, “If the Pope continues this way I will go back to praying and go back to the church, and I’m not joking.”  Quite an admitting for the leader of an atheistic society.  Raul admitted that he “always studied at Jesuit schools.”  He promised the when the Pope came to Cuba he would go to all his masses.  It seems like a spiritual fire was ignited  in his soul.

What brought about this stirring?  Could it be the Pope’s desire for dialogue?  He said to the bishops, “I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.”  I want to suggest that in the days to come dialogue, will be an effective means of influencing men to consider Jesus as Lord.  Look at what dialogue is doing in the soul of Raul Castro.  David Benner describes dialogue as involving, “shared inquiry designed to increase awareness and understanding of all parties.  In dialogue I attempt to share how I experience the world and seek to understand how you do also.  In this process each participant touches and is touched by others.”  In other words, I don’t give up my convictions, but I am deeply desirous to hear the heart of the other by showing mercy. I become a good listener of another person’s soul.

Pope Francis is secure enough in his relationship with the Lord, so as to invite sincere dialogue with others.  That is partly why he is so controversial.  He know what he believes, is motivated by the love of Jesus, and has a genuine love of people. He desires to show mercy to those he encounters. Dialogue begins with a deep respect for the other.  In dialogue we see others through the eyes of Jesus as unique and wonderful made in his image.  It can be a frightening prospect to share our deepest self with another.  A fear of intimacy and lack of control cause us to pull back from genuine dialogue.  But not the Pope.  He gets in “hot water” with both the left and right.

Dialogue and the Pope’s call for mercy are key components in our witness to a hostile, indifferent culture. The Lord knows what the Pope is up against.  The Pope’s official motto is, “choosing through the eyes of mercy.”  May we as men be willing to see others through the eyes of mercy as we dialogue with those in our sphere of influence.  Look what is happening to Raul Castro after all these years in “a spiritual wilderness.”  Who are the lonely men waiting to have dialogue with you?  Can you choose to see them through the eyes of mercy?

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