An act of extreme violence or viciousness.
I’m reminded of a story, where for no fault of their own, a person was killed. It was senseless without any reason. Only God knows what actually happened, but from all accounts, the victim did nothing to instigate the violence. So while the tragedy was the loss of life, it was aggravated as there was no obvious reason for the loss of human life. Outrageous right?
As a follower of Christ, I’m daily reminded of the millions of babies murdered through abortion around the world. Again, it’s senseless, no rational person would kill a baby. But we have a culture that calls it a ‘choice’ and ignores the science of human development. Of course, there’s going to be outrage, especially by Christ-followers. Abortion is one of the great sins of America and the world. So what can be done? Since abortion was socially accepted through Roe vs. Wade, there have been numerous approaches to stopping abortion, many in the name of Christ. There are legislative actions, sit-ins, prayers, pro-life counseling, marches all to promote life and speak against the act of killing babies in the womb. There has also been violence against those who perform abortions. Outrageous right?
As Christ-followers, when we see injustice or acts that we perceive as outrageous, what do we do? We can often feel helpless because of tragedy can seem so large. Why in the world doesn’t God stop it!? That in and of itself can be a reason to be angry.
So, what does the Bible say about anger?
Ephesians 4:25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another. 26“Be angry, yet do not sin.”dDo not let the sun set upon your anger, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.
We are human. We are also fallen, meaning born of sin and separated from God. Those two facts leave us with a lot of human emotion, a lot of it not so bad, but some not so good. Including anger which can turn into outrage. We become angry. And often that comes from feeling helpless, sad, or being offended. What is our example as Christ-followers?
We can look at Jesus when he was betrayed.
Matthew 26:53Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?”
Jesus knew that coming to earth was to go through a gruesome death, being betrayed and crucified by the very people he loved. He knew the pain was coming but did he take out his anger on us? Instead he endured all of it for us. #hallelujah
As for us, we can’t even get past someone’s comment that somehow offends us, instead, we lash out. Often more than not we fail to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. If someone offends us, what is our response? We’ve all seen those on social media that curse, ‘yell with CAPS’ at the smallest offense. Or we’ve lashed out at someone only to regret it later. Or maybe we rant about the injustice without ever pointing to God when given a chance. In a world of tragedy, injustice, and pain, it can be challenging not to become angry, even outraged. And sometimes, we can be full of judgment with little to no grace or understanding.
Matthew 5:13-16 Common English Bible (CEB)
Salt and light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.
This is a cornerstone scripture on how we should appear to the world. We are to be salt and light. We are to stand out. So how does this relate to anger or outrage for that matter?
Good question. So let’s examine our first example; a senseless murder. It is and should be common for Christ-followers to be angered about such an action. But what should be different about us vs non-Christ followers? How are we to stand out in our anger. Because angry we are going to be. But if we as Christ-followers are just angry in the same fashion as those who don’t follow Christ, how are we Salt or Light?
Our difference is in vs. 16, our light should shine so others see God and praise Him. So if we are just a part of an angry mob, on social media or otherwise, how does that point people to God in Heaven. It doesn’t. If on the other hand, we are being ‘salty,’ meaning ultimately use our anger to mention God, point to God, and putting our testimony on display during our anger, then we are being angry and not sinning.
The biggest risk though is to turn our anger into something that doesn’t glorify God. Take the second example; abortion. There is nothing righteous about it. We should speak out about God’s mercy for those who have had abortions, and speak against the progressive abortion industry. These are ways that we can take our anger and point to God. God is the ultimate giver of life. The damage comes when we don’t live a life or express a mantra that wraps our verbal anger in the compassion of Christ which points to God by default.
Anger is a big problem for humanity. There is so much harm that comes from unchecked anger. As Christ-followers, we risk losing focus on God and putting ourselves first by becoming angry in unhealthy ways. One question to ask is, if someone calls me on my anger, how will I point to God? If we can’t answer that question, then we should do a lot of praying asking God what to do with that thing that we are angry about.
One of the greatest roads anger can lead to is hate. And that’s something we know God prohibits. We are to love, we are to have compassion, we are not to compromise, but we always point past ourselves to God. So when we have anger, we have to slow our roll before we arrive at hate.
As Christ-followers we have to understand that in all things we are to point to God because he is the judge for humanity, we are just salt and light. We shouldn’t downplay or disregard our anger, as it’s an emotion we have to live with. Whether it be a disappointment in our own lives, something external, an offense by someone, a social injustice, or something else; we can remain Christ-followers and still acknowledge God in all things, even our anger. We just have to point to Him. Be angry and sin not.
About the author: Steven Davis is a musician, Bible school dropout, media producer, over-cooked preachers kid, and recovering social worker.
When Christians attack each other, both lose.
It hurts the cause of Christ when Christians attack each other. It shows we have lost focus on our mission, which is to make disciples. Verbal discourse in the church is a good thing. But in Luke 6:37 when Jesus says; Do not judge. Jesus gives us a warning about judging others.
So why do it? Why use words to judge other Christ-followers? Good question. Why do we justify attacking one another?
James 4, we are commanded not to slander each other. It’s that simple. Nothing in the Bible or Christiandom gives us a right to slander other followers of Christ.
So what should we do when Christians attack other Christians?
- First, pray. Ask God what we should do.
- If possible, we should go to that person privately, if that’s not possible, then we should leave our concern with God and let it go.
- We shouldn’t take sides in public.
Christians attacking other Christians is the worst possible witness to a lost world. When we judge other Christians, especially in public or on social media, we take the place of God. We actually create the justification for it and believe we have a throne to do so. But we don’t.
The Apostle Paul wrote letters to other Christians because of division in the church. Christians attacking other Christians is a poison. It shows that we as Christians lack a single focus, we don’t practice what we preach.
Colossians 4:5-6 “5Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
If we are to speak with grace to non-believers, then how much more should be to fellow believers?
In Matthew 10, Jesus tells us that we as sheep will be in the midst of wolves. When Christians attack other Christians, we are no longer sheep, but wolves. We have crossed over to the ‘other-side’ condemning one another.
So what should we do? We should treat each other with kindness and not judge. It really is that clear. When we as Christ-followers attack each other, we damage our witness. Because a lost world is watching, they look for any reason to go ‘Ah HA!’ They look for any reason to say, there’s no difference between the followers of Christ and any other group.
So we have to resist the temptation to judge other Christians. We instead should be in one accord, one focus, and that is showing the love of Christ. We are called to make disciples, not judge one another.
A good self-question to ask is: ” is what I’m about to say lift that person up?”
But another question to ask is: is what I’m about to say, hurt that person, does it hurt their witness? If it doesn’t, then why say it? Why condemn?
We are all guilty of judging one another. I’ve had to pray for flying off at the mouth about others. Increasingly, God has put on my heart a burden to be part of the body in a way that lifts up, exhorts, and doesn’t condemn. We should all ask forgiveness for our behavior.
It’s not a stretch to believe that our negative words towards one another could cause someone to resist following Christ. And that should be a sobering thought that we as Christ-followers should pay attention to each and every time we open our mouths.
Remember, when Christians judge each other, both lose. But moreover, the loss is our witness. We have something now in common with non-believers, we have become wolves.
About the author: Steven Davis is a musician, Bible school dropout, media producer, well-done preachers kid, and recovering social worker.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
You therefore have no excuse, you who pass judgment on another. For on whatever grounds you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the Law and judges it. And if you judge the Law, you are not a practitioner of the Law, but a judge of it.
1 Corinthians 12:26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
The human church was never established to be a bridge to God that we should boast of our abilities. On the other hand, Jesus: his birth, life ,death and resurrection is the bridge to God. Its arrogance to believe we can rise to that act of Christ. No, we are not the bridge brothers and sisters, we are at best road signs pointing to His bridge. #humility
It’s that time again, time for churches to have Christmas plays and programs. It is the time of year to proclaim the birth of mankind’s only hope. The birth of Jesus. As followers of the Christ, our hope is we can deliver a message to the masses.
Driving down the road, I’m always impressed with the special event signage beside church meetings. ‘Come to our Christmas program!’ ‘Special Easter Service!” ‘Purchase Tickets online by going to www….’ Selling tickets. Those words always bother me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-fund raising. I love a good church BBQ event. The church needs funds sometimes, and there’s little Biblically challenging about church folk raising money. But selling tickets to an evangelical event? Why not free?
Here are a few thoughts on the matter and why church meetings who sell tickets to hear the message of Jesus is a misguided idea.
The Capitalistic Church
It costs money to put on a production. Therefore, the church meeting has to recoup those costs. What better way to do it, than the commerce exchange of money for goods and services provided. Our American culture is used to paying for stuff eh? We even do it with on thumb at lightning speeds on our phones. So it’s just normal for people to expect a cost for something.
The church meeting and money is referenced throughout the Bible. Here are a few examples, both in the New Testament. This is not an exhaustive list.
Example 1: In Acts 4:32, we find the New Testament Church established and each ‘member’ of the local church meeting brought items to the church so no one would go without, the needs being met.
Example 2: In John 2, we are reminded that Jesus drove out the money changers who had contaminated the temple with greed. People were paying for access. And while the temple practices were established prior to Jesus being born, the misappropriation of money was one reason Jesus drove the money changers out.
When Jesus taught on the mountainside, what was the reaction of the disciples?
Mathew 14:15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
So the disciples, human solution for the problem was to send the people away to buy food. Jesus instead, used this to provide a miracle for people. What didn’t happen was for the disciples charge admission to cover the cost of the meeting. Consequently charging for access to hearing Jesus’ message. We don’t find even Judas as the mountain gate taking up money for access to Jesus’ message.
Selling access to the message of Jesus, What are the consequences of selling tickets:
- One thing it does is limit who can come. Money can be challenging for families, especially those who may have more than financial challenges. Purchasing a ticket can be prohibitive, attending the program at church then becomes a luxury cost for folks. So if it comes down to basic monthly costs for a family, some families will see it as a tall order to attend. And I’m sure most churches would waive the ticket cost if a family asked. But would they ask, or would they look at their budget, and choose not to come.
- Selling tickets also screens out those who have to take an extra step to call or purchase online. Instead of just showing up as those who did with Jesus during his public ministry. Do people driving by vinyl signs really grasp the steps to buy tickets? I sure don’t.
- Selling tickets also gives the community the wrong impression, one that the local church is in the business of selling faith. Churches already have a social reputation of being for profit. In Christendom, there have been plenty of faith actors that constantly ask for money, some even offering a blessing if you purchase their book. Shameful. And while a local church may have good intent for a Christmas play, selling access to Jesus is a community reputation we should fight against.
What is to be said then when planning large church programs? How does the church seek to cover costs by charging admission? What does that do? One line of thought is, if the church, the core church, can’t or won’t support an special program, then maybe the program isn’t necessary. Or maybe the core church can come up with the funds internally to provide for the program. But selling tickets to support a program begs the question, ‘is that program needed.’ And if so, why look outside the church? Good question.
We have to consider the example in Acts. The ‘flock’ invested in the local church so needs could be provided for. It may be very challenging to translate that into selling community access to a program about Jesus.
About the author: Steven Davis is a musician, Bible school dropout, media producer, well-done preachers kid, and recovering social worker.
Is God’s Love Reckless?
Having grown up playing music in church from bluegrass to Third Day covers, I’ve always loved worship music in church. I’ve played with and have heard various talents as well. Worship in church became such a important part of the move of God over the past decades. Many churches have included modern worship in addition to hymns, and some have gone full into songs written by modern artists from a variety of sources.
One such song became super popular written by Cory Asbury. It was a song entitled, ‘Reckless Love.’ It was wildly popular. When I heard it the first thing I thought about was the word ‘reckless.’ In Cory Asbury’s explanation of his word use, he mentions that he is not saying that God is reckless, but God’s love is.
The words from the song are:
“O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
O, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, you give yourself away
O, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah”
Responding to the controversial lyrics, Cory Asbury explains on his Facebook page like this.
“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so.” Cory Asbury explains.
So we are to believe that God’s love is like the broken glass above. It just happens at random from an act of God? So God who created the heaven’s and earth with such precision, flings His love out there like a hand grenade?
The song actually created a controversy in Christian circles, some defending the song, and some against it.
Thank you for your email. Jennifer works really hard to tie each song into the theme of worship for the day. I hear your concerns but for us this song really worked well with our service. As for the word reckless, one of the definitions is to move forward without regard to consequences. For Jennifer and I we felt that described Jesus perfectly when he faced the religious leaders of his day and political leaders of his day and did not care about the consequences. I hear your concerns and we will speak about this with Jennifer.
This is an response I received from the campus pastor who I wrote asking questions about the song’s use in worship. (with names changed of course.) I was really surprised to hear the song since the head pastor speaks strictly from the Word. Standing during worship, I could only think of the flawed theology from the song.
So when I kept hearing the song still played in church, I really was challenged to find it theologically correct. I kept thinking, nothing about scripture describes anything about God as reckless. In fact, the Bible describes God as someone of order, someone who doesn’t do anything recklessly. So why defend the idea that God is ‘reckless?’
Reckless 1: marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences
As human beings we were given language by God. Language is one way God speaks to us and we speak to each other. We as Americans stop at stop signs and go on green lights. We say, “hello” and typically that means, “Hi.” A greeting. We have words and symbols that are etched in our social discourse. And those are generally set. And yes, I’m sure there are those who say hello, and mean goodbye. With our culture, anything is probable.
When I hear the word reckless, I instantly think of reckless drivers. I think of something done in malice. Reckless homicide is another. Both of which are defined by an act that is out of control and ignores risk. God is very far from my mind when I hear the word reckless. It really is a simple word to act association.
So what do we do with the defense that God’s love can appear reckless to us. We have to put the conversation or order of understanding in the correct position. If God’s love to us truly appears ‘reckless’, then it is our lack of understanding and comprehension of God’s love that is at issue, not God’s Love. To put it plainly, the deficiency or failure of human beings is what may, for some, make God’s love appear reckless. So to fix the song, we would say that God’s love appears reckless to us because we do not understand the ways of God. But that doesn’t roll off the tongue.
Isaiah 55:8-9 Common English Bible (CEB)
8 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 New Century Version (NCV)
16 I tried to understand all that happens on earth. I saw how busy people are, working day and night and hardly ever sleeping. 17 I also saw all that God has done. Nobody can understand what God does here on earth. No matter how hard people try to understand it, they cannot. Even if wise people say they understand, they cannot; no one can really understand it.
So what are we to say to the defense of God’s Love appearing as reckless. It may appear reckless to some people, but it’s not because God’s love is reckless, but it is because of our inability to understand the ways of God. That is our weakness not a descriptive blueprint of God’s Love that we can point to.
So why continue playing the song? Why not change the words? Why be more comfortable with the lack of scriptural basis for the description? I have no idea. Do people still use the song because it’s popular? Maybe. The email response I got from reaching out to my campus pastor left me thinking that the campus pastor and worship pastor knew better than I did, especially since there was a definition of the word reckless that fit what they were thinking. My only response to that is, we shouldn’t live according to the dictionary, but God’s Word.
Ephesians 1:3-6 Common English Bible (CEB)
Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. 4 God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. 5 God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan 6 and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves.
So can we say God’s love is reckless? No we can’t, there is no scriptural basis for the description. Can we say God’s Love appears reckless to some, maybe, but it’s not because His love is in fact – reckless. It is our weakness and lack of understanding.
Some questions to ask are:
Are we so ignorant that we just don’t know better? I would venture that it is not this reason since there were many modern authorities that had concerns about the use of the word ‘reckless.’
Do we worship the song? Because we know in church, there is pastor worship. Is this a case of song worship?
Are there songs like this that are flawed theologically? Should we screen songs through the filter of scripture?
Are we so arrogant that we think we can define the attributes of God better than His written word can? In other words, can we use words to describe attributes of God that we can’t support in scripture?
So why live with the division this song has caused and continues to cause?
We are flawed individuals, the church has had a myriad of controversies over the years. Why would a Christian leader add to those pains? Why not choose the Christian Body and change the words? I have no idea.
About the author: Steven Davis is a musician, Bible school dropout, media producer, well-done preachers kid, and recovering social worker.
How multiple church services hurt your church
I grew up going to one church service on Sunday morning, one on Sunday night, and one on Wednesday. When someone got married in the church, everyone was invited to the wedding. And singing Bible songs in Children’s Church. We were one big family. Everyone knew everyone else, except for visitors, so we would have Family day at the park.
Today, many churches strive to grow larger and larger. To accommodate space requirements, churches will often divide their worship services into an early service, later service, even off-site services.
Each time I drive by a church and see the words, ‘Traditional Service and Contemporary services’ I often wonder why. I wonder what the-traditional people think of the-contemporary people?
We went to a church that had three services. The first Traditional Service was at 8:00 a.m. , then a Contemporary service was at 9:30 a.m. then another Traditional Service at 11:00 a.m. So the pastor would dress up for the first service, dress down for the second, and then dress back up for the third. Tie on, tie off, tie back on. So the shifts were traditional-contemporary-traditional. They also had two other church meetings that ported in the pastor’s live message at the contemporary service. So five total services on one Sunday from one pastor and ‘main church.’
There are reasons churches do multiple services, here are two;
- There are just too man people for their building.
- Pick a good growth plan, and grow grow grow. It’s what church growth is all about. You plant a church, do demographic studies and cater your church to that demographic so you grow it as big as you can. So at some point, you have too many people for the main service location. The dilemma is too many people, so to keep growing, a second worship service is a way to go. Or is it?
- It is strictly a cultural concern.
- You have a thousand folks in your church. And half of them don’t like loud music, they like hymnals instead. This generation can’t really connect with the worship service direction, so you have to do something to please the unhappy folk. Or do you?
- So what to do, you split the congregation by offering both traditional services and contemporary services. That makes everyone happy right? But should our happiness drive church decisions? Unfortunately, it does too often. Otherwise, we take their marbles and go to a different sandbox, right? Sounds a lot like a consumer mentality doesn’t it?
What is lost with multiple worship services;
When we segregate a church meeting, we put up barriers to opportunities for support. As a church family, we are to be there for each other. But how are we to support someone if we never meet them? While somewhat silly, an example goes like this. Ms. Smith goes to the early service, but Ms. Jones goes to the later service. Ms. Smith is going through a horrible life experience and it just happens to be what Ms. Jones went through last year. If they never meet, there’s no opportunity for Ms. Jones to support Ms. Smith.
And of course, God can bring them together. But if the church meeting structure is such that they are kept from each other, then how will they meet? Some would say community or small groups are the way. Regarding Small or Community Groups;
Small Group Story: My wife and I sat in our home as a fellow church goer lamented to us about an experience with the small groups at church we all attended. She went to a community group and felt like a fish out of water. As she continued to describe the small group demographics, she realized she was twenty or so senior to most people at the group. She then mentioned at some point it was suggested to her that a different community group might fit her better. One that fit her age. She was still upset about it when she talked to us. It was sad to hear how hurt she was, a sense of rejection from a part of church that is supposed to be supportive.
As people age, their physical, financial, and emotional challenges increase with the loss of spouses, income, and family members. When Jesus helped those in need, they were the marginalized of society. When churches segregate one generation from another, people lose an opportunity to sit under the same roof with those who may have dealt with the same issues we deal with as younger folk. In other words, each segregated generation worships in a vacuum, and younger church folk never learn from those older church members.
The church should celebrate those church members who have advanced their faith as much as they have in age. In other words, we should learn from those who have gone before us. Instead, with today’s post-post modern church, the goals are numeric growth and structural segregation based on demographics. In other words, we put these people here because they are all ‘this.’
Instead, should we not have one family that can learn from each other, young and old?
What is Gained from Multiple Worship Services
1. Leadership Weighted Identity:
A church should never take on the identity of its leadership. The identity of a church meeting should resemble Christ. So how is a church meeting with three different demographic or numeric services to resemble Christ? Pastor worship is a real phenomenon in church. Most churches that have multiple services handle the main message a couple of ways. When we went to the traditional-contemporary-traditional church, there were actually two other church meeting branches that watched the live video feed of the pastor’s message during the ‘contemporary’ service. Which meant, the worship of the other two church meeting branches had to time the end of worship so they could see the live feed of the ‘main message.’ Worship had to end on this particular time so the live feed of the Pastor’s message could stay on schedule.
The Defense of multiple worship services:
- Our church does so much in the community because of the number of people that go there. It is unquestionable that churches with more resources have a larger reach. Is there inherently anything wrong with a large church service because of numbers, probably not. Does a church get so large that people feel like a number? Yes. Does a church get so large that the church takes on the personality of the leadership because they are the key figures in the church meeting? Yes.
- We have many programs that get people programmed into our church. ‘We have this group, that meeting, that ministry and so on.’ ‘And that’s how we make our large church smaller.’ But is this a method that resembles a business? Using a massive volunteer base to supplement a large infrastructure with only the leadership being paid salaries is odd logic.
What to think about.
When Jesus ministered on Earth, crowds followed him from town to town. What we don’t find in his ministry is the segregation of ‘the flock’ by age or any other demographic for that matter. Jesus and His message was for everyone. He fashioned His message to reach the masses. He didn’t have hymnals for this service and loud contemporary music at another.
So what should our churches look like? What is the solution to overcrowding? Should our message thereby church service be relevant and designed for everyone? That is what Jesus showed us. Are our multiple services done to grow numbers? Do we grow numbers while sacrificing what a church meeting or service should be about? Are we a number in a crowd when we attend large churches? Is the pastor so far removed from the flock that he is unreachable? Is the church so large that the biggest personality, is the pastor?
Should multiple services be based on demographics? I would offer that it is one of the most damaging choices a church can make. Quintessentially it creates two churches, one full of this demographic, and one of this other one. The traditional-contemporary-traditional church we went to was like that. Sometimes we overslept and went to the later traditional church. Other than a few leaders such as the pastor and associate pastor, everyone was different, they had a choir, organist, and completely different order of service. And yes church pews. And yet, they were only down the hall from the location for the ‘middle contemporary’ service.
What should a church meeting do when they grow so much there’s no room? Good question. If the solution is multiple services, then how is church support, mentoring and identity addressed? Does it not make more sense to take a branch of the church to maintain support and mentoring across the church meeting’s demographic? Our church meetings should be for the masses.
Overcrowding is a good thing. What we do with it, is the question. Of course, it’s cheaper to have multiple services than build a gigantic building or establish another church. But maybe it’s more the case that we need smaller churches than a gigantic one shuffling people in and out on a set schedule. Maybe we should return to the focus of the Acts church, and that’s supporting each other.
And we should never be so arrogant in church work that we don’t question our methods. We are, after all, imperfect people, therefore our actions are bound to be less than pristine. So we should be open about our imperfections, and humble about changing course with humility.
About the author: Steven Davis is an over-cooked preachers kid, recovering social worker, musician, media producer, and writer.
Crime of the Century :The Illusion of Life, The Crime Against Reality
When Michael Jordan won his first National Basketball Championship, a reporter asked him, “what he wanted to do now.” Michael Jordan responded, “I want to go to Disneyland!” In fact, if you ask most people where they would dream of vacationing, their response would be Disneyland. Why Disneyland? Why don’t people want to vacation in the streets of downtown New York? How come people don’t want to vacation in the prisons of America? To press the issue further, how come people don’t want to vacation solely desiring to spend quality time with their family conversing, sharing dreams, ideas, and loves? No, instead people want to go to Disneyland the fantasy realm, Disneyland the place where dreams come true. Disneyland the place where you can meet Mickey, Minney, and Pluto, Disneyland is the realm of the non-real. The whole goal of Disneyland is to propel you into a reality that is far from the reality of life away from Disney land. You can walk down one street and get bombarded with the belief that you are in downtown France. Turn the corner, and you are in Italy. Everything from the food to the music even the dress and accents of the actors are tallied into making you believe that what you see is real. I suppose that if there was not such a prevalent society on the outside you would believe (Kivisto, 1998, p. 142.)
Today society is far different from the society of yesterday. With the growth of media, Hollywood, innovative and interactive technological inroads, society has taken itself out of the empirical sustenance of reality and into a non-real realm. Jean Baudrillard named this “hyperreality.” Baudrillard who taught at the University of Nanterre is known as one of the premier sociologists in post-modernity. Baudrillard said that no longer does society seek to explain things in and of themselves. Peter Kivisto summarizes Baudrillard, “we have been reduced to the roles of mall rats in quest of objects of desire and excitement, couch potatoes playing with the TV remote control, voyeurs peering into the private lives of the rich and famous” (Kivisto, 1998 142).
Barry Swartz of the University of Georgia says that post-modernity has withered the grand narratives that American society has built itself upon. Grand narratives are mystical beliefs and civil legends that explain what and where a people come from. Grand narratives also explain the “origins, purposes, and fate of societies and their institutions.” These are the facts of a societies history. Swartz says that beginning around the last couple of decades, the grand narratives began to become under attack by the post-modern movement. For example, Swartz says that shrines upon which American society was built on have been commercialized and demystified. Historical churches of America no longer are held as reverent structures. Now they are “red roped” off and allowed entry for a fee of 5 dollars per adults and kids get in free. People no longer go to them for religious sabbaticals. Now they go there to add photos to their family album. This is just one example of how the “sanctified” symbols of American culture, history, and religion have been commercialized by the post-modern movement (Swartz 1998 64-68).
Swartz goes on further to point out that post-modernity seeks to do away with the past for what it is. It seeks to explain life in the present here and now. No longer are there lessons to be learned from the past. Swartz says that post-modernity seeks to calumniate the historical experience of society. For example, post-modernity would argue that the Civil War was about the oppression of the Negro. But what the Civil War was fundamentally about was another instance of the greed of mankind. The oppression of the Negro was no special instance in mans’ history. Others have oppressed people since the beginning of time. To carry this argument to the ne plus ultra, racism has eternally been about hate for fellow man. But post-modernity would seek to make it about the dominance of the “white man.” Post-modernity thought is to live for the here and now (Swartz 1998 64-68).
Society now explains itself according to perception. Two decades or so ago, post-modernity made its way into academia. Notably, here it was at the end of the Sixties or early Seventies. What post-modernity did was it allowed for relativity to be utilized in everyday decision making. No longer are you chained to make choices in black and white. Post-modernity has given the society of today a grey area for life. It is now possible to look at things more than just two ways. Post-modernity thought and culture is about living in the ideological left, or right, or however you want to see it. You take what is real and make it real in concordance with your own perception. Reality is your construction. It’s about what you see and not how others see it. Today you can put on pads with sensors, a helmet with glasses that resemble little TV screens and earphones that give you 3D surround sound. The goal of this is to ‘transport’ you to another reality. Anything is possible. If you want to fight the Battle of Bull Run, it can be programmed. If you want to catch that ‘big one’ that has always eluded you, it can be programmed. Or if you want to get that kiss from Madonna, it can be programmed too. Virtual Reality can give you just about any type of experience you want. It’s probably one of the futures most prevalent examples of Post-modern methods of social construction.
But not only are there technological examples of Post-modern culture exist in our modern-day lives, post-modernity ‘construction’ is all around. Most threatening to structured society post-modernity has rooted itself in America culture. Examples of Post-modern culture are the various forms of art, architecture, and poetry. Each one of these; art, architecture, and poetry have taken a nonconformist abstract change. No longer are buildings just square with four walls and two windows. Now we have to have a triangular side, a round side, octagon front, and all of this has to meet at a pointed roof that projects three hundred feet into the air. With post-modern art it’s not about what it looks like, it’s about what you perceive it to be, individual interpretation. And with poetry, you have a compilation of words that fit together only on paper, not in logical thought processes. You can also see hints of post-modernity in the media. Millions of people watch soap operas every day. Which in itself is not relevant. But when you consider what soap operas are, you find an illusion of reality. Bobby Joe is married to Chris, but Chris isn’t happy. So Chris is making the moves on Bobby Joe’s mother. Bobby Joe knows what Chris is doing, so to get back at him she goes out with Chris’ cousin Bill. Bill just happens to be having an affair with Bobby Joe’s mother. One night while Bill is in bed with Bobby Joe’s mother, Chris walks in and kills everybody. Now Chris is in jail. Bobby Joe feels sorry for him and vows to wait for him. End of story? No. The next week we find out that it was all a drunken vision, everybody is alive and it starts all over again. People become obsessed with the characters. People cry because someone dies on the show. An illusion of reality, absolutely.
The ideology of post-modernity is about deconstructing everything in place. From morals, lifestyles, culture, religion, laws, Post-modern thought is concerned with creating a liquid reality. Because it is impossible to have culture without the people to propagate the beliefs, norms, and morals that make up that culture, it’s important to discuss what culture fostered Post-modernity. I will theorize that the puissant effects of the Hippie culture both spawned and cultivated the growth of the post-modern movement into significant relevance in today’s society. This, in turn, gave us today an atmosphere of social relevance. Social relevance is the “I’m ok you’re ok” philosophy. As long as you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.
Before we can discuss the cause of social relevance we need to define the terms and parameters into which relevance is determined. Social relevance is a concentration on the inward person. It’s an attempt to find out who the real person is inside. This in past times and the present was done by seeking to become one with self. Many Eastern religions dilated due to the Hippie movement. Examples of these were Zen Buddhism, Unitarian Universalist, and many “New Age” religions. For example, in Zen pupils are taught to look inside for what can give you ‘life.’ Zen also teaches to live a life free from contradictions. No longer do rules, laws, or mores bind you (Martin 1992. p. 264). “God” became internalized. But different from being born again, “God” becomes a product of the individual. In many cases “God” becomes irrelevant and worship of the self and mind becomes a central focus of post-modern religion.
The hippie during the sixties and seventies found ‘peace’ and oneness with the help of many drugs. LSD, marijuana, and other hallucinogens gave the hippies a way to escape. No longer would the hippie see the world as a social construction with a set of rules and hierarchy, the hippie now saw the world as a level relevance of substance. That is to say all things became important to the hippie. Even the small details became “beautiful man.” For example, the flower to the hippie became a sign of the life. A message that rang throughout the hippie movement was love your brothers sisters, “make love not war” (Morgan 1991, p.199-200).
The Hippie movement can not be totally to blame for being the destructive force such as it was. In other words, something never comes from nothing. There are always factors involved in the development of anything. To figure out where the hippie movement came from we have to look at the philosophy of the preceding generation. The Hippie movement was born from a lax child-rearing ideology taught in part by Dr. Benjamin Spock. As stated in Dr. Spock’s book “Infant Care,” discipline should not be harsh. Rules should be loosed. We should no longer train the child when to stop sucking, breast-feeding. Dr. Spock reiterates this when he says that children will not learn how to be productive and mature through discipline. Only through the love of the parents will children grow up. Dr. Spock goes further to state that the child’s needs should take precedence over the parents (Phillips, 1979, p.238. In other words, the child’s needs or desires should be considered to be correct in providing for the child, sort of the antithesis of “Father knows best.” Now the child knows best. Dr. Spock was criticized later for raising spoiled brats, commonly referred to as “Spock babies.” But the damage was done. Dr. Spock’s ideology of non-discipline nurtured was to be a very powerful rebellious generation, the Flower Children.
Even today the effects of Dr. Spock are still found in professional advice for child-rearing. There is a new Pampers commercial on television that exemplifies this type of child-rearing practice. Dr. Brazelton of Pampers states that no longer should parents decide when to start potty training a child. “It is up to the child to figure out when it’s time.” The commercial shows a child crying as his ‘mother’ attempts to help him with the training toilet. The next thing you see is Dr. Brazelton, child, and ‘mother’ all happy and honkey dorey cause the child now has big kid pampers on now. He goes further in his publication to say, “I guarantee that if you do wait to let her get the idea and choose to conform to it herself, you won’t end up with soiling, smearing, wetting, or withholding. If you start too early, you might well have any of those as reactions to your pressure. It’s got to be her achievement. Be patient and wait! ” Excuse the digression but, what “caca!” What else do we let the child dictate to parents? How about letting them dictate when to quit breastfeeding? I suppose in a few years we’ll have grown men walking around sucking on Mama three times a day and once at night for that all-important midnight snack. This ideology is a ghost from the past. I see this “letting the children dictate” as a simple way of allowing parents to be lazy in child-rearing. Take the responsibility from the parent and place it on the child. Ok fine then, my niece who is only 8 weeks should be able to fix her own dinner. If her parents take that perception she would certainly starve to death. Same as socializing children. Undisciplined children make undisciplined adults.
But a sheer mindset a power not make. Power more often than not comes through numbers. Power of the hippie movement came from the sheer size of the baby boom generation, the cohort of the Hippie. Between the late 1940s and the later 1960s the number of babies born almost doubled from around 2.8 million a year to over 4 million. This serge in the population put extreme pressure on society. An example of this strain would be when the baby boomers began school; initially, there were not enough classrooms to house them all. So schools had to be built. When the baby boomers graduated to college there was a sharp increase in college enrolment. Thus universities had to accommodate them by building new universities and hiring extra personnel including professors, administrative staff, and support personnel (Stockard, 1996, p. 424). America was now experiencing a new force, one that was here, and here to stay. With crudeness, you could liken it to eating a great meal and having gas later. Not that I’m referring to the Hippies as bodily waste, only that I’m illustrating what America was feeling from the effects of the baby boom. Oberschall writes, “once a movement has established an ideology attracted supporters, and developed an organization that embodies its ideals, it’s ultimate success or failure depends on the reaction of authorities outside the movement organization (Orbershcall 1973). Power met power in the sixties and the seventies. Deconstructionists met establishment.
Social learning theory teaches us that our behaviors are reinforced or confirmed by rewards, which follow acceptable norms. This is important if not vital in the socialization of children. When you grow up you become a product of your environment. Your parents or guardians are your principal agents of socialization. Children learn what it is to be loved by their parents. Children also learn about limits, what is acceptable and not acceptable. Studies have shown that quality interaction with parents filters into the emotional state of the child. For instance, children that are moved at an early age from home to foster care show signs of emotional instability (Stockard 1996 p. 78). This brief description of parental socialization of children goes to prove that even in the very early years a child learns most of what they will be like as they grow. I would go so far to theorize that the longer a child is allowed to wear diapers, the more likely they will struggle with authoritative interactions.
In 1990 Gottfredson and Hirschi did a study on youth and criminal behavior. The study was to measure self-control and its effect on criminal behavior. Their hypothesis was that parents ability or amount of management has an effect on the youth’s desire or expression to commit behavior that is in contradiction of the rules set before them. Gottfredson and Hirschi concluded that parental management has an indirect effect on delinquency when self-control is measured. They conclude that self-control has a significant effect on whether a person becomes deviant or not. In other words, parental management affects self-control and self-control affects amounts or likely-hood of deviance (Gibbs 199861-63). We can draw from this study that parents do influence children’s understanding of what is right and wrong. Although I would argue that parental influence today is relative and probably negative if any.
The Hippie movement, the Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War movement had great effects on changing the moral climate of society. The Civil Rights movement was the catalyst of change in the sixties. It was the first of such post-modern movements. From there change was realized as possible. But unlike the Civil Rights Movement, the hippie movement was a lifestyle not a cause for other’s rights. The hippie movement was a self-actualization movement. It was about let be and letting be. The Hippie movement increased the threshold of tolerance with its “’Make Love not War’, and ‘Peace Love and Joy’” message. The Hippie movement or counterculture born itself out of an unstable, violent, anti-structure era. Its ideology of rebellion rang loud and clear. Everything that was stable, consistent, or foundational became a threat that had to be dealt with. Counterculture was really prevalent in the music preceding the sixties and throughout the next two decades. The likes of Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones and the Beatles aggrandized the rebellious lifestyle of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. As Edward Morgan writes, “together with rock and roll’s driving kinetic sound, the rebellious culture represented by Elvis Presley and the film stars James Dean (“Rebel Without a Cause”) and Marlon Brando (“The Wild One”) openly defied the prohibitions of adult society. (Morgan, 1991, p 173) The hippies are about everything the establishment is not. “The hippie is the scion of surplus-value. The dropout can only claim sanctity in a society that offers something to be dropped out of—career, ambition, conspicuous consumption. “The effects of hippie sanctimony can only be felt in the context of others who plunder his lifestyle for what they find good or profitable, a process known as rip-off by the hippie, who will not see how savagely he has pillaged intricate and demanding civilizations for his own parodic lifestyle” (Greer b. 1939). The hippie lifestyle is one of the drains on legitimate society. It is a counterproductive ideology that seeks to please whatever gains it can for its own person.
Has anything changed over some thirty years? What has happened to the post-modern movement? Where has the destruction of social stability lead American society? Do we assume that the violent passive generation of the drug counter-culture has had no effect on society today? Can we as Americans turn away from the lessons of the past? Can we somehow believe that an unprecedented rebellious powerhouse as the hippie movement has somehow faded off in the distance? My argument is no. In fact, I will propound that the counterculture is alive and well. The hippie is not dead. The hippie has not grown out of his rebellious regime. “Old hippies don’t die, they just lie low until the laughter stops and their time comes round again” (Gallivan b. 1964). Oh sure the beads may be put away. The long hair to an extent has either been cut or pulled back into the modern professional ponytail. But the ideology of permissive social interaction has not gone away. It has become a way of life, a way of socializing young people. Nike has a present slogan, “Just do it.” And today society is doing just that, it. Whatever it wants to do, it does. It doesn’t care what it does, as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. It says that it is doing right, cause that’s what it feels is right for it to do. So it is happy. And happiness is all that matters to it.
So what does this happiness do for the rest of society? It has and still creates a fluidic interaction of right and wrong. Kids kill kids cause they ‘stole’ their girlfriend. Young people carry guns to protect themselves from other kids carrying a gun. Kids need protection from other delinquents, so they pack a deadly weapon. What do they have to protect? Kids who deal with drugs to commit a felony by carrying a gun to protect their felonious practice of dealing drugs. Nothing is legitimately gained. Kids who deal in drugs live in a culture of their own. It’s a short cut to financial gain. And they’ll do just about anything to protect it. The index for juvenile violent crime rose 47% from the year 1988 to the year 1992. During the years 1985 and 1994, juveniles who were arrested because of weapons law violations more than doubled. In 1994, the numbers who were arrested were about 50,000 juveniles (ONDCP 1998) .
The rate of juveniles committing murder has tripled since 1983. Interesting to note, 80% of all murders by juveniles were done with a gun, as opposed to 70% of murders by gun for adults. The murder rate for juveniles between the years 1988 to 1992 increased by 51% as opposed to a 7% increase for adults. Twenty-two percent of inner-city juveniles admitted to possessing a gun, and 15% of them said that they owned 3 or more. Of that percentage that said that they carried a gun, 31 % of them admitted to using cocaine as opposed to 2% of users that did not carry a gun. About 19% of all arrests are under the age of 18 and 7% of all arrests are under the age of 15 (ONDCP 1998). Just between the years of 1990 and 1994 the overall murder rate in America decreased by 4%. And the liberal passivists in the newspapers were quick to jump on the party wagon. But what they failed to concede that the reason for the drop was because of the adult murder rate. The murder rate for age 25 and over dropped 18%. But for those age 18 to 24 the murder rate increased by about two percent. More shocking is that the murder rate committed by those ages 14 to 17 jumped 22%. Overall from the years 1985 to 1994 for teenagers between the ages of 14 to 17 increased by 172%. With approximately 39 children in America the product of the baby boomers under the age of 10, trends predict a rise in juvenile crime. Parents are raising or “not raising” in some instances violent children. The majority of these children are living in poverty and single-parent or lax supervised household (Fox 1997.) I don’t know about you, but I’m happy.
It is not just a violent crime that has been on the increase. Drug use especially first time experimentation of drugs has been increasing. Such as overall first-time use of marijuana this year was 2,071,792 no make that 2,071,794 (number just changed.) First time substance users this month were 11,979 and today 3069 people used marijuana for the first time. Alcohol first-time use was 3,833,324 this year, 28,469 for this month and 5,685 for today. Heroin first-time use was 112,473 for this year, 835 for this month, 167 for today. Cocaine first-time use was 491,383 for this year, 3,651 for this month and 731 for today. Hallucinogen first time use was 840,792 for this year, 6,250 for this month and 1,253 for today. Inhalant use for this year was 614,001 for this year, 4,565 for this month, 916 for today. Cigarettes first-time use was 2,770,388 for this year, 20,607 for this month and 4,141 for today. What stands out is that people tried marijuana only 25% less than those who tried cigarettes (NCDAI 1998.) Why? I refer back to my statement that society seeks to live an illusion of reality. Cigarettes ‘make you look cool,” but marijuana makes you forget. Cigarettes “make you popular,” but alcohol brings a party. Cigarettes “make you look, adult,” but hallucinogens enable you to fly. Why wouldn’t kids today be willing to consume to escape? I mean they have so much to live for. Their friends are getting shot in the streets or dying of Aids. They are experimenting with promiscuous behavior either before they are emotionally able to handle it, or they are being sexually abused. The baby-boom effects have yet to be economically felt. When they are, the country is liable to go bankrupt. We have an increase in single-parent families in America. And when there are dual-headed families, increasingly they are becoming dual-career families. With the evidence from the Hircshi experiment and the theory of social learning, the next generation of kids will find it even more difficult to construct reality and a sense of the world.
Deconstruction operates only one way. With the post-modern movement society’s moral and civil structure was whittled away. Nothing was absolute anymore. Life became a game of choices. And the choice became personalized. My disclaimer is that I don’t think that all people from the sixties and seventies, those the same age as hippies, are maliciously destructive. In other words, I think that many people from that cohort are interested in making society a better place. But where the danger in post-modern thought is, that you are taught that you can change the world by changing yourself. In and of itself it sounds positive, but by who’s standard are you to change too, your own? And that is what has caused so many problems in society. Everyone is doing his or her own thing. But even in today’s society with that advent of personal computers, personal online banking, personal size microwaves, personal psychics, and personal religion, no one is an island. At one point or another social interaction is almost consequential of being on this planet. The fact that the social system of America and the World for that matter is becoming a self-centered society keeps us from learning how to deal with conflict. I’m ok, you’re ok. But if you and I ever meet and have to interact, the probability of it being ok is a gamble, to say the least. And that’s what society lacks today in dealing with conflict. Everyone wants to be his or her own island. But they forget that the water that flows between them is the need that we have to be social creatures. We need each other, and if we are ever to get along we have to meet and work together to recreate and maintain a structured society that has as its goal of improving the collective good.
Morality is the sliding board on the playground of life. It’s a tough ladder to climb. It’s almost impossible to stop halfway down. If you do manage to stop halfway down the slide, the likely-hood that you will be able to hold that position is grave. Cause soon there will be someone else right behind you to push you further down. And it won’t be pleasant, they’ll kick you in the back to further their experience on the slide. I propose that the hippie isn’t entirely to blame for society’s problems today. But what I do theorize as laid by my array of events is, the hippie because of their collective deconstructive nurture found society on the slide of morality. Not satisfied, the hippie gave society a big kick. The result is a society with the doctrine of social relevance. Whatever is fine for you is fine for me. But the catch is, don’t ever be around me, because if you are conflict is bound to occur. And at this point in society, we don’t know how to handle conflict.
Kivisto, Peter. Key Ideas in Sociology. California: Pine Forge. 1998.
Morgan, Edward. The 60s Experience. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1991
Phillips, Bernard S. Sociology, From Concepts to Practice. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc. 1979
Stockard, Jean. Sociology, Discovering Society. California: Wadsworth. 1996
Oberschall, A Social Conflict and Social Movements. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. 1973
Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minnesota. Bethany House. 1992
Swartz, Barry. “Post-Modernity and Historical Reputation: Abraham Lincoln in Late Twentieth Century American Memory.” Social Forces 77:1, (1998) : 1-400
Gibbs,. “Parental Management.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. Volume 35. (1998) : 58-67
NCDAI, December 2, 1998 http://www.health.org/
ONDCP, “Fast Facts.” Office of National Control Policy, December 1, 1998 http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/index.html
Fox, James A. “A Report For the Attorney General.” College of Criminal Justice. Northeaster University. December 2, 1997 http://www.acsp.uic.edu/oicj/pubs/cjfarrago/juvtrend.html
Brazelton, T. Berry. “House Call.” December 1, 1998 http://www.pampers.com
Germaine, Greer (b. 1939), Australian feminist writer. “Hippies in Asia,” in Sunday Times (London, 27 Aug. 1972; repr. in The Madwoman’s Underclothes, 1986).
Joseph, Gallivan (b. 1964), British journalist. Independent (London, 30 Aug. 1990).
Steven C. Davis
Crime of the Century
:The Illusion of Life, The Crime Against Reality
Monday, December 07, 1998
Dr. Jeff Spears
To Understand Christianity;
- You have to understand the origin of man, Genesis 1:27
- To understand the purpose of man. Ephesians 5:1
- To understand the fall of man. Genisis 3
- To understand the redemption of man. John 3:16-17
- To understand the hope for man. John 6:40
- To understand the judgment of man. Matthew 25
Steven Davis is a recovering social worker, overcooked preacher’s kid, musician, and media producer.