Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More meditations from the dance floor

This past Saturday I attended an East Coast Swing — think “jitterbug” — dance because I was in the mood to get my groove on. And that I did.

While there I noticed three younger women, college-age I presume, all of them beautifully-dressed — one was wearing a short rose-colored dress with black lace shoulders and tights to match the shoulders and another a short powder-blue dress. I got dances with all three of them during the night; as I was twirling the woman in blue the hem of her flaring dress brushed up against me.

While thinking about that today and recalling books by my favorite author John Eldredge, I remembered why just dancing with them — I wouldn’t remember their names if you told me and might never see them again anyway — reminded me how a healthy dynamic between men and women should feel.

One, while it’s OK in that particular place for a woman to ask a man to dance, and I’ve been approached any number of times, in each case that night I was the one who took the initiative; for the sake of for a man’s psyche, that’s as it should be. Being that I’m old enough to be their fathers I wasn’t about to ask any of them on dates, but in this instance it just felt comfortable asking a total stranger to dance (it didn’t always).

And I would surmise that the young ladies themselves also wanted someone to notice them — as I said, their outfits were snazzy. (They certainly got my attention!) Eldredge believes that women, especially younger ones, need to feel chosen and lovely, so I feel I played my part as well.

I walked away that night feeling affirmed and hope they did, too. Would that happen to guys and gals all the time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mixed emotions

I’ve always believed homosexual conduct to be morally wrong, and about a decade ago I took a public stance against same-gender matrimony.

That being said, I’m not up-in-arms about a possible Supreme Court decision that might legalize it around the country.

And that’s because the folks fighting it are interested not so much in “marriage” but in maintaining social control and cultural authority. You see, in doing so they ended up compromising it.

How so? Well, way back in the 1970s they decided to make active gays into a special class of sinners, especially to raise money for para-church media "ministries" that became empires in their own right but, as it turns out, having precious little influence in society at large. Truth is, they go off on these crusades to perpetuate themselves but make a lot of enemies in the process.

I know what some of you might be thinking: We don’t want to raise our children in a decadent society. To that I respond, “Where you do think you are — heaven?”

Let’s not forget the early church, which was a friendless, underground movement that nevertheless eventually wore out the Roman Empire, lived in a time that likely doesn’t compare to what we face — probably much worse than today. So how did it survive? Not by demanding “privilege” but by living the way that God told it to, without political power at that.

Why can’t the American church do that? Well, it’s become too worldly.

In one sense, a blow against “traditional marriage” might be a key to spiritual renewal because once the trappings of Christianity fall out of favor in society we might finally turn to God — because He was there all along. That’s why I don’t see a ruling for “gay marriage” as an entirely bad thing, even though I won’t agree with it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Singleness — one male’s view

Something I’ve noticed about the literature available on being a single Christian in a couples’ world: Virtually all of it is written by women. It’s as if we single men don’t exist except for the possible sake of being a partner.

Now, I readily admit that part of that has to do with men generally not being writers and thus probing deeply into the question, but a part of me still feels somewhat marginalized with a male perspective on singleness being virtually non-existent. (Perhaps I should be the one to start, so here goes.)

I’m a rare breed — a middle-aged Christian man who has never experienced matrimony. I could get into several legitimate reasons why that’s the case, but as much as people (again, mostly women) say that singleness is not a sign of spiritual immaturity, for us never-married men it really might be the case.

Much men’s ministry often doesn’t help us because it tends to be geared toward guys with families and thus focuses on “leadership.” Nothing wrong with that, as I’ve myself gone through a leadership course that my church offers; the trouble is that such leadership gifts often have yet to be cultivated in us and we often can’t spend time with other godly men in the meantime because they just don’t have it to give. It's even worse if you’re not into sports (though I am).

Moreover, the reason we’re single is that, for the most part, women just haven’t been romantically interested for one reason or another. Asking women on dates is nerve-wracking as it is, and taking the chance of being turned down — and, in this context, it really does represent personal rejection whether a woman who says no means it that way or not — is too great a risk for many of us, especially since we’re the ones supposed to take the initiative, so we do spend a lot of time alone or in unfulfilling singles groups. (This is why, for us, “waiting on God” is impractical.) We tend to be more socially inept than women anyway precisely because we’re men and thus need tutoring and practice in such matters; many of us simply don’t know how to operate.

Lest you think I’m being self-pitying or cynical, I’m speaking mainly from past personal experience because things have begun to change of late. Some years ago I did get to spend some good one-on-one time with a godly woman; though that’s no longer the case, I can’t underestimate the effect it — more accurately, she — had on me. Later I got back into social dance, which apparently the ladies think I’m pretty good at. (To be truthful, sometimes the attention they give me even makes me nervous.) And more recently I’ve become involved in a singles group at church that does focus on dating, with everyone encouraging everyone else on his/her respective journeys.

I wish to stress that I haven’t “wasted” my single years pining for a spouse; I took the time to finish college and, after graduating and getting a job in my field, began to develop a parallel music career; a man especially needs something to bring to the table, I know now, and there’s no time like the present to develop it. I just wish we in the church would pay attention to guys who haven’t “arrived” yet; we could use the encouragement.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tilting at windmills

In the 1999 book “Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?”, Cal Thomas, vice president of communications for the late but hardly lamented Moral Majority, mentioned something I didn’t know: James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” once threatened to run for president as an independent because the Republican Party wasn’t moving on “social issues,” specifically gay rights and abortion, as quickly as he wanted. His intention was to pull social conservatives out of the GOP to show just many supported that agenda and the party had better heed.

Except for one thing: He apparently grossly overestimated that support, which is likely why I and others hadn’t heard.

Earlier this week, according to Right Wing Watch, Dobson predicted “civil war” were the Supreme Court to favor same-gender matrimony, and I understand that cases are coming to the Court to be decided soon.

Of course, Dobson’s been wrong before and since. Before the 2008 general election he wrote a hysterical screed giving predictions as to what might happen by 2012 were Barack Obama to become president — and virtually none of those predictions have come true. So why would anyone believe him now?

Not only is the idea of “civil war” far-fetched, but just whom would his supporters fight? And with what? I suspect that if his supporters were to do that they would end up utterly isolated, with no allies to speak of; if anything, we're virtually there already.

Here’s the problem: According to the op-ed “A Christian Nation? Since When?” by Kevin M. Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” and published in the New York Times, business groups, in reaction to the New Deal — which they despised — reached out to a number of Christian clergy and successfully married capitalism with the faith to a point where, by the 1980s, evangelicalism was tied to, shall we say, “what’s good for General Motors.” I’m sure that conservative Christians were counting on the support of big business to fund its social concerns.

Big mistake.

The first chink in that armor: The business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, in 1988 headed by Bill Clinton, reached out to business to a point where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had endorsed Republicans before, declined to endorse a presidential candidate in 1996. Today, the Koch brothers, who announced that they plan to spend nearly a billion dollars in the next campaign mostly on “conservative” candidates and are thus despised by the political left, nevertheless support abortion rights and gay marriage.

And when the state of Indiana passed a “religious freedom” bill that would essentially allow business run by Christians not to serve gays for religious reasons, a number of business groups decided or threatened to pull out of the state, the capital Indianapolis especially being endangered because it’s now a popular convention hub.

Why? Because appearing to discriminate against gays would be bad for business — due not to any anti-Christian “gay lobby” but personal relationships and the money that gays could bring in. Money talks, remember, and for that reason the understanding of a “quid pro quo” turned out not to be viable.

So that’s where we stand.

In the 1980s many believers, thanks to Ronald Reagan, took for granted political power that they thought they had but really didn’t. So now we’re facing court decisions that may not favor us — and we’re facing them alone because, as it turns out, most people never cared about the social issues that we do. I predict that Dobson’s “civil war” will fizzle out quickly, if it gets started at all.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Lessons from Indiana

With the amending of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana and the vetoing of a similar bill in Arkansas, it’s become clear to me that American “culture warriors” have lost yet another battle. And, truth be told, there are more losses to come.

Now, such people can complain all they want that the gay-rights movement is acting like “bullies” in getting major business to reconsider doing businesses in such states for what they consider an encroachment on their "religious freedom."

There are several problems with such a stance.

One, when the act was enacted on a Federal level during the Clinton Administration its aim was to protect specific religious rituals — in essence, the “free exercise” of religion; one case in particular surrounded the use of the controlled substance peyote by certain Native American tribes. And the law already contained provisions for churches, ministries and affiliated groups to bar active gays from positions in the organizations.

Which leads to another issue: What the culture warriors have always really wanted was not so much “freedom” but privilege, that only their views would be unquestioningly paramount in society. Trouble is, Christians in general and the church in particular were never instructed to become part of any “establishment,” perhaps because when you become establishment you tend to want to remain such and thus get hooked into the world’s way of thinking. That does more to damage the church’s effectiveness than anything coming from the outside because the faith is often liberalized in its own right.

Not helping matters is that gays over the years cultivated allies, whether in business, government, culture or, today, even some churches. And contrary to popular opinion, that wasn’t the result of some nefarious campaign from any gay lobby — it’s just that when people “came out” to their families and other places they gained sympathy in their respective worlds. In such an atmosphere blood ties and friendships often trump any “moral” concern.

In other words, the modern acceptance of gay rights and especially same-gender matrimony came as the result of, essentially, an underground phenomenon that has now bubbled up to the surface. We didn’t see it because, frankly, we didn’t want to, and now many of us complain that our country is abandoning Biblical “values.” (Which was dubious in the first place.)

Let me say that I do oppose same-sex marriage and would have a serious problem with, say, baking cakes or pizzas for such a wedding were I as a business owner asked to do so. But conservative Christians have never made a strong case as to why they feel homosexuality is morally wrong; as things stand now — especially since they do have a history of race- and gender-based discrimination on “Biblical grounds,” even though they don’t really exist — we can expect such controversies to occur again and again.

And I suspect that Indiana was just the first salvo.