The Supremacy of Passion

On the way in to work I was listening to the NPR Podcast Pop Culture and one segment was interviewing two women who wrote the children’s book version of Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. At one point one of the women was telling a story about a little girl who had gone home from school and unplugged everything but the refrigerator.

“What did the mom think of that?”
“She was slightly annoyed, but it was a funny annoyance. She was so happy that her child was passionate about it. “

It got me to thinking about passion, a word bandied about a lot in modern culture. It seems to be something we want for ourselves and our children. Why would a parent be happy if a child was passionate about something, and value that passion even if it wasn’t something we were passionate about.

According to Oxford passion has two definitions, the second is to me its root. The Passion is the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It was an act of physical, emotional, and spiritual sacrifice to do something. In the case of Jesus it was to do the most important thing ever done. The salvation of the world was easily worth the pain and suffering so graphically displayed in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

Using passion to describe the first definition – “a strong and barely controllable emotion” – adds a religious connotation to the emotion. Which is one reason some say global warming has become a religion. The other reason is the believers often seem to have a unquestioning faith of something critics believe to be far from absolute fact.

So Why Is So Passion Valued in Modern Culture?

Part of it is the dominance of apathy in our culture. We are awash in not caring. We’ve got all our physical needs more than met and we’ve invested so much of our lives in entertainment till we are bored by everything. Especially the “real” world. Taken to the extreme boredom leads to depression and even suicide.

Passion is the opposite of apathy and we desire it like a drug. It’s something that makes us feel good and that’s all we want.

A poor substitute for passion is outrage and we live in a culture of outrage. It is easier to get angry about something than to be passionate about it. Because passion breeds action for change, outrage just tells the other guy to change. The culture of outrage is most obviously seen in politics on both ends of the spectrum.

Parents want to encourage their child’s passion because they want them to be happy. Also most of us were passionate about something when we were younger and life managed to stamp out or just wear down that passion. So we don’t want to be part of that process for out kids. Or we look at our kids and see no ambition and are happy to see anything happening.

The Cart Before the Horse

In our culture with its unquestioned naturalistic worldview, we often seek the effects for things and not the source. We want the emotion of passion and don’t care about the purpose. But Jesus wasn’t seeking the emotion of passion, he was seeking the salvation of the world. The idea and reality he wanted were what caused the emotional and spiritual feeling that let him do the actions.

Our modern skeptics often say people let emotion dictate their actions, but rarely do they realize our ideas and beliefs can cause our emotions and passions. They think if we are emotional about something our reason should automatically be suspect. And they live like this. If they start getting excited about something, they want to squash that emotion. They may even abandon an idea because it causes great emotion.

Passion is bred on the importance of the object of passion. But in a naturalistic worldview, nothing is really important. Even the survival of the species is just something we’d like to happen, not something that matters to the universe. My death is a natural thing no different than the death of a cockroach or grass. My emotion is just the result of a survival mechanism that has been very effective at keeping my selfish gene going.

In this worldview there is no oughtness. There isn’t a way the world ought to be, there is only the way the world is. The world is warming up. Whether it ought to be warmer or the temperature it is a matter of preference. To plants that like it warmer it ought to be warmer. To people who don’t want the ice caps to melt, it ought to stay the temperature it is.

So Is It Any Wonder We Lack Passion?

To have real passion you have to believe you are involved in a great purpose. The actions you take are bigger than yourself. They are part of making the world the way it is suppose to be.

This is why passion comes from religion. It is God that gives the world meaning. He’s something outside our universe who created it for a purpose. When something has a purpose it has oughtness. There is a way it is suppose to be. It may be that way, or it may not, but making it the way it is suppose to be is purpose.

If there is no purpose to the universe, nothing you can do makes it better or worse. Not ultimately. Maybe you have a way you think it ought to be, but your way is no more valid than anyone else’s.

So those are my thoughts on passion. We all want and need it, but we need to get it from a true source and not just grab on to the latest fad.

Footnote: I’m not trying to comment on Global Warming. If what Al Gore says is true, that we humans are causing the world to heat up and will ultimately kill off our species, then stopping that is a cause very worth of passion. Because I believe God create this planet for humans to live on. We ought to continue because it is the purpose of God.

Why is Satan Always Angry?

I’m rereading Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Shadow and there was a little exchange between the nun character Sister Carlotta and another command that had an interesting bit of theology in it.

“Do you know why Satan is so angry all the time? Because whenever he works a particularly clever bit of mischief, God uses it to serve his purposes.”
“So God uses wicked people as his tools”
“God gives us the freedom to do great evil, if we choose. Then he uses his own freedom to create goodness out of that evil, that is what he chooses.”
“So in the long run God always wins.”
“Yes”

Cities of Refuge For The Slayer

I’m not a huge fan of the King James Version of the bible written in 1611, and one of the reasons is that the language has changed so much. I was killing time at church and they have one of those big coffee table bibles with the cool pictures in it. It was open to a painting of Daniel in the lion’s den, which strangely was the book of Joshua. I found this turn of phrase which was pretty cool

Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer;
Joshua 21:13

So if Buffy needs a place of safety, there are a number of cities in Israel for her.

Bono on Jesus, Grace and Karma

Only crazy people could think Bono isn’t Christian. In the passage quoted in this blog post Bono talks about Grace vs. Karma in a powerful, powerful way. He also incorporates Lewis’ trilema into his witness.

It is crazy for Christians to judge him because his “notoriously bad language, liberal politics, and rock star antics”. Or justify him because “he has been faithfully married for 23 years”. Why don’t we consider being the most famous advocate for the poor and AIDS infected in Africa as a sign he’s Christian?

It is a crazy mindset we of Christ have gotten into.

Parenting

This weekend I learned something as a father. It was, as most things, a combination of inputs and actions coming together in a perfect storm sufficient for me to get it. I’m coming to understand this is the way God often talks to me.

On Friday I had a strange role reversal with my youngest son where he discovered something I was doing that I shouldn’t be and confronted me. Then I had to deal with that fall out. I had to come up with the words you tell someone you know you have let down. It was very strange and effected me deeply for days.

Sunday I got into a yelling, screaming, berating, hurting argument with my eldest about his morality. In the end we were both balling and he was vomiting. I was brought to mind a passage in The Divine Conspiracy where Willard is talking about Matt 7 and judging others. He quotes C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, where Lewis says he is rarely surprised by how children talk to their parents, but is often appalled by how parents talk to their children. They say the harshest, most damaging of things to the children. Things and said in a way, they would never talk to another person’s child. Yet supposedly they love their children more, yet they don’t even treat them with the courtesy they give strangers.

As I said to my wife I would never talk to my atheist friends the way I talked to E. I wouldn’t do it because it would be rude and because yelling and hurting people is not how you convince them to change.

So I’ve sought forgiveness from my sons, and their maker. I’ve also repented and turned away from that way of acting. Now I will show them the respect they deserve as humans, as young men and people I love. I can be firm without being harsh. I can questions and discuss without arguing. Above all I can love and be kind.

We had a youth minister candidate in this weekend at church. It was a busy weekend for all. Now with my new way of looking at parent/adult child/youth relationships, I realize we may not have shown the respect to the youth we would have shown to adults. I also realize we sometimes don’t show the respect to others we should.

I’m also very aware of how being a youth minister is different from being a parent. The YM is not their parent, he’s their minister. Ministers are there to equip and train the saints for good works. Parents are there to shape their offspring through love and discipline. When you put parents in charge of a youth group, they expand their parent role and don’t see what they are doing as equipping.

Been A Long Time

Came by the blog today and realized its been a very long time since I posted last. Lots of stuff has been happening that have conspired to keep me away.

I did a trash the dress shoot a couple of weeks ago. I’ll post images once I get the processing done.

My grandfather came home from rehab/hospital with hospice last week. For those of you who don’t know that means they’ve done all they can for him and they plan on him dying soon. He has liver cancer and hadn’t been eating in the hospital, so it looked like it could be days till the end. So we dropped everything here and made a trip up there last Thursday. He’s doing a lot better since he came home. I think he’s happier and will stick around for awhile. Though not a long while.

If there is anyone I know who is living an eternal kind of life it’s Pappa Wiley. I kind of feel he’s so close to Jesus that this change won’t be that big a deal for him. I asked him how he felt about knowing the end was near. He said, “I’m afraid, but it isn’t unexpected. I’m almost 89 and it is a natural part of life”. I was kind of surprised he felt fear, but I guess that’s what we all experience in the face of change.

We were talking to my atheist son on the trip about what a person is. I contend that a person is something more than their brain and body. It is this thing we call the spirit. It is the thing that continues on when we die. I think the person that is Pappa is already partially gone. Death may not be an event that happens right at the moment your heart stops, or you brain waves flat line.

Have a shoot Thursday night which should be fun.

I missed last Sunday for my apologetics class. Had a buddy teach it. So he wouldn’t have to prepare, I gave him questions and had them break up into groups and deal with atheist statements. He said they were able to give the answers I had taught them, which is good. Except for the girls who just talked about shopping instead. Oh well, they are teenagers.

This Sunday will be my last class. It will be on the bible. What it is. Why we should trust it. How to study it. All in 40 minutes. Should be interesting. There is another class I would have taught, but we have a candidate for youth minister coming in and he’ll teach that Sunday.

So that’s me right now. I’ll try and post more.

Anger And Contempt In My Life

M. Scott Peck started his best selling book The Road Less Traveled, with these words “Life is difficult.”

Rick Warren started his book, The Purpose Driven Life, with the words “It’s not about you.”

Three Things Going On

This summer has been difficult, but has also been a growing experience. Three big things have been going on in my life that have worked together for whatever growth I’ve had.

First I’m teaching apologetics and Christian thinking. Teaching anything means you have to learn alot about the subject. You have to learn way more than you teach. My style of preparing a class goes something like this. Read and listen to all kinds of stuff on the subject. Write a long outline of what you know. Then start stripping it down to make it fit in 30 minutes. So I’ve been absorbing a lot of stuff on why there is a God, and what it means if there isn’t one. This is powerful stuff to have bouncing around your psyche. Stuff most of us, no matter which side we are on in that big question, don’t think about much.

Second, I’ve been reading Dallas Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy. I mentioned it before and said I was slogging through the book. Well I still am. And I read it quite a bit. It is just heavy stuff.

One of the things I taught in the apologetics class is the more you know about something, the more you can see when you look at it. One of the things Willard says is that when Jesus changes you from the inside, your outside actions naturally change. Yesterday I realized these two things had happen to me and I didn’t even notice.

Third, I’m on the search committee for a new Youth Minister at our church. This has been a trial. Anytime you are on a committee you know its going to be tough. And while I’ve been going to this church for over 4 years, I still ask myself on almost a daily basis, “Why do we go here again?” It isn’t the kind of church I expected to ever go to again. It is a conservative – though they don’t think themselves so – mainline denomination. One of those denominations that have been around for 100 years and are very set in there ways. Before coming here I’d been going to new church plants or completely non-denominational churches. The cutting edge of what church is right now.

Anger and Contempt

In Divine Conspirarcy Willard talks about Jesus’ teaching on anger and contempt in Matt 5:21-22. In the sermon on the mount, which begins in Matt 5, Jesus is describing the kind of kingdom he is here to establish. He’s not being prescriptive, he’s being descriptive. He’s describing what the kingdom of the heavens looks like, not giving us a set of rules to make it happen. Being a citizen of the kingdom requires you submit your will to God’s and allow him to live in you and transform you.

The first place Jesus goes when he starts talking about what a life looks when God is living in us is anger. Anger is a natural reaction to our wills being thwarted. But so often we let it go beyond that. We store it up, we stoke the flames of anger and it slowly consumes us. Bank enough of it and it will burn you up quickly.

Would murder occur if there were no anger in men’s hearts? Probably some, but it would be way less wouldn’t it? So Jesus goes to the core of the problem here. Get rid of the anger and you’ll get rid of most murder and violence.

Then he goes on to talk about contempt. “Whoever insults his brother.” Insulting is something we do to people we hold in contempt. To people we don’t like, or worse, just don’t care about. And when we do it without reason – as some biblical manuscripts say – it is even more obvious this is about the other person not being a person. In the kingdom of the heavens, no one is a non-person. Everyone is worthy of respect and not contempt.

If we removed anger as a motivation for murder, we might still do it for greed or pleasure. But we could only kill non-persons in most cases. Jeffery Damar didn’t kill his relatives, but rather non-persons.

Then Jesus brings the two together for the finale. “whoever says, ‘You fool!’…”. We think of the word fool as not that big a deal. But the word Jesus used was much more powerful. It would be like saying “asshole” or “dumbass” or any racial epithet. The term meant the other person was such an idiot their opinion, their very person, wasn’t worth of talking about and was so dumb it makes you mad.

When anger and contempt are piled together, nurtured, built up and institutionalized, you get the atrocities of Southern slavery and racism, the holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Africa.You get hate crimes in America. You get the guy near where I live who stabbed his wife and lit her on fire last week.

Those are the logical extremes, but nothing good comes out of anger and contempt even used to lesser extents.

Back To Me

Last night I was thinking I need to go to one of the leaders of my church and ask them why I should keep going here. I’d never thought of doing that before. I didn’t think any opinion they might have would matter. I was holding them in contempt. I was often angry as well at stuff that they did.

I didn’t realize this from the outside in. I didn’t realize I was angry or held them in contempt and thought I should change that. I’ve know I was angry off and on for awhile now.

No, the shock was I had already changed.

The result of the change was I thought I should ask their opinion. I no longer held them in contempt. It wasn’t an act of my will to change things, rather it was Jesus changing me internally.

This was going to be a quick post talking about what I’ve learned and how hard my life was. Well life ain’t easy and it ain’t all about me. But there is hope if we put ourselves in the hands of the God who created us – no matter what means he used to do so.