Thursday, March 24, 2016

Evangelical Sacred Cows

For the record, I am an evangelical Christian. I am a conservative, both politically and theologically. I fit most of the stereotypes most people associate with words like "evangelical" and "conservative".

Bible inerrancy? Check.

White male? Check.

Small government? Check.

Pro-life? Check.

Bothered by changes in what is considered acceptable, particularly in the area of sexual morals, in my country in recent years? Check.

So trust me when I tell you that the words which follow do not come from some left-leaning, Slate-reading, tree-hugger with an anti-Evangelical agenda. No, this criticism of modern evangelical culture comes from the inside.

With my insider status established, let's go forward:

We on the political and theological Right have a habit of conveying dissatisfaction over Political Correctness in academia, the press, and in our entertainment, with the main gripe being that PC is a way of preventing the expression of certain ideas. And if PC doesn't prevent such expression, it certainly pounds home the message of how wrong those ideas are, and how they could only come from Neanderthals who refuse to acknowledge what the liberal elite recognize to be true. Examples which come to mind are global warming and evolution. To lefties, if you don't wholeheartedly accept "consensus" opinion on these, then you aren't worth talking to.

We have our own sacred cows
While criticism of PC-ness may very well be spot-on, we Evangelicals need to be completely honest and acknowledge that we often engage in the same practices. That is, we have our own list of ideas, organizations, and people who are so above reproach that any criticism of those ideas/people/organizations will not be tolerated.

Perhaps that assertion demands a list of examples. Here is such a list:

Dave Ramsey
Chris Tomlin
"God's Not Dead"--the movie
American exceptionalism
Chick-Fil-A
Kirk Cameron's acting abilities
Ronald Reagan
The phrase "Merry Christmas" being conveyed by sales clerks


I recently went camping with a number of Christian fathers and sons, and the conversations addressed a couple of the topics in the above list. When someone dared to raise an objection to Ramsey's methods, or Tomlin's music, things got awkward, and both conversations were cut short because of the tension. I'm not saying where I stand on any item on the list, but the fact that I feel the need to issue that disclaimer around my Evangelical friends is a problem.

As followers of Christ, we should be lovers of Truth, and if you have Truth on your side, you should have no problem engaging in a conversation with someone about anything. But that's not what I see in the Church today. Just like the Lefties, we do have our sacred cows. Will we admit it?

If we do admit it, and are willing to move past our own PC tendencies, then we open up the possibilities of dialog--or dare I say it: fellowship!-- with people, particularly professing Christians, who see things differently than us.   Then perhaps the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17 will be more of a reality.



Monday, March 21, 2016

What not to ask an unemployed person



[Note: the following explanation is not rooted in bitterness, and not an attempt to make anyone feel bad. It's simply an explanation of what happens when I get asked about my job search.] 

In November of 2015, the president of my company walked into my office. After 6 1/2 years, during which I was hired as a database administrator/programmer, promoted to manager, and then to Director, I was being let go. I didn't do anything wrong; the owner simply felt we had too many people in IT, and my position was eliminated. As I write this in March 2016, I'm in my 5th month of searching for work. 

The worst thing about being unemployed

The list of reasons that unemployment is undesirable is a long one. Surprisingly, "lack of revenue" isn't on top of the list.  No, the hardest part of my life as an unemployed person right now is having to deal with the all things said by concerned, well-intentioned people who see me regularly, particularly at church. 

Sundays are the hardest. I'm starting to dread going to church, because by Sunday afternoon, I will have shaken 50 or so hands, and at least 45 of those handshakes have been accompanied by "So, how's the job search going?", followed by "so, do you have any leads?"

Constant reminders, followed by lies
Every one of those handshakes is a reminder that I am jobless, during the one time a week when I come to a place (a sanctuary, if you will) where I am supposed to focus on God and think about eternal things, and to forget about the cares of this world.

Every time I am asked those two questions, there's an enemy who takes the opportunity to whisper in my ear that I'm a loser, to remind me that I was rejected by my employer of 6 years. 

I know it's a lie, but you try hearing a lie 50 times every Sunday. Your response may surprise you. 

When I am asked about leads or "have you had any interviews?" I am reminded that I have, on multiple occasions, dressed up for an interview, talked for an hour with an employer about why I would be a good fit for them, only to endure additional rejection a few days later as they let me know they chose someone else. 

My identity
Every time I am asked how the job search is going, it perpetuates the idea that my identity is "jobless guy." I am a lot of other things: husband, dad, homegroup leader, Little League coach. But nobody asks me how my team is doing, or how my homegroup is going. I just get asked about that one aspect of my life which makes me feel lowest right now. 

I'd much rather talk about the successes:
-I have 3 great kids. I have a lovely wife.
-Once or twice a week, I get a chance to pray for 11 kids at the end of baseball practice or game.
-I had an amazing experience last week where God spoke to me about how to pray for someone.
-Another time recently, I saw something when reading Scripture, only to be asked a question by a good friend the next day, and I was able to share with him what God said in His word, which turned out to be exactly what that guy needed to hear.
-  My family was recently given a family vacation in Washington DC, a place I have longed to take my kids, and it's going to be essentially free.

There are so many victories in my life worth asking about, which should drown out the deep sorrow I have about my employment status, but the Sunday morning questions just keep on reminding me, over and over, that my employer doesn't want me there anymore. 

I'm not bitter, and not trying to make anyone feel bad. I am communicating this to people because, frankly, I'd want to know if my well-intentioned words were problematic to anyone in any way. This post is simply an FYI; an attempt to enlighten. 

Feel free to pray for my job situation. I'm just asking you not to make it the only thing you talk to me about when you see me. 

So now you know now what not to ask next time you shake my hand. Thanks for listening.