Canada’s marijuana push:: A Question of the Inevitable

canadabis.jpg

The word inevitable is used quite often in the research and conversations that I’ve read regarding the push of the ruling Liberal Canadian government to legalize marijuana in our country. In fact it is also the word being used in many of the recent articles regarding the legalization of marijuana across states in the U.S. – Referring to those states who have not yet ruled in favour of this action.

When the word inevitable gets used, to describe the making of politically motivated law legal what was once illegal, it is often used to cut off the conversations and to push away good questions. It is designed to shut down consideration that there may be another or better way forward then the inevitable.

  inevitable
adjective
1.unable to be avoided, evaded, or escaped; certain; necessary:
       an inevitable conclusion.
2. sure to occur, happen, or come; unalterable:
The inevitable end of human life is death.
noun
3.that which is unavoidable.

Inevitable can shift us from asking the right questions.

What is being asked right now, in the Liberal government’s push to legalize, are the questions: How and where it should be sold? How does it get packaged? How much can be grown? What is the highest dose of active ingredient? Will our law enforcement have the right technology to measure if a person is illegally intoxicated?

So that the answers offered are in this vein:

“Canada will be the first G7 nation, in 2017, to legalize, regulate and restrict access to recreational cannabis,” says Brendan Kennedy, president of B.C.-based marijuana producer Tilray. “The eyes of the world are on Canada, and it’s extremely important for Canada to get this right.”
   “Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has mused about the possibility of having the provincial Crown liquor corporation in charge of selling recreational marijuana. But a federally appointed task force is recommending storefront and mail-order sales.”
– Global Mail article,  ALEXANDRA POSADZKI, TORONTO — The Canadian Press,                                            Published Monday, Dec. 26, 2016

OR in the vein of who we can trust to distribute and control rightly:

“When Environics Communications asked whether they trust companies in each sector to “do what is right for Canada, Canadians and our society,” survey respondents ranked marijuana dead last among roughly 20 sectors – giving it a lower trust rating than such sectors as pipelines, social media platforms, and pharmaceutical companies. Just 13 per cent of roughly 1,500 people gave marijuana companies a rating of five or higher on a seven-point trust scale.”
– SUSAN KRASHINSKY ROBERTSON – MARKETING REPORTER Special to The Globe and                                                                                                  Mail Published Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017

So, according to the survey taken in this article we would trust our home improvement construction workers to the task of distribution and control more than the producers of cannabis? As a construction worker (my bi-vocational role) I find that amusing.

Right questions can lead us forward into the inevitable.

Although personally I don’t agree with all the recommended conclusions in Micheal Devillaer’s recent article , in the Globe and Mail, I do appreciate the critical questions he is asking in the face of the inevitable.

  “Has legalization of our other drug industries – alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals – prevented harm from their misuse? Have these drug industries effectively balanced the pursuit of revenue with protection of public health? Has government regulation of drug industries been effective?”

The current decisions seem based solely, or mostly, on political favour and potential economic bounty – if the great hope for our current political agenda is equating the measure of success to a great in-filling of our coffers and an emptying of our jails, we are in trouble on this one. We certainly don’t have to go far to realize that is a ‘pipe dream’ behind an ill thought promise. Colorado is living that ‘dream’ even now. An article in the associated press describes the illusive nature of regulation, political favour and money-making in the legalization of pot.

Where ‘Inevitable’ just doesn’t cut it.

The ‘i- word’ getting used in the conversations with my wonderful, secular, hedonistic friends is expected. It takes listening, patience and continued asking of better questions to move forward to deeper conclusions. However in most conservative Christian circles this reply of “inevitable” speaks with a more sinister voice.
If your conclusions are simply, ‘”well it’s inevitable” when you are looking around at the increasingly secularized world you, and our churches, are in trouble. At best you don’t yet understand the redemptive intentions of God in the world. At worst you don’t care about the world.
  
 If you don’t care:
     What happens when our friends, our children, our grandchildren come face to face with liberalized secular values? Who do they turn to so they can learn to ask the right questions and wrestle through broken thinking until they come to hope filled answers? The pat answers of a seclutionist Christian are filled with hate, threat, and a joyless attempt to control. “Just say no” is not an answer to my heart that is driven by selfish passions and a rebellious lust. It’s an ill-fated attempt to cover up the deep brokenness of a heart that is always grasping in the dark for control. It is the white washing of a tomb to hide the real rot inside. It’s an unwillingness to weep for a world that we believe, without divine intervention, is headed to hell. ‘Don’t care’ responses are not evidence of a Christ filled and controlled heart. Isolationists prove only that they love themselves, are unmoved by Jesus’ gospel and hate the world He came to save.

 If you don’t understand:
 Then the answers are inadequate but not necessarily unloving or entirely ineffective. A young man I was working with a few years ago asked me, “What about me being a Christian and my marijuana use? Does God hate me? Won’t He accept me even though I can’t really function well without it?” My answer was lovingly inadequate, “Well you know, if you’re a Christian, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, right? The Bible tells us not to let anything master us. What do you think will happen if you keep being owned by this?” Truth spoken ineffectively. This young man no longer attends our church, or any church that I know of. He still wrestles with bigger issues and the struggle of substance use.

God’s great will for mankind is that he would find his joy in the very thing he is designed for, to glorify God. This overflows into the benchmarks of God’s work plan for mankind to 1) proclaim the glory of God, 2) to create cultures that demonstrate the glory of God and 3) to exercise the authority (function) of God’s glory. Because of our sin the ability and standing  for mankind to accomplish this is lost. Our greatest efforts and delights are hopelessly lost to grasping after smoke (Eccles. 2:10-11); We will never self-realize, either through our grasping at spirituality or self-medicating pleasure, into our true and greatest joy in life – the utter delight of our life’s purpose- to glorify God.

Understanding this greater narrative that is written over our world helps us ask the right questions. The better questions, to my friend, would have been questions of why and how, followed by a whole lot more listening. “Why are you Christian? How did the great love of God and the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice to make you His own child affect you when you first believed? Why do you NEED this substance? How have you come to the place where you don’t believe Jesus is really a lot of help in the midst of your pain, hurt and shame? Why is your belief that God might hate you for your brokenness or may not care about your drug use? “

The brokenness of the hearts behind the issue is why we must ask the right questions, both politically and personally. Here we discover that God is able to transform the inevitable.

Thanks for reading,

BRS

 

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Spirituality. It isn’t what you think.

How do you measure if you’re spiritual?
Being spiritual can mean a lot of different things.

spiritual-e1440634043386For those who follow an eastern religious mindset it could be the making of many different sacrifices or offerings to a myriad of gods or spirits. It could be following a religious regime (rules) so that we might either put ourselves in a place of peace and happiness, or so that we might gain merit to enter some form of nirvana or earn a better standing in this life or next.  In this understanding spirituality equals how we have gained peace or hope through our religious merit or habits.

In a North American mindset we often equal spirituality with the degree of self-care  and personal comfort we achieve. “Yes I’m a spiritual person. I take personal time to meditate, reflect, do yoga or have ‘me time’ each week.” We tend to measure our spiritual health by how well we feel, how much space in our lives we have to take care of ourselves or how much control we have been able to gain on our lives. Spirituality equals how good, peaceful or comfortable our lives have become because of our habits of self-awareness.

God doesn’t measure Spirituality the way we do.
“Spirituality” in the Bible doesn’t equate to what we do for merit before God through self-sacrifice or how peaceful we can make our lives through self comfort.

  • Spirituality in the Bible always includes a work  initiated by Holy Spirit, with evidences of Holy Spirit’s work. Romans 8 would be a good place to think on this.
  • Spirituality in the Bible is always measured in actuals. A contrite heart, a broken spirit, a need for the great grace of the God we cannot reach, a desperate soul and delighting simply in God’s grace (evidenced by how we treat other broken people in humanity)- these are the things God will not despise.
  • Spirituality in the Bible is understood by our actual proximity to God, not a worked up or perceived by others proximity. It is so often those who appear to be spiritual to others or who have worked themselves into a position of spirituality, in the Bible, who God says, “I do not know you.”

How do christians measure if they are spiritual?
In our modern-day North American churches we can get caught up in believing we are spiritual people in ways that exclude true spiritual life by living as a ‘instagram, pod-cast, free-range Christian”

Instagram Christian – our deepest engagement with the Word of God, His voice to us, is via instagram one-liner scripture quotes. #like #yesJesus #makeitsoforme #thismakesmehappier

Pod-cast Believer– We gain a head knowledge of Bible by listening to our favourite pod-cast preachers so that we know the arguments, the winsome applications, the best known teachers/speakers/preachers of modern-day church but know little of wrestling the truth of Christ out within  the broken, stumbling,  life of the face to face church community. #letmeunpackthisforyou  #landtheplane #bringit #preacheriskillingit

Free-range Saint – We float in and out of Church with no real engagement in the difficult, messy realities of being a part of the local imperfect body. We come in once or maybe twice a month. Try to look content during the 30 minutes of singing. Check our phones during the 40 minutes of preaching. Say as little as possible. Keep it light. Get out as soon as we can (to get to more important stuff in our schedule). Treating church like a hair cut. Has some sort of cosmetic effect on how spiritual we can appear but not something we are particularly engaged or threatened by. Unless of course we judge it to be a horrible or distasteful event. Then we’ll float to some other place next time we feel the need to go.

Spirituality or Spiritual Life?
  I am struck by how we measure our ‘spirituality’ and by how God measures our spiritual life. Where and what we do to appear spiritual and how Christ calls us to deep engagement in His Body, the Church, so that we are confronted with authentic living of a Spirit-filled life. Struck by the testimony of the first century church -true spirituality will not leave us comfortable but will cause us to abandon the pipe dream of what treasure we believe we can gain on earth and fight to delight with all we have in the person and  work of Jesus. For He is the only means to truly be made spiritual.

Prompted in thinking on this by studies in Acts (see especially chpts7-9)

Thanks for reading

BRS

Blogging Calvin Wk 1: The Knowledge of God prt1

Blogging the Institutes – January week 1

(my blog subtitles  are  bold, quotes of Calvin in italics, applications for present day are mine)

CHAPTER 1 The Beginning of Wisdom
  If you were so moved to write a dissertation of what your core beliefs are, a systematic lay out of what you hold as the key truths that have driven your thoughts, your will and your life, what would you write? How would you capture the true essence of the WHY behind the WHAT of who you are and how you have lived your life so far… where would you start?
  The Institutes of Christian Religion are John Calvin’s dissertation formed over many years, through reflection, meditation and practice. Born out of a single Source. A source that Solomon of old declares to be the very beginning of wisdom, an understanding and awe of God.
 Awareness of God as the source of true wisdomproverbs-9-10-free-bible-verse-desktop-wallpapers-1
“The whole sum of our wisdom- wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured  -broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.” pg1,pp1- and so it begins with not simply what is true wisdom but where, indeed, WHO is the source of true wisdom.
   We are in a culture that has sought to strip and redefine what has been considered the foundational structures of humanity to be true. I suppose it is an inevitable cycle of what we call human progress to constantly press, rearrange and hope to redefine the boundaries of understood truth. However our current western liberal culture, the culture in which I live, has snowballed this process so that the one truth that seems to be in the driver’s seat of moral, political, educational, and developmental process is “I am the basis of my truth.”  There is a great inherent danger and detrimental problem with this basis of self-proclaimed truth.
Self-knowledge is impossible without the knowledge of God
“Conversely, we observe that no one ever attains clear knowledge of self unless he has first gazed upon the face of the Lord, and then turns back to look upon himself.”
   This could be a summary thesis for the Institutes. The institutes is the result of and a means to, gazing into the face of God so that we might turn back to look upon ourselves with ever sharpening clarity. To fail to look into the face of God as the source, the basis of what is wisdom and true, is to blunder into the darkness of self-delusion. It is to try to redefine ourselves by making our versions of self-awareness the definition of truth. It is not only extremely poor logic but holds a shifting sand  of identity that produces hopelessness and bondage to self-expression~ always recreating ourselves but never coming to a deeper, solid, certainty of who we truly are.
  It matters what or who we consider to be the origin of truth upon which we base our life.  An awareness of God both unnerves us and assures us.
Awareness of God and it’s affects
An awareness of God is common to all
“We regard it as beyond dispute that there is in the mind of man, by natural inclination, a certain feeling for divinity, so that no one should seek refuge by claiming ignorance. The Lord has instilled in everyone some understanding of his majesty, so that all, having learned that there is one God and that he is their Creator, should be condemned by their own testimony because they have failed to honour him and to devote their lives to doing his will.”
  This is Paul’s great theme in the first section of the Epistle of Romans, in the New Testament. The arguments that Calvin makes come out of obvious meditations in Romans. Calvin himself affirms this in his introduction saying that those who have studied the Institutes here, will have already an understanding of his commentary of Romans.

   I realize in this culture where most of my neighbours would either identify as atheist, or agnostics (who function as atheists) there might be a long “pfffft- as if” from Calvin’s borrowed statement of universal awareness of God. Which would then most likely be followed by a, gawfah” at his follow-up statement:

The seed of religion is perverted by self-will

  “We have already mentioned that the knowledge of God must be such as effectively to plant in our hearts some seed of religion. This is so that, first, we may be taught to fear and reverence God; and second, that we may learn that all good things must be sought in him, and that for these we owe him the duty of gratitude. For how can our mind conceive of God if you do not immediately see that you, who are his handiwork are, by right of creation, subject to and dependent on his rule?”  – this is a great few sentences to meditate on.

 Because the darkness of our own minds and hearts. Our inability to define ourselves clearly to any eternally happy-end (a kind of true religion before God) remains outside of our self-realizing grasps. We must be taught to reverence God, such is the major  function of both our conscience and creation, in which we continually live, ALL of us.
   Calvin presses us further we must learn that all good things (truth) are found in Him and that such a revelation demands our obedience to God, as a  loving, submissive “duty of gratitude”. A kind of holy delight in our daily living.
   To begin to understand that we are the handiwork of God, holds the right of creation on our lives so that we are in everything “subject and dependent on his rule”. How can we not know this as we begin to form an understanding of God via the witness of creation and conscience?
Where it all goes wrong
The twin evils of superstition and craven fear
“In this respect we sin chiefly in two ways, First, in their search for God’s truth men do not, sadly, go beyond the limits of their nature as they should: rather, they judge God’s greatness according to their own crude understanding. They comprehend him not as he has made himself known, but according to the image which they themselves have arrogantly fashioned.”  – Calvin refers to this tendency as a living out of our own superstition. The God we want, or only want to know partially when we need, as opposed to the God who is.
“The second error which men commit is that they think about God only reluctantly, when necessity compels them. They are not moved by fear born of reverence for his majesty, but only by dread of his judgement, which fills them with terror because they cannot escape it.”
– this is living with God in such a way that only fear drives us. The God who is like an angry Father or a controlling spouse. If we can walk the line, step around the egg shells maybe they will like us.
  Neither of these two, superstition or fear, are able to absolve the hearts wicked appetite for self-indulgence and so will not produce the lasting fruit that comes out of knowing God. Indeed what Calvin reminds us is that neither our superstitious understandings of a god we want or a fear driven religiosity will ever give us a clear understanding of who God really is. So that we will, hoping in these two man made devices, never truly know God.
Where it all goes right
What true godliness entails
“ This is what is meant by pure and true religion- namely faith joined with unfeigned fear of God, the ‘fear’ comprising both love for the righteousness which God has commanded in his law and reverence, freely and wholeheartedly given, for his majesty.”
The fact that God has revealed himself so that we might know this true and pure religion Calvin says is what makes us wholly different then “the beasts”. The truth of God being known is not founded in mere intellectualizing or the making up of god from our own imaginations. God has revealed God. This is how we can, indeed the only true way, know Him. To know Him in this way is to begin to start to understand what it is to delight in Him. It is to touch the very purpose of our lives, to know God and to glorify Him forever.
Next Week:
 The Knowledge of God prt2
Thanks for reading.
BRS

Blogging Calvin’s Institutes in 2017

2017 is set to be a memorable year.
There is some great celebrations ahead. Canada, my home and native land, is celebrating its 150th Anniversary. I am looking forward to digging deeper into some of the historical and cultural developments of our great nation. I am your typical Canadian, apologetically patriotic (read ‘closet nationalist’) and outspokenly bias (read ‘defending our right to own hockey’ by using cutting sarcasm). I have begun to put together some reading on the history of our provinces and the cultural development of our country for my reading list in 2017 (any suggestions would be welcomed).
Another significant celebration is the 500th year of the protestant reformation. Sparked by Martin Luther, fuelled by Augustine and clarified by several key reformers including John Calvin.john-calvin
At the end of 2016 I began to read John Calvin’s Institutes. The first half has been so thought-provoking and spiritually deepening that as I reviewed some of the personal notes and applications that I made I decided to try to blog out these insights.

I am not claiming to be an expert in either Church History, the Reformation or John Calvin studies but I am leaning in as a student of all the afore-mentioned. You may want something more scholarly or analytical.
I am  a practitioner. A dad and a Pastor. My roles in life include helping others navigate the world around them in meaningful ways. Ways that will cut through lies, half-truths or confusion and bring clarity, purpose and move ahead truthfully.

This is my approach to reading , thinking and blogging through Calvin’s institutes.  I am reading to learn and apply into the context of today’s culture. In particular, the leading edge liberal culture that is mine, in Canada.

I can’t promise you that these blogs will be short – ‘4 steps to a better…’ – kind of blogs. But I do hope they will be meaningful, insightful and helpful to those who find themselves having to navigate a liberal culture that is in desperate need of a spiritual reformation back to the great God of glory.
For those interested look for a “Blogging the Institutes” at the end of each week in 2017.

Thanks for reading
BRS

Living a Deceived Life

Authenticity is a much toted quality now-a-days. We want to know that our friends, our feelings, our beliefs are 100 (% real). Most of all we want to believe that we ourselves are authentic- genuine to what we say we hold as true and important.
Meaning what?  Usually this shapes out in two streams. (1) I want to be able to be as raw and real, as self-revealing, self- actualizing, self- identifying as I want to be- without anyone giving me push back or questioning what I might consider ‘my authentic self’ (2) I will no longer live under the excuses that I have constantly made, or the script that has been handed to me, or in the shadows of what my life has become-  I will live life out of my most authentic expression of my success that I can. I will realize myself to a better life (equated as a more authentic life).
Both of these version of ‘authenticity’ are based out of ME, MY, MINE own self as the basis of authority for what is truly real and best for me. It is truly a prime doctrine of our westernized world.
   There are all kinds of reasons why we might not want to hear that theseintent to deceive.jpeg versions of authenticity may be a great deceit of our age.

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.”

Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit

Calling ourselves “christian” or attending a church doesn’t exempt us from being deceived by this very same doctrine of deceit. It is very possible that even now we might simply be living a life with the prime goals of self-actualizing but trying to use Jesus as one of many means to becoming all we believe we deserve to be. To get all that we believe we deserve to get.

A read through Revelation, particularly chapters 17,18  gives us a terrifying panoramic view of how drunk we get on the deceitful promises of self-actualizing. Paying close attention to the source of these deceitful promises (pictured here as a seducing harlot that drinks blood and a promised city of hope that delivers only sorrow). This is to serve as a resoundingly shocking picture to those who’s minds and hearts believe that we are meant to finally be all we can be through the resources of embracing self (read: self-effort, self-comfort, self-forgiveness, self-worth, self-indulgence, self-realizing- pretty much all that the western world equals as our greatest expression of authenticity). The shock comes to those of us who call ourselves Christians when we realize that living for a self-indulgent life  is always opposed to the goodness and glory of God. My self-determined life is always opposed to, at war with, the will of God.

These are some incredibly important truths to wrestle with. I have been trying to work this through in the 20 some passages of the New Testament where Christ’s followers are warned by Jesus, the Disciples and Paul, “Don’t be deceived”  – (study note: most of these passages fall into one of two categories regarding living a deceived life 1- deceived by living out of the resources of a deceiving kingdom 2-deceived by living out of  personal deceiving desires)

It is incredibly easy to believe that what I am understanding about myself, what I want, what I need. How I choose to live my life. What gender, what role, what I want to understand as truth is REALLY 100% the authentic self-expression of who I am convinced I am supposed to be. I then shape my own life around what I hold as my truth for me. So that the very truths of God sound strange or strained in my ears and life. The sin of selfish living becomes my norm, my custom. When this begins to take place we are being intoxicated by the seductive harlot that drinks the blood of the saints of God. We are believing and living in a Kingdom that promises hope but is only able to deliver poison.

The custom of sinning takes away the sense of it, the course of the world takes away the shame of it.- John Owen, “The Works of John Owen” 1826

   “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues”
– Jesus, Revelation 18:4

The truth of who we are is ultimately and most greatly realized in the purposes and hope of God’s great plan of redemption in our life.
 “The joy of seeing God is the true blessedness of man, because the fountain that supplies it is equal to man’s desire and capacity”– Jonathan Edwards, ‘Altogether Lovely, early 1800’s
crf-Ephesians 3:17-19

“Don’t be deceived”

Thanks for reading
BRS

‘Atheist’ is the new main stream Canadian ‘Christian’

proud-canadian-atheist-womens_design.png    Not that long ago when you sat down with someone who you were getting to know, deeper than a ‘hi’ across the grocery counter and  happened to wander into conversations about religion, most people in Canada would verbally identify as ‘christian’. It was said basically in the same way that you would respond to the question of citizenship, “Well, of course I’m a Christian, I’m Canadian.”   I would argue it would be possible that this person might have held a sense of traditional Christian moral values [“Don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t hang around those who do.”- wisdom jokingly handed out by my dad, rural New Brunswick style]; Most likely went to a christian church semi-regularly or forced to go as a kid; Held the basic assumption that there was some kind of a God who kick-started this spinning ball and who at least checks-in every so often to see how things are going; Probably would believe that when the bell tolls they’ll find themselves standing in front of some manner of pearly gate and giving reasons why God should be happy enough with them to  give them a key to their own private cloud, some harp lessons and a halo then basically leave ’em alone to chill for an eternity.

  “So what religion are you?” “Of course I’m Christian” = I’m Canadian, basically good and God’s cool with that.

I don’t think this main stream is the main stream anymore. Conversations within our community. Talking with my older kids friends. Interaction with young skeptics. Listening to the young parents in our neighbourhoods. Add to this, the broader spiritual climate that we hear echoing in the greater Canadian cultural conversations I would propose:                      ‘Atheists’ are the new main stream ‘christians’ 

What does this main stream atheist look like? They would say they don’t really believe in a God, I believe in science. They equate traditional moral values with organizational and religious restraint and navigate moral issues on a need-to-know basis (using their own understandings in the moment as the source of authority); From here, what they believe is atheism gets blurry… I’ve had self-identifying ‘atheists’ ask if I believe in angels, ghosts, spirits, demons,and ultimate powers that we can’t see? THEY do. My push back is that the main stream atheist in not really an atheist but more of an agnostic, it’s just more accepted even celebrated to call yourself a ‘science’ guy/girl.

“So what religion are you?” “Oh I’m not religious. I’m an atheist. I believe in science” = There’s probably not a traditional God. I don’t want outside moral restraint but, “do you believe in the spirit world ’cause I do?”

Why do you care?
  Perhaps, for many of you, it doesn’t matter. If you are someone who calls yourself a follower of Jesus- it should.
First, just because main stream identifies as ‘christian’ doesn’t mean most people are genuine Christians. That’s important if we claim Jesus is the only way to God and that there is an eternal consequence for rejecting Him, then it’s important that we know what truly being a Christian means.

Second, just because main stream is identifying as ‘atheist’ doesn’t mean people are genuine atheists. Knowing that most ‘atheists’ are open to spiritual conversations should be refreshing. In fact its a great place to have both broader and more pointed conversations. Broader in helping people navigate the reality that we have a spiritual side that is left feeling empty or searching for the mystical if we simply state, “I don’t believe”. Pointedly, are you just identifying as an atheist because you don’t like the idea that there might be moral standard outside of yourself? God does change us…. but maybe not in the ways you think or fear.

Thanks for reading.
BRS

 

Justin Trudeau is the Answer to Your Prayers

 trudeau1

Yesterday, October 19, 2015 marked a decisive day in Canada’s political landscape. Democracy was exercised across our great country in all ten provinces and 3 territories resulting in some unprecedented results. Approximately 17,410,656 people were engaged in voting, the highest voter turn out in more than a decade with more than 60% of eligible voters showing up to exercise their freedom to choose their leaders. This on the heels of a very long, according to Canadian standards, political campaign period, 78 days. Still, this resulted in a reportedly large numbers of first time voters (students, new citizens, etc.) and a strong turn out of aboriginal first nation communities making this federal election feel like democracy is alive and well in our country. Snap shot of the results

  But did we get what we were asking for? 

I think I am like the typical Canadian. I have an opinion, try to keep it politely to myself until directly asked then try to communicate with a calm cool nonchalantness and deep conviction on MY right opinion. I was asked several times through the election campaign who I will vote for (by both family, friends and acquaintances). I could tell that most of them, like me, were wearying from the constant berating of one party’s rhetoric against the other. The constant deflecting or the spin machines that so often deflect from the deeper issues that no politician would talk about. Mainly because in our politically correct, post modern culture they know they would be committing political suicide.

Then there are the morning after Facebook feeds,  WOW! I won’t write everything that surprised me by the Facebook feeds that I stream, except this one thing: I am struck with the incredible negative responses from my Conservative Christian voting feeds, not all but the majority. I recognize the sentiment, the feelings of frustration that no one wants to talk about issues that line up with the deeper truth of Biblical morals (not even the Conservatives). Or that whole parties are seeming to forbid any kind of conversation about these issues (abortion vs pro-life; euthanasia, actions to care for the poorest among us, etc). These frustrations, if I am not mistaken, have moved Christians in our country to pray for these elections, our party leaders, or local candidates more intentionally then perhaps a long time.
I think more Christians than usual were moved by this election to a biblical response when faced with the clash of our consciences and government. More than normally, I know I was pressed into prayer,  to hope and to clarify a vote, for the option that will cause us to live out of a peace and quietness that brings a freedom to both believe and preach the Goodnews of God, which is Jesus (I Timothy 2:1-7 kind of response).

But two questions in the aftermath, my fellow followers of Jesus:
1. Do you believe God answers the prayers of His Church?  It seems many of us don’t. Our response to God’s answer to our countries act of democratic vote is “DOOMSDAY!” We prayed, we hoped, we voted and now look what God’s given us for an answer… Justin Trudeau. You may, or may not, find this answer lacking – but it is God’s answer. If you don’t see it that way then I’d press this second question to you;

 2. Do you believe in the Sovereignty of God?  I see the God of both the Old and New Testament not as a passive or reactive God. I see God both giving his people the kings, rulers, emperors, ruling nations that they often deserve, or even don’t deserve. But however you look at it, you soon discover that God is always, and will forever be able to make, shape, direct both the heart of the rulers and the fate of the nations.

If we believe in these two simple Biblical understandings about the character of God- He answers the prayers of His people, and He is sovereign  then we need to understand, this morning when we woke up God has given us an answer in keeping with these two truths- the answer right now, that will shape both the people of God, and the Kingdom of God in our Country is Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal party.

To these truths then I think our first response needs to be prayers of thankfulness, trust, and enthusiasm to push in to be better, more engaged and hopeful citizens of Canada then we have ever been. For God is working out his grace through His Church in our Country as a response to the prayers and actions of His people.

Here’s a helpful response written by another Canadian Christian blogger – This demonstrates a trust in the Sovereignty of God and an engagement in the answers of God to His praying people. “Dear Prime Minster Trudeau” – thanks Aaron

“The King’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will.” – Proverbs 21:1

How to Survive a Narcissist Apocalypse!

We have a Zombie walk in our city.  I don’t have a great ‘taste’ for zombie-culture but do find it fascinating that there has been a great surge of love for all things zombie in our popular culture. One of the funny oddities that I read this past week is how this question got asked to John Piper (beloved old school pastor and theologian) recently, “What would you do in a Zombie Apocalypse?”

I’m not really afraid that there will ever be a Zombie Apocalypse (“Oh you just wait.” Yeah, I hear ya.) I am more concerned with what I think we, in North America, are witnessing right now- a terrifying rise in, Narcissism. I think this might make a more useful guide for the culture we live in  “How to Survive a Narcissist Apocalypse!”

The_Dairy_Fish_Lips_Mona_Lisa_Selfie_medium    What would a narcissist walk look like in our city?  I picture loads of people bumping into sign posts, bouncing off of each other, and smashing into oncoming traffic because it’s hard to take selfies, or tweet your status of discontent- over first world problems- and walk. Maybe it would look like the Zombie walk after all.
I’ve been hearing/reading more from legit sociological studies of the spike over the last century, especially in the last 15 years of a growing narscissim in our culture. A cursory look around (facebook, reality T.V., celebrity worship, Insta-gram, twitter) pretty much confirms it. We are headed for a Narcissist Apocalypse!   It seems our culture has moved from a ‘can’t express love publicly’ (50’s) to a ‘love me please’ (60’s-70’s) , to an ‘I love me ‘(80’s-90’s) , and has settle into a ‘you must love me’ (new millennial) culture.
Some resources regarding this: The Narcissism Epidemic; Generation Me- author interview on White Horse Inn   might prove helpful if your interested.

Want to know if you ARE YOU A NARCISSIST? Probably if you just clicked on this link…. you are.

What are some of the qualities of a narcissistic culture? (Again this is both from reading and observing)

1. General misunderstanding of Suffering
Suffering in the North American mindset is a terrible plight seen as a disease to be avoided at all cost or ignored if somehow you have ‘caught’ it. This is true not simply in our pursuit of the North American dream but we have twisted it into a form of religion. The most popular religious expressions that we flock to are those that offer least suffering and a high return (like a pimped out car, adoring kids, smiling spouse and a great deal of personal well being). We are comfort consumers – including our spiritual lives. Speaking from a Christian perspective- this is the direct opposite of what we are promised here and now, if we follow Jesus. Resource comfort is not top on the list of either why or what we receive when we are brought to Christ. Why do we need a Saviour? Because we are broken, empty, poor, and needy. Cause we are sick. What should we expect when we look to Christ as our Saviour? A cross, being misunderstood, becoming enemies, some will feel separated, all will feel like they don’t belong and each should feel a loss of today’s measurement of wealth- its a losing of your life.

2. Everyone Always Wins
 “It takes a village to raise a child”. Not sure when this happened but our culture has made it the top priority of the village to make sure no kids ever feel the sting of loss. Even though we know in reality that when we live to serve our own comforts most of all- there is great potential to have to sacrifice those around us, and cause them to feel great loss. In keeping with the misunderstanding of suffering we avoid having to navigate the potential of loss for as long as we can in our kids and in ourselves. (i.e. no winners or losers at the child sports games, everyone gets a ‘good job’ sticker, and everyone gets a present at the birthday party). We see the self worth as such a fragile item that we don’t stop to think that it might actually be better for the heart and life of our kids (and ourselves) if we learn to be good-losers, or celebrate the accomplishments or rewards of others while navigating our selfish envies.

3. Celebrate the Highest Degree of Self-Expressions
We have reached the pinnacle of  Narcissism when we give celebrity status to those who appear to make the greatest sacrifices for self-expression. As a culture we have placed self-expression as the highest measure of truth. This I believe, more then almost anything is a tell-tale warning that we are about to reap the harvest of a Narcissist Apocalypse. Sociologically speaking, harvest is always felt first in the next generation. What will a harvest look like for a culture that celebrates self-expression as the highest measure of truth? Not simply here, now, but around the world. What does this do for a global mindset? In a world where 90% are wondering what they will need to do this week to get at least one meal for their families while the other 10% have both the time and the wealth to spend billions to finance and celebrate self expression, where does that leave us? What does this make us?  Again I am not simply speaking to those who our culture have lifted to some sort of status just below demi-gods because of self- expression (think Bruce Jenner here) but I am thinking also of those who call themselves ‘christian’ [my ilk]. We build our buildings, grow our worship spaces, pump thousands into our culturally relative self-expressive versions of worship (which might be more honestly called self-marketing the church) while most of us won’t walk down the street to our newly discovered Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, cross-dresser, or ___________ (fill in your particular racisim here) neighbour to ask them to come to supper- or to reach out to rebuild broken relationships between wealth and poor, black and white, etc. These latter things we seem less likely to have both time and wealth for.

4. Fear of Being Common
 Along with these afore mentioned characteristics of a narcissistic culture, we are afraid to be considered common, ordinary. Like this in some way indicates we are not loved, or are inferior, or less useful, or broken. Again the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount get lost in this kind of thinking, especially among those who claim to be His followers. Paul, that apostle guy, speaks of the church that demonstrates the greatest reflection of the God who saves them as “not many of you were great, or known or successful “. It was in the very commonness of the first followers of Jesus that God’s great power was shown.

5. Inability to Interact in Authentic Community
 I think some of  the reaping of this harvest of narcissism is a kind of schizophrenic expression of authentic community. We are a generation that longs for and even sees the need of authentic community (to know and be known by others) but really only on our terms and if it serves us best. Community on those terms, without sacrificing time or self, is not authentic community at all. It may be a pod of semi-patient narcissists meeting so they can hurry up and tell you about how I am really feeling – but it seldom moves deeper to listen for correction, or be moved to confession or broken in repentance even as we look to reach out to help others.

Summary thought: The culture has got it wrong- Narcissism is not a means of healing. Rather, its self-inflicting wounds into an already wounded heart. The celebration of narcissism in our culture and churches holds for us a very precarious future.  But we might still have time…. if we look away from self for salvation and to someone who knows more of our heart then we do..  … but then I’d be preaching…

Thanks for reading,

Brad

An Answer to Our Bohemian Hopes! [an On-the -Ground post]

How we “stand” affects what we “do”

Sooner or later in our lives we are confronted with two basic, yet important, dilemmas. 1) What do we do with the reality that the world we live in seems so broken? Even in our lives, those closest to us, our own society, our own families, our own relationships and yes even us – seem to stand in some state of constant incompleteness, brokenness. 2) How then are we to live through or in a world, society, relationships or our own reality that is broken? What are we to do in the middle of this kind of life so that we might hope to find some sort of ultimate meaning if this is true?

Base line cultural thought that seems to be offered to us right now, in dealing with brokenness is  basically summed up this way, “Have a good idea of yourself and that your idea of yourself is good.”  This solution played out offers “salvation” through self-discovery, self-expression, self-fulfillment and by bolstering self worth until it overflows into self-realization. The pinnacle of this answer would be that there are no boundaries for those who can hope in themselves.

There is a close cousin in the context of religious thought that is offered to those who claim to find fulfillment in their spiritual endeavours. It’s in the teachings that say we are born morally neutral and then make negative choices based upon societies influences. It’s found in the teachings that our “salvation” is found in merely following the examples of our spiritual gurus or mantras. That if we just live higher lives of moral right then we can expect our Higher Powers to smile on us and that by making the right choices we will find a higher spiritual experience in our lives.

The first example has developed as a kind of philosophical Bohemianism that many of the modern young urbanites, have to various degrees, embraced. This line of thinking can be seen as both an answer to North American capitalism and as a justification for living out of the productivity of becoming ‘me’.   The second is the basic tenants of Plagianism. In the end, from a  theological perspective I would say that both are based on and in a humanistic hope of moralism – I can make myself what I am supposed to be. I can be my transformation, my reality, my salvation.

P6170266Why is this rolling around in my head? It’s been a tough season. We have sat front row to a lot of brokenness lately: 1. Our immediate family has felt the long dark fingers of cancer stretch unwelcome into our personal lives, hopes and dreams. Stealing away the possibilities of just living for comfort and leaving in it’s wake a flood of anxiety, sorrow and even despair. 2. I personally, have sat with or journeyed beside or have watched with uncertainty of what even to offer, as people we love have turned simply to embrace their greatest longings. To do this they throw off restraint, lead with their heart. Exchange moral boundaries for what might satisfy their longings. Justify personal compromise by substituting conviction with happiness. The results have been similar; The promised delight, satisfaction and longing have left most of these dear friends in anxiety, sorrow and even, for some, despair.

Simply put – standing  on the promises that are offered by doing  self-discovery, self-expression, self-fulfillment as a means to bolstering  our self-worth so we will finally overflow in a nirvana of self-realization doesn’t hold up to the realities of brokenness that we all will face. I would argue this sort of moralism fails us and leaves us in various states of confusion and lostness.

Jeopardizing the line of logic that might bring these thoughts to something that is more than mere Christian platitude, for sake of length, I would want to point us to a firmer standing that can realize a truer doing  in the face of our experience of brokenness – “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” – Jesus –

   I know I may have just lost a bunch of potential readers by pointing so non-shamed-facedly to Jesus and, agreeably, in such a trite manner. But I intend that there will be the weight load of more blogs that will not simply add to Christian platitudes but will some how wrestle out such audacious claims that life’s meaning is not discovered through abandoning self to self, nor is it lived on a higher plane of religious consciousness (hoping to move above the need for self-healing) but in the person and work of Jesus. There is a solution or a deeper meaning to both self discovery and the boundaries of brokenness and it is given to us most clearly by God himself in the sending of His Son- Jesus.

But more on this later and over longer periods of writing.

Thanks for reading

BRAD