You Won’t Find It

WARNING: BRUTAL FRANKNESS AHEAD.

The worst, most heartbreaking thing to come out of the emerging scandal surrounding state senator Paul Stanley, is the revelation that many if not most male legislators act like the session is one big frat party with the female interns.  From an intern’s email to Post Politics:

What I can also tell you is that almost every man up there feels entitled to look, touch, and flirt with any female in that place, regardless of whether she is an intern, lobbyist, guest, etc.

I was shocked when I heard about this, but not really. The ego that exists in most men up there is enough to make me sick. There are people that you respect and admire who wouldn’t think twice about giving you a good up and down look in the elevator.

I had been given looks, creepy smiles, and strong drinks made by those very legislators who are probably laughing right now at all of this, those hypocrites. most of them married, too.

I’d like to talk to the men of of the state’s Capitol Hill, especially the ones who hang their hats as social conservatives. 

This is wrong.  It has to stop, now.

No, I’m not going to wag my finger at you about sin, the commitment of marriage, and prayer.   I could, and probably should, but I’ll leave that to others.  You are political animals, though, so let’s talk about your behavior politically, shall we?

Certainly you know that with every revelation of bad behavior, small minded people with an agenda proclaim very loudly that our worldview is invalid, or at the very least that we do not have any right to pursue any legislation that advances that worldview (not recognizing that they do the very same thing themselves with different values).  Since nobody likes a lech,  and the world does not share our view of human frailty and forgiveness, you lose any high ground you might have had.

But, let’s go a little deeper, OK?

If you are a predatory person, if you glare and grope and improperly propose and otherwise act like a jackass toward women in your office, just stop reading now.  I have nothing to say to you, and I hope you are exposed and lose your position as soon as possible.

But, for the rest of you, whole truly struggle with temptation and unfortunately sometimes give in to it, I’d like to talk about that temptation.

First off, know that simply having the temptation is not a sin.  It isn’t a personal failing.  Christ was tempted, after all.  Too many Christian men think that, because we are Christians, when a temptation comes along we should be able to extend our hands Gandalf-like, say some incantation like “the power of Christ compels you!”, and the temptation will go away.  When it doesn’t, they view it as a personal failure, and give in.

In my experience, this is not how things work.  I can only tell you my experience.  I have been married for 22 years, and I have managed to not only stay faithful to my lovely wife, am blessed to have a thriving, soul-sustaining marriage.

Yet, I am no eunuch.  I understand temptation.  I understand the psychological confusion a man feels when a beautiful young woman is friendly with him.  And I understand the darker temptation, where thoughts unbidden come, where availabilities are considered, where the thoughts almost consume you.

But God did not give me a magic wand to wave while chanting “Away, evil temptress!” (which isn’t really fair anyway to someone who’s just being friendly, anyway).  No, I was given a more powerful gift: the ability to see things as they are.

First, this kind of temptation is never really about sex, it’s about ego.  It is so incredibly gratifying, especially as a man gets older, to think “this beautiful young woman is interested in ME!  She finds ME attractive!”  Trust me, this allure is almost impossible to resist for a man.  Our main need, no matter what anyone else says, is to be considered Good Enough.  Worthy.

When this happens to you, do me a favor.  Go home, strip down naked, and look in the mirror.  What, are you in your late 30’s?  Your forties?  Fifties or even later?  Look at yourself, then do it again.  It should become clear, even if a young, beautiful woman really is flirting with you, that it’s not YOU she’s attracted to.

Oh, she might be attracted to your power.  Or maybe your charisma, or your money, or what she thinks you can do for her. 

But, there is no way, outside your current position, this young girl could be chomping at the bit to have YOU. 

Just look at yourself.

Do you think she stays up at night, fantasizing about your bald spot?  Although she’s surrounded by hard-bodied young men at school, do you really think ear hair is what turns her on?  That she can really, really relate to your stories of the Frampton concert in 1977?  That she prefers a flabby belly and disappearing butt?  Do you really believe that she thinks it’s cute the way your breath whistles when you take out your partials?  Really?

No, if a young woman is flirting with you, or just being very friendly, you can be rest assured that it isn’t because she’s just got to have YOU.

You ain’t all that.  Maybe at one time you were, but that ship sailed long ago.  And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

If you give in to a sexual temptation, you will not find the validation you are looking for.  It’s hard to admit, but it’s all an illusion.  You may be a great guy, but you won’t find what you are looking for, deep down, by pursuing a woman young enough to be your daughter.

Your emptiness will only grow more profound, and that’s after you’ve destroyed everything you hold dear.

You will not find the validation you are looking for.  If you can strip things down to the harsh realities, you can overcome temptations that are sure to come along, some real, some just a psychological misunderstanding.

And the amazing thing?  God has given you an incredible gift.  Your wife, unlike some 20-something who doesn’t really know you, actually does want YOU.  She has been given eyes to see you as you are and still want you, even love you.  It is there you will find some of the validation you are looking for.  And only God can give you the rest.

So, if you have been participating in this circus, and you aren’t evil and lecherous (just tempted), I’m begging you, stop this, now.  The young women in your midst are not there to hook up with you.  NOR DO THEY WANT TO.

See things as they truly are.  Be a real man.

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Pole To Pole

My son told a pretty funny joke on the way home, something about God striking down a cursing golfer (you had to be there).

I started to tell a joke of my own, and stopped because I realised it broke our rule of disparaging a group of people (in this case, it was a “blonde” joke).  Instead, I veered off into a conversation of how jokes are sometimes used to perpetuate negative sterotypes, and how many times the “truth” behind them is far from it.

Some of you who are from the north might be surprised to learn that, at least in my neck of the woods, African Americans were NOT the subject of “dumb” jokes when I was growing up (widespread racism notwithstanding).  No, that honor was reserved for Polish jokes.  Or “Pollock Jokes” as my friends called them.

As I told my children about this, I had to ask myself, “Why the Polish?  In Nashville, TN?  It’s not like Nashville is overflowing with Polish immigrants.  Where did this particular prejudie come from?”

The only guess I have is that returning WW2 vets brought the prejudice back from Europe.  Maybe it’s a long-standing thing in Italy, France, and Germany to make fun of the Poles?  I really don’t know; I DO know that a couple of you are historians who probably know the answer.

I remember that “Pollock Jokes” were all the rage US-wide in the 60’s and 70’s.  Archie Bunker (from the show “All In The Family”), I remember, had a lot of contempt for “pollocks”.  Maybe Nashville kids were just joining the national trend.

I did tell my kids how all of us kids were shamed a few years later when Lech Walesa and his countrymen became the first oppressed people in the eastern block to stare down the mighty Soviet Union and win.  After Solidarity, you really didn’t hear too many Pollock jokes anymore.

So, anyway, a Fundie, a blonde, a Jew and a Mexican walk into a bar…

Would Jesus Be An Enabler?

Josh Tinley wrote a great post.  So great, I tried to write a comment, and ended up with something so long I felt it would best be its own post.  You see, we’ve been talking a lot at MCB and other places about extending Christian mercy to those who are suffering, even those who are in the situations they are in due to unwise decisions.  I think the conversation is specifically about certain elements of the homeless population.

We have actually discussed this in Sunday School before, without coming to any kind of consensus:

As followers of Christ, what do we do when we suspect someone receiving our aid is gaming the system, or at the very least, taking advantage?  I know what common sense says, but what does Christ say?  Are we supposed to care if we strongly suspect we are, basically, giving a drunk a drink?  Do we even give any consideration to the thought that we’re possibly doing more harm than good, that we’re enabling a person in a way that will keep them in misery, instead of getting them out of it?

I ask, because I struggle with this.

I have no problem extending mercy to even to criminals who have committed what could be awful crimes; I’ve prayed with such men many times before, and made many friends behind prison walls.  Same goes for just about any situation a person gets himself into.  There but for the grace of God go I.

Yet, I have this blind spot about people who I know, or very strongly suspect, COULD work, but do not. 

The backdrop to this is that I come from pretty humble beginnings.  Everything I say has the backdrop behind it of where I come from, where I am now, and the concepts that got me from there to here.

My father never really preached religion to his three sons; he just sent us to church and let us get our religion by osmosis.  But, he preached nonetheless.

The only thing my blue collar father ever preached about, what he did drill into me was sermon after sermon on the value of work.  He would preach, “If you don’t have a job, and aren’t spending every waking moment looking for a job, you have shamed your name.”  Well, he didn’t say it like THAT, but I got the meaning loud and clear.

He believed that if you have a condition that keeps you from working, do everything possible to alleviate that condition – make it your number one priority – so you can WORK.  The work is the most important thing a man can do. Not the getting paid part – working itself.   Always work, and if you can’t, make a job of looking for work.

He taught me not to turn turn my nose up at ANY job, whether I found it beneath me or not, whether it could support me or not – the act of working was more important than the pay.  He taught me that taking a menial job, and outworking everyone, is the way to having a job that DOES support you and your family.  Other rules include never being late, that sick time is NOT “Not Feeling Well” time, that volunteering for the hardest tasks will get you ahead.  No matter what you do, be the best there is at that job, outwork EVERYONE, and prosperity will follow.  Approach the world of work with the attitude that you have something to prove, because you do. 

And my life has taught me that he was right.

I always have this voice in the back of my head telling me that a well spoken person in an area with 4% unemployment should be working.  He just should, period.   I can see my dad, shaking his head. And I just can’t shake that voice.

So, I have to square this teaching with my Christian beliefs. 

And, let me tell you, it’s hard.  Paul had some things to say about the slothful, and Jesus used them as a “bad example”, but we are not told if Jesus was ever taken advantage of, and if so, what he did about it.  Something tells me that he would have helped.  His prodigal son parable makes me think that; although I wonder: the son had given up “riotous living” – Jesus never makes it clear that the father did not go to the faraway country and help the son financially while he was still living in a way that would just mean his help was wasted.  So, I don’t know.

I am torn.  You can’t just throw away 20 years of paternal teaching – it kind of gets under your skin.  And it has served me well.  So, sometimes, I guess, this Christian has what appears to be an unmerciful attitude.  I’m not proud of it – but now you know why.

I guess all I can do is pray about it.

It’s All In The Presentation

Forgive me if I’ve told this story before.

Since Kat has described Big Macs in tantalising fashion, reminding me of my greatest weakness: McDonald’s French fries, I can’t help but think of one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had.  You see, I used to work night shift here at SCC, and my coworker (I’ll call him Rick) and I would have “man” conversations to pass the night hours.  Let me tell you, two men can have some strange conversations at 3 am.

One night, we were talking about how, as I’ve gotten older, food had replaced extramarital sex as my greatest temptation.  I often joked that I read Good Housekeeping just for the chocolate cake centerfolds.

My friend, who was older than me but had not yet made the transition from women to food as Great Temptation, was incredulous.

“You’re kidding me!”, he said.
“Nope”, I said.
You mean, if Shania Twain were standing before you naked, whispering “I want you, Slarti”, you wouldn’t be tempted in the least?
Nope.
[silence for about 15 seconds]
What if she were holding a bowl of spaghetti?

Y’know – it’s been almost ten years, and I still haven’t answered him.

Theological Pet Peeve #23875

I can always tell people who view their Christianity through the filter of their politics.  If they are politically conservative, their reading of the Bible totally supports their viewpoint.  Same with politicially liberal people.  I really think we need to ask ourselves, am I trying to fit my religious view into my political box, as opposed to the other way around?

Here’s a hint: if your Christian religious views don’t force you to take a stand that is opposite your political pursuasion (for me, it’s the death penalty and immigration), you’ve probably got it backwards. 

Now, twice lately I’ve seen someone use an argument that gets on my nerves to no end: an argument from biblical silence.  No, I will not link to the argument(s), because they are about a subject that is guaranteed to immediately get your blog bogged down in a flame war, and we don’t do that here.  But just imagine to yourself the statement: “Such-and-such controversial issue is never mentioned in the Bible”, and it really doesn’t matter what the underlying issue is, to me it’s a shoddy agrument.

Did you know, for instance, that the sin of child molestestation is not directly referenced in the Bible?  Does this mean that child molestation is not a sin?  Does God benignly approve of child molestation?  By no means!

Certainly, through regular Bible study, one can properly discern the Will of God on an issue, even if the issue isn’t directly referenced in scripture.  Anyone that’s done even a little bit of this knows that God seriously disapproves of commiting harm toward an innocent.  He doesn’t have to say, “Do not molest a child”, unless we blind ourselves, the will of God on this matter is there for us to discern, plain as day.

Back to the unnamed controversial issue: my understanding of the scriptures lead me to believe that God is really, really big on protecting the helpless and the innocent, even at great risk to ourselves and those we love.  There are probably a hundred examples in scripture where God asks someone to do just that. 

Back to the more general point, if you are still willing to accept an argument from silence, think about this: Jesus never once petitioned the governments in Jeruselem (either Jewish or Roman) to help the poor.  We know He was all about helping the poor, but He really didn’t seem to think government was the way to go about it.  Why is that?

There’s actually a whole sermon I could give about that (helping the poor is as much about changing ourselves  as it is about our fellow man getting treated with dignity – and if you are “helping the poor” through a payroll deduction, you never “feel” the help leaving your body and going to another.  There is no connection between the helper and the helped). 

But, I’m not going to make this argument, because it’s based on an argument from silence, and that really gets on my nerves.  I want to be consistent, you know.

Anyway, if you are going to make a political argument from a Christian point of view, try something with a little more meat to it than, “The Bible never mentions…”

Lord, Forgive Me

I will not be attending church today.  Like a good country song, I have run into the line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Good Lord, there are pictures floating around out there.

More after a couple of pots of coffee.

In Which Slarti Gets Written Off As A Loon

This discussion a Kat Coble’s place is is wonderful and thought provoking.  I wish I could join it; but I’ve been hesitant because it has been such a logical and intelligent discussion.  I really have nothing to add on that front.  Intellectually, I agree with Kat 100%

But I oppose the death penalty.

Because God told me to.  In a dream.

See what I mean?  How the heck do you respond to THAT? When you’re trying to have an intellectual discussion on an important subject, there’s no better buzzkill than, “I disagree with you because God sent me a message about this in a dream”.  Heck, I’m pretty sure I’m nuts, myself.  I now am on the other side of this issue from most of my friends, family, and brothers and sisters in Christ (but not all).  Because of a dream.  Well, not totally.

So let me back up a bit.  God had been softening my heart for months, with the band’s trips to Riverbend prison.  We Christians say all the time that we are all equal before God, but, at least for me, it was an abstract concept, just words I said to prove my faith.  But, standing beside a man who certainly had committed horrible crimes, looking him in the eye, shaking his hand, putting your arm around him, and kneeling beside him before The Throne as a brother in Christ, makes it real.  You lose your cognitive dissonance.  The distinctions we all make subconsciously (Me=good, him=bad) disappear, and you know that you are just as deserving of death as him.

So, all of this happens over a period of months, and then a couple of months ago, I had the most intense dream I have ever had.  No, I wasn’t on Ambien, or any other substance at the time.  I’ve had those type of dreams before;  they seem more real than reality, but feel less real.  This dream seemed less real, but felt more real, even more “real” than reality itself.  I was shaken to my core.  Here it is as I remember it:

Lintilla and I were visiting my mom and dad.  The three of them were in another room, while Zarniwhoop and I played video games in the living room.  The three of them came into the room, and you could tell that my dad was very, VERY angry with Lintilla.  Not yelling and screaming, but in a reserved kind of way.  My mom seemed not as angry, but resigned to…something. My dad said to Lintilla, “You know what you did.  You have to pay the price.”  Lintilla just nodded.  My dad pointed to an easy chair, and Lintilla sat in it.

My dad told my mom to go to the kitchen to mix the poison.

I grabbed Lintilla’s arm, and said, “No!”  We ran to the garage, it was locked.  My dad quitely walked out to where we were, gently grabbed Lintilla’s arm, and led her back to the living room.  She sat down in the chair again, resigned to her fate.  She looked at me, with tears in her eyes; I was paralyzed.

My mom handed her the poison, and she put it to her lips.

I woke up in a cold sweat.  I breathed a sigh of relief that Lintilla was right there beside me.  I cannot properly describe the wave of feeling that came over me.  I was angry at my parents, angry at Lintilla for just accepting her own death, angry at myself for my impotence.  The dread that accompanied this dream stayed with me for days.

I would have called for my own Joseph, but this dream did not need interpreting.  Nevertheless, being a good conservative, I didn’t want to listen.  But the cloud over my head, the conviction in my heart, would not go away.  I had my own Hound of Heaven on my tail. 

Several days of prayer and random bible verses later, and I finally succumbed.  I prayed to God to forgive me if I was doing the wrong thing, but I felt I had no choice: I would no longer be one of those advocating for the death penalty.  I would listen, finally listen to the arguments of those in opposition.  Now, in the subsequent weeks, my position is clear: I oppose the death penalty, period.

Now, you could say that I’m just overreacting to an emotional ploy from my subconscious, with good reason, but you weren’t there.  I don’t LIKE opening myself for ridicule (anybody remember Reggie White?).  But I have never felt anything so strongly in my life.  It was as strong and real as it was irrational.  And it was a MESSAGE.

So, now both sides can write me off an a lunatic.  I have no doubt most liberals would rather not have someone who claims to have been spoken to by God on their side.   But, it is what it is.