ONE Picture: Removing the negativity epidemic from Christianity (Part 2)

Some (not all, but some) of the most negative people I have met in my life are Christians. I know some negative non-Christians too…I guess I would describe them as aimless and pessimistic. But Christians have this special flavor of negativity just for us (and by flavor, I mean stench). Which makes no sense…those who are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ are negative? What?

Now before I continue: The negativity of certain Christians DOES NOT AFFECT my view of whether Christianity is true, noble, and/or good. A worldview cannot be judged by its adherents, since they all fall short of the ideal. But rather, a worldview is judged on its tenets, its ideals. In the case of Christianity, we do not follow a “set of tenets” but rather a Person. Therefore, if every Christian in the world were negative, morally bankrupt wretches, the veracity and value of the faith should still be based on Christ’s person…who He is, what He does, what He values. We will talk more about that on part 3.

However, Christians typically are far worse at being negative people. Why? Because the side effect of setting such a remarkably high standard of ethics (God, Jesus) is that we can clearly see how short everybody falls.

Christian parents lead the field when it comes to making people realize how short they fall of the standard. And woe to the Christian wife, who has studied up on what a Godly man should act like! Her real-life husband is not short of ways to fall short! Or the Christian husband, who was taught to choose a wife with Godly conduct! What a stringent requirement!

Our knowledge of a perfect standard, without fault, without blemish, can really mess up our relationships. It can screw up our children for life…if we can’t get this negativity under control.

Yet, this “beating” is not what I endure when I approach Scripture. Scripture does not beat me…it empowers me. The “standard” is not an unattainable thing that God beats my head against…it is a beautiful picture that I can be conformed to daily, and not only that, but Jesus specifically gave me a Helper to get me there!

Scripture doesn’t look at me and say “Why aren’t you there yet?” Rather, Scripture looks at me and says “I am confident that He who began this work in you will complete it…”

If our lives could be likened to the Olympic games, many of us would liken God to the judges, sitting in the seats, ready to give out the scores. Yet, Scripture teaches us of a God who is sitting in the coach’s chair! Enabling us to succeed! Teaching! Training! Encouraging! Empowering!

What if I, as a parent, could master this concept? Would Abrielle and Alsea grow up feeling like they always fell short of a great standard? Would Abrielle and Alsea grow up deceived by a low expectation of morality? Or maybe I can teach about a high ethical standard, and then empower them to say “I can do that! I can be more like that every day!”
Let our friends, family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, know this: We will not water down our standard. Our ethics. Our values. But we will also not water down our belief that the Spirit of God is alive, active, and in us. We will not water down our standards, but we will not water down our belief in God’s power to change hearts and lives.
So the question: Nitpick their shortcomings? Or empower their successes and their potential?
What does Scripture do?

ONE Picture: Removing the negativity epidemic from Christianity (Part 1)

Less than two weeks ago, I was in Orlando, Florida for some training. The ATA (American Taekwondo Association) put Chief Master Sergio Von Schmeling in charge of retraining all of our certified instructors in the new “Legacy” program, a new program meant to improve our skills as certified instructors as well as teach us to pass on the skills of teaching and management.

One thing, as I write this post, stands out in my mind: Several instructors got “caught” doing a specific thing wrong. I, myself, did not get caught, but I know I’ve done this.
“Don’t do it like this…”

“You don’t want to look like this…

Many of us instructors would, in the interest of improving our students, show them mistakes to avoid. We would show them incorrect techniques, so that they would not emulate them.

“STOP.” Chief Master Von Schmeling would call out within seconds of an instructor committing this error. “Your students will develop ONE picture in their minds of how it should look. Do not show them any other picture.”

What a concept. One picture. Simple. Easier to follow, and easier to explain. The ways one could do a front kick wrong are countless. But a great front kick? Every great front kick involves pointing the knee. Every great front kick involves pivoting the bottom foot, and therefore the hips. Every great front kick has an effective striking tool/foot position. What is easier…seeing numerous WRONG pictures of front kicks, and avoiding them? Or seeing ONE picture and, every day, making your front kick more and more like that one picture?

But beyond a front kick…how should I be living my life? And if I am called to positively affect others, how can I influence others to live better lives? Am I teaching about the countless pictures to avoid? Or one picture to emulate?

Negativity is our default mode. Unfortunately, I can’t say “even” for Christians…I have to say “especially” for Christians. And that is sad.

One story of Scripture, that every Christian and pretty much every non-Christian knows is part of the Bible…the garden of Eden. But it wasn’t until Generation Unleashed in 2008 that something about this story was pointed out to me that I kept not noticing. Both the characters in the story (Adam and Eve) and today’s readers seem to focus on the “No” tree, without focusing on the “Yes” trees! We see God’s rule, and we totally forget to bask in God’s generosity! It basically goes unnoticed!

Look!

Genesis 1:24-31

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day

WHY IN THE HECK DO WE THINK MORE ABOUT “Don’t eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil” MORE THAN WE THINK ABOUT THIS? I mean, Seriously! Read these sentences over and over again, and tell me if you notice a theme!

“EVERY seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth…”

EVERY tree that has fruit with seed in it…”

We have debated for years “So, why did God outlaw the tree of knowledge of good and evil?” Seriously? That’s where we focus? What about the fact that God gave every other tree in His great generosity???

Adam and Eve themselves had the same problem: The negative focus. Focusing on the NO’s versus focusing on the YES’S. Observe…

God says…

Genesis 2:16

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

But by the time the message reaches Eve, and she relays it to the serpent, it sounds like this:

Genesis 3:2-3

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

See the difference? God generously gives (YES!), and then lays down a rule (No!). Adam and Eve refocus not on the generosity, but on the rule. Not on what God has given, but on what God has forbidden.

And we, as readers, do the same.

Part 2 is coming next. For now, let’s end on this note:

Do we view God as the one who wants us to tithe some of our money to church? Or as the One who provides everything we have?

Do we view God as the one who prevents us from certain pleasures? Or the One who programmed endorphins into our brain so that we would have the ability to enjoy this planet in the first place?

Do we view God as the one who calls for sacrifice? Or the one who provides abundance?

When we talk about sex and sexual ethics, is God the killjoy or the Designer?

Is God the one who prevents all of the fun stuff? Or the enabler of the good stuff?

My political goggles, for any who are interested

Why now, but not before?

For the last few months, I (not very often) made my voice known on the current political season. And as we all know, some blowback would occur. (Blowback will virtually ALWAYS occur over this subject. I don’t mind it.)

However, one might argue this: “Carson, you’re a new school owner. Why would you risk upsetting potentially half your clientele when they’re just getting used to you for the first time?”

You’re right. There is a risk. This risk is exactly why, in the past, I have been politically quiet. I simply didn’t view the previous political decisions as a big deal. I voted for John McCain back in 2008, but I am not really an Obama-hater. I think John McCain would’ve made some good decisions and some bad decisions. I think Obama, likewise, made some good decisions and bad decisions. But alas, America continues to chug along, regardless of who was president.

 

However, I am louder this time, for many reasons that I won’t go over here. Because this time, more than ever, I feel like the world is watching us more. I feel like we are deciding what we are like, who we want to be known as.

But this post is actually not about the “who’s” of this election, but rather, the rules that I play by when deciding where I will stand concerning politicians.

 

So rather, for those of you deranged enough to WANT to peek into my head, here you go.

My rules of engagement for politics

  1. I have two political weapons: My vote and my voice.
  2. Do not become a “single-issue voter”
  3. In order to succeed in American politics, you must lie to the people (unfortunately). Therefore, all politicians are liars.
  4. Although all politicians are liars, there is a truth to be found in this fact: Their words show us what they want to be known as (we call this the “Facebook” rule). Therefore, judge them by their own words, not by the words of their critics.
  5. Be careful that I am looking for what I believe to be RIGHT, not what I believe to be BENEFICIAL TO ME.

 

So let’s expound on these.

 

Rule #1: I have two political weapons…my vote and my voice

 

The definition of politics is “the art and science of influencing the decision-makers.” Most of the time, politics is when the lobbyists try to influence those in positions of power to make decisions that benefit the lobbyists. But every election cycle, the people who want to be in power have to influence the decision-makers (the voters, the delegates, etc.) to vote for them.

For this reason, if people say “hey, just vote and shut up” then they’re really just saying “Hey, if you’re going to fight, fight with your pinky and not with your two fists.”

Now, we must choose our battles. It is unwise to create conflict over every little decision. But if we believe that this decision is actually not “just another decision”, then it makes sense to use both the vote and the voice.

“But what if it damages my business or my reputation?” That is why I’m usually quiet…it’s usually not worth damaging those things. However, if I choose to be outspoken, then I must accept the consequences.

 

Rule #2: Do not become a single-issue voter

 

A teacher at Corban, who taught American Thought and Culture, gave this wise advice: Don’t become a single-issue voter. Vote holistically. Here’s what I mean by that.

 

You can usually lump me into the “religious right”. So yes, I happen to be pro-life and not pro-choice. However, there is a danger that comes from that camp, or ANY camp for that matter. Take this, for example: “I am pro-life, therefore I will NEVER vote for any candidate who is pro-choice!”
Wait, never? So that is the ONLY criteria you are watching for? So if someone is pro-life, but has a destructive foreign policy, you’ll vote for them? If someone is pro-life, but cares not for the poor and disenfranchised (people that were pretty important to that Jesus fella, yes?), you would vote for them?

 

Voting requires a look at all of the issues. Not just a select few.

 

Rule #3: All politicians are liars. Because that’s how we’ve made it.

 

I believe in America, and I take esteem in our country. But that doesn’t mean I believe in our political system, nor do I take esteem in it.

It is easy to sway and manipulate the masses, unfortunately. We have seen this in history time and time again. Especially when we, on both a micro and macro level, seek to hear what we want to hear.

If I, as a taekwondo instructor, listen to those who love my classes and ignore those who don’t like my classes, because “they just don’t get it”, I lose a wonderful opportunity to improve. I remember in high school, deliberately asking select people “was she flirting with me?” because I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear, and I deliberately didn’t ask people who would tell me “Nah, you’re reading into it.” Yet what I wanted to hear didn’t seem to change the facts: The girl didn’t like me.

And, I’ve found, I’m not the only one.

When the vast majority of individuals can say “Thank you for telling me I was rude to that person, I’m sure that was uncomfortable for you but I think you’re right, I really was rude,” then I think that our political system won’t be broken anymore. Until then, the candidate that tells us what we want to hear will be our favorite, regardless of what is actually true. And we will seek lies and reinforce liars.

 

Rule #4: The Facebook Rule. Even if their presentation is a lie, it is still truly what they want to be known as. So judge the candidate on their own words.

 

Many people on Facebook are lonely. Many people on Facebook put up pictures of themselves hanging out with friends, in order to look more social. So although they are lonely, they want you to think that they are social and popular.

Is this a lie? Is this true?
There is both a truth and a lie to be found here.

Lie: They are social.

Truth: They want you to think they are social.

(Remember, just an example. Don’t go hunting through your Facebook page thinking “Liar. Liar. Liar.” Not the point.)

Or another example. Two dads suck, and never prioritize their kids. One dad has, as his profile picture, their favorite motorcycle. The other has a picture of him and his kids.

Notice the difference here: Although one fails to value his kids, he still values the people thinking he values his kids. The other just doesn’t care regardless.

 

Now, back to politics!

I do not dismiss EVERYTHING that the candidate says as a lie, because I’m looking for something: Who does the candidate want to be known as?

Therefore, I do not judge Trump on what others say about him. I judge him based on his own words. I do not judge Clinton on what others say about her. I judge her based on her own words. Even if they are untrue, they still show what they WANT to be known as. That’s gotta count for something.

 

Rule #5: Look for what I believe to be right, not just what I believe to be beneficial to me.

 

When I was in elementary school, I remember a bill getting passed in Oregon: Cigarettes would have an additional tax attached to them.

I remember looking at who voted for it, and get ready for the results!
Cigarette companies voted against it.

Smokers voted against it.

Non-smokers voted for it.

Interesting, right? I didn’t hear any stories of smokers saying “Hey, I don’t want others to get addicted to this stuff, so I think the tax is a great idea.” I also didn’t hear of any non-smokers saying “Hey, don’t tax them just for doing what they want!”

 

Look across the board: People vote for what benefits them. But what about what they believe to be right? (Most actually make it easy: Whatever benefits them is right)

Rich people vote for lower taxes. Poor people vote for more benefits.

 

I don’t have time to get into the issues right now, but that’s the next question I ask: Do I believe this to be right? Or do I believe this to benefit me?

 

These are my rules of engagement for politics. It’s my hope that these are agreeable and wise, and I believe that regardless of what side of the political climate you’re on, they can be agreed upon and appreciated.
Have a good election season. If there even is such a thing…;-)