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?

Independence and dependence, martial arts and Christianity (part 2)

First, I typed out this blog post to be really confusing. So read top to bottom, or jump around by the numbers. You choose, dear reader.

Second, Let’s get straight to the point. Right to it.

I have put off this blog for MONTHS because I kept changing my mind about what route I should take to get to the main point. So I am going to START at my main point and work backwards.

Main point: Christianity, lived out correctly, is about laying yourself, your power, your desires, etc., at Jesus’s feet. As Jesus worded it to the Father, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

There are certain things that God wants for my life, and they all tie into this concept. He wants me to lay EVERYTHING at His feet. Further explanation in another blog post, but for now, this is the main point I am driving at.

Point 4: No one can lay someone else at Jesus’s feet.

No one can do it for you. I cannot lay Abrielle at Jesus’s feet. It is impossible to force my beliefs upon anyone else. Now, if I am confident enough of have enough earthly power/influence, then I can get them to placate me for fear of negative consequences, great (loss of income, physical retaliation) or small (fear of conflict, loss of an opportunity). But I can’t actually MAKE someone believe what I believe.

Point 3: In order for me to lay my power before Jesus, I must first have that power.

Example: Jesus tells me, in a physical conflict, to turn the other cheek. But if I am unable to do anything anyway, is that really “submission to Jesus’s will”? If a scrawny kid says to a hulking giant who just hit him, “Instead of beating you up, I’m going to just turn the other cheek…” what does that really mean? (Scrawny kid didn’t have a choice, anyway!)

Apply this scenario to emotional conflicts as well.

What is truly impressive is having the ability to fight back, and then CHOOSING not to use it.

Point 2: Martial arts is empowering.

Martial arts helps people to TAKE CONTROL BACK. However, that comes with a certain danger…in the case of the woman who gains control back, does the woman become a jerk, seeking to control others to stop them from controlling her? Or does she simply keep proper boundaries over herself, while respecting others’ boundaries as well?

That leads us to back to point 3.

 

Point 1: Most people have their power taken away by others.

The rule is simple: Whoever HAS what you THINK YOU NEED controls you. (separate blog post)

When one’s desire for immediate gratification lands them in debt, then I give my power away to the enforcers (debt collectors) or those who can get me out of it (employers).

I’m certainly not saying that employers are the bad guys…but if my choices make it so that I NEED my employer more than they NEED me, then I hand control over to the employer. How the employer uses that control, for good or evil, is up to them.
Many ladies are socialized (intentionally or unintentionally) to NEED others’ approval. By the way, it’s not just men socializing them. Women do a lot of the work in socializing other women to avoid Therefore, many ladies GIVE control of themselves and their actions to others in an effort to avoid conflict.

 

To summarize:

Christianity is about voluntary dependence on Jesus. A prerequisite for voluntary dependence is independence from others. The Bible teaches us not be controlled by anything other than the Holy Spirit (the context of one passage is alcohol, other passages seem to leave the context open somewhat). Perhaps it is appropriate to apply this to certain relationships and certain expectations as well?

And that independence can be taught by Martial Arts.

So that’s basically what I want to do with those two aspects of my life: Teach independence through martial arts, teach voluntary dependence on Jesus Christ in all other venues.

The tension of dependence vs. independence – How my worldview and career blend together

So false alarm…that is NOT going to be the name of this site. I’m choosing a different name, and the next good idea (of which, I have so few when it comes to naming) will result in another name change, for now. (I’m very open to suggestions!)

 

However, the reason I wanted to make this one blog post so centrally important is because, on some weird level, this one blog post is going to explain……..me. The way I see things. The way I do things. This blog post is going to explain two very core values of mine as to how I see the world. If you want to understand how I see the world (I know, I know, everybody ever wants to know how Carson Clews sees the world.) (I promise that was sarcasm, not arrogance), this blog post is basically handing you those “glasses” that I wear, in a sense.

 

First things first, I am an evangelical Christian, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. My purpose in life is to glorify God. When I successfully act like Jesus, I want people to know who Jesus is and that His Spirit lives in me. When I fail to act like Jesus, I want people to know who He is and the grace He approaches me with when I fail.

 

Secondly, my chosen career, something I’m pretty passionate about: I am a taekwondo instructor with the ATA, and I really love martial arts and therefore I really want to teach people who also love martial arts.

 

Those two elements explain the direction I want my life to go.

 

Big sidenote: “What about your wife and kids, Carson? How dare you not mention them in the direction your life is going? I mean, I understand the Jesus being more important thing but are you saying that your career is more important than your wife and family?”

No. I buy into John Eldridge’s (author of “Wild at Heart”) teaching that my wife is my companion on this adventure. My wife is not the adventure itself.

But this is a sidenote here, so I will cover this in better detail in a separate blog post.

 

So I love Jesus, and I also love teaching martial arts.

Does anybody see a contradiction in those two, however? If you look right at the surface, you’ll see this one: “Didn’t Jesus teach people to turn the other cheek? Where does self-defense get into that?”

I will cover that one later, because there is a much deeper contradiction between those two.

 

What does God want me to be about?

Let’s keep Christianity as simple as possible: Anybody in a deistic faith (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) basically wants to do what God wants them to do. However, they believe different things about what God wants them to do.

Amongst themselves, I wouldn’t say that Christians widely disagree on what God wants…however, I would say that Christians seem to emphasize different things. Does God want me not to smoke? Does God want sexual purity? Does God want my church attendance?

Any Christian knows that what gets us in the door is faith. God wants us to believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. However, it is very easy for us to forget that faith is not just what gets us in the door, but how we are supposed to live our whole lives.

At first, we figure that faith means “belief”. But soon we learn that this definition is incomplete. The book of James teaches us that faith without works is dead. Yet, we also hear stories of Pharisees who did MANY actions in order to secure God’s nod of approval…and they didn’t get it. So God didn’t want just “belief.” He also doesn’t want just “actions”.

So we find a synonym for faith that fits the biblical examples given: Trust.

Or let us use another word: Dependence. If the trapeze artist is not willing to fall into the net, his actions reveal that he does not trust the net.

What God wants from me, in a nutshell, is for me to depend on him. And to teach others to do the same. Everything else He wants from me falls into that umbrella. And anything I do in which I don’t depend on Him is out of bounds concerning what He wants from me.

 

What is martial arts about?

Most people automatically say “self-defense!” But that’s too narrow. Most people know that there is more to martial arts than self-defense. But can all that martial arts is about be “rolled up” into one concept?

Actually, yes. Yes it can. In fact, before I was in taekwondo, this was one of the questions on the Instructor Certification test:

“What is the endgoal of all martial arts training?”

The answer? “To create an independent human being.” Every single thing that martial arts teaches can be tied into that one concept.

Will a person be okay if they cannot defend themselves? Yes…my daughter Alsea is doing just fine, and she doesn’t know self-defense. But that’s because we are here, ready to protect her. She cannot protect herself.

I, personally, do not have a gun. Fortunately, other people, police and military, are protecting me. Someone will be okay as long as someone else is ready to defend them. But what happens when we need to defend ourselves?

Will a person be okay if they are not self-disciplined? Yes…as long as there is someone there to discipline them. As long as mommy is there to get them out of bed and get them to school. But martial arts is meant to take those people and make them self-disciplined. To teach them self-defense. To build their self-confidence, as opposed to them needing to find their self-esteem in the eyes of others.

 

So now, we’ve found our contradiction:

  1. God wants me to be dependent on Him. (See Judges 7…the battle with the Midianites is a prime example of that. Emphasis on verse 2)
  2. Martial Arts training wants me to learn to be independent, and to teach others to do the same.

 

…so my whole mission in life, my whole direction, is a contradiction.
…or is it?

 

Continued next post