Perilous Positivity

I’ve recently had a few conversations in which people expressed hesitance about bringing up politically-charged topics during Bible studies, for fear of causing discouragement or division (“scaring them away,” in other words).

This is clearly also the case for a good number of evangelicals when it comes to participating in online discussions about hot-button issues: they’d much prefer to just stay quiet and watch from the sidelines.

In a perfect world, these courses of action would be completely reasonable, as the radical teachings of Jesus should absolutely remain firewalled off from politics.

This ain’t a perfect world.

I’ve talked about my disappointment with checked-out, stuck-in-a-bubble Christians before, but these recent conversations have caused me to think more deeply about the effects of applying this unerringly-positive “pay no attention to the man behind the country!” attitude to evangelism and Bible study.

Some open questions:

  • How do you think that silence on an issue causes someone affected by that issue to feel (or think about the church)? You may be afraid to discuss it, or you may just be oblivious. Either way, it sends them a message.

  • You may well attract MAGAteers through your silence, but you’re also repelling people that disagree, and further fortifying the barrier between evangelicals and those that might be seeking guidance (“building a wall,” if you will 💀).

  • If you’re willing to discuss something 1:1, but not online, what message does that send? Expressing empathy on a small-scale, but then continuing to exclusively post a Stepford Wives-style parade of sickly-sweet spiritual memes also sends a message.

We don’t need any more feel-good, non-threatening Christian “films” and social media accounts designed to pat followers on the back and massage away any pangs of guilt. Bible stories themselves are hardcore (look at Abraham and Isaac!), so why have we settled for Hallmark spirituality that airbrushes away those at the margins?

We need to openly talk about how conservative politics and religion have gotten incredibly tangled up over the past several decades. We need to revisit stances (with soft hearts) on issues that were assumed to be settled. We need to realize that the darkest times can reveal the brightest truths. We need more Roald Dahl and less Walt Disney.

This article about some reasons why people walk away from church is just as applicable as to why people abandon or avoid Bible studies.

It’s always great to err on the side of being encouraging and positive, up to a point. Real, ongoing transformation, however, comes from honest, open conversations about hard topics, with the goal of constantly revisiting your conclusions.

May we stay flexible, open-minded and troubled but optimistic.

Media Diary (August 2019)

Some things I’ve experienced lately, in no particular order, and not necessarily only recent stuff:

The Boys (TV): Super dark, super fun and over too soon

1619 (Podcast): Powerful

Hail Satan? (Movie): A fascinating (and often hilarious) looks at modern-day Satanists

Room 20 (Podcast): A sad and interesting story about a John Doe that’s been in a coma for nearly 17 years

Mindhunter (TV): I tore through this new season in less than two days, it’s probably my favorite current drama

The Righteous Gemstones (TV): Solid gold

On Becoming a God in Central Florida (TV): Really great so far, and kinda too real if (like me) you’re surrounded by MLM pitches

Succession (TV): It’s back, and it’s spectacular

Behind Closed Doors (TV): A look inside a family murder mystery in India

Who Killed Garrett Phillips? (TV): A troubling case that left me with uncertainty

The Family (TV): Yikes

The Loudest Voice (TV): This Roger Ailes miniseries is just what I needed it to be

On Sobriety

Aside from a celebratory glass of champagne to celebrate a startup milestone a while back, it’s been several years now since I’ve had any alcohol.

I know, I’ve had to experience the Trump administration while sober.

It’s been an interesting journey, and I thought I’d share a few observations in the event that someone might find any of them helpful:

  • While my largest reason for eliminating alcohol was/is drug interaction-related, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d spent years looking forward to my next drink(s) a bit more than I should have. Being forced to make a hard stop was dramatic, but very effective.

  • Alcohol is still woven incredibly deeply into adult society. Explaining that you don’t drink inevitably makes the situation weird, and that’s unfortunate. Those rare few people that simply say “oh, ok” and move on when the topic comes up? Absolute saints.

  • Arguments about alcohol amounts (mostly my own chafing at self-imposed limits) were a periodic source of friction in my marriage, and I’m glad that my sobriety has removed at least one item from my wife’s list of family concerns. That said, I still leave my shoes scattered by the door and make the bed incredibly badly, as I don’t want to shock her system with too much change.

  • I’ve found that having replacement beverages has been critical (probably similar to former smokers chewing gum to build new muscle memory habits). The past few years have taken me incredibly deep down the seltzer rabbit hole, and, thanks to a co-worker’s recommendation, I’m currently having a torrid affair with Topo Chico.

  • Finding alternate ways to relieve stress and anxiety is also essential. Pharmaceuticals can go a long way if they make sense for your situation (and are recommended by your doctor), but I’ve also found a surprising amount of success with meditation and a utility belt of various other shenanigans.

Obviously everyone’s different, but I wish anyone the best of luck if they’re trying to change a longstanding habit. I definitely won’t ask you why.