Rocking the Collar III

Time after time, in my various wanderings ’round the internet, I have come across rants, open wounds, unmet needs.

This country’s churches have a ridiculous attitude about forgiveness.

This country’s churches have a ridiculous classification system for sins, wherein some are simply too icky to forgive or to fight in any meaningful way.

This country’s churches demean men and exalt women in craven submission to the spirit of the age.

This country’s churches replace the security and comfort of solid truth with an insecure, but exciting reliance on emotional experiences.

I am a confessional Lutheran, in part, because the broad organized churches that submit to the confessions (such as the WELS and the LCMS) do not commit these mistakes.  But on the individual level, very few pastors I have met do not at least give these errors a respectful nod, and I have yet to encounter a church body that does not embrace most if not all of these errors.

If you’re not part of the solution…

Humans are broken and evil, and the flavor of the brokenness and evil will be colored by the sins of the age.  To a degree, this situation is unavoidable, short of expatriating to a country where an almost opposite culture reigns supreme — and there, I would find other problems, just as problematic, just as pervasive.

In short, a Chinese Christian cannot help being Chinese, and an American Christian cannot help being American.  Only by the Grace of God may the errors endemic to a particular culture, like more general errors endemic to humanity as a whole, be overcome.

Nevertheless, the fact that the problem is inevitable does no imply that the problem cannot or should not be fought.

Gnosticism was a particularly Hellenistic error of a Hellenistic age.  Irenaeus is remembered for standing up against it.  And while fragments of the errors of the Gnostics have been recycled throughout history into other heresies and heterodoxies, that particular sect has been smashed to pieces.

So… we deny God’s Spirit (given to us in his Word) in order that we might call the stirrings of our hearts, coincidences, and (perhaps) the schemes of demons ‘the Holy Spirit.’

This must be opposed.

We divorce reconciliation from forgiveness, and thus unknowingly divorce the Hope of Heaven from the forgiveness bought on the cross.

This must be opposed.

As the Gnostics held that men were spiritual and therefore pure, and women were carnal and therefore corrupt, so we now hold that women are emotional and therefore pure, and men are carnal and therefore corrupt.

This must be opposed.

As a pastor, I could take quite a bit more of a stand than as a blogger read by two people.

As a game maker, taking a stand is a matter of arguable merit.  It is intrinsically good, but it may not be the best allocation of resources.

As a pastor, taking a stand would be precisely my job.

And I want to do it.

When Dalrock’s blog on Christian Marriage posts another link to Focus on the Family’s Mark Driscoll going on about how “Wives, submit to your husbands” really means “Husbands, submit to your wives,” and Dalrock wonders whether there are any pastors left on the face of the earth who actually take the Bible at its word, I could say “Yeah.  Here’s my blog.  Here’s the church where I teach what’s on my blog.”

When some ex-gay ministry or another wonders whether there are any churches in the country that neither hate on, nor excuse homosexuality, I would be able to say “Yeah.  Here’s my blog.  Here’s the church where I teach what’s on my blog.”

Ahh, hubris.  Just give me a license to dress in black with a silver crucifix, and I shall solve the world’s problems!


But seriously.  I know I can’t do it.  And I also know I can’t stop myself from trying to do it.  If it is a good thing, if it is in accordance with the Scriptures to take these stands (and others… oh, yes!  Many others), should I not take up this avenue of doing what I shall do anyway?

Maybe.  Maybe not.


Collar Rocking II

Half of the two people who read this blog already know what the last post was about, and the other half is clever enough to prise it from between the lines of my half-asleep rambling.

But to be clear:

Sunday, my new Pastor, who is played by Vin Diesel in the movie adaptation of my life, announced that three weeks hence, a recruitment officer of some sort would be showing up and having a talk about careers in church work.  Seems the LCMS needs pastors and other various peoples.

I have, from time to time, toyed with the idea of a theological or philosophical degree.  I really would like to have one.  I just don’t know what I’d do with it.  The best use for the education I want is to become a pastor.  But I’ve always been leery about becoming a pastor.

Leery, but intrigued.  I didn’t go to Oak Hills for no reason.

So, I resolved to attend said meeting out of sheer curiosity.  And, having made that resolution, I promptly forgot about it.

‘Till after Bible Study, when one of the men of the church pulled me aside, told me that I should attend that meeting and really, really think hard about maybe becoming a pastor.  He also told me that my church would find a way to pay for it, should I head out for Seminary.

I haven’t been able to sleep since then, really.  I can’t stop thinking about it.  ‘Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, etc…

You know I’m passionate about a lot of bits of theology that get swept under the rug these days.  I didn’t join up with the synod I joined due to their lack of will to back someone up if his doctrine is sound.

I was there for Rev Diesel’s ordination.  There was nothing objectionable in the ceremony.  It was doctrinally sound as a mountain of fused anvils.  The few little points of difference I have with the LCMS official stance were not on the list of things sworn to.  It was just the Bible, the Creeds, and Concordia.

To have a way to reach out to the Body of Christ and inject a couple of fitful bursts of logic into the stream of emotionalism (don’t cross the streams!)  How many times have I asked for that?  And now that it is on the table, how can I not look with suspicion towards the Heavens, and wonder if God is not double-dog-daring me to put my money where my mouth is?  Or my mouth where his church is.

I Could Rock the Collar

Or not.  No I couldn’t.

But should I?  That’s the question, isn’t it?

I’m not a socialite.  I’m not an extrovert, nor do I hold extroversion to be superior to introversion.  A pastor is a largely social role, no?  Undershepherd of the flock is a silly title if you don’t spend any time with the sheep.  It is a silly title if you don’t spend most of your time with the sheep.

Well, most of your time tending the sheep.

I looked at the class list.  I looked at the class list for the preceding Bachelor’s program I’d have to take too.  Most of those classes looked delicious.  The sort of thing where the papers would be a joy to write, the study something I would normally feel guilty spending time on.  Back at Oak Hills, I really dug the theology classes.  Christian Faith I.  Old and New Testament overviews.  Those were good stuff.  It was the intro to writing nonsense that my AA should have covered (and did cover at BSU), and the ‘ministry’ classes that were all about people wallowing in emotionalism, and the ministry requirement that always got to me.

Ah, the ministry requirement.  There’s the rub.  Making a career out of one of my least-loved elements of Oak Hills.  But Pastoral Ministry is a little different than making fliers advertising a revivalist orgy of mildly Christianized Bandai theme songs, or trying to reign in native kids who don’t want to be their, but their parents don’t want them at home either.  And hey, those kids need people who give a damn reigning them in, no doubt about it!

Less than 10% of the Concordia St. Paul Theology Major courses look like pathetic attempts to be overly relevant.  (You know how to be relevant in today’s world?  Easy: stop trying to offer them what they already have.  Be different.  Be true.)  And even in those courses, you find scary truth words like ‘doctrine’ in the description.

None of these are the kicker.  The kicker is, I went to Oak Hills because I love the faith.  I love digging deeper, devouring the deep truths that form the pulse.

At Oak Hills, only about a third of the teachers and a percent of the students seemed to give a damn.  The rockstar hero of my class flunked out of theology three times and passed youth ministry on the first go.  I flunked out of youth ministry and aced theology in my sleep.

Now, years later, Rev Fisk’s expositions of Lutheran Doctrine, paired with my own inquiries (and years after I signed on to the Small Catechism) have ignited the old spark again.  Burden after burden of my life has been torn away.  The doctrine of Vocation melted the intense pressure I’ve felt to missionary-ize since I can remember.  Ironic, then, that I am leaning towards a vocation that would make that primarily my responsibility.  But I digress.  The doctrine of Baptism vaporized my doubt and despair.  Every pain, tended.  Every burden, lightened.  I  can’t understand how I used to live with the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I am so much smaller than Atlas; Jesus is so much bigger.

I want to know more.  And I can learn more, on my own, in stolen moments.

Or I can learn more as my objective, for my vocation.

I want, I want, me, me, me…  If I were to go this path, it would be an extra load of responsibility before God.  I would be held doubly to account.  I have thrown off one yoke!  Am I strong enough to bear another?  The correct answer is no-one is.  But perhaps I am less ready than others.

To be a pro-Bible nerd… I spend as much time, if not more, composing and writing rants exhortations as I do writing stories or games.  I could do it on a schedule.  And I can take confessions without batting an eye, and forgive with an inhuman equanimity born of my broken brain.  But can I enact discipline?  Can I excommunicate?  Can I visit the shut-ins?  Meet with those who are sick and in prison?  Online, I may be brash and decisive, but in person I’ve the spine of an egg of Silly-Putty.  This is no time or place for spineless shepherds!  There are wolves without and within.

Meh.  There’s not much more I can do until I can talk to Pastor or to the recruitment guy in a couple of weeks.  But this won’t leave my poor, addled brain alone.

Certificate of Consent

As a followup to my last post:  If the current definition of rape is so malleable as to allow for literally every ambulatory creature to be convicted of rape, how can we then sensibly differentiate?

The answer is fairly simple.  We must have a signed consent form.

Men’s Rights Activist Angry Harry forsees and fears this particular future.  But it really is an excellent answer.  Angry Harry’s objection is that it must be obtained and signed for every single sex act, and surely someone will forget in the passion of the moment.  And then a young lady who was enjoying her evening will flip on the news and discover that she’s technically been raped, and will boil herself and her lover in a slowly heating stew of legal indictment.

The solution to his objection is quite simple:  we need a permanent consent form.  A form that is signed by both parties, one or two witnesses, and a legal or social authority of appropriate standing.  Interested couples would be required to get this form signed and notarized before engaging in any sexual activity, and also be required to undergo formal legal procedures to have this consent withdrawn, should they so desire.  All sexual activity taking place without a consent form would then be clearly defined as illegal.

My solution is so elegant, so ingenious, that it’s a wonder nobody’s thought of it before.

marriage certificate

Silly moderns, always going on about how you can’t turn back the clock.  With Mr. Chesterton, I respond:

1. That’s a rather disingenuous metaphor.  Hand me a clock and watch me turn it back.

2. We must turn it back or die.  Whether the thing is possible or not is of exactly zero relevance.

My motto should be “Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Bitches.”

Ever had one of those days when you thought of a scathing retort to something someone said to you… a month later?

The scathing retort is a device used in scripture by God and his servants many times.  You can find a fruitful exposition in text here, and a slightly less informative YouTube cartoon here, but the gist seems to be this:  there are two kinds of people with which you can interact:  those who are interested in genuine discussion (which I shall call seekers), and opponents (mockers, wolves in sheep-suits, and representatives of opposition views).  In private, you are to be gentle with seekers and you are to avoid opponents.  In public, you are to be gentle with seekers and ruthlessly verbally destroy and humiliate opponents.

This, Biblically, was not limited to enemies of the church.  God felt it perfectly acceptable to use the scathing retort on his people, and Jesus and Paul on their own followers, when the people or followers in question set themselves up as opponents rather than seekers.

Now, a month or three ago, on some popular blog, I made a comment to the effect of:

To those Christians who believe that the right thing to do is to turn yourself in or turn the offender in, be advised that the Bible actually models repentance as turning around and living in an opposite manner — thieves doing honest work in order to give to others, for example — instead.  It also advises to handle things without appealing to the authorities wherever possible (in Proverbs), and expressly castigates Christians for subjecting each other to earthly courts (in Corinthians).

To which statement some bright spark said:

Nice strawman.

While I do not have the exact link of the discussion, I remember his retort, as it was so pithy.  I also now know what I should have said, though it is too late to go back and say it, as the response would be buried under the pile of subsequent comments.

After careful consideration, the appropriate response would have been:

Perhaps you believe I omitted a comma.  That instead of “To those Christians who believe…” I meant to write “To those Christians, who believe…”.  In that case, if no Christians believed turning oneself in is the right thing to do, my argument would indeed be a Strawman, as it would characterize Christians as believing something they do not.

Since I did not include that fateful comma, the meaning of that phrase is essentially “I address the following to the subset of Christians who subscribe to this belief.”

Even if the subset is empty — if no Christians believe this — the result is not a Strawman.  It is simply addressing an argument to no-one.

A waste of words almost as severe as trying to teach logic to someone who instinctively calls arguments strawmen without thinking about it.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, bitches.

Mind you, this is only an appropriate scathing retort because whats-his-name appealed to logic by using the term ‘strawman’.  Also because he was being sarcastic.

Had he said “That’s a strawman,” instead of “nice strawman,” the last two sentences would be left off.  No need to be sharp with someone who believes he is engaging the argument in good faith.  Show kindness to seekers.

Had he gone the other route, and kept the snark but did not appeal to logic, by saying “That’s wrong,” or “That’s dumb,” the appropriate response, in kind, would be “You must hear those words a lot, since you’ve learned to say them.”  In other words, point out the intellectual vacuity of the statement while responding in kind.  The pithier the better (this response suffers because it is a response to something shorter and snappier. )

Had the response been an email, or other private message, the appropriate response would be to delete the message and move on.  Avoid the opposition in private.

Must sleep.  Can’t sleep. Must process.

Base premise: ancient world based on Honor/Shame explicit.  Modern world:  still based on Honor/Shame, but mechanism is hidden, occluded, considered alien.

Samurai Face World:  Honor is gained by playing your role well.  “Know your place.”  Hindu beggars crippling themselves to be better beggars is a sort of self-parody of this.  In general, though, slaves should be good at being slaves, masters at being masters, and so forth.

Modern World:  Read on some dating advice blog ages ago (with ties to the Pick-Up movement) that step one for introverts is learning social interaction, and step one in that is picking some public activity (like buying a shirt) and treating it like a role:  you are the movie extra known in the script as “Shirt-Shopper #1”.  Concept: play your role well, and you cease to be creepy (remember:  the site was giving dating advice).

Side note:  Vehemently reject the ends pickup artists pursue.  Gained respect for their concepts after watching 17 Again.  Movie mocks pick-up by having the heroe’s side-kick strike out when he attempts ‘peacocking’:  dressing and acting garishly to attract the interest of a hot girl.

I laughed too.  “Ha, ha, what a dope.  Women don’t fall for that.”  A year or so later, I reflected that my first girlfriend was an 8, easily the cutest girl in the choir, whereas I, physically, am about a 5, but I got her to fall head over heels for me by wearing a cloak and swooping up and down hills.  Joke is on the writers.  Peacocking works at least some of the time.

Thinking over my life, I could have probably had a hot girl on my arm 90% of the time.  I actively passed over several opportunities because I judged them not conducive to my future goals (or my religious beliefs, more often).  Peacocking works almost every time, at least for me.  OTOH, I didn’t know I was Peacocking — there was a level of authenticity born from the fact that it wasn’t actually an act.

End of side note.

Main point:  Honor is accrued by assuming an accepted role within your range of available roles, and playing that role well.

This becomes the foundation of one’s authority in human matters.

“Nerd-in-a-corner” is an accepted role for tech-types and accrues honor in accordance.  That is, my word has weight among nerds; particularly those who crave tutelage in the skills I possess.  A message board moderator will come to me for animation advice; a Pixar dude will not.

For a person of the world, this will suffice.  I am not of this world.

I have, or ought to have, a role within a church body.  Which, in turn, requires playing a “church-goer” or “church-member” role.

Part of my Monday schedule was to be devoted to spiritual pursuits.  A ‘tithe’ of time and creative effort.  A YouTube catechism or some such.  Let each give according to his gifts.  If he teaches, let him teach.  & c.

Part of the issue is this concept of renewal:  studies in efficiency and productivity show that a person who does not devote time to spiritual pursuits is less productive than a person who does (even if the religion is false.  Calling Axiom.)  In theory, I would be a better writer/coder/whateverer for spending time working for a transcendent cause.

I would call it the classic mistake of monasticism, but that would be unfair to the monks who, at the very least, ministered to one-another.

God will bless my spiritual gifts or he will not.  If he does, will it not be within his designated matrix?  So let me lay aside thoughts of an animation series; if that is where God wants me to go, then I shall find myself there by following his road.

Thus, if I am to be the person God intends me to be, I must be rooted in a church.  Thus, I must wear the hat of the church-goer or church-member, and so far as my morals permit (and they will probably permit far), play the role to the hilt.  I will then accrue Honor in accordance to my performance, and from there, my contribution will flourish or not.

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in the favor of God and men.  Far be it from me to attempt otherwise.  (He also retreated into the wilderness from time to time.  But for now, let us focus on what we are neglecting rather than what we are overdoing).

This, in turn, leads to several other conclusions.

  1. I need to attend a church within my effective range, so that I can be available for socialization opportunities outside of regular church-attendance hours.
  2. I need to develop some social skills outside of the set useful for my professional aspirations.
  3. To the hilt.

Ad capulum.

I think I can sleep now.

Seed Post-Mortum Part 1: Repristination

The motivations and pressures underlying the Seed project (and thus, Starfighter X) remain.  But I am floundering again.  I have some possible insight into this.

I’ve been reading a book lately called The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, by authors who claim an impressive track record with regard to increasing performance in various workplaces.  Their claims have some confluence with experiences I had during the creation of Starfighter X.

The founding idea of the book is that the modern workplace is designed around the concept of maintaining a constant level of output over time, and hitting it harder, faster, and longer, whereas in their studied opinion, humans are designed for a more rythmic approach:  to spend about ninety minutes taking it to the limit, and then an hour or so recovering completely.  These pulses from opposite states of maximum intensity to maximum rest, in their lights, should be applied physically, in work, in play, spiritually, and so forth.

With Starfighter X, I began work on the project after roughly three days of brainstorming, documenting, and researching, which in turn followed a six-day camping trip.  The camping trip followed a pattern similar to the optimal pattern recommended in TWWWIW: naps whenever I felt like it, a predominance of social distance combined with periods of more intense social interaction, frequent mild exercise punctuated by the naps and intense fencing sessions lasting upwards of a half-hour, time with my wife…

Coming off the trip, I was in far better physical and emotional shape than usual, and in the following weeks, I continued a slowly unraveling habit of exercise (first once a day, then twice a week, then once a week, then once every other week), and I threw myself headfirst, full-speed into my work and accomplished as I have accomplished only twice in my life:  When I made ‘Dozer, and when I wrote my novel.

Now that I think of it, when I wrote my novel, I was home from my first year out of town at school.  I had spent two weeks touring with a choir, a day or two sleeping on a friend’s floor, and up to a week at home before getting my old job at the theater back for the summer.  I spent most of my week biking too and from work from an uncle’s house, returning to the farm for the three-day weekends that the theater afforded (in return for 11-hour shifts).  So exercise and a preceding rejuvenation were factors there as well.

There were other factors I wish to consider before I make my next plan of action, of course, but as a starting point, let us consider incorporating rejuvenating periods into my life-cycle.  It has some Biblical precedent — Jesus took breaks in the wilderness (though they weren’t necessarily vacationsthere was fasting involved), and the Bible mandates a weekly break — and if it is true that rejuvenating periods are necessary to achievement, at least for me, then even if continuous work is in-and-of-itself the nobler path, I owe it to my (potentially burgeoning) family to at least examine the functional path and discover whether the exchange is worthwhile.  That is, I should weigh the possible nobility of diligence as expressed through continuous work against the known nobility of provision.

There are other factors — sleep and exercise come to mind, but for the sake of this post, let us consider repristination alone.

Perhaps it is sufficient, on the larger scale, to set aside, say, a three-day, no-contact, change-of-scenery weekend per month, and a larger rejuvenation period on, say, a tri-monthly basis.  My employer, which for the sake of discussion we shall call Le Zarci, furnishes me with ten days of paid vacation (fifteen days starting next year if I’m not mistaken.  Le Zarci is unfairly maligned).  Three or four are needed for the annual camping trip, leaving me six to play with.

Let’s say I just take the extra day per month without pay.  I think I can eat the cost at present.  I will consider the camping trip as a rejuv.  That gives me three remaining quarters to play with.  Taking a pay-free day every month gives me a five-day quarterly break.

‘Cept I doubt that last quarter (Containing October/November/December) is liable to see a five-day approved.  But we’ll save the spare time, maybe make a larger break later.  A refocusing in January or February, maybe for my birthday.

The purpose of these rejuvenation is not slackage, but to refocus, to gather my energy.  If I get wheels, I suspect micro-camping trips to be common.

Anyhow, I’ll talk it over with my wife, and we’ll see how it goes.

Next Part 2:  Sleep, and then Exercise.