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Jonathan, David, and Homosexuality: Part 3

Sabbath Reflection for Friday, 23 January 2015


As a recap, here’s what we know so far from Samuel:

  • Israel asked for a king, but not a king like Yahweh commanded (see Deuteronomy 17:5).
  • Saul was chosen to be king, but had a faithless heart.  He failed king-kindergarten, in other words.
  • Jonathan, his son, knows Saul, his father, has been rejected by Yahweh, yet Jonathan doesn’t attempt to seize the kingdom himself. 
  • Jonathan, brimming with faith and trust in Yahweh’s choice for king, binds himself willingly to the new king, David, and crowns him in the first “gay passage” we’ve seen in 1 Samuel 18.

Saul should have been doing this.  Saul should’ve stepped down and looked for Yahweh’s choice for king, and should’ve crowned him.  Saul refuses. The son yet again shows the kind of faith the father never had.  The son allows Yahweh’s agenda to determine his loyalty.  Hmm….

This is, in fact, a scandalous text.  But it is not a sexual scandal at all.  Jonathan’s actions defy all earthly logic and certainly all ancient practice.  No crown prince ever gave up the throne.  Why should he?  But this one does.  David is Yahweh’s chosen, Jonathan knows it, and for that reason alone loves David but—and this is clear from the remaining chapters—they genuinely become the best of friends.

Saul has previously lost the kingdom (chapter 15), his health (16), Israel’s respect (17), and now loses his son.

But wait, that’s not all!

In 18:6-16, Saul loses Israel’s love and his own self-respect, standing “in fearful awe” of David not only because of David’s military prowess, but also because “all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before him” like a king ought.

And again, there’s more!

Having lost his son, and Israel’s love, and his own self-respect, he now loses his daughter to David.  18:17-19 records Saul trying to save his dynasty by manipulating his oldest daughter into marriage with David.  It doesn’t work.  Then, 18:20 records not manipulation, but self-giving love from another of Saul’s daughters:

Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David….

This pleases Saul, but only because, as Saul put it:

“Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him” (18:21).

To David, Saul has now lost:

  • his kingdom
  • his health
  • his respect, and the love and admiration of the people
  • his son
  • and his daughter

What more can a man lose?  Turns out, nothing more.  Saul is finished.  He knows it.

1 Samuel 19: Saul tries to kill David

At this point, considering all that we have seen in context (and context, and more context!), what would you expect except for Jonathan to help his friend and King, David?

1 Samuel 20: Jonathan Warns David

(20:2), Jonathan betrays blood in favor of faith, agreeing to turn traitor to Saul.
(20:17), Jonathan and David swear an oath, for Jonathan “loved him as he loved his own soul.”
(20:30), Saul realizes his betrayal, saying to Jonathan a wonderful contender for all-time greatest Bible insults:

“You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse (David) lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established.”

ZING!

If the reason Jonathan and David were close was a sexual love, this was the time for Saul to say it.  He doesn’t.  Instead, he chooses the only “sin” of which Jonathan was guilty: political insurrection.

Later, in 20:41, Jonathan and David “kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most,” but it is not their sexuality in question here.  It’s worth pointing out that, in another day and age long gone, this passage never caused an eyebrow to lift.  When I lived overseas, I was regularly greeted with such “kisses” from men and women.  I hated it.  You didn’t do that in the American South where I was raised.

Men were once able to weep together and love one another—using such language, too—and not be homosexual.  No longer.  When men go into battle and serve in the armed forces, you can still see such friendship that is entirely heterosexual in nature.  This tradition—this “band of brothers”—is a reflection of a deep truth that many will never understand and Proverbs 18:24 puts in a sound-byte and perfectly reflects the dynamic between Saul, Jonathan, and David:

A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Saul has been abandoned.  He’s lost everything there is to lose.  It has all been handed over to David.  All that Saul loses, David receives.  All Saul hoped to establish by his own hand, David receives from the hand of Yahweh.

The principle and dynamic here is clear:

If you oppose Yahweh, he will oppose you.  If you stand against him, he will stand against you, and whatever you hoped to gain will be given to another, for Yahweh will himself establish his Anointed.

Now, I said at the top that this passage is part of the historic story showing what happens when you oppose Yahweh.  That’s the overarching plot, and I stick by it.  However, the sub-plot shows how it is always the man of God’s choosing (rather than our choosing) who receives the kingdom.  This man was David.  It was to David and his seed that the promise came of a forever-kingdom.  David’s greater son, Jesus, becomes the true lion of Judah and will one day receive the kingdom in full.  This is undeniable.  The plot lines of Samuel do not showcase God’s approval of gay-love.  Context. Context. Context.  Instead, they point to a consistent message of all Scripture:

Jesus has been given a kingdom, and we would do well to resign our own thrones, worship and serve him, and love him, for he will stick closer than any brother, for he has Redeemed his subjects for himself.  He is the antithesis of the self-serving Saul, and his Father has already crowned him:

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them… (Col 2:15).

Moreover, we have in the Mark 3:22-34 two concepts that I have often heard divided into separate sermons, but I think should be kept together.  In Mark 3:22-30, Jesus is accused of being an agent of Satan because he is able to cast out demons.  Jesus says, “A house divided against itself cannot stand, and a kingdom divided will fall” (paraphrase).  Immediately after this, Jesus family—potential heirs to a kingdom—come to him, and demand to see him.  Jesus’ response seems harsh, but is perfectly consistent with the themes we have seen in Samuel, especially as we have seen the family dynamics between Jonathan and Saul, that Jonathan willfully chose Yahweh’s agenda over Saul’s, and willfully gave up his shot at personal glory for Yahweh’s glory:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.”  33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus is the greater David.  We know this.  Psalm 110:1 is quoted repeatedly in the New Testament to prove this, and the book of Hebrews is clear this is the case, too.  Isaiah, Jeremiah—many others testify that Jesus is the greater son of David, the promised King.

Reader, here is your David, the true King of the Nations.  Will you set aside your prerogatives of personal belief, your own grasps at power: identities based in culture (gender, sex, race, class, politics)?

Will you crown him with many crowns, as the old hymn goes?

You’ll have a chance to with all the people of God, the Church, the New Israel, in a few days.

7 Ironies of Social Media, Continued (Reasons 5-7 on Why This Matters to EVERYTHING)

Op-Ed for Thursday, 22 January 2015


To get caught up, this is part 3 of 3 on “The Instagrammed-Life” and “Why it matters to everything.”  Today’s post can stand alone, or you could read the last two before proceeding.

Part 1 (reasons 1-2)

Part 2 (reasons 3-4)

Here are ironies 5-7….

5. ...Attachment replaced by Detachment

Neil Postman and many others have discussed how certain technologies feed attitudes of detached observance.  In other words, not only is it human nature to avoid other people’s problems (not counting mother-in-laws and grandparents, of course), sometimes, the way we use technology and the tech itself feeds our detachment.  By “detachment”, I mean that general sense of “I don’t have to really get involved.”  Facebook debates—or debates over a blog—are examples.  We debate and debate and debate, but in the end, we have done nothing of any worth or significance.  I love this:

duty_calls
Perhaps you’re not the debating type.  OK.  So the meme and concept may not apply to you.  But perhaps you are someone who uses social media frequently (or email or the like).  Think of the difference of having to fire someone in person or over social media or email (weird, but I’ve known it to happen).  If that’s too abstract, consider this: I recently met with someone who had been dumped.  By text message.  Why would a person do this?

Obviously: it’s easy.  More importantly, it’s safe, and by “safe” I don’t mean my friend was going to pull out a Glock and cap the other person.  I mean, the Dumper didn’t have to consider the feelings of the Dumpee—didn’t have to see the pain, or the hurt, or field difficult questions of “why?” and “what if?”  They could end a relationship from the detached safety of a phone.  You gotta love Modernity, no?

That shouldn’t be.  But it is.  And its ironic because the Dumper in this case would be devastated if the same happened to them, and I believe the extent they are not troubled by a detached discarding of another person is the extent they have de-humanized the Dumpee.

In the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman’s son spoke of a general cultural milieu that fosters such possibilities:

Many students…were especially taken with my father’s “Now…this” idea: the phenomenon whereby the reporting of a horrific event—a rape or a five-alarm fire or global warming—is followed immediately by the anchor’s cheerfully exclaiming “Now…this,” which segues into a story about Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple or a commercial for lite beer, creating a sequencing of information so random, so disparate in scale and value, as to be incoherent, even psychotic (xi).

Going well past Postman, Søren Kierkegaard wrote about newspapers (of all things) as “public sphere”.  He noticed that the rise of the ubiquitous newspaper or daily-journal created an environment and place where people had opinions about everything without having to risk anything to have them.  Opinion without risk breeds arrogance and pride or, if that’s going too far, at least apathy.

Nowadays, as newspapers dwindle in subscriptions and online sources increase, the “neutral” public sphere gives way to vitriolic virtual sphere.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram often move us ethically further away from each other than we ever have been.  At least with old-fashioned newspapers, you traveled into public, spoke to a person, and exchanged money for the paper.  Now, we sit behind closed doors viewing a world detached from its real existence.  3D humans view each other through the faux lens of screens and LED lights.  We become detached.  Think I’m wrong?  Answer the following True/False and prove it:

  • “I prefer calling friends to wish them ‘happy birthday!’ than typing or texting it on their Facebook wall”
  • “I prefer making plans via text messages”
  • “When I meet people, I leave my phone in my purse/jacket/pocket and never take it out”
  • “I reach for my phone first-thing in the morning”

I understand these answers are often a preference for expediency—efficiency over inefficiency.  Not always a bad thing, either.

But who said human beings should be thought of in industrial terms and concepts?  Why has efficiency become the norm for our communication?  Perhaps how we think, talk, and view each other ought to be cumbersome and time-consuming. 

I confess, pastoral ministry is exceedingly difficult in a digital world.  Increasingly, people are noticeably uncomfortable in extended meetings and conversations about deep spiritual realities.  This is beyond the difference of an introvert, shyness, or other natural, in-born trait.  It’s almost like we are losing the ability to sit for prolonged periods and converse, and we do not want to.

Bad things tend to happen when we view each other through mechanistic and industrial lenses rather than through the lens of human dignity and value.  Bad things happen when the timepiece becomes the arbiter of value instead of the tear, and it simply is not possible for loneliness to be sensed digitally.  Likewise, the cure of presence cannot be given digitally.  We must strive to attach ourselves in community.  Heck, articles like this indicate that people don’t even realize their own addictions until it is too late…

6. ...Virtue & Value replaced by Validation

This article is a “prom-example” of this principle.  Of course, anyone working with teens of any stripe should already know this, having overheard countless conversations about who saw what, felt what, and why.  What does it say when you’re willing to spend scads of money and invest time you can never have back because you want validation and not value?

facebook-like-button

Pick me! Oh! Ooo! Pick me! Pick me! LLIIIIKKKKEEEE MMMMeeeee!

Our world has always wanted vice in place of virtue.  Or, to put it as David Wells did in Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision,

Worldliness is that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and His truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal (4).

This is critical to understand.  All around us is a system seeking to divert our focus away from what is weighty and significant towards whatever is about us, i.e., in many ways, insignificant as we are in ourselves.  “All flesh is like grass,” Scripture says.  Yes, we’re in the image of God, but that only makes this value/validation exchange worse.  Wells says in an interview, and I quote in full:

We have just come out of a period within the evangelical world where worldliness was treated as a very trivial matter. I actually remember the time (this dates me significantly) when Mrs. Billy Graham came to England at the very beginning of Graham’s crusades, and the newspapers carried all kinds of articles about the fact that she was a Christian woman and she wore makeup. There were many Christian women in England, in those olden days, who did not wear makeup—they thought it was worldly.

But it wasn’t only makeup. There was a time when Christians didn’t go to most movies. There were all kinds of worldly things that, within fundamentalism in particular, people didn’t do.

The problem with this was that they identified really quite trivial things as worldly.

If you look in the New Testament, worldliness is not trivial at all. What you have, in fact, is a competing loyalty: anybody who loves the world cannot be a friend of God. That is how profound is the choice that we are making.

So the question is, where and in what ways have these antithetical, competing loyalties intruded into our souls unwittingly?

That last question is the key here, for in an Instagrammed-Life, we have shifted unwittingly from a life of value into a life of validation.  We either need validation from the world—and are willing to spend $4,000 for a virtual “like” on an App—or, joyfully, we possess value given us through our identity in Christ.

7. ...Vigilance is Replaced by Naiveté

I don’t know any woman who thinks it a good idea to walk down an alley at 2:30am.  However, on the Net, we all become women walking down an alley at 2:30am.

Sure it's safe.  Don't even think about it.  Do it.  Do it.

Sure it’s safe. Don’t even think about it. Do it. Do it.

No, there’s no gender-bending going on here.  While we teach our children not to talk to strangers (“Stranger Danger!”) and not to run with scissors, when it comes to our online “presence”, the overwhelming percentage of humans on the other end of the screen—somewhere—is a stranger.  Maybe they mean no harm.  Maybe not.  But you give it little thought or, if you do, you likely do nothing about it.  After all, who could really be vigilant enough, right?

Some people have code that protects them from key-logging and cookies (are you even aware of these?), but these tools only do so much.  We’re being tracked.  Check your Facebook page if you have one.  No doubt, somewhere under your Feed, you’ll find advertisements for a product you’ve recently viewed.  If you’re using the same browser, even if you viewed the product from Amazon or another source, the Facebook Feed will show an ad for the product.  The control over yourself you believe you have, you don’t.  True, you are not forced to buy the product. But c’mon.  That’s creepy.

I realize I’m dealing with extremes. Sometimes, however, giving the extremes allows for truth in the middle to be understood and genuine and helpful change to be embraced.  On the one hand, you could reject any online presence whatsoever.  On the other, you can ignore any of this and continue diving, hoping you never hit a shallow spot and break your online neck in the process.  I doubt, after all, teenage girls or boys who think they’re talking to an 18 year-old dreamboat really know it’s a 47 year-old predatory pedophile.  It may be the age-old “It won’t happen to me” syndrome, or it’s just the irony that Social Media tends to produce in us: the illusion of safety because it’s “just” on “my” computer—the slippery “control” I have over what I search, who kimagesnows it, what information I give about myself, and on-and-on.

When it comes to our presence on the Internet, we have exchanged the vigilant safety with which we ordinarily live for a life of naive, head-first diving into dark waters.  The truth is, you have no idea who is watching you.   You may think you’re a User of a Product every time you use the Web, but reality is murkier: you have become the Product being Used.  As David Clark put it in You, Your Family and the Internet: What Every Christian in the Digital Age Ought to Know,

…We are often…too naive and ready to give out information about ourselves on a website, without knowing anything (or very little) about who runs the website, or what they will do with the information.  Not only this, but even the information we search for provides data that can be sold (59-60).

Exchanging vigilance for naiveté is not a good solution and, ironically, no one really plans for this.


Thus we reach the end of three very long posts.  If you’ve read this far, we thank you from the bottom of our very digital hearts.  In summary:

The 7 ironies of a life on social media:

  1. the Actual becomes Virtual
  2. the Real becomes Fake
  3. Context gives way to Chaos
  4. the Embodied becomes Ethereal
  5. Attachment is replaced by Detachment
  6. Virtue and Value is replaced by Validation
  7. Vigilance is replaced by Naivete

As Christians, there can be no compromise on these points.  As Christians, there should be no compromise on any of these points.

A life invested in social-media is going to be a life of irony.  So, can they be used?

Absolutely.  Unequivocally.  But not thoughtlessly.

After all, did our Savior not command we love him with all we are as human beings?

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’  And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’ (Luke 10:25-27).

This flesh/spirit embodied devotion must go into Instagram, Facebook, and whatever else is out there or will be.  Sometimes this means we put the devices down and be.

kid-ignored-parent-cell-phone-300x200A friend named Bebo Elkin (who is not on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—ha!) taught me a phrase that nicely summarizes the ethos of this entire post, and I’ll leave you with it:

Walk to a wedding.  Run to a funeral.

Think about it.