Arrogance & Ignorance (a Bad Combination)

5 Jan

Steven Brown - Theatrical Headshot (small)It is a slippery slope and we can appear to be hateful or insensitive when we appoint ourselves as the sole proprietor of “Truth, Justice and the American Way”.

I have many friends and relatives who hold quite antithetical and polarizing beliefs, opinions and points of view (which is fine until they attack others who believe or think differently than them).

I see those from all sides of the political, socio-economic, spiritual, religious and geographic spectrums, pontificating with great certainty what is true and what is not, when in all honesty, on most of the issues, it would be impossible for them to know. However, this does not deter them from ranting, bullying or insulting those who may have a different viewpoint, knowledge or understanding of the topic.

For instance, there are those who rail against anyone who has identified themselves as a Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Liberal, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, American, European, Asian, Homosexual, Bi-Sexual, Etc. (and the list is goes on almost endlessly).

The thing is, as humanity on a global scale and as our world gets smaller, if we have any hope for mankind, we MUST learn to communicate on a higher level. Not with hurtful words, tired clichés, knee-jerk reactions or inflammatory rhetoric, but with true understanding and wisdom. I believe we can all learn from each other, no matter what side of the issues we happen to stand.

Now I know there will be those who try to attack me for even suggesting such an unconventional and revolutionary premise, but that doesn’t matter. As long as we can agree to disagree on some things and maybe even allow ourselves to believe that maybe, just maybe we might be wrong on some issues.

Colored People?

17 Feb

Colored People Booklet CoverIntroduction:
Every day we hear the terms “black” and “white” being bandied about in reference to human beings. Nevertheless, I believe these widely accepted phrases are inaccurate, emotionally evocative and should not be a part of our normal discourse. Besides, is there really a need to make these particular distinctions? I say no.

Definitions:
First, let us look at the semantics. The American Heritage Dictionary defines these words as follows:

Black – Being of the darkest achromatic visual value; producing or reflecting comparatively little light and having no predominant hue.”

White – An achromatic color of maximum lightness, the complete compliment or antagonist of black; the other extreme of the neutral gray series.”

Using these definitions, I challenge you to find any living human being that could be described as black or white. You may say you have seen a person who could be considered “black”, and I suppose for that person, the word may be accurate, and therefore, you could conceivably use that term. But why would you need to do so.

In my experience, I have been completely around the world, visited 23 different countries, and I would dare say I have never seen anyone fitting the definitions above. There are those who might be considered, at best, light tan, beige, dark brown or maybe even mahogany. But for the vast majority of people in this world, the words “black” and “white” are misnomers when referring to the color of people.

What A Perfectionist!
I realize I’m being literal; however, more serious implications compel me to be extremely honest. A large majority of the times we hear someone referred to as “black” or “white”, color is irrelevant. For example; how many times have you heard something like this: “Black juror, John Smith said…” or “Brenda Johnson, a white Representative said …” These terms; “Black” and “white” are not only unnecessary, but inapplicable as well.

What if we used accurate terminology to describe skin color? At least it would illustrate the absurdity of this practice. For instance: “John, a light tan person who…”, “Linda, a dark brown librarian…”, “80 percent of beige people say…” or “All fawn colored doctors believe…” How ridiculous, you may say. Still, it is no more ridiculous than what has become commonplace in our society.

What’s a “Pig Mint”? (A breath freshener for swine?)
What possible relevance could there be in pointing out the amount of pigmentation someone has, or doesn’t have in his or her skin? To me this is akin to grouping everyone with brown eyes or red hair together and making blanket statements about their character traits, mannerisms or lifestyles.

Another reason we should not use colors to describe people is these words tend to evoke the very racist and/or prejudicial attitudes we’ve worked at overcoming for the past 50 years. A great American once said; “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

However, even some proponents of racial equality still use these irrelevant words, seemingly oblivious to their implications. For instance: Read the following two statements. “Joe Johnson, a black professor at Columbia College, was elected to the City Council” or “Joe Johnson, a professor at Columbia College, was elected to City Council.” Now, which of the two preceding sentences would be more likely to “conjure up” racist or prejudicial feelings in the mind of the reader?

Even though the writer may not have had any intention of bringing up such thoughts, it could still be perceived this way. So why even draw attention to inconsequential facts such as color of skin, instead of the important ones?

A Filter in Our Brains?
It is our perceptions that more often than not, will shape our beliefs, thoughts, and convictions. These perceptions are like filters, through which we view the world. The problem with this is, sometimes our filters are constructed of incomplete, fallible or inadequate material. Therefore, we may tend to perceive people inaccurately, unless we have all the facts. Therefore, if our perceptions are faulty, we cannot see others for who they really are; individual human beings.

Are We Colors Or People?
This brings me to another important point. Many people often use the term “blacks” or “whites” independently of any reference to humanity. For example, in his column, “The Dangers of Misconceptions”, Hugh P. Price uses the words black/s or white/s in this manner 25 times; and Bradley Inman, in his article, “Does Discrimination Persist In The Housing Market?”, also uses these phrases in the same way 39 times, i.e. “…. how Blacks and Whites view housing bias.”; “The study found that Blacks are more suspicious of Real Estate Agents…” or “for example, 10 percent of Whites surveyed said…”

I’m not quite sure why anyone would use such language. I can only speculate they may be subconsciously dehumanizing the issue in order to treat it as merely information. However, we’re dealing with people made of flesh and bones. Individuals are unique in their own way. We all have our own circumstances, dreams, trials and triumphs. Nobody can truly speak for another person, because there are no two human beings exactly the same. Therefore, how can we group people together and make broad generalizations about everyone in these “groups”. All this does is divide us further, based on our differences.

You Might Be A Redneck If…
I know some of you are thinking to yourselves; “this guy has gone off the deep end!” You may be right. As a self-proclaimed “Reformed Redneck”, I have grown so weary of hearing people use ridiculous concepts such as the shade of epidermal tissue to categorize what they believe are societal groups of people, for the benefit of their hatred, prejudicial attitudes and outright racist beliefs.

You may also be thinking; “so, what do we call ‘them’?” Oh, I don’t know…how about…PEOPLE! What a novel idea! Of course there are also some other titles and labels that you may have heard before: (“Mr., Mrs., Sir, Ma’am, Doctor, Sister, Brother, Father, Reverend, Man, Woman, Boy [in the legitimate sense], Girl, Officer, Chief, Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, etc…) and the list is almost infinite.

Words Have Meaning
There are also terms in use today, which could alleviate the traditional black and white dilemma. Such as: “African-American (this is accurate only if the ancestors actually came from Africa, not the West Indies, Caribbean, Australia, etc.); European-American (the same rules apply); and Anglo-Saxon (relating specifically to Western Europe). Nevertheless, I would restrict these terms to situations when absolutely necessary for scientific or statistical purposes. We must also guard against casually throwing them about, lest we group and divide our country (and world) even further.

What can we do to turn the tide of inaccurate, inappropriate and dehumanizing terminology? We could make a conscious effort to think about what we say or write before we do so. We might also determine to only use legitimate phraseology as mentioned above.

A Word from Our Creator
Jesus said in Luke 11:17 – “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth”. Therefore, it also stands to reason; a nation divided against itself cannot stand. Just like the old saying goes: “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The Apostle Paul also wrote in his letter to the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 3:28) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This was a call for unity in the churches of first century believers. In other words; if we share the same Jesus as our Savior and Lord, then that makes us part of the same family. Paul also made a similar statement to the church in Colossi (Colossians 3:11), reminding them of the need for unity as well.

Get Real!
I realize there are cases when ancestral heritage is deemed to be of some importance. Sometimes racial lineage information is needed for scientific purposes, i.e. Medical, genealogical, or historical. Other times it may be necessary for census data, such as demographics and population growth studies.
I often have a problem, however, with fitting into the categories offered as choices on most statistical forms. For instance, the normal choices for racial/ethnic group are “White”, “Black”, “Asian”, “Hispanic”, or “Other”. Now, since I am not white, black, Asian or Hispanic, I usually choose “Other”, which normally throws them for a “loop”, and probably leaves them scratching their heads for some time.

One Big, Happy Family!
Some people may not want to hear this part, but it has to be said. According to the Bible in Genesis 3:20, “Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.” This means all our ancestry can be traced back to the first humans, (Adam and Eve).

But even more recent than that, Genesis Chapters 7-9 tell us that Noah and his family “replenished the earth”. Therefore, we have all descended from the same lineage if you trace it back far enough.
Moreover, and most importantly, as people on planet Earth, we surely have at least one thing in common. We are all members of the same race…

…The Human Race.

Bibliography
American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition. (Houghton-Mifflin, New York, NY. 1991)

Dickinson, John; the Liberty Song (1768); Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. xiv; as quoted by: The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Third Edition. (Oxford University Press, New York, NY. 1980)

Holy Bible, (KJV); (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI. 1984)

Inman, Bradley; “Does Discrimination Persist in the Housing Market?” Inman News Features, (AOL News Stand) 1996

King Jr., Martin Luther I Have a Dream, Washington D.C., 28 Aug. 1963.

Price, Hugh B., “The Dangers of Misconceptions”, To Be Equal, Column #7, 16 Feb. 1996.

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Christians?

10 Feb

Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people? Harold S. Kushner a Jewish Rabbi wondered that also. He had come to such a crossroads in his faith that he wondered if God really cared about us. Then he wrote “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. Of course, it was written entirely from an Old Testament view, and without the benefit of knowing the Messiah.

Others have written many books, sermons and articles on this subject, but we, as born-again, spirit-filled Christians, we sometimes may get the impression that we are supposed to be immune from trials and tribulations. However, sometimes bad things happen to us, and we wonder: “why?” There are many reasons, and sometimes we may not know the reasons.

  • Jesus promised us we would have “tribulations”:

John 16:33        “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

  •  Because we are the “children” and “heirs” of God:

Romans 8:16-18 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in us.”

  • Sometimes we are “tried” or tested:

James 1:2-4       “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Proverbs 17:3 “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.”

We are purified by God’s refining “fire” to burn away the contamination from the world in our life. Just as heating to extreme temperatures, causing the “dross” or impurities to rise to the surface so they can be removed, purifies gold or silver, so are we also “refined” when God turns up the heat on us.

  • I doubt that God can use anyone greatly until they have been hurt deeply, and recovered by God’s grace, mercy and comfort.

Zechariah 13:9           “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”

1st Peter 1:3-7       “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”

We live in a sinful world, surrounded by sinful people (ourselves included) who are sometimes influenced by Satan to attack us with everything they’ve got. However, we can rest on the assurance that this life is just “a season” as the Apostle Peter put it.

Some people believe bad things happen to us as a punishment for sin. I say, look at Job; he was a righteous man who did not deserve what happened to him.

Job 1:1      “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”

Job 1:8      “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”

How about Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel): in Genesis we read where he was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was then put in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, where he stayed for several years, until he had an opportunity to interpret a dream of the Pharaoh. He was then placed in a position of great authority, which enabled him to help his family survive a famine (including the same brothers that sold him into slavery). This enabled God to preserve the lineage from which Jesus would be born a few thousand years later.

Then in Genesis 50:19-20, after Israel dies, Joseph’s brothers feared the day of retribution had come. However, Joseph, being the Godly man he was said: “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Or as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His promise.

Nevertheless, there is a principle of “sowing and reaping” that God has placed in His word. Although we sometimes want to focus only on the positive side of this promise, there is also a negative aspect to the principle:

Galatians 6:7-10 “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

That brings me to another point. I get very discouraged when I hear Christians putting others down, especially when they are speaking of other Christians. I don’t care if they are in public office, or in politics, I don’t believe it helps the cause of Christ to have believers slandering or spewing hatred toward or about anyone (much less if they are Christians).

As a line in a song states: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future”

  • God is still on His throne, and He’s still in control.
26 Nov

Steven Brown

To Think, or Not to Think

(That is the question)

 God created us with a brain, which is faster and more complex than any “super computer” ever built.

This one part of the human anatomy is proof that God exists.

How can you have a creation so complex without a Creator?

How can you have such an intricate design without a Designer?

If I were to present a completely assembled computer and tell you I believe that over millions of years it formed the metal alloys, polymers, diodes, transistors, resistors, transformers, and integrated circuits that came together on their own without any intelligent outside intervention, you would probably think I was crazy.

The human brain has millions of synapses, neuron pathways and an electro-chemical communication system that is unparalleled.

Therefore, if God gave us a brain, should we not use it to think, reason, and analyze?

Some opponents of Christianity…

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To Think or Not to Think? (That is the Question)

12 Aug

To Think, or Not to Think

(That is the question)

 God created us with a brain, which is faster and more complex than any “super computer” ever built.

This one part of the human anatomy is proof that God exists.

How can you have a creation so complex without a Creator?

How can you have such an intricate design without a Designer?

If I were to present a completely assembled computer and tell you I believe that over millions of years it formed the metal alloys, polymers, diodes, transistors, resistors, transformers, and integrated circuits that came together on their own without any intelligent outside intervention, you would probably think I was crazy.

The human brain has millions of synapses, neuron pathways and an electro-chemical communication system that is unparalleled.

Therefore, if God gave us a brain, should we not use it to think, reason, and analyze?

Some opponents of Christianity say that Christians must “check” their brains at the door of the church.

I say nothing could be further from the truth.

There are also those within the body of Christ who seem to have an aversion to education, knowledge and cognitive abilities.

Let’s see what the word of God has to say about it:

Proverbs 1:1-9

Proverbs 2:1-6

Proverbs 9:9-10

Proverbs 10:13-17

And so on throughout the book of Proverbs King Solomon (regarded by some as the wisest man who ever lived) extols the virtues of knowledge, instruction and wisdom.

Isaiah 33:5-6

Psalm 119:9-11

II Timothy 2:15

II Timothy 3:16-17

Of course, it is not required for salvation that we have a deep analytical mind, or be highly intelligent.

Jesus calls us “sheep”.

Just look at:

John 3:16

Romans 3:23

Romans 6:23

And many more.

But is also equally not a disqualification from salvation if we do possess intellectual abilities.

Just look at some of the great, well-educated minds of the Bible, who were believers:

Solomon

Luke the Disciple (he was a doctor)

Nicodemus

The Apostle Paul

What about other early church fathers:

Clement of Rome (First Bishop of Rome after the Apostles)

Polycarp of Asia Minor (Greek Bishop of Smyrna)

Justin Martyr (Early Christian Apologist and theologian)

Martin Luther

Charles H. Spurgeon

John Wesley

Then there are those who are recognized for their secular genius:

Blaise Pascal (Scientist & Mathematician) the Father of Computer Logic

Sir Isaac Newton (Physicist & Mathematician) Created Calculus

C. S. Lewis (Author and Philosopher)

Dr. Albert Schweitzer (Physician & Humanitarian)

John Milton (Author & Poet)

John Bunyan (Author)

G. K. Chesterton (Author)

Søren Kierkegaard (Danish Philosopher)

And of course, there are many Christians today who are considered quite learned and intellectual:

Josh McDowell

James Dobson

Ravi Zacharius

Billy Graham

Hank Hanegraaff

D. James Kennedy

God wants us to think and reason.

Isaiah 1:18

II Timothy 1:12

I John 5:13

So as you can see Christianity and education or intelligence are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that all Christians should be highly intellectual. However, I do believe many believers are not using their God-given talent/ability/gift of intelligence or critical thinking skills as God has intended for the benefit or furtherance of the Gospel.

We all have differing degrees of intellectual ability. But I believe most of us can become scholars in the area of the Gospel at varying levels so as to minister to people at varying levels.

I Peter 2:1-5

I Corinthians 3:1-4

I Corinthians 12:1-31

I Corinthians 13 (the Love Chapter)

Secular vs. Christian Music (for Christians)

12 Aug

Secular vs. Christian Music

I would preface this article by saying, when I mention Christian music; I am including all styles of music. It is not the style of music that makes it inherently “Christian”; it is the message, and the intent of that message. Instrumental music can be interpreted much less strictly. In the case of instrumental music, I believe it is the intent and spirit of the composer and/or musician that gives the music the ability to glorify God.

It should also be said that this article is intended for people who are born-again Christians, who try to follow Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, in order to strive toward the “abundant life” and spiritual growth, I made a decision many years ago to only listen to Christian music (intentionally). This may seem strange or unusual to some of you, but here are my reasons:

1. Music was created to give honor, worship and praise to God.

King David of Israel was one of the most prolific songwriters of his day and was  considered to be a great man of God (after he got past the whole Bathsheba incident). He also wrote most of the book of Psalms, one of which is my favorite (Psalm 100) where it reads:

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be Thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

There are many other scriptures extolling the virtues of using music and singing to glorify God, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll only mention one more:

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul wrote:

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

In his first letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul also wrote:

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1st Corinthians 10:31)

I believe this scripture applies to music as well as everything else in our life. After all, it says “Whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God”.

2.    Listening to Christian music helps me to stay in touch with God, and gives me peace and hope in a cynical, negative world.

 It is my nature is to be pessimistic and focus on the negativity of my environment. Therefore, I believe filling my mind with positive messages helps me to resist the inclination toward cynicism (I also limit my exposure to most news media).

I have found that most secular lyrics are not written to glorify God, and tend to lean toward the humanistic negative messages perpetuated by our society. And since music has a powerful ability to seep into our subconscious mind, I want to avoid that as much as possible.

A good example of this phenomenon is the fact that when I hear a secular song from 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, my mind immediately recalls the lyrics and transports me (mentally) back to a time in the past that I associate with that particular song. Sometimes that is good, but most of the time, I don’t want to remember my past in that context.

Just to clarify, I am not saying that all secular music is bad, and all “Christian” music is good. There exceptions in both cases. However, in my humble opinion the majority of secular music contains messages that are antithetical to the message of the Gospel.

Therefore, my question is: Why would I want to expose my mind to lyrics that are not edifying to me spiritually. I will concede that there are some secular artists that perform songs with positive messages in them, but I would have to “wade” through the many that don’t, to find the few that do. I equate this to “dumpster diving”. Sure I may find something usable, or even beneficial while rummaging through a dumpster, but I will also be exposed to a lot of nasty or even dangerous other items in the garbage heap. And when I finally leave the dumpster, I will almost assuredly have remnants and stains from the trash in the bin with which I made contact.

3. There is such a variety of good Christian music, I don’t have the time or need to listen to secular music.

 

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, Christian music was generally relegated to the Church setting. Contemporary Christian music began to become more prevalent in the mid 70s with such musical pioneers as Larry Norman, Keith Green, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Nancy Honeytree, Evie Tornquist, etc.

However, today the airwaves are replete with many choices and styles of Gospel music. Every style of music you can find in the secular market can be found in the Christian music industry. In the Springfield, Missouri area alone, there are at least 5 radio stations that play Christian music (Southern Gospel, light contemporary, pop, hip-hop, rap & rock styles).

I challenge anyone to give me an example of a style (with the possible exception of Death Metal) that is not represented in the Christian music realm.

As I like to tell people: “I listen to many styles of music, but the lyrics are where I draw the line of demarcation.”

I encourage other Christians to examine their music and see if it has a positive message, and glorifies the one who gives us the ability to sing; the creator and sustainer of the universe.

Are You Supernatural?

9 Sep Steven Brown

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1-11)

This scripture goes against our very nature. I mean, from the time we are born, our first priority is self-preservation (a notion that most people seem never to outgrow).

However, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is telling us to “consider others better than ourselves.” and “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Wait a minute, you might be thinking that it’s only natural to think of ourselves first (“look out for number one”). Yes, you are right, that is our natural tendency, but God is not natural, He is SUPERnatural (above nature). Putting it another way, God (the Father, Son and Spirit) transcend nature, and with their help, we can also.

Steven Brown – (stevenbrown.org