How to wear your theological offensiveness (conservative, liberal, & atheist)


Reading through Luke, I was struck by a dimension to Luke’s portrayal of Jesus I hadn’t noticed before. I also think, in these times where more people are able to have more platforms to speak their mind on issues, it’s an important dimension to take into account.

In Luke chapter 4, we see Jesus officially kick off his public ministry. He does this by standing up at his hometown synagogue, reading some verses from Isaiah and saying that these words are fulfilled in his arrival. He then adds commentary on this, highlighting how Israel has fallen out of God’s favor and so this fulfillment won’t come to them. This enrages the people and they try and kill him right there by throwing him off a cliff (yeah, it’s kind of funny). But he gets away.

Jesus offended these people deeply. He spoke what he believed to be true about God and the world, and they didn’t like it. And yet, people spoke offensive words in the ancient world all the time. There were many Messianic figures, and yet their words didn’t “stick” like Jesus’ did. His words ended up not simply gathering people that agreed with him, but actually changing minds, even while offending those that would be offended.

How did he do this? How can we do this with our own theological (or a-theological) beliefs? How should we wear our beliefs that might be very offensive to others?
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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt3}

[Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series]

Finally, this is done. This is the last post in a three-part series that’s been walking through my development as a thinker and feeler in this world. The first part, at its core, was about the culture and world around me as I grew up that helped cultivate the arrogance I still war against inside me. The second part was about the things that have humbled me and showed me my finitude. So where does that leave me now; and why does it warrant this little series?

The confluence of all of these forces (of arrogance and humbling) has made a very interesting creature out of me as of late. A recent trip back home to visit my parents found me getting into several vehement fights with them over (of all things) politics. It’s not even that I disagree with them very much! It was mainly a frustration over just how unwavering and (I felt) naively arrogant their commitment to these ideas were. In short, I was getting mad that they seemed to allow no room for disagreement or for them to be wrong. A couple of times my Dad asked me, well what do you think? And I realized I had no answer. All I knew was that no one could know so surely what was right. Why? Because God had showed me in the past several years that I couldn’t. And if I (of all people) couldn’t know with certainty, then surely no one else out there could, right? (P.S.- that was sarcasm) It all culminated in a moment where my dad pretty much said that my writing had been steadily losing it’s quality ever since the “pinnacle of my writing”: a post I wrote called “On Holy Week, Suicidal Ideations, & My Heart“.

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Speak your mind: What is Beauty? (A Survey)

Sargent - Madame Errazuriz-small

For those that might run across this post in the future, the message mentioned in this post was written, given, and walked through part-by-part on this blog.  You can see all these posts by clicking here.

So . . . I’m giving a talk in a few weeks on the topic of Beauty.  The first section of the talk will be a discussion attempting to answer the question “What is Beauty?”  To aid me in this I’d like to extend this question to the world at large.  So, I’m asking all of you out there: what do you think beauty is?

Feel free to take your time or just give me the first thing that pops into your head, or even give me more than one idea if you want. This is totally open.  Leave a comment.  Email me.  Facebook me.  Whatever you want.

Or, leave a joke if you want – but only if it’s a good one.  Here’s the dictionary definition for “Beauty” to get you started thinking:

the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

So, that’s what thinks.  What do you think Beauty is?

(art: “Madame Errazuriz” by John Singer Sargent)

this is strange . . .


Well, I finally did it. Succumbed to the will of the masses by creating my own blog. Honestly, it seems like everyone has a blog now days. It makes me wonder exactly how many people actually read other people’s blogs. More importantly, how many people are actually touched, affected, changed by blogs. Nevertheless, I am a very strong proponent of the concept of the exchange of ideas.

I definitely exercised this concept more as election time was approaching. In one particular instance, a hallmate of mine ran out of her room in the dorm, into the room where I was in the middle of the typical pre-election scenario: me, the lone token southern baptist conservative on the super liberal city campus on the floor with all the art students, arguing about – oh, I mean “having a discussion about”- politics. This person, upon entering the room, said in response to the last comment I had made, “Why would you say that! Don’t you know that people disagree with you here? The only reason for you to say that is to try and hurt someone, because it’s not going to change their minds, it can only hurt them. Anyway, I think politics is stupid, talking about it gets us no where, and (as she looked at me, of course) some people need to get themselves straight before they start calling what other people believe wrong!”

There was a short pause. She walked out of the room. We all just looked at each other, and silently decided with our eyes that the argu- I mean, “discussion” was over. Thus, I proceeded to my room, of course, frustrated.

Now, not many people know this about me, and since this is my first blog, I feel this secret is still safe, because I doubt anyone will still ever see this post. Anyway, when I go into “deep thought” mode, where my subconscious feels like it’s on the verge of a great philosophical thought, I have the tendency to pace around my room, conducting an imaginary discussion, argument, debate, lecture, concert, poetry reading, or sermon to some imaginary audience – sometimes specific, sometimes faceless. As I pace I pretty much stream my consciousness about whatever topic my mind is contemplating. Some times out loud, but mostly mouthing my words in hushed tones, like you do as you’re typing something when no one else is around.

On this particular occasion, I was streaming my consciousness on the topic of having opinions and its ramifications within the concept of the process of “idea exchange”. This was my thought process:

Your opinion is the one thing that nothing on earth can take away. Sure, things can affect it, change it, and remove it, but only if you allow them the freedom to do it. Knowing this, the conclusion could be drawn that our opinions are of the utmost value within ourselves. Actually, I’m gonna make this deeper. Change the word “opinion” to “belief.” The ramifications of this are much greater. Okay, so within our own personal spheres, our beliefs are so precious, so personal. They are yours. Heck, they are you.

The most important decision concerning their beliefs everyone must make in life (after of course, what they are in the first place), is to what extent they are going to let them into the world; what extent they are going to share them with others.

Now there are two different ways to express one’s beliefs: through words (abstract), and through actions (concrete). Now when it comes to politics (the topic of contemplation that these thoughts stemmed from), one can pretty much figure out the active and verbal ways of idea exchange.

Active (concrete): voting, working for a campaign, contributing money, parking a tractor in the reflecting pool, flying a plane into buildings in new york, creating a propaganda film, blowing up an abortion clinic.

Verbal (abstract): conducting a debate, conducting a lecture, conducting a sermon, writing a manifesto, writing an editorial, engaging in a discussion, writing an opinion to a politician, preferably sans anthrax.

Of course all ways of expression are not right. But they express an opinion nonetheless. Now, of these two modes of expression, two kinds of expression can be derived: “one-way”, and “two-way”. This concept is the most important to my conclusion.

One-way expression is where you make an arbitrary statement, be it by your actions or words, and no one is there to rebut or support it. It is a letter, editorial, yard sign, act of terrorism, or (most important to my discussion) a vote. It is something where you run in, make your statement, then run away, without hearing a word about it.

Two-way is just as self-explanatory. It is an engagement of ideas between individuals, groups, peoples, nations, societies, or unions. It also can be through either actions or words. It can be a debate, treaty, argument, statement signed by multiple nations, or eighteen United Nations resolutions that are never enforced, leaving us alone to prevent World War III and countless more future casualties than we have now. But I digress.

Now here’s where my conclusions are drawn. Taking everything into account stated above, I say this to anyone out there who agrees with the girl from the initial confrontation that brought forth these thoughts:

You have a right, not only by being an American, but also by being a human, to decide whether or not to express your beliefs – even about others expressing theirs. But, knowing that beliefs are so critical to being human, it is selfish, despicable, and wrong to humanity to conduct yourself in such a way as to imply you think yourself alone in your sphere of belief. In other words, you have every right to pick your mode of expression, but must accept its ramifications. How this applies to politics is simple: Philosophically speaking of course, no one has the right to express their belief in a one-way manner by voting unless they are willing to accept the ramification of that belief which is in its very nature two-way. If one is not willing to stand up, fight for, debate, and keep alive their own beliefs, they should not express it in a selfish one-way mode, like voting. If you don’t want to express you beliefs, fine, that’s not the problem. This throws back to the old adage where “if you don’t vote, don’t complain.” It goes the other way around too: If you don’t express your opinion of the issues to others, then don’t vote. I would not mind if the girl said all she did above and then didn’t vote. Then her level of expression would match the level of her mode of expression, but it did not in this case.

Now for a metaphor to synch everything. I view beliefs in this case almost like currency. You can’t just pump more and more currency into the economic system of a nation. It lowers the value of the money. To maintain the value of the currency, there must be exchange. There must be give and take. Don’t just contribute to the system. It is selfish and contributes nothing to humanity and society as a whole. Either watch from the sidelines and give-and-take nothing or be an active participant in the world of ideas and beliefs and truly know what it means to be a human living to their full potential that knows exactly what they believe and why. It’s the same thing with God. Your beliefs and faith only become stronger through the adversity, ridicule, and debates. Those are the times when God, “removes your dross, and purges you of all iniquities.”

I will never suppress anyone’s right to disagree with me and express it. None of the opinions above are based on partisan politics. Heck, even the girl that brought about all this thinking voted for Bush, and in case you haven’t figured out, so did I. Proudly. And everyone knew it.

Personally, I thrive more on people not agreeing with me than people agreeing with me. That’s why I attend Virginia Commonwealth University, probably the most liberal college in Virginia in the middle of the most liberal area of Virginia instead of going to Liberty University, the most conservative Southern Baptist College on the East Coast. I, as my dad said once, “grow better in thorny soil.” And that is true.

I guess this has been just a long way to say that blogs can be a good thing. They help contribute to the school of ideas out there in humanity across the globe. As long as there is exchange, I fully believe in this. That’s why people can reply to anything I put up. In fact I’m going to put on my white board right now my blog address so everyone I know can see this and reply. There. I did it.

I tried to keep this blog as void as possible of personal beliefs, except for the philosophical conclusions drawn from my thoughts, but future posts will not be this way in the least. I am going to use this site primarily as my little space to personally record what God is doing in my life. Not necessarily for anyone else out there. More for myself. Tonight, I finally found a church home here in Richmond that finally did for me what I’ve been thirsting for for so long: It fed my mind more than my heart. Sure it touched me and it was an amazing experience, But most Christians live their lives from emotional high to emotional high, and getting lost somewhere in between. In Isaiah 1, God says, “‘let us reason together'”. God wants our faith based on reason and experience, not emotion. God knows that men cannot live on faith alone, hence why he did miracles. He knew some guy couldn’t just walk in, say “I’m God” and people would believe him. Anyway, the sermon tonight in this church was actually soul-stirring, emotion-whelling, but most importantly, very philosophical, very intellectual, very very deep and mature, and very mentally engaging. It brought me back to the place I need to be to get the balls once again to be as bold with my faith as I was with my politics. Sure everyone knows where I stand, but it’s not necessarily me. So far, at least to most people here, it’s merely a part of me. The part that no one talks about because we all want to stay friends. Well, we all are still friends after that heck of an election so we can stay friends through this.

I guess that’s it for me. Many of the opinions expressed in this blog will reappear on this site many times in the future according to whatever thought I have for the day, but I’ll try to keep it interesting.

God Bless.