I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas, as I hope that everyone, Christian or not, is able to enjoy the candy and camaraderie and carols and so on. In this sequel of sorts to last week's post, I address what is widely recognized as a great era for music. The music of every decade prior to the 2010s has its own unique qualities, so it's hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to, it's the eighties. They make me nostalgic for a time I never lived in. Plenty of eighties songs are still loved and repeated, but for unclear reasons, other equally good ones have fallen out of favor and collective memory. I've never heard any of these on a classic hits station even though most of them were rather successful at the time of release. In theory, sharing videos like this instead of writing posts from scratch saves precious vacation time that could be better used to try to get into graduate school and hunt Gold Skulltulas.
The Nick Straker Band - A Little Bit of Jazz
We're starting off with something very clever; a song about jazz that isn't a jazz song, as far as I know. I don't know much about music genres or terminology, I just know what I like, but I'm pretty sure this isn't jazz. No further comment, unless "jazz" is actually a euphemism for some kind of drug or weird sex thing, in which case please don't tell me because I don't want to know.
Red Rider - Lunatic Fringe
A song of defiance against anti-Semitism, which not only hasn't become irrelevant almost forty years later, but also has vague enough lyrics to encompass the various other forms of bigotry that have experienced a resurgence in the Western world in recent years.
Eurythmics - Never Gonna Cry Again
The vast majority of Eurythmics songs are underrated. In my opinion their biggest hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", isn't even in the top five. So it was no easy task to select just one to showcase here, but I settled on the one that was the catalyst for me buying their debut album which was the catalyst for me buying more of their albums. Their debut album was their least successful, but its unique and cool experimental sound makes it my favorite.
Shakatak - Night Birds
An instrumental, electronic version of this song was the demo on a few varieties of Casio keyboard, including the one my parents used to keep under their bed. I yearned for those moments when they let me take it out and push the special button to set it off. As an adult I found the demo online, but stupidly never considered that it might be a real song, until one evening when I was reading "Here There Be Robots" and letting YouTube play in the background and recognized a melody that made me stop in my proverbial tracks.
Goanna - Solid Rock
A better-known song in Australia, but most of my audience isn't in Australia. It's about the invasion of Australia by Europeans, which I think is a bit harsh since most of the Europeans who settled Australia weren't there voluntarily, but it's touching regardless. Much to the writer's chagrin, in recent years some Australians of European descent used his song to take a stand against the "invasion" of Australia by Muslims. It's comforting to know that the United States doesn't have a monopoly on worthless bigots.
L.B. Rayne - Indiana Jones
A rejected theme song for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Okay, it's actually a joke song made in 2008, but it's more eighties than the eighties so I give it an honorable mention. I'd just as soon play along with the joke and not admit that, but then I'm afraid people would assume I'm stupid.
Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
No comment necessary. (Insert your own quip about none of my comments being necessary here.)
A-ha - The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
Once upon a time, two songs from the same album rose to great prominence. As the years went by, however, one remained prominent while the other fell into relative obscurity. The former is "Take On Me" and the latter is this one. While I can't bring myself to say that the godlike masterpiece of "Take On Me" is overplayed, since I doubt such a thing is possible, I wish the powers that be would spare just a bit of that time for its underrated brother. Until then, it's just another victim of Luigi Syndrome.
Animotion - Stealing Time
For some reason, the album is titled "Strange Behavior" while the song from which it presumably borrows that title is titled "Strange Behaviour". But I haven't chosen that song anyway, because it's not even one of the better ones on this great album. I recommend this entire great album, but you won't find it on Spotify because something something record label bullcrap.
Depeche Mode - Strangelove
I pronounce it "duh-PAY-chay mode". If that's wrong, please don't tell me because I don't want to know. This song has nothing to do with the classic Peter Sellers film of a similar name, but when said film gets its inevitable remake, this song had better be in it or the director should never be allowed to work in Hollywood again.
Icehouse - Electric Blue
Another Australian song, but with no overt Australian themes (unlike Icehouse's other really great song, "Great Southern Land", which is basically an unofficial national anthem). It gets ten billion points for not rhyming "on my knees" with some variation of "begging please", and another ten billion points for this guy's hair. I'm tempted to grow my hair out just like it, but that's a big decision to make. I need to mullet over for a while.
Information Society - What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)
Information Society is one of the most underrated bands of all time, with at least a dozen songs that deserve to be a lot more popular than they are. This one showcases their fondness for irrelevant Star Trek dialogue samples. The band's debut album from which it is taken was the only one they released in the eighties. They're more of a nineties band, though they started making music again a few years ago, I guess because of Trump. Their sound obviously evolved during that time and in this early offering it's at its simplest, but still powerful.
If I think of any more besides the ones from the same artists that I left out to promote diversity, I'll pull a George Lucas and edit this post, but without telling anyone.
A Few Great Songs from the Nineties and Zeroes that the World Seems to Have Unfairly Forgotten
I said "the world", which is a generalization, and I said "seems to have", which means I'm just expressing how things look from my perspective. Maybe it's just because I left New York for planet Utah. So if you remember any or all of these, good for you and sorry for getting your hopes up. In any case, this will provide a brief and welcome respite from Christmas music, won't it? (I like Christmas music. I just need a brief and welcome respite from it.)
OMC - How Bizarre
If memory serves me, this and Del Amitri's "Roll to Me" were constantly on the radio in 1995. I may be conflating 1995 with later years when I was no longer two years old, but what's certain is that I haven't heard this on the radio for a very long time and that's a travesty because it's really, really, really good. Looking at the video now I'm not sure if the crappy greenscreen effects are a stylistic choice or an artifact of 1995.
Fastball - The Way
Similar to how I was first introduced to many, many songs through "Weird Al" Yankovic's parodies and polka medleys, I was first introduced to this song through Gigi D'Agostino's dance remix. It's a surprisingly upbeat interpretation of the true story of an elderly couple who went for got lost on what should have been a short and simple trip and somehow fell down a ravine hundreds of miles from their destination and died.
The Click Five - Just the Girl
Not sure if this is creepy, touching or sad, but it's catchy and when all is said and done that's what really matters in a song, isn't it? Not to be confused with No Doubt's "Just a Girl", which is also great but sounds nothing like it. Articles matter.
Stacie Orrico feat. The Chipettes (Just Kidding) - Stuck
Occasionally, in the right lighting, Stacie Orrico bears an uncanny resemblance to my friend Cece that I haven't mentioned in forever because I haven't seen or talked to her in forever. I'd like to know how she's doing, but she isn't currently responding to my texts and that usually means she's not doing well. Please pray for her.
Howie Day - Collide
Pretty, lilting and wistful, this song was one of those that somehow sounded like nostalgia from the day they were released. Fifteen years later, of course it sounds even more so. In another fifteen years, if I'm still alive, it will be unbearably painful to listen to.
Los Lonely Boys - Heaven
This song was once overplayed to the point of being annoying. As soon as I heard its opening chords I would be like "Come on, play something else already." But after a hiatus of a few years, I'm able to revisit it with fresh ears and overplay it on my own terms.
Mario Winans feat. Enya (Not Kidding) - I Don't Wanna Know
Possibly the greatest hip-hop song in the universe. This is hip-hop, right? I don't know much about music genres, I just know what I like, and this song is light-years ahead of most of the garbage that was being released around that time. Or today, for that matter. Yes, barely into my teenage years I already had a head start on becoming the crotchety old man who hates this generation's music.
In conclusion, there's a lot of underrated music out there, but what's really baffling is when people recognize a song's greatness, make it a hit, and then forget it exists. And on an unrelated note, Merry Christmas Eve Eve Eve.
A Response to Some Oft-Repeated Lies about the Alleged Decline of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I couldn't care less if people express views contrary to mine about politics, religion, or whether pineapple goes on pizza, and I'm thick-skinned enough to care little if at all when they decide to be unnecessarily rude about it. On the rare occasions that someone as witty as John Safran or Emo Philips makes fun of my religion, I'm inclined to find it hilarious. But when people say downright stupid and/or dishonest things about my religion or someone else's religion (usually Islam) or current events or history or science or pizza that are subsequently accepted as unquestionable fact by whoever wants them to be true, something inside me breaks. I feel a desperate, un-Christian yearning to grab said people through my phone or laptop screen and shake the fake news out of them. And that's why I also feel a neurotic compulsion to address some stupid lies about my religion today. I'm under no delusions that this will stop people from continuing to spread and accept these exact stupid lies, but it will be very therapeutic for me to address them for posterity with the respect and thoughtfulness they deserve.
The truth or falsity of any idea is not affected one iota by how many people choose to accept it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims something like 0.02% of the world's population. Actually, the Book of Mormon prophesies that its members will be few but will be represented among every nation and culture on Earth, so it would be a bit problematic if there were billions. It's wrong for Latter-day Saints to claim that the Church must be true because of how fast it's growing, especially since its growth rate has declined considerably over the last three decades and at last count was at its lowest rate since 1937 for the third year in a row. It's also wrong for the Church's critics to claim, as they often do, that it isn't growing at all or that it's declining. You can acknowledge that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing, and still not believe that it's true. The two propositions are not incompatible. You clearly aren't very confident in your conviction of its falsity if you have to make things up to reassure yourself. So these are the stupid lies about church growth that I've seen (in addition to many other times) in just the past two weeks.
- that people are starting to find out "the TRUTH"™ about the Church and get out.
I must agree to disagree on what constitutes "the TRUTH"™ and disregard the astounding arrogance of statements like this, because for more than eight years I've examined virtually every historical or doctrinal issue that people leave the Church over and I still believe for many spiritual and intellectual reasons, but I take issue with the part where critics act like this is a recent phenomenon. People have been losing their faith and leaving the Church since 1830. During the Kirtland era, they left at a much higher rate than they do today. The number leaving today, however significant it may be and however important each individual, is very much a minority compared to those who stay, join, or return. People who have left the Church often hang around with people who have left the Church, looking for a support system to replace the one they've lost, and this results in echo chambers where they convince themselves that everyone is leaving the Church. And some of them calculate the Church's growth rate based on this without taking into account its two to three hundred thousand baptisms per year. Seems like a sliiight oversight.
Yeah, well, get used to it, Dr. Horrible. I never claimed to be original. Why don't you go bother Penny - OH WAIT.
- that in recent years the Church has declined by 30%.
I only heard this from the one guy, whom I'll keep anonymous because I'm in a good mood. Pardon my French, but this is a textbook example of pulling statistics out of your butt. Whether he was referring to the raw number of members, the percentage of members who attend church, the raw number of members who attend church, or even the growth rate (which in context I'm pretty sure wasn't the case), his statistic is 100% incorrect. It's so incorrect that I'm not even going to dignify it with more of a response than that. And I love writing.
- that in recent years the Church has declined at all.
Unlike the previous more specific claim, this one is - oh, I'm sorry, did I say "unlike"? Autocorrect. I'm too lazy to go back and fix it. Like the previous more specific claim, this one is false. I think the confusion here is because the Church's growth rate has declined, and some people naturally assume that means it's reversed. I understand. I didn't grasp the difference between linear growth and negative growth until I was in second grade, and I understand that people have to learn at their own pace.
- that when people stop attending church but don't resign their membership, the Church counts them as part of the membership total until they die or turn 110 years old, and that's an underhanded thing to do.
This is true except for the absurd negative spin. I made a little post about it, and Jon Hansen memed it, and I said it was beautiful, and then I felt bad for calling a horrific tragedy "beautiful", and I had to repent. But you get the picture. (The zeppelin represents critics of the Church.)
Seriously. People flip their shtick every time the Church excommunicates someone who's actively fighting against it. Imagine how they'd cry and stomp their little feet if the Church excommunicated people for staying home on Sundays. Sure, a decent chunk of these many, many "less active" members don't believe in or consider themselves affiliated with the Church at all, but it isn't the Church's place to decide which ones they are. Every week in various parts of the world, people who hadn't been going to church, sometimes for decades, start going to church again. And of course some stop going and the cycle continues. And of course some people who go to church are closet atheists trying to please their families. So basically the Church does exactly what it should in not trying to guess people's testimonies. I, for one, stayed home from church for most of summer 2012, but I never stopped believing, and I would have been highly offended if someone had deleted me from the membership records. They put me in the "Address Unknown" file instead. That makes me feel so dark and mysterious.
- that the Church closing its Missionary Training Center in the Dominican Republic is proof of its membership decline.
Even disregarding the fact that the Church has more missionaries now than there it did in 2000 when the DR MTC was dedicated, the confirmation bias here is nothing short of incredible. The nineteen future temples that the Church announced this year? Those mean nothing because reasons. Some people actually claim that the Church announces temples to create a "facade" of growth. Well, I can't really say anything to people like that, can I? If you assume that the leaders of the Church are always acting in bad faith (no pun intended) and that everything they say is a lie, your world becomes much less complicated. As long as you don't think about it for very long.
- that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's "prophecy" of 100,000 missionaries by 2019 has failed to come true.
Hmm. Strange. Let's see what Elder Holland actually said, shall we? "We're projecting out probably within four years, the base-line number for the missionary force will be something around 100,000." Hmm. Well, it's not like I'm an English student or anything (Full disclosure: this is a playfully sarcastic statement; I am an English student, and probably will be for the rest of my life, and the fact that I've already used two adverbs in this sentence makes me deeply uncomfortable), but I think I see a couple problems with interpreting Elder Holland's words as a prophecy. I'll list them.
verb (used with object) pro·ject [pruh-jekt] /prəˈdʒɛkt/
8. to set forth or calculate (some future thing): They projected the building costs for the next five years.
1. in all likelihood; very likely: He will probably attend.
Okay, I get it. Both of these words start with the same three letters as "prophesy" or "prophecy". And some people have an infantile view of prophets and apostles that requires them to not have opinions or be wrong about anything. (I'm not talking about legitimate faith-challenging issues along those lines because this isn't one of them.) I'm pretty sure it wasn't even his projection, and that he was quoting some number-cruncher in the Missionary Department. Big whoop. I don't expect this projection to be met, and I won't be particularly disturbed if it isn't, but I do think it might also be pertinent to point out that 2019, let alone the four year mark from this statement (February 27), isn't here yet. Wait a couple months, and then gloat over this statement if you still feel like it. Preferably without calling it something that anyone can see it isn't.
- that the Church is only growing in Africa because people don't have as much internet to find out "the TRUTH"™.
It's a.) false and b.) kind of racist to insinuate that Africans are being duped because they don't have access to information. Speaking anecdotally, I have a Ugandan friend who owns a smartphone and regularly uses something called an "internet cafe", so it's possible that one or two others on the continent do as well. But more to the point, books, pamphlets, radio, newspapers, television, and transatlantic mail and telephone systems all existed and were used by Africans long before Al Gore claimed he invented the internet. West Africans living in West Africa started finding out about the Church on their own and requesting baptism in 1946. That's not a typo. Within less than two decades, there were tens of thousands. (See this page for more information.) Want to hear a far more plausible reason for the Church's success in many (not all) parts of Africa? Maybe because Africans tend to be far more humble and religious than Westerners, more because than in spite of the same war and poverty and disease that rich white American and British atheists point to as proof of God's nonexistence.
Little-known fact: The Church could be growing much faster in the parts of Africa where it's growing fast, but deliberately takes things slow to ensure proper conversion and leadership development instead of baptizing entire villages at a time. There is still a great deal of untapped potential here. Currently, the baseline membership in Africa is so small and such a small percentage of the global total that its growth doesn't affect the overall rate much, so the decline we've seen is mostly reflective of North America and Europe. I'm projecting out probably within ten years, the growth of the Church in countries like Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and South Africa will start to have a much larger impact on the overall rate (and of course on global LDS demographics and culture). I believe we'll soon see the Church exponentially again, because there are untold millions of receptive individuals out there - just not, for the most part, in the secularized regions that the Church has depended on since it was founded.
- that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized/co-authored from a manuscript written by Solomon Spa(u)lding.
Wait, what? How did this get in here when it has nothing to do with church growth? Oh well. I saw it last night so I guess I'll address it anyway. Okay, so I try to be charitable. I can't fault guys like this for not knowing everything or being completely up-to-date on church history developments. Until the actual Spa(u)lding manuscript was discovered and found to have very little in common with the Book of Mormon, it was possible for intelligent people who had never read the manuscript to sincerely believe that there was a connection. The manuscript was just discovered a couple years ago, in 1884, so I can't fault guys like this for not yet having heard that. Okay, but really, dude? Is that really the best you can do? Really?
- that "[w]e are witnessing the slow death of a religion."
Though it's hardly a unique sentiment, I had to quote this one directly. It's just too precious. Okay, so I have few sociopathic tendencies and I really love it when people straight-up say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or the "LD$ Cult"™ or whatever mindless buzzword they use) is dying, or that they're excited to watch it die, or can't wait for it to die, or whatever. I love it because I lay awake at night with a smile on my face thinking of how disappointed they're going to be. I don't care what your religious views are. I don't care if you don't believe in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if you think it's going to die at any point - well, I won't call you a fool, because then the Bible says I would be in even more danger of hellfire than I already am, but just know that I'm thinking it. I've compiled a page of quotes from people who have predicted (or should I say "prophesied"?) the Church's demise from 1830 to today. Those people either didn't see their predictions come true within their lifetime, or won't see their predictions come true within their lifetime. I feel like I need another picture here so this will have to do.
Sorry, that was a little overdramatic. Anti-Mormons don't use torches anymore. My point is that if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was ever going to die, it would have died in the nineteenth century when it was much, much smaller and faced attempts to annihilate it on a regular basis, including but not limited to the murder of its founding prophet. It doesn't take a scholar to figure that out. Oh, but what about how people say that the Church is going to die now because the recent invention of the internet has enabled its members to find out "the TRUTH"™? Spoiler/plug for my page of quotes: at least one person said basically the same thing about the arrival of telegraphs and railroads in Utah. In 1866. Precious, right? And none of this even proves that the Church is true. You can accept that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is invincible, and still not believe that it's true. The two propositions are not incompatible. Some religions that I don't believe are quite as true as mine will undoubtedly last alongside it, while others actually will go extinct, and I bear no ill will toward any of them because sometimes I act like an adult.
I can't wait to share this post every time I see someone lying about the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being in decline. I'm projecting out probably within four years, I will have shared it at least two thousand times.
Do you want to read a school assignment that I wrote last night while so sleep-deprived that I yearned for death just so I could finally get some rest? Good, because that's what you're getting. An additional four hours of sleep between 10:30 last night and 9 this morning hasn't prepared me to write anything else, and besides, multitasking with school work is just smart. I will add a few annotations of additional insights in bracketed italics, though. You can skip these if they disrupt the flow of my poetry for you. Conveniently, the assigment was defined as a 600 word "blog post" despite not being a blog post, but now it is a blog post and I've made an honest man out of Dr. Dengah.
The evangelical movement covers many different Christian denominations with their own theologies. It has no centralized leadership, though there are several well-known preachers and scholars. As recently as last spring, Andrew T. Draper referred to a growing “lack of consensus among evangelicals about their own identity” and laid out a detailed proposal for “a more robust theological, biblical, and Christological account of hope” based on a syncretism of various past theologians. (Draper 345) There's a lot of wiggle room for different beliefs and interpretations – I once saw it explained in a little cartoon of a train where each train car represented a different denomination, separate from each other but all going to the same place. One scholar summarizes, “As an international, trans-denominational fellowship of some one-half billion believers around the world, evangelicalism is in its very existence an amazing ecumenical fact.” (George 100)
[I had to use three academic sources. So these are my first two. I enjoy deep theological stuff so much that I might even read them someday if I ever get sufficient sleep. Unfortunately, because I was so tired I didn't think to find the cartoon and include it as my third source.]
There are of course some unifying doctrines or concepts that virtually all evangelicals would agree on, and I'll get to some of those in a moment. First, let me get the controversial stuff over with. Evangelical Jay Green writes, “A populist impulse fueled by deep suspicions of secular elitism is baked into evangelicalism. Evangelicals have long drawn strength from feelings of marginalization and embattlement.” (Green 337) He hastens to add, however, that this is not without reason, as evangelicals are often looked at with contempt and negative stereotypes about their beliefs, politics, and intellects.
[Of course, one of the first things I learned in college was that most stereotypes exist because they're true. Just not in every instance. I've seen evangelicals who are living embodiments of every negative stereotype, and in my opinion, the "Christian Right" of American politics is kind of an abomination against God. But I'll be the first to acknowledge that all religions including my own have their share of jerks, morons and/or hypocrites as well. For example, me.]
Although I have a few evangelical friends, I've struggled with some prejudice of my own, in large part because evangelicals are historically at the forefront of Christian attacks on my own church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, some regard as a “cult”, believing in a “different Jesus”, etc.). In recent years, though, their own space in Western culture has become so marginalized that atheists now fill this role and see one religion criticizing another as laughable hypocrisy. I've been hanging out with LDS apologists for years and been increasingly frustrated that most continue to devote their time to arguing with evangelicals who pose very little threat to the Church anymore, and sometimes their noble intentions bleed over into actual mockery of beliefs they perceive as silly compared to ours. They become the evil they swore to destroy, and that environment rubs off on me sometimes.
[Okay, but you know what really grinds my gears? When Latter-day Saints don't know there's a difference between trinitarianism and modalism. Most evangelicals do not believe that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one person who prays to Himself. You look like an idiot if you think they do. I looked like an idiot when I thought they did. The Trinity is three distinct and separate persons who are each God - and honestly, no matter how many times it's explained to me, I won't understand how that differs in any significant way from the LDS doctrine of the Godhead.]
I also have a great deal of animosity toward creationism, which many or most evangelicals embrace, because I spent a few years as a creationist myself and now I resent the people who lied to me about evolution. At least because of this experience I recognize some of the psychological reasons for belief in creationism and try to remember that (most) creationists aren't stupid. Incidentally, for a few months I participated on a creationist message board with several like-minded Christians, mostly evangelicals. They were staunch allies in a war against science – until they found out that I and another guy were Mormons, after which they devoted all their posts to explaining why our religion was false.
[This was on Facebook, back in the day when Facebook pages had message boards. I'm very old. The other Mormon, or Latter-day Saint as I now have to call him, and one of the evangelicals who managed to establish a respecful dialogue with us miraculously haven't unfriended me eight years later. In hindsight, maybe I owe an apology to the atheist trolls who frequently stopped by to mock us and must have been very frustrated by my displays of scientific illiteracy. But they were jackasses, so nah.]
Recently I've tried to root out my prejudice as I've gotten to know and admire my evangelical classmate [Redacted McRedactedton]. She accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at age twelve and was baptized as a Christian the next year. Though she doesn't go around preaching at people, external signs of her devotion include two tattoos – a cross behind her right ear that's visible when she ties her hair back and a peace sign on her toe that I've heard about but never seen – and a quote from Proverbs on her Facebook wall: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Coming from someone with an abundance of charm and beauty, such humility is impressive.
[I had to interview someone from a faith other than my own and use that as the main basis of the assignment. But I wrote all this? I don't remember writing all this.]
“There is only one crucial basic for Evangelical Christians,” she told me. “It is by Grace that we are saved. Nothing else. Every human has sinned, and the punishment for sin is death, therefore every human deserves death. Every single one. Jesus is the only exception. But God loved us enough that he didn't want heaven without us, so he sent his son to live a perfect, sinless life and die a sinner's death so that we can be saved. The only way to heaven is to accept this gift of Grace. All the most wonderful and charitable works are nothing, baptism is nothing, going to church is nothing without accepting God's Grace.” This is one of the points of tension between Latter-day Saints and evangelicals. We also believe in Christ's grace and agree that works can't get us into heaven, but we believe that works are necessary to accept grace into our lives. Evangelicals believe that works are a natural product of having already accepted grace. Tomato, tomahto.
[Literally nobody says tomahto.]
[My friend] says that her faith affects her everyday life. “When you're truly Christian, it bleeds into every action, religious or not.... The one that leaks into my life the most is loving your neighbor as yourself. That is so hard to do, but it changes the way I act around people all the time. I find myself often living by a quote that Abraham Lincoln said, 'I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.' As a result, I have always been a peacekeeper. I believe in walking in peace and spreading peace on others.” I can vouch for that in personal observations. She is very sweet, friendly and kind, and while I'm absorbed in my own thoughts she'll reach out to someone else that I barely noticed. She's the sort of Christian that I wish I was.
[I have nothing more to say here.]
Knowing the prejudice that evangelicals face, I offered [my friend] a chance to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes about them, but she seemed less concerned about how others might perceive her as a believer than about their understanding of her actual beliefs, which of course carry weighty eternal implications. She said, “I would like to dispel the belief that good people will go to heaven and sinners go to hell. That's not true. Good people will go to hell if they don't accept the gift of salvation and sinners go to heaven if they do. I would also like to dispel the belief that Christians hate sinners. That's not true (not for real Christians). We are taught to love the person but not the sin.”
[Well, actually, believing that sin is even a thing makes you automatically hateful. Haven't you heard? Silly Christians. This is where another point of tension comes in, which I didn't ask about because I didn't want her to think I was challenging her beliefs: what about the billions of people who never heard of Jesus before they died? I hope at some point we'll be comfortable enough with each other for me to get her thoughts on this issue.]
I have to admit that my initial reaction to a couple of her responses was that she sounded dogmatic and like she was reciting from a script. I quickly realized, however, that Latter-day Saints often come across the same, even to me and I'm sure especially to outsiders. We have our own lexicon and most Saints borrow liberally from it to sprinkle their testimonies with heartfelt cliches. I know from my interactions and observations with [this friend] that she's very intelligent, sometimes intelligent enough to make me feel stupid when she makes incredibly thoughtful comments about things that go right over my head. Not just intelligent, but thoughtful and open-minded, best friends with an atheist and able to objectively interact with secular culture and (in our Magical Realism class) literature from Muslim or Hindu backgrounds. She isn't the type to look down on anyone or attack their beliefs or tell them they're going to hell.
[Okay, but you know what's literally the worst? When sacrament meeting has already gone five minutes over and the last speaker decides to conclude her talk by bearing testimony of every principle of the gospel she can think of, one by one. She was like, "I know... I know... I know..." And I was like, Do you know how to read a clock? Not out loud, of course.]
I have a more favorable impression of evangelicals now, which I want to continue improving. I believe that people of faith should focus more on their commonalities and their differences, now more than ever, as we increasingly face mockery of our beliefs. I admire [this friend]'s devotion to God and I'm very interested and hopeful to continue religious discussions with her well into the future. In my interview with her I found that I agreed wholeheartedly with some of her statements and kind of agreed with some others from a different point of view that I'm sure isn't what she had in mind. I think that's fertile ground for discussion and respectful disagreement with this “amazing ecumenical fact.” I'm trying to work up the courage to ask how she feels about evolution.
[I actually made an attempt to broach the topic once in a subtle, roundabout way. I was like, "Have you ever been to Science Unwrapped?" And she was like, "No, I hate science." And I was like, Oh ----. Not out loud, of course. Desperately trying to get an exegesis of this statement that didn't mean what I didn't want it to mean, I asked why. She said she just doesn't understand science. She only understands art and literature and math. Fair enough, by that definition I hate science too and that's why I stopped majoring in it. But I implored her, "Dinosaurs? Don't you like dinosaurs? Everybody likes dinosaurs." She said, "I like 'The Land Before Time'." So there's hope.]
Draper, Andrew T. “Christ the Center: An Evangelical Theology of Hope.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 47 no. 3, Spring 2018, pp. 345-352.
George, Timothy. “Toward an Evangelical Ecclesiology.” Evangelical Review of Theology, vol. 41 no. 2, April 2017, pp. 100-118.
Green, Jay. “On the Evangelical Mind and Consulting the Faithful.” Christian Scholar's Review, vol. 47 no. 3, Spring 2018, pp. 335-339.
Social liberalism, which currently holds sway over what respectable Americans are allowed to think even as disrespectable Americans run the country, has brought a lot of progress and also a lot of bullcrap. I consider myself a social moderate because I couldn't care less what adults do in their personal lives, but I'm not going to command that it be endorsed, celebrated, and taught to children everywhere in the US. Last night I read one of the finest articles I've read this year: "The New Evolution Deniers" For those of you who may be new here, I'm fully on board with evolution, and in fact the only part of this article I disagree with is whether Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens are/were worthy of admiration. (No.) I find it pleasantly surprising but not ironic in the slightest that this apparent atheist is basically defending the LDS Family Proclamation without knowing it. It's just another confirmation of my conviction that true religion has nothing to fear from true science and that an understanding of evolution, especially human evolution, deeply enriches my theology and vice-versa. I pity the poor fools who think they're in conflict.
You should read the whole article, but basically the author tears apart one of these instances where conservatives are openly hostile toward science while liberals pretend to care about it - you know, like how conservatives think climate change isn't real while liberals acknowledge that it is but do little or nothing to reduce their carbon footprints. I don't know much about all the sex and gender stuff going around so I stay quiet about it, but some things are mind-numbingly obvious. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, to learn from this article that there are a substantial number of delusional people insisting that biological sex - not gender, which is a related but separate thing that the article and I are not getting into, but actual biological sex that includes brain chemistry and body parts - is a "social construct". I'm not making this up. Read the article. I know I shouldn't be surprised by anything in this deranged society anymore. I suppose everything is a meaningless figment of my imagination, and can be whatever I want it to be. But then, if that were true, my world would look a lot less like this and a lot more like steampunk Hyrule with lightsabers.
As the article suggests, this bullcrap seems to come from anthropology. I've taken a few anthropology classes and enjoyed them very much, but I did hear some bullcrap. The thing about anthropology is that it isn't quite concerned about objective truth like most fields of science. It records facts about human behavior, but it's supposed to treat everyone's culture and beliefs as equally valid without trying to prove or disprove them - and that's as it should be, of course, but it doesn't address the reality that not all beliefs regarding objective facts of the physical world are correct or equally valid. They're just not. Just a couple days ago an anthropology professor here at USU gave the example that when he goes into a Pentecostal church in Brazil to study the members, he doesn't tell them their beliefs about creation and the age of the Earth are wrong, but as an educator he knows full well that evolution is real and the Earth is not 6,000 years old. So there's a disconnect between anthropology and reality that appears to have been hijacked by lunatics and weaponized in an attempt to beat the rest of science into submission.
Here's a thought: if your ideology is so vulnerable to actual facts that you have to bully, intimidate, and censor people to prevent them from saying things you disagree with, then your ideology is probably bullcrap. If you have to label everyone you disagree with as racists and homophobes and transphobes and mansplainers instead of engaging with their arguments, then you should probably rethink your life. Of course there's legitimate stupidity and hate speech out there that doesn't deserve to be engaged with or taken seriously, but a lot of what people with the mentalities of spoiled five year olds demonize as stupidity and/or hate speech are just legitimate points that they find offensive. A free exchange of ideas is crucial to a successful society (even if it sometimes means letting white supremacists march in the streets instead of hanging them from lampposts where they belong), and nowhere is this more true than in science. Science doesn't care what you want to be true. In any instances where scientists actually are being bigoted or just plain wrong, time and superior science will overrule them as they have in the past with racism and mental illness.
Again, the article and I are not talking about gender here, just biological sex. I don't know much about gender. I don't understand why people simultaneously claim that it, too, is a social construct but also an immutable part of a person's core identity that may not match their biological sex. So I avoid discussions about that rather than put my ignorance on display (insert your own quip about me always putting my ignorance on display here). Certainly it's a no-brainer that lots of gender/sex norms are unnecessary and arbitrary social constructs. There is no reason whatsoever why men shouldn't wear dresses and paint their nails if that's what they want to do. Why did we decide that women can wear pants but men can't wear dresses? Stupid, stupid, stupid. But to pretend that there's no meaningful difference between men and women, or that despite enabling the human race to reproduce for hundreds of thousands of years they're merely two points on a "spectrum" just because mutations occasionally happen (and I'm grateful that we as a society are finally acknowledging that they happen), is even stupider.
I really don't understand why something so obvious has become controversial.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.