Why following Jesus means I can’t sell out to any one political party

conclusion-of-the-contract-3100579_1920As someone who likes to think critically (or at least likes to think that he thinks critically), I sometimes find myself in the middle of things politically. I have more conservative views, to be sure, but I also see some bad arguments or straw-men from those on the conservative side.

I’m also surprised by the amount of Christians who lean quite liberal, and would even say Jesus would be a socialist.

I disagree with them. But I also can’t say Jesus would be a fan of every form of conservatism either.

I like to think Jesus wouldn’t really align with any political party, or that at least he would never make a political agenda his own. That’s probably only half true given that one day Jesus will lead a political regime in a new earth. But let’s say that no political system on earth currently will ever be something Jesus would give himself 100% to. They’re never adequate from a biblical standpoint, and even the most Christian political systems will have errors and be imperfect because they’re human and don’t have Jesus as King.

Jesus was actually confronted by politics in his time on earth. Here’s one example: 

“Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” a religious leader asked him. There was a catch: answer yes, and you’re a sellout, according to Jewish culture at the time, which was oppressed by harsh Roman rule. Answer no, and you’re speaking against the ruling regime. 

There wasn’t exactly a free speech law back then, so speak against Caesar and you could very well die for it. Either way, it looks like Jesus is stuck and is going to be in trouble with someone. But he takes a third alternative:

“Whose image is on the coin?” he asks. The clear answer was that Caesar’s face was on the coin. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” So, give the taxes to Caesar. But don’t sell your soul to him.

It appears Jesus was referring back to the book of Genesis’ teaching that indeed humans are image-bearers of God. We are, therefore, God’s. So give the earthly money to Caesar, sure. But Caesar is not your god.

Politics, political parties or ideologies – none of these things are God. Therefore none of them are ultimate. None of them deserve our total buy-in. In fact, they deserve our skepticism, almost always.

Christians should therefore be the first people to listen to an argument from someone on the other side of the political arena. If politics are secondary, they must be put in their place. It doesn’t mean they aren’t important or that a Christian shouldn’t take seriously his or her civic duties to be informed and vote. But it does mean we don’t sell out to any one side or position. Instead, we should take the third alternative that Jesus does. God over government, but government respected appropriately.

In Western democracy, I think this means Christians should be the first to listen to disagreeing viewpoints. We should always be thinking: what might we be missing? Where could I be wrong?

Some of my conservative friends might be shocked to hear me saying these things, but I’m captive to Jesus’ words here. And we lose something if we completely shut down the voices of those who disagree with us, even if we are overall correct in disagreeing with them. After all, there’s almost always a baby in the bathwater.

Yes: even in the crazy leftist ideologies circulating there may be small, but important, babies. I’ll leave you to find and save them. 

Keep thinking.

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Book Review: Shawn Smith’s Tactical Guide to Women

tactical guideBecause they’ve been so relevant to me in recent years, I’ve been fascinated by psychology and romance. I’ve tended to read Christian experts on the subjects, since I do have particular convictions surrounding romance in particular. I heard a great podcast from a trusted source a while back on Shawn Smith’s book “The Tactical Guide to Women”, so I decided to see what some reliable secular voices are saying on the subject.

Facetious though the book’s title is, Smith has some really great stuff to say here. Being a clinical psychologist who’s counseled many men and women through dating, marriage, and divorce, he offers a seasoned but down to earth perspective on how to find a good woman. He holds a high view of marriage and understands as a man of science the evidence there is for the power of a good marriage. He argues that for every example of a bad marriage put forth as reason not to get married, there are scores of successful marriages that are making society (and the couple themselves) better. I appreciate his input and his putting to rest some of the myths of marriage, though that’s not his main point in the book.

First and foremost, this book is for men. It’s for men serious about finding a good mate. Smith talks like a man to men, and I appreciate his tone. No nonsense, to the point, balanced, and very honest. His experience and academic insight dispel not only marriage myths but myths about masculinity also. Here’s one to take home: women like men who, well, act like men. While some people in our society today think masculinity is toxic, Smith encourages us that most women think the opposite. Those are the women you should be going for. I couldn’t agree more.

The book is structured logically, moving from figuring yourself out (this will help you filter out incompatible women), figuring out the key things to look for (looking for the right women) and caps with an extended look at major risk management.

Even coming from a Christian perspective, I can get on board with a lot of Shawn Smith’s well-reasoned and academically backed views. Some of his advice around divorce – while I have zero intention of ever considering it – can be taken and appreciated. After all, even Christian marriages aren’t free from the risks of divorce. Furthermore, he even makes a case for waiting for sex (while he doesn’t think you should wait for marriage).

However, I do have a problem with some of the things Shawn says, though I wouldn’t put him down for saying it. Coming from a secular perspective, of course he’s going to suggest certain things, or take certain stances on divorce or sexuality. But even more, there’s a certain heart missing here in the discussion around marriage. For Smith, it’s not something sacred, and therefore it lacks a certain beauty. This is to be expected in secular thought – marriage, as appreciated it can be, is nothing more than a human institution. Helpful, but not heavenly. And with that, divorce is not as awful as we should consider it. Funny how that works.

I’m encouraged and better equipped for the dating and courtship process thanks to Shawn Smith’s work. I’m very grateful for it. But I’m even more thankful that God is behind marriage and gives it to us as something sacred and beautiful. I’m also thankful I’ll have his help as I make decisions, search for a wife, and ultimately work hard at the commitment I will make. I’m thankful it’s about a whole lot more than risk management.

The Irresponsibility of Ignoring

Our instant-message culture has a lot of benefits, but a lot of things come with it that weren’t intended. 

One of those things is the ease of ignoring. While it’s easier than ever to get information to someone, it’s also easier than ever to ignore it. 

I read an article a while back called “Is ignoring the new no?”. I was disappointed by the conclusion, which was, mostly, “yes”. 

I don’t think it is always done maliciously or even intentionally. We get a bunch of messages, intend to reply ASAP, but some get lost in the chaos of life and inbox influx. I get it. 

But it can’t go left unchecked. 

Why? Because ignoring is still ignoring, even if it’s done by accident. It still hurts, it still impacts people, it can still make you feel disconnected or rejected.

It’s a stretch, but you can imagine how instant messaging has enabled behaviour and thinking that contributes to our depressed, anxious and disconnected culture. 

We owe each other the dignity of a response, whether it’s the response they want or not. Just because responding can be hard or might hurt, I can’t think of a good reason not to do it. 

Think about real life. Would you ever want to ignore someone in person, on purpose? Is it then ok to do so via electronic messaging?

And the fix is easy. Like many productivity gurus will tell you, emails (for example) are best touched once. That means that every time you read an email, you act on it right away. That means archive, forward, or reply. Deal with it then and there, as best you can. Leave them unread until that point. 

I think the same can be done for your Facebook inbox, text messages, and the like. Leave them unread until you’re ready, then respond as you need. If they’re more urgent, do it right away. 

So do your part, friends. People are feeling lonely enough without your – even accidental – ignoring. 

Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31

Believe the Birthday Cards You Get

Mom and Dad birthday cardThey’re easy to pass over. Even the ones we buy for others – do we really put all that much thought into them?

Perhaps we should. Either way, I think it’s safe to assume that the people who buy you your birthday cards actually believe the encouraging words found within them, cheesy as they may be. They probably believe them – and mean them – even if they don’t (or can’t) say them to your face directly.

It’s an unfortunate reality in our culture that we have trouble expressing our deepest appreciations of people, but that doesn’t mean we should think that underlying realities aren’t true. And with all the mental health issues and sadness going around, why not take what we can get?

And if you don’t get sweet birthday cards or other words of affection… my heart is with you. Maybe you don’t have people – and you need to find them. Maybe you have the wrong people, and you need to change your support system.

Or maybe you aren’t so deserving of any such words and need to change and grow. We all have ugly, and some of us don’t own it. Be real with yourself, own your failures, and work on your character.

Actually, I would recommend this approach for all of us. Spiritually, this is the humble approach: to assume that I am at least part of the problem. Being a Christian, this has to be my first instinct. Psychologically, we know that humble people who contribute to society are happier and achieve higher status because of their meaningful contributions. So if you want to receive, you first need to give.

This doesn’t mean we find our ultimate value in earning the affections of others. That’s a dangerous trap.

You are loved and valuable, quite simply, because you are created. God doesn’t make mistakes, either in making you or in how he’s made you. And he has uniquely gifted you with power to contribute and bless the lives of others. You are valuable – and uniquely so – in and of yourself.

That’s my view, at least, and I don’t think you should be ashamed at reminding yourself of this. And don’t just tell yourself these things. Go out and live like it’s true. Contribute, like you matter. Because you do.

So next time you get some cheesy birthday cards, don’t think of them as cheesy. Read them, dwell on them, and appreciate them for the beautiful words they are. Then live like they’re true.

You are loved.

Corey

Mom and Dad birthday card 2

My Fight for Mental Health

overcoming-2127669_1920I’ve always been a much more melancholy person. Introspective, introverted, deep thinking – even overthinking. However, for most of my life I was also a very positive person. I always remember having the attitude that things would work out in the end.

This changed in the last few years. A darkness I had never known appeared, and wouldn’t go away. I had long seasons of sadness, but also bleak tiredness. The things I normally loved gave me no joy or satisfaction. It was like a thirst that was unquenchable, and nothing would satisfy. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with “moderately severe” depression.

For a time I had no idea what was going on. How could I? People in our world are only just learning about what depression is and why some struggle with crippling anxiety.

Like I do whenever I am faced with something I don’t understand or troubles me, I researched. I began devouring information and wisdom from those more experienced than me when it came to mental and emotional health. Books, counselors, psychologists, older friends, whatever or whoever it took. I was dead set on figuring this stuff out and conquering it.

Connection

Psychologist Henry Cloud’s book “Changes That Heal” had many life-changing insights for me, including the fact that often our depression or anxiety is tied to loneliness, and that feelings like loneliness are meant to move us to connect with others.

It was a huge insight: I was disconnected. It made perfect sense – I had made two significant moves far away from family, friends, and familiarity in as many years. As a selectively sociable introvert who struggles to develop and connect with others, moving away from my safe people took a big toll on me, and it was going to require some work to get healthy.

Combine that with some not-so-good relational choices, like trying to connect romantically to someone before I was part of a solid social support network, and that was bad news for my psyche. Actually, trying to get close to someone romantically heightened my anxiety and depressive symptoms. I found out later that it was because the relationship highlighted my loneliness instead of fixing it. One person is not meant to fill the void of a network of people.

Meaningful Challenge

Besides connection, there was a need for meaningful challenge in my life. I needed relational challenge – going through the friction of new connections for the sake of social fulfillment. But I also needed to take baby steps in ensuring I was putting my hands to work and doing meaningful things at work and in life.

For example, while my anxiety and loneliness made me want to stay inside on days when I had some challenging work days ahead, that would have hurt me more than helped me. This doesn’t mean a day off was always a bad idea, but when you’re so isolated and sluggish, propagating that isolation and sluggishness is probably a bad idea. Sometimes the scary or hard things are just what you need to overcome your fear or whatever is holding you down. I think this is the case for a lot of people with crippling anxiety or depression. You need to get out there, socialize, and do meaningful and challenging things.

Yes, it was hard – but that’s part of the point. Stress is not a bad thing, not when it is in moderate levels. In fact, the same research that says too much stress is bad for you shows us that not enough stress has similar effects. Just like muscles that atrophy when not used, our ability to withstand even mundane pressures in our lives decreases when we are not experiencing regular healthy stress to keep us strong. That was an important part of my recovery and an important part of staying healthy and mentally strong.

Paradigm Shifts

Finally, I actively worked on my thought patterns. I had grown into a pattern of worry that spiraled out into despair. I was regularly worrying about how life might end up and that it really wasn’t going the way I wanted it to. I had to learn to fight that negativity and hopelessness and start to get excited about how life “could be”.

Our thoughts can naturally build on each other. Anxiety easily escalates. I needed to learn how to manage my thinking or even stop it before I could deal with deeper issues and causes. Positivity can work the same way, fortunately. I learned to build new, positive thought patterns to keep out of needless and fruitless valleys of depressive thinking.

For me, part of the “get excited” thinking had to be about building meaningful relationships. So I thought about how fun they could be, and meaningful, and how even tough conflict could yield beautiful trust and connection. I took baby steps that would apply stress on my life as I stepped out to be vulnerable with people. It was scary – and beautiful, and healing, all in one.

There was a season that medication was incredibly helpful. I had gotten to such a low point that it was just unrealistic that my body and mind would heal on their own, especially since I was barely sleeping. I needed some stability, something to get me at normal levels so that I could function enough to 1) survive and 2) deal with the underlying things that were leading to being depressed and anxious.

So while I’m always a fan of keeping on the natural side of things when makes sense, I would say there are definitely seasons where medication is a very helpful option when dealing with near-crippling mental health issues. I am also very open to the fact that some of us may just have simple brain chemistry issues (or others) that could lead to us always requiring medication. I would say do your best to avoid it, but don’t be afraid to use it if you think it wise and necessary after talking with wise people including your doctor.

Thus, connection to others, challenging myself in important areas of life, and taking good care of my mind and body (with brief aid of medication) helped me out of my mental health issues.

A Lense and an Anchor

Some of you from Christian backgrounds might now be asking: what role did your faith play? Why is it not on this important list?

Well, my faith did play a significant role in my recovery. But it was a more indirect or passive one.

Simply, my faith was both an anchor in my times of despair and a lense through which to see hope in my suffering. It was incredibly helpful to know that my suffering had purpose, and that all was never lost, even when it felt like it.

It was also so meaningful to know that even Christ suffered purposefully, and that the Bible has always promised difficulty and suffering in this world. Thus there was purpose, and I knew that God, who had suffered as the man Jesus Christ, knew something of my pain and empathized with me. I still had to hold on tight and be honest even in my bitterness towards God.

I suppose my faith has also given a helpful retrospect to my suffering and prepared me for more in the future. I know now that there is a way through, and that hope always awaits me on the other side, along with increasing closeness with God. And, reminded that he is with me and giving meaning to every step, I move forward, ready to face the challenges my Maker has for me. I will embrace the scars and the difficulty, knowing I will only become stronger and more powerful even as I am humbled in all of it.

I pray the same will be for you.

Book Review: Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson

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It’s probably my life’s greatest irony that I’m generally not good at sleeping (see my last name). I’m a light sleeper, sensitive to light and sound more than most people. I’m not unhappy that that’s the case (I’ll be the first to wake up in a fire or other threat), but it does suck when you’re trying to get a full night’s rest.

There’s also the question of sleep quality (not just quantity). Ever feel like even with 8+ hours you just can’t be refreshed?

Intro Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. Sleep quantity and quality are essential for a healthy body and mind. In fact, as he points out, lack those things and tiredness will be the least of your worries.

Shawn himself is walking evidence. His health was so bad in college that doctors were left confused at his chronic poor health and yet convinced that he would live the rest of his life in pain and overall bad health. Genetics, or something, they thought.

Fast forward a few years later, with improved diet and sleep, and everyone’s just as confused. This time, though, it was at the insane 180 that his body took. Everything was not just better, but fixed. Herniated disks even healed – definitely not a normal occurrence.

He proceeds to explain why poor sleep contributes to poor joint and bone health, chronic tiredness, poor academic and other performance, and even inability to handle stress. Healthy sleep, on the other hand, allows the body to heal and maintain itself properly.

If nothing else, Sleep Smarter will enlighten you to the power of sleep in your life and help you understand sleep itself. That is incredibly valuable. You spend about 1/3 of your life sleeping, after all.

Sleep Smarter’s chapters are concise and to the point. They’re also practical, with “Power Tip” sections at the end of each. The 14-Day sleep smarter plan and online bonus guide are helpful and practical resources for those who really want to do a sleep makeover. I recommend following the journal yourself, or maybe slowing things down further and walking through a chapter or two a week while you employ the strategies he gives. By slowly building the habits and Power Tips into your life, you can make healthy sleep choices a growing norm that sticks.

I haven’t employed every last tip from Shawn, but I have made significant steps and improved my sleep quality noticeably. In particular, Shawn “woke me up” to the importance of getting your body going in the morning and getting sunlight during the day. These things help your body know that daytime is awake time – and night time is not. This means the right hormones will be released at the right times and you’ll be kept on rhythm, optimized for healthy sleep when you need it each night.

My only critique is that a couple chapters feel short and somewhat lacking, particularly the one on mattresses and sleeping positions. It’s still satisfying and helpful for an introduction, but something so essential could have used some more robust treatment.

Finally, I will say that some of Stevenson’s claims and cited research is a little more “indy”. It’s newer and hasn’t yet stood the test of time. This doesn’t invalidate the research by any means, but it’s worth noting.

He also bases his general approach on what would have been historically natural for humans, but it might not be guaranteed that such things are actually what’s best for us or our sleep. That said, most of the book argues very soundly and has at least preliminary research backing it. Stevenson is also slow to put you on supplements and is often going for low-risk, quite natural solutions that are reasonable in logic as well as cost.

So, whether you agree with every conclusion or assumption made by Sleep Smarter, you will indeed be a smarter sleeper walking away from it. If you take your health seriously, make the read. You won’t be disappointed.

Does having many Bible translations mean the Bible is untrustworthy?

You may have heard it before:

The Bible wasn’t really written by God. Besides, why are there so many translations if there should only be one “word of God”? Clearly, it was just written by men, and what we have now is just a translation of a translation of a translation…

But Christians have never claimed that God actually came down and penned the Bible. From a theological standpoint, Christians believe that the Bible was “inspired” by God – that is, he was behind it but used authors and their personalities and circumstances to reveal truths.

Sometimes these were the words of God himself, like in the narrative books that record history where God speaks, or the books of the Prophets who actually record what God spoke to them. Other times, this just means that men were communicating truths that God worked in them to communicate in some form or another.

So, Christians believe God was behind and speaks through the entire Bible, but not that he physically “wrote” the book.

We don’t translate translations…

As for Bible translations, this is another simple misunderstanding.

The books of the Bible were written originally in either Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, depending largely on the time of writing. Since the beginning of Christianity, however, because people from all different kinds of backgrounds have become Christians, understandably there have been translations of the Bible from its original languages.

However, translations are just that – translations of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek manuscripts that have preserved the original content. The translations themselves have not been the primary conservers of the information. We have old, good manuscripts of the original languages from which translations are made.

So, the Bible we have today is not “a translation of a translation of a translation…” We take the wealth of old manuscripts which have survived the test of time and make the best translation possible.

There is simply no reason to think that a wealth of translations of the Bible means that it is any less trustworthy. In fact, I think there being translations just shows the cross-cultural power and relevance of the Bible, as well as the intentionality of Christians to actually bother to translate it into so many different dialects across the world. The labours of Christians to do so is very commendable and speaks to their belief that Jesus’ story and teaching are to be given to all people. It also shows that the Christian God meets people where they are at, and doesn’t require his Truth to be communicated in only one language or through some special “exclusive” means, which could lead easily to power abuse on behalf of privileged parties (which it has).

The simplicity of these explanations goes to show that with just a little brain work or inquiry, the surface level objections can be shown to be pretty weak. What other truth claims or ideas have you shrugged off because of a surface level, simplistic objection that might have been baseless?

Keep thinking,

Corey

Words Can Cut. And They Should.

plum-1690579_1920I’m generally a pretty tactful, harmonious person. I don’t like conflict. I’d often rather avoid issues than letting them out into the open.

To a degree, this is helpful. Agreeableness is a positive quality, and no one wants to be friends with the person who is always stirring the pot.

On the other hand, in our culture today we are perhaps swaying too far to the “agreeable” side of things. Whether it’s political correctness to a fault or just the inability to face our problems and deal with them (and verbalize them), we are suffering by stifling ourselves and others. We’re afraid of cutting with our words (even if we are nice about it), and we are afraid of ourselves being cut by someone else’s words. And it’s a problem, one that affects our relationships and our mental and emotional health.

Here’s what I mean.

What makes a real relationship? Intimacy, right? You feel close, you can tell them anything, they can tell you anything. To varying degrees with different people, we are more or less intimate. This intimacy is important to our psychological health and security. If we don’t have intimacy, we won’t have security. Without security, depression, anxiety, and other mental issues are right around the corner.

When we are walking on eggshells to be politically correct or to avoid conflict, we can’t really be ourselves. We can’t let ourselves be seen for fear of the rejection or resentment or turmoil or whatever. We can’t really have intimacy with one another. Hopefully, we have those people we are close to such that we don’t have to worry about offense or the like. And I’m not saying we should be totally open and without filter in front of everyone (that would be the opposite extreme perhaps). But what happens when this widespread hiddenness makes it hard to have deep relationships altogether? What if it finds its way into our personal lives?

Even if it doesn’t, we are still at times missing out in our day to day or public interactions. We can’t speak our minds. We are too afraid to offend, even if our ideas might actually be the right ideas. Therefore, we can’t contribute freely to the idea pool, have our ideas critiqued, or critique the ideas that do get shared (the ideas which are often just in line with what is already “mainstream” or agreed upon). Then, society becomes an echo chamber devoid of real, challenging and fruitful discussion. We, the society members, become phony, or at least narrow-minded.

Why have we come to this? Perhaps a variety of reasons. Internet culture has allowed us to hide behind screens and miss out on real intimacy, even when we are sharing deep or profound or important ideas. It has made nuance difficult in some ways and has allowed for easy and powerful misunderstanding, especially as the information-givers often frame the given information in ways that are meant to play on emotions without deeper consideration of truth and meaning.

As our technological culture has advanced, relationships have suffered, and we have been perhaps less emotionally secure as a result. We have relationships online – ones that give us a false sense of connection, but don’t give the real security that true face to face relationships do. Thus we can become “triggered” quite easily, and so avoid the things that trigger us. We then, keeping ourselves “safe”, become weaker and weaker. We hate offense more and more – we hate the idea of being cut by someone else’s opinions, and become less and less open to them altogether. Thus, we are weak both mentally and emotionally and become more so over time.

But words must be allowed to cut us. Suffering in life is meant to make us stronger, much like a workout of the muscles, though tearing them at first, allows them to heal and grow. The same is with our minds and our hearts. If we can’t interact with ideas (good or bad, true or not true), and we can’t interact with those that we may not agree with, how can we ever grow stronger? How can we ever be truly “safe” from becoming an echo chamber of lies? How can we truly get along with each other even when we disagree? How can we learn to be nuanced and thorough, gracious yet bold, if we never even practice dialoguing?

While these ideas come in reflection on the recent political landscape, it is a much deeper problem in our society today – particularly Western and Canadian society. So my encouragement is that we become OK with speaking up, making ourselves heard, and allowing ourselves to be disagreed with and even offended. This doesn’t mean we disrespect each other – that is different than disagreeing. But if my words never cut, or if I never allow myself to be cut by words, how can I be myself or be experienced as my true self? How can I heal and grow strong?

Don’t be afraid to be bold. Don’t be afraid to get into a conversation that might scare you. John Eldridge encourages men in his book, Wild at Heart: “Let people feel the weight of who you are, then let them deal with it.” I think we would do well to let our weight out a bit more.

Get strong, friends.

Corey

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

– Jesus Christ (emphasis mine)

Difficulty Creates Depth

asphalt-1852964_1920.jpgI’ve gone through some pretty difficult times lately. For those of you who don’t know (I haven’t gone too out of my way to tell everyone yet), I broke off an engagement a short while ago. Though the decision was a hard one, it has felt in many ways like the right one, even though I can’t always fully explain it yet.

But going through such a strange, confusing time of loss and grief has led me to some interesting places. Though there have been times of deep sadness and temptation to despair or think the worst of my life, ultimately I think I’m coming to a place of deep clarity and orientation. A place of peace and strong grounding.

Such a peace can be hard to describe, and many might not ever experience such emotions like I do (I know we’re all different and experience things in different ways). I liken it to the kind of feelings you get when you listen to music that strikes you so deep that you just need to be still, let go of everything, and just experience the moving sound. The only thing you want to feel is this surreal zen. It’s not edgy or exciting, really, but just quiet. A deep sense of ultimate, grounding peace. It’s also not constant, but something that comes perhaps consciously, with intentional reminders of truth and grace to the self.

Some soundtrack music can take me there sometimes, or music like that of Enya. In a way there is a sadness with such a feeling, though it’s not true sadness. It’s a certain weight and gravity that you feel, a seriousness that is strengthening instead of overwhelming or crushing. It comes with a deep sense that everything is fine – or at least will be, in the end. It is nostalgia with a hopeful look to the future.

So what of it? Well, I think this weighty peace, this grounding gravity, is something we should all shoot for and aim for. It is a positive emotion (or combination of emotions) that shows you have your head on straight. You’re glad of your difficult past and excited to grow beyond it. Your arms are open to the rest of life. And in spite of all the past difficulties, failures or evils experienced, you are thankful. This is truly an amazing thing! Don’t we all long to be there?

Such a place to be in has shown me that difficulty creates depth inside of a person. Depth then allows for this kind of serious and hopeful sense of peace. It is a part of maturity, I think, to be able to heal from difficulty and come to accept and understand the serious and heavier parts of life. Often we avoid this process by partying, drinking, drugs, sex, or other distractions. I think we hurt ourselves if we avoid it, and instead of creating depth the process creates bitterness and hardness of heart, an unwillingness to accept life as it is, good and bad alike.

Of course, this process is hard. You actually have to go through the difficulty and actively pursue healing to get there. You have to change, accept parts of you or others that you don’t want to accept, and that hurts. Furthermore, it takes time – sometimes a lot of it.

But the maturation, sweet like wine as it ages, is well worth it.

Perhaps also necessary for this weighty peace is a sense of the supernatural or divine. After all, if we have no ultimate reality beyond this mere physical world, how can we have such a transcending hope? I don’t think we can. And experientially, existentially, this peace for me involves a deep trust in God and his work in my life through difficulty. He has created this depth and filled it with his divine peace, causing it to overflow with divine hope. For that, I am ever grateful, and excited for the adventure that goes ever on.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

From J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

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The Moral Superiority of Jesus

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I honestly think Jesus was simply the man. Makes sense that I’m a Christian then, right?

My thinking this is not arrogance. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all believe our religious founder is superior (or that they are all overrated if we have none). But what reasons do we have for that belief, and in what ways do we claim one is better than the other? 

Here, I want to take a quick look at why Jesus is morally superior to Buddha and Mohammed. 

Jesus’ Moral Revolution

Whether you look at the New Testament or the other extra-biblical sources that mention Jesus (there are numerous), they really don’t have any kind of evidence that he was an immoral man. The Rabbis didn’t like him because he did miracles and yet didn’t agree with them. The Romans saw him as an insurgent, but give us no reason to suspect he did anything violent. And his followers themselves were known for how counter-cultural they were in how they lived – communally, respectfully, lovingly… and never violently.

Further evidence of the morality of Jesus comes from the Biblical traditions and cultural changes that spawned from him. The Christian movement truly was a moral revolution, and most of us today hold to some distinctly Christian values, whether we think we do or not. In fact, the word “humility” which has the same root as “humiliation” was not something that people valued until after Jesus, whose humility was found in his willingness to be humiliated for the sake of others.

To preface my criticisms that follow, I say this: I want to be careful and yet critical. That is, I don’t with to be unfair in what I say, nor do I wish to say it impolitely. But I do want to be direct and to the point, and to not shy away from what I believe to be honest criticisms. I also welcome yours! 

Mohammed’s Conquests & Romances

Contrast the morality of Jesus with that of Mohammed. While Muslims praise him as the final and greatest prophet of God, I think that even Islamic tradition itself betrays Mohammed’s questionable character.

First, his whole campaign was not a peaceful one like Jesus’ was. The early Muslim regime was a militant one. Granted, they sought first a peaceful conquering of land and peoples (but still a conquering, and one which included institutionalized discrimination for those who did not convert), but if there was any resistance, violence was the 2nd resort. Whereas Christians crusaded in the 11th century over a thousand years after their beginnings, Muslims were crusading right away and have been doing so in larger or smaller groups ever since. And I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Mohammed set that tone.

Secondly, Mohammed had a questionable romantic life. Besides being polygamous and marrying 9-year-old Aisha, he justified the normally unlawful divorce (even by previously revealed Qu’ran law) of his adopted son Zayd’s wife so that he could marry her. Making things worse, he did it through a convenient and arguably self-serving “revelation” from God.

Buddha’s Negligence 

I find it funny how many Westerners adopt Buddhism as a convenient, new age kind of spirituality. I can definitely see the appeal in some ways, but I find the supposedly “enlightened” Buddha, in the end, morally lacking.

Being dissatisfied with his native Hinduism, Buddha left his family (wife and children too if I remember correctly) for a life of extreme asceticism, which is essentially a giving up of indulgences. People nowadays think that Buddha is noble for leaving behind excessive lifestyle choices, but how is leaving behind one’s wife and children and other societal responsibilities noble? Morality, after all, is more about our relationships to others than about ourselves.

Jesus lived a relatively poor, underprivileged lifestyle, devoid of any real excess. Yet he worked and was a faithful contributor to society for 30 years until his more significant religious work began. Even then, while he called for radical commitment to his teachings, his ethics centred around loving one’s neighbour, not leaving them to find personal fulfillment (which was indeed Buddha’s goal, though it wore the veneer of sacrifice).

Jesus’ sacrifice, on the other hand, was one of service to others. After his death, unlike the deaths of other Messianic would-be-nots of Jesus’ time, caused a total revolution and changed the moral landscape of the world. This is simply not the case for Mohammed or Buddha, who arguably may have caused more moral damage than good.

What do you think of my criticisms? I’d be interested to hear, so feel free to hit me up in the comments below or via Twitter @rexCo27.

Keep thinking!

Corey