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Friday, March 15, 2019

Settling Things Like a Man

Spirituality Without Humility

I’m late getting articles to you about Lent, but those don’t usually appear until after my deadline. So better late than never. Of course, one doesn’t need to practice Lent to appreciate insights like those found in this piece by John Zahl at Mockingbird.
Today it seems most voices in the Church (at least the one to which I belong) seek to advocate a message about the human self that aligns almost exactly with the shallow philosophies proffered in any issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Cue the preacher who interprets loving your neighbor as yourself as being about, well, loving yourself. Under the auspices of “Incarnational” language, the individual is deified. The true self is equated with the divine, and this is assumed to be a profound approach, and not that of every Montessori teacher/college drop-out. God-as-self is the most basic (#Basic) and misleading path in the world. The pursuit of it is the pursuit of self-interest: spirituality without humility. The assumption seems to be: “I must increase so that God might increase.”
Settling Things Like a Man
As I mentioned in a previous link, I’ve been pondering the recent flurry of talk about traditional masculinity being “toxic.” In particular, there is concern about aggressiveness, competitiveness, stoicism, and dominance. I just ran across a constructive piece (versus the previous pieces, which were a bit snarky) by a clinical psychologist (“The Last Place Men Can Settle Things Like Men”) who both recognize the need for men to be in better touch with their emotions and to have constructive outlets for traditional masculine traits—outlets like mixed martial arts. One example:
Actor Ed O’Neill holds a black belt, and entered training to learn to control and channel his youthful aggression. Competitors must be aggressive, in order to win. Aggressiveness is an essential psychological component in the ring, demonstrating one’s commitment. An aggressive attack is a man’s way of announcing his presence and his belief that this moment matters. But men who cannot control and manage their aggression, who cannot temper it and use it, lose quickly. Aggression is merely a tool, and successful fighters learn to use that tool and sharpen it. It is the man who uses the aggression, not the other way around.
When God Settles Things
One of the most troublesome theological trends in the last few decades has been the increasing fondness for universalism—the idea that everyone will eventually be saved. I admit it’s an attractive idea—until you start thinking about what Jesus said about all this. He’s pretty clear about there being a Judgment Day in which those who have willfully and stubbornly rejected God will not enjoy his presence in the next (see Matt. 23–25 for starters). This is a sobering part of the message of Jesus, and one we are called to preach as well, as uncomfortable as it might make us. But as historian Michael McClymond notes in this interview, universalism (one attempt to soften the hard words of Jesus) has never been an idea that has gained much of following, and for good reason.
Hate-Crime Hoaxes on the Rise?
Here is an interesting pair of pieces that came to me independently of one another. The first is an interview about the culture of victimhood. It’s more balanced than the title and source (Spiked) suggests. It’s an interview with a sociologist who became fascinated with hate-crime hoaxes and wondered what was going on.
The second piece is a Twitter thread by a journalist and photographer, listing a number of hate-crime hoaxes he has tracked. I hadn’t realized it was such a phenomenon. I suppose I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Humor for the Committed
I suspect some of you are committed to reading more of the Bible during Lent. And some have given up social media for the season. I don’t want to distract either group, but ... you might want to check out this John Crist video: “If Bible Characters Had iPhones.”
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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