Testimoniac

Being a Christian in the United States has been a pretty sweet deal up until the past few years. It wasn’t just a social club, it also provided the advantage of resume-building affiliations and the opportunity to feel like a good person while blending into a nameless morass of a large congregation!

However, the worldly benefits of self-labeling as a Christian have quickly devolved into a punchline, and will likely become a matter of public shame within the next decade or two around here.

One of the more prominent awkward situations that comes with a half-assed salvation is the “testimony talk”. If you’ve grown up in the Church, you’ll know this situation instantly:

LEADER-PERSON: So does anyone want to share their testimony about how they came to know Jesus Christ personally?

(awkward silence)

LEADER-PERSON: How about you, Mortimer?

MORTIMER: Um, well, my parents told me to believe in Jesus when I was 4, so I repeated the prayer, and that changed me forever.

LEADER-PERSON: Okay! Anyone else? Would you like to share, Thad?

THADDEUS: Uh, I was at a high school camp and prayed to receive Jesus so I could go back on the waterslide.

Sound familiar?

The most accurate dictionary definition for testimony is “a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience”. This means there should be more of a story, and it should play out like most good stories:

  1. Things weren’t good
  2. Something changed
  3. Things got better

The trouble is often not with the stories as much as it is with the people the stories are based upon.

There is a distinct category of “Christian” that makes up the majority of the demographic. I’ve been one, my Wifey Stickums has been one, our baby person is likely going to phase through being one. Since this category doesn’t seem to have a name, I’m going to call this group Lifers.

Lifers are the product of a combination of several privileged situations:

  • Good American parental supervision that enabled a strong grounding in solid Christian values
  • Conditioning and reinforcement that prevents seeing the uglier sides of the world
  • A network of people that provides fantastically small experience about extramarital sex, drugs, alcohol, addiction and breaking the law
  • Support from family and friends that prevents the need to straddle the law or suffer extreme poverty

The Church doesn’t seem to talk about this cultural phenomenon because there’s no way it could have existed in Bible times.

Since the Bible doesn’t cover this, it’s never talked about in many churches. And, since we like to congregate with people who are like us and have the unfettered freedom to choose our churches, some churches are made of 99.9999% Lifer.

Being a Lifer isn’t necessarily a problem outwardly, but it wreaks havoc on your spiritual walk without the proper precautions. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. To be a Lifer means you have no experience with the world you’re in. As “spiritual” as that sounds, it means the only place you can feel safe is inside the bubble of church, when the Holy Spirit inside you and Jesus Christ’s coming should be the first consolation to your heart. (1 Thessalonians 4)
  2. Lifer lifestyles are needlessly constricting and can be insanely judgmental. The ones who’ve believed rock music, rap music, dancing, watching Friends, wearing pants, using makeup or getting an ear piercing are sins are mostly Lifers who forgot that there’s a difference between personal understanding of morality and what is a universally immoral action (Romans 14)
  3. Lifers fail to understand the scope of how much God is loving and in control. Since most Lifers don’t get dredged through the ugliest parts of what this world can offer, they tend to over-react to the challenges of life and fail to give open-minded thought to anything new. (Matthew 6)

According to Scripture, being lukewarm is one of the most spiritually dangerous places to be, and Lifers possess all of the knowledge of truth without a whole lot of application of it. Anyone born and raised “Christian” with the knowledge of the values therein will invariably become a Lifer.

If you are a Lifer, however, all is not lost! Anyone raised in a healthy Christian home has to endure this naive and silly stage, and there are a few easy ways to get out of it:

  1. Make friends with non-Lifer Christians. They’re out there. They’ve snorted angel dust, smoked crystal and served time for it, or maybe they’d do party lines and could drink anyone else under the table, or they might have been top-level executives consumed with the bottom line. As you get to know your church, these people will be the ones that seem just a tad…odd from the rest of them.
  2. Get out more. The world is cruel and difficult, but not every single person in the world is that way. Find some secular or other-denominational friends and get to know them. Eventually they’ll either convert to Christ or despise you, and that’s a necessary experience for your own spiritual growth. If it’s still uncomfortable, then let’s just call it “lifestyle evangelism”.
  3. Open your mind to new things. Go read Nietzsche, then take a chaser of Lewis to see the contrasting ideas. Watch Boyz n the Hood and Google whether that crap is real. Learn about gay or Mormon culture and discover how well-perverted Satan has crafted it to imitate Christ’s command.
  4. Break from the pack. All of this is offensive to Lifers. Get ready to stand for your convictions, since it will offend the neophobic. It’ll be a bit like when people convert to Christianity, but far weirder. Some of those people are apostates, but don’t worry too much about which ones are, since that’s God’s job later. (Matthew 13:24-30)

We’re all running a race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) and it’s hard to gauge others’ lives. Lifers started the race more easily than most others, and it’s necessary to finish it, but that requires more determination about it. A good testimony is a byproduct of some good running, and it should as flexible and changing as a resume or Facebook profile.

As a Post-Lifer, I have had to live with drug dealers, call my mother out on her salvation, go through a few dozen jobs, live homeless a few times and leave a few churches upon theological grounds. However, it’s made me stronger, more faithful on the Lord, slower to speak and more joyful, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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We’re Racist

Normally I like to stay out of political issues, but recently this situation has gotten so silly that I have to weigh in on it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m not racist. I’m not subconsciously racist. If I was, then I wouldn’t be a white guy with a black wife and a half-breed caramel baby.

Recently, my Hammy Whammers and I saw The Century of the Self, a BBC documentary that outlines the progression of marketing and social engineering practices that have brought us to this modern day of self-entitled pansies that believe in rights while disregarding responsibilities.

To summarize, the 4-part documentary goes into extreme depth about how Freud’s theory was catapulted into public use by Edward Bernays through the founding of the public relations industry. The idea was to guide people’s primal subconscious urges towards things that could benefit them, such as a radio or car. The rise of excessive individualism through the hippy era halted that approach, but then shifted into marketing based on an identity instead of an actual product. Finally, the idea moved into all of American politics with Reagan’s idea of self-interested lowering of taxes and capitalized in Clinton’s policy of promising everything under the sun.

The appeal to baser desires works well in politics and business, and this has shown itself most prominently in the recent presidential election. There was more vulgarity, insulting, hateful vitriol and saw more false promises made than any other in my lifetime. My Flappy Wingers pointed out that the president who won that election was effectively tapping into the baser desires being shown by our current head of state.

The trouble with this is that selfish people have a hard time accepting that other views are valid, and productive politics these days seems to disregard the philosophical or practical validity of the opposition. Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (Hillary Clinton’s mentor) clearly outlines the most effective approach for shifting blame onto the opposition.

The line from the media is approximately “Trump is evil, people who follow him are deluded, and it’s a baffling reality that he somehow got voted in”. However, lately the leftist mindset seems to be “[insert person] is racist”. Whether it’s our President, Uber driverswealthy people, white people in generalthe economy or people who buy raw cotton, the rhetoric has gotten a bit out of control.

A fascinating watch is a short hard-left video from some random Facebook friend-of-a-liberal-friend-share-and-repost-if-you’re-a-true-American-or-you-will-die video called White Supremacy. If you’re anything like my Yummy Cleaners and I, your bandwidth sucks, so here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

White supremacy came around from 2 factors. The first was that colonization of new areas by Europe had them wiping out indigenous people, and Europeans thought they were better than other races for that. The second was that at the same time the scientific revolution came around categorizing the crap out of everything. That feeling of superiority created a field of “racial biology”, and though it’s been debunked white supremacists still believe in it.

Today, white people are afraid subconsciously of diversity and feel threatened by it. They feel no sense of community, identity or purpose, so they all band together to fight diversity. There are 2 cures for this. The two things that can fix this are that the white people need to understand how privileged they are and there needs to be more money put towards anti-hate nonprofits.

If you’re a liberal and believe this, you have successfully expressed your originality by listening to exactly what your college professors told you without assessing whether it makes any sense. If you’re a conservative and don’t understand how people can think this, then you’re a racist.

This entire idea is presumptive. It makes white people out (specifically white heterosexual males if we’re being specific) to be the cause of all society’s ailments.

In order to be fair, I think I’m going to provide an equal or greater perspective:

Problems with people came around from 2 factors. The first was that we all were born with a sin condition that makes us desire evil as much as good, and often even more than good. The second was that sometime in the modern era some very intelligent people made a lot of money by putting consumers each individually at the center of the universe. That feeling of superiority created a crowd of self-entitled individuals all thinking their opinion matters because the television and school system told them it does, and though life will prove it otherwise leftists still believe it.

Today, leftists are afraid subconsciously of accepting humanity’s sin condition and feel threatened by it. They feel no sense of community, identity or purpose, so they all band together to use hate speech against people they call “hate speakers”. There are 2 cures for this. The two things that can fix this are that the leftists need to come to an understanding of how depraved and corrupt our sinfulness really takes us and there needs to be more love put towards them to show that Jesus Christ is a far superior way.

Cute Story

As you have probably noticed by now, the byproduct of my Stocking Stuffers and I was a small human, and that has been the focal point of sundry tasks. Since we keep feeding it, our Peanut has grown into a Watermelon, and his capacity for being interesting has exponentiated to the point that it entertains us. Mostly.

Watermelon still turns into Ogre Baby when he doesn’t get what he wants, but we’ve learned to roll with it.

Parenting Tip: The more a baby cries, the less sympathy you have for it. The parenting is complete when it’s nothing but a dull buzzing noise. The secret is to add a drumbeat to it in your head and turn it into music.

  • EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t advocate letting a child cry forever, but unless you’ve had one you’ll never discover the joy of a child crying for literally no reason whatsoever. #hatersgonnahate

Along with Hammy Wingers going through the normal routine of losing post-pregnancy weight (of which I haven’t discussed for reasons) and Watermelon slowly becoming Jackfruit as he discovers the meaning of “fingers” and “hair” through oral exploration, my career has taken a twist for the fun.

Christ followers should treat our careers as a different means to an end than the rest of the world. The end of a worldly ambition’s job is a steady enough paycheck, with the work experience being the means to an end for a bigger paycheck later, ultimately culminating in a retirement where the kids never call or visit and there’s enough money to pay to die with dignity.

On the other hand, a Christian’s end is for God Himself. As a Christian, working for money is obviously good, but it’s all God’s money and the job God gives you is His as well, meaning it’s all essentially a matter of management of God’s assets, and to get paid from a company is simply the organization being the middleman.

These conflicting philosophies make the workplace culture strange for Christians, since the endeavor for a paycheck comes from completely different angles. On the one hand, sustainable work is necessary for a non-Christian, since their ambition revolves around the kinda-mighty dollar, and the Christian sees the work itself as the worship to God Himself (Colossians 3:23).

Work Tip: The secret to successful office work is to merely look like you’re working. Thankfully, the deluge of emails and meetings that plague a typical office worker can cancel out any productivity you may have hoped to achieve. If you’re really good, you can spend all day talking about how much other people actually got done!

To segue into a related topic by jumping off the overburdened back of this one, let’s talk about the concept of “working yourself out of a job” for a minute. Good parenting, great management and all successful leadership is built with the end result of creating self-sustaining modules wherever you tread. Though this creates a fundamentally beautiful work of art in management and delegation when done right, it pretty much makes what you do redundant over time. Most people avoid adapting and sabotage that self-sufficiency they inspired, but a select few will change with it and ultimately grow from it.

In light of that, my contract with UPS has ended, but in the proudest way I can imagine. I was able to successfully turn a lightning-fast work environment with just-try-things-and-ask-questions-because-training-takes-too-much-time management into a read-this-written-procedure-and-then-try-things-and-also-ask-questions-because-training-takes-too-much-time management. I make it an endeavor to leave everything I touch better than how I found it, and this situation was no exception.

One exception to that rule, however, has been the ongoing conflict with my biological parents. They treat me so distrustfully that I’m starting to think I was adopted and genetically engineered to look like my dad. The one convenience of having step-parents is that the rampant psychological issues predominating your parents doesn’t have a genetic link. However, I try to make the best of it, and that’s what you’re reading, so there you go.

Family Tip: If you have a psychologically abusive family, just do the opposite of them and psychologically neglect your own or spoil them filthy rotten. I’m not telling you what to do, just what you’re statistically likely to do if you don’t sort that crap out inside your own noggin.

A few moons back I told my parents that their intentional hiatus needed clarification, so I set out September 1st as a contact-again date. On the 1st I sent a directly worded message saying that we’d like to get in touch with them, but they will have to respect our boundaries.

In light of that, they wanted to meet with a mediator. I consented, and we met with a counselor Wednesday the 13th, and here’s more or less how it went:

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, let’s start. What do y’all want out of this whole thing, mmkay?

DAD: I want reconciliation.

MOM: Me too.

VICKYPOO: I want to know what’s really going on, without any false perceptions or lies.

ME: I want everything to make sense about actions versus what’s being said, since I know there are discrepancies between them.

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, that’s good, so what’s the big issue, mmkay?

ME: I can’t trust my mom, and now that my dad has indicated clearly that he trusts my mom, I can’t trust him either.

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, so how does that make you feel, mom?

MOM: (tearfully) I feel…pain (quivering lip)

COUNSELOR: Mmmmmmkay, so… about what?

MOM: (lip quivering) I just… (tears)

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, well, how did everyone else feel about this?

GREG, VICKYPOO & DAD: (apathetically) Meh, we’ve seen this before.

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, we’re going to need at least a dozen sessions for this to work out right, mmkay?

DAD: We can’t afford that.

COUNSELOR: Mmkay, so is everyone better off from this?

ME: Kinda, as long as there isn’t any drama.

MOM: What do you mean, drama?

ME: I mean that we need to talk about things reasonably and without barfing emotions at each other.

MOM: So I’m supposed to be an unfeeling robot with pure logic and speaking in a monotone?

VICKYPOO: No, it’s about giving the data. I’m his wife and I have to do that.

MOM: So I’m supposed to give up all emotions? (attempting a trigger that used to work on me)

ME: No, but if you think that, then you’re allowed to. When you don’t want this soap opera, come see us.

After the emotional shock of it and retrieving Watermelon from our amazing friends Kyle & Morgan that kindly babysat him, we had to think deeply on it. After we concluded that my father has been perfectly groomed to bow down to an un-submissive wife that we cannot connect with unless she gives permission, he emailed a well-intentioned note to us:

Hey. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed seeing you guys last night. I really miss you guys and Victor and look forward to the time when we can all get together in the future. Love you.

This was nice. Sweet and to the point. Apparently my dad wanted to reach out to us, and that’s how he did it. We’ll park this for a while and see what happens in 3 months or a year or whenever.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Today, he sent out something that belied something far worse:

Greg and Vicky.

I reread the email I sent you and realized that I had not included Mom’s input or wishes in the note. She would love a relationship with you guys as much as I do, but my email did not reflect that and I am sorry.

Since we have reset our marriage, I realize that Janet is the most important person in my life. God has placed her there and that is where she will stay. She encourages and supports me in ways I didn’t realize. We plan on happily living the rest of our lives together in peace and unity.

That said, there can be no relationship with you guys unless that includes both of us and both of you. Period.

We both realize that we are not needed in your lives. You have found surrogates to replace us and we understand that. We are grateful that you have found those people for friendship and support. If we are able to establish a relationship in the future, it will be healthier since it won’t be out of need, greed, or loneliness. We too are invested in many others lives. God has blessed us with each other and many friends, and we lack for nothing. God is good.

We would enjoy being part of your lives, but if you would rather we weren’t, we can deal with that also.

Let us know if you want to get together at any time to talk, or be included in any events in the future like holidays, etc. We are always open to spending time with you guys.

Since there is a psychoanalytical goldmine here, let me provide some context for each paragraph:

I reread the email I sent you and realized that I had not included Mom’s input or wishes in the note. She would love a relationship with you guys as much as I do, but my email did not reflect that and I am sorry.

Why the apology? If my mom wanted to send an email to me she could have, but her cowardice out of fear of being caught in something knows no end. My dad was apologizing for her, not us.

Since we have reset our marriage, I realize that Janet is the most important person in my life. God has placed her there and that is where she will stay. She encourages and supports me in ways I didn’t realize. We plan on happily living the rest of our lives together in peace and unity.

I agree with the “most important person in my life” bit. That’s marriage. However, my mom hasn’t respected my dad for as long as I’ve been born, so the rest of that rhetoric is meaningless. Of course, if one has to repeat the idea that they will have “peace and unity” for the rest of their life, it makes you wonder how much they actually believe it. This is the start of legalism: abiding by the letter of the law without listening to the spirit of it.

That said, there can be no relationship with you guys unless that includes both of us and both of you. Period.

That logic is fallacious, largely because it presumes that Honey Scramblers and I are endeavoring to pull them apart. Aristotle phrased friendship as being two souls in one body, and God designed marriage to be a mega-friendship: Friendship Deluxe Edition, so to speak. You know what’s also in good friendship? Trust!

We both realize that we are not needed in your lives. You have found surrogates to replace us and we understand that. We are grateful that you have found those people for friendship and support. If we are able to establish a relationship in the future, it will be healthier since it won’t be out of need, greed, or loneliness. We too are invested in many others lives. God has blessed us with each other and many friends, and we lack for nothing. God is good.

This is a breakfast of scrambled guilt with a side of religiosity toast and hatingly garnished with a sprig of shame. There end up being a few factual errors in the paragraph:

  1. We never found “surrogates”, we moved on to being independent individuals. If you ask anyone at Venture Church or Centerpoint Colton, we are seen as equals and co-workers in Christ more than anything else.
  2. If God has so blessed you and you don’t need us, why the insistence on re-sending the email in the first place?
  3. The entire tone of this sounds more like my mom than my dad (trust me on that one)

We would enjoy being part of your lives, but if you would rather we weren’t, we can deal with that also.

Let us know if you want to get together at any time to talk, or be included in any events in the future like holidays, etc. We are always open to spending time with you guys.

The tone of this one implies the exact opposite of the prior paragraph, which is discrepant enough to feel wrong about but not legally valid enough to stand up in a court of law, which is how my mom communicates.

This whole thing becomes “we don’t need you, but we want you, which is why we’re reaching out to you more, because we don’t need you, but we want you”. Since they both despise being called out on things and their son has a public life, this creates a dilemma. They believe I condemn them for their actions, when that’s the shame of their own responses to my intention to entertain and inform.

Nevertheless, my Waddle Woofers and I press on. As of right now until they change, my parents are dead to me. Ben Franklin once said some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75, and it seems to hold true to both sets of our parents. Baby Watermelon Victor will never get a chance to know his grandparents because all 4 of them refuse to be known.

The wonderful positive aspect of this is how God can use this unfortunate circumstance. Jesus indicated that if we lose any family for the sake of the Gospel that we’d get it back 100 times over (Matthew 19:29), so let’s review what that Gospel thing is. We hear it often behind the pulpit along with this Jayzus character, and when it’s especially colorfully expressed includes talking about Hellfar and Bremstone, but I don’t think many people really know.

The Gospel is, effectively, a story of redemption and change. The 4 Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are merely Gospel accounts. There are millions more where they came from, including the story of Greg Laurie, Sam Childers, and Otto Koning (to name some of the more absurd ones).

As people, we’re already changing constantly from our own development. The science of it is that you currently have more in common with your friends right now than the version of you 10 years ago or what 10 years from now will look like. With all of that changing, why not let the God of everything micromanage it for you to something nice?

My parents and my Snuffy Wuffy’s parents aren’t submitting to God for a multiplicity of reasons. A large part is fear, a big portion is shame/guilt and some healthy strokes of codependency. There are also a host of trust issues and repressed unspoken evil desires at play as well. They can’t give it to God because they refuse to, but you don’t have to be like them.

The irony of life is that the things that concern us are the things we choose to concern us. I’m not worried about the temporary unemployment because God has never let me down in providing the needs. I’m not anxious over this child mixed into it because God made him and loves him more than I could possibly ever love him. My wife is right alongside me on this. The only difficulty is in contending with the negatively changing extended family that our biological instincts inspire us to reconnect with, but I imagine that’s a bit nicer than the state declaring your trust in God illegal, right?

Christian Tip: You can usually see the spiritual quality of a group based on the subject of the prayer group’s request. If it’s cancer and coping with deaths, that’s shortsighted but a healthy arrangement. If it’s about the persecuted church in other countries, stay there until God rips you away from it. If it’s about pets, singleness and passing exams that weren’t studied for, run. Just run.