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On the Banishing of Shadows

I have had a number of conversations recently about the deep sadness that seems to have settled over many in the West, particularly the young. These conversations have been with people who would represent the full breadth of the racial, socioeconomic, political and ideological spectrum. Often, they are parents of teenagers and/or young adults. It’s a familiar litany by now. Anxiety, depression, addiction, mental illness, suicidal ideation and self-harm, deaths of despair. A general rootlessness and purposeless drifting. Listless scrolling and binging on junk entertainment rather than engaging with the world. It’s a well-worn road by now.

There are, of course, many tributaries that feed into this river of sadness. There’s the pandemic and our collective responses to it, obviously, which did incalculable damage to the young. There is concern about the future of the planet. There is angst about the seemingly limited economic opportunities to attain a life similar to that of their parents. There’s secularization and the evacuation of shared meaning. I think each of these explanations have merit. There are undoubtedly others.

But from my vantage point, it’s almost impossible to overstate the impact of social media on the young and how it feeds this deep sadness. Social media has contributed to a hostile and polarized political climate that incentivizes all kinds of ugly and false understandings who we are and what we’re here for, that treats public discourse as a zero-sum game of winners and losers, that conditions us to be more interested in scoring points against enemies than actually seeking to understand anything deeply or truly. In this context, there are lovers and haters, fans and —phobes, followers and trolls, and not much in between.

And young people have learned their lessons well. The point isn’t to understand anything truly or to ask hard (but desperately necessary) questions, it’s to find your tribe, get in line, and say your lines. I am convinced that at least one source of some of the sadness out there is this constant threat of social censure that is part and parcel of living our lives online. This cannot but erode things like optimism, courage, resilience, hope, or joy. More often, it makes us fearful, confused, apathetic, disengaged, distracted. At its worst, it leads us to simply check out, metaphorically or (Christ have mercy) literally.

This past weekend I listened to a lecture by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie that was part of the BBC’s 2022 Reith Lectures on Freedom. It was a powerful articulation of the importance of freedom of speech in a world that will increasingly only accept the recitation of unassailable orthodoxies. So much of the lecture was memorable and eminently quote-worthy, but I was struck in particular by this paragraph:

Literature deeply matters and I believe literature is in peril because of social censure. If nothing changes, the next generation will read us and wonder, how did they manage to stop being human? How were they so lacking in contradiction and complexity? How did they banish all their shadows?

Those last three “how’s” are sobering to contemplate. Whether it is Florida schools banning the viewing of Renaissance art because it’s “pornographic” or people screaming down author J.K. Rowling for asking uncomfortable questions about how transgender legislation affects women and girls or any of the innumerable other stories where moral stridency seems to trump anything resembling truth, it wouldn’t hurt to think more closely about these “how’s.” Contradiction, complexity, shadows… these are part of the human story. This is who we are and who we’ve always been. And yet, increasingly, we must not say this out loud.

Adichie puts all of this so well, including the effect this discursive climate has on the young:

[T]his moral stridency is in fact, always punitive. We now live in broad settled ideological tribes. We no longer need to have real discussions because our positions are already assumed, based on our tribal affiliation. Our tribes demand from us a devotion to orthodoxy and they abide not reason, but faith. Many young people are growing up in this cauldron afraid to ask questions for fear of asking the wrong questions. And so, they practise an exquisite kind of self-censorship. Even if they believe something to be true or important, they do not say so because they should not say so.

I have friends who teach in post-secondary education. All of them report hearing about this “exquisite kind of self-censorship.” Questions are not asked for fear of the Twitter blow-back (often in real time). Little is said that isn’t guaranteed to be safe and socially approved. Which pretty much guarantees that little that is interesting is said (at least publicly). They do not say so because they should not say so. What a thing to say in a twenty-first century ostensibly liberal democracy.

One more trenchant quote from Adichie:

The culture of social censure today has at its center, a kind of puritanism that expects us to be free of all flaws, like angels, and angels do not need free speech.

This is the point where I could naturally pivot to a reminder that a robust Christian anthropology could be rather useful here. But I’ve probably said enough about that over the years. Suffice to say that I think we are increasingly becoming a culture of warring Puritans (on the left and the right) who will accept nothing less than unambiguous narratives of light darkness and light. Aside from the rather enormous problem of narratives like this rarely being true, I think the implicit demand for them is almost certainly contributing to the sadness of our time.

There’s a quote attributed to the twentieth-century essayist H.L. Mencken: “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Well, you could say that the Puritans are doing their jobs. We need to start telling stories of complexity and contradiction, to not be afraid of the shadows, to refuse to prioritize convenience and comfort over truth. To embrace our humanity rather than pretending we are angels. Who knows, it might just make a dent in the sadness.

37 Comments Post a comment
  1. Elizabeth #

    You always give me cause to think and then some author, song or lecture to look up. Thank you for putting forth ideas and questions that challenge without making me feel imposed upon or fearful.

    March 28, 2023
    • Thanks, Elizabeth. I appreciate this.

      March 29, 2023
  2. Thoughts from under the bridge…

    If we are intent on prioritizing familial relationships with one another, we offer Christ and nothing but Christ. If we are intent on prioritizing political relationships, then we offer tribalism and nothing but tribalism. Operating from a political platform and bemoaning the existance of ideological intransigence and the, “us vs. them” consequences of politics, is a lot like a heroin dealer bitching about a world full of junkies. If people are genuinely concerned with public health, we all need to stop selling what we are selling; hold all things in common and distribute as there is need.

    I don’t advise anyone to bet on this outcome. This truly, “great reset” isn’t going to happen. The reset we will get is the one described by the WEF and the UN 2030 agenda.

    Our, “Babylonian exile” looms on the horizon, while we bicker about pronouns and why a woman can have a penis or a man a vagina.

    This may not be the end of the world but from my vantage point, it certainly looks like the of end of liberal democracy and the beginning of the one world order, totalitarian state. Christ have mercy.

    March 30, 2023
    • Not for the first time, I struggle to understand some of the binaries you construct (familial-good; political-bad). I see reflections like this one as simply one small attempt to be faithful to verses like Jeremiah 29:7:

      Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

      March 30, 2023
      • The binary is meant to underscore the contradiction of this post. If we posit that the problem is a political one, a freedom of speech issue, then it seems hypocritical to complain about people responding to politics, in a political way. Politics is tribalism and does eschew nuance for ideology. If you want people to respond in a more Christ like manor, offer Christ.

        Prayer should take priority over literature. Discerning the will of the Father, priority over the will of the majority. A social contract that embodies love of God, self, neighbour and enemy over one that favours a particular set of citizens. A dustribution of property as there is need and not as there is want.

        In short we should advocate for what the powers of the world will never accept. His Spirit and not theirs, guiding our lives and our societies.

        When I hear encouragements to tell more stories of, “complexity and contradiction” I hear the serpent saying, “God does not want you to eat of that fruit, for it will make you like God”. I hear an appeal to pride, an appeal to human understanding and wisdom. A wisdom that always only inspires some to rebel against their misery and blame the others for their plight.

        Human wisdom seperates us from one another, it is why Satan insists we persue it, apart from God.

        So we seek the things that are of God first. Then we apply our knowledge to His principals. In this way, His will can be done.
        In all we write and share, as faithful believers, we must always prioritize His words and will before our own. It is a humbling task, I am 66 and still get it wrong….but I keep trying. 😀

        I encourage you, Ryan. Use your vast knowledge and prolific writing skills to help us better understand and live out the Gospels. Forget where the churches fail, forget where you fail, point us to glory. You have it in you to do it. 😀

        So I have a request of you lol. How about a new post that is a reflection on Jeremiah 29:7. My guess is that it writes differently from the post that preceded it.

        March 31, 2023
      • In case it isn’t clear, and it rarely is with my writing, lol. The title of the new post should be something like, ” Life with Jesus and the banishing of shadows.”.

        Carry on.

        March 31, 2023
      • Where you see “contradiction,” I see an attempt, however imperfect, to seek the peace of the city in which has placed me. Where you see cowardice or lack of conviction or some other lack of something, I see an attempt to be honest and faithful in the domains God has called me.

        I doubt there is much I can say that will change any of this. We’ve circled these wagons enough times over the years, I suspect.

        March 31, 2023
    • You’re a sensitive guy. You take critque too personally. I can be insensitive, sometimes I make the critique personal…and so it goes…I prefer to think if it as working around a problem and not just circling.

      In Jeremiah I hear an instruction to pray for the city, not necessarily one of direct engagement with the city.

      You are at your best, when you speak from a kingdom perspective, not so much when you speak from the city. There are enough middle aged, white, liberal, wanna be progressive, apologist voices out there. Your voice deserves better company.

      You’re half-way there. If I’m reading you correctly, you’re starting to get annoyed with yourself and some of what you write. That’s good and about time. Your infatuation with secular humanist writing is still holding you back but you’re still young. The delusions of youth persist a long time. Once you look in the mirror and see a sinner in a world made for sin, you’ll be open to learning what you still need to know.

      April 1, 2023
      • You’re mistaking sensitivity for exasperation. To point out that we’ve circled these wagons plenty of times is not taking things personally, it’s pointing out the obvious. We’ve covered this territory plenty of times over the years. I simply think you’re wrong. This is a possibility, yes?

        The Hebrew word translated “seek” in Jeremiah 29 has a range of meanings including, but by no means limited to prayer. It is a word that connotes robust engagement in multiple forms. It is similar to Paul’s approach with the people of Athens in Acts. He paid attention to their culture, noticed their idols, made connections, sought to persuade. This is all part of the task of Christian engagement in the world. I do not and will not apologize for attempting to do the same, nor will I lower myself to the self-congratulatory, performative tribalism that defines our cultural moment.

        You’re welcome to use insulting and condescending language like “infatuation” and “delusions” all you like. It doesn’t change my conviction that the world needs fewer culture warriors and more peacemakers. The kingdom of peace does not come by force, physical or otherwise.

        April 1, 2023
      • Oh yeah and you failed the quiz. The right answer is that there are no shadows where the light of faith is present.

        Till we bleat again.

        April 1, 2023
      • Lol. Sorry about the timing of my last post it wasn’t meant to respond to yours it was meant as an addition to mine.

        April 1, 2023
      • Well we tend to circle for lack of engagement. You’re engaging today, so that’s a start.

        Speaking as one still plagued by youthful dilusion and once smitten by secular humanism my comments were fraternal in nature, not insulting or condescending. Maybe I’m projecting somewhat but I’m being honest with you about what I think about your writing and where it could be improved.

        St. Paul is an interesting case in point. I tend to think his example proves my point better than it does yours. Paul’s sophistry and obsession with language and custom undercut the power of the Gospels, in my opinion. The words of Jesus and the apostles are much more direct and devoid of the intellectual insecurities and justifications that plague, St. Paul’s writing.

        St. Paul probably makes the case that enababled sophisticated minds to accept Christianity and thus influence an affluent social and political class capable of making Christianity mainstream but apart from his great treatise on love, I don’t read a whole lot that inspires worship and fidelity. Words that are simple, powerful, inspiring and true.

        I imagine that it was the relentlessness of his preaching and not the words he used that impacted the average listener. “I could be wrong”.

        As for that ephitat, yeah it would sound about right written on my tombstone and many others, I suspect. I just take it as a matter of fact and don’t think I need to include it with every opinion I hold.

        April 1, 2023
      • Well, I guess if you’re also graciously correcting St. Paul’s theology and methodology, I can at least take comfort that I’m in decent company.

        April 1, 2023
      • Well we tend to circle for lack of engagement. You’re engaging today, so that’s a start.

        Speaking as one still plagued by youthful dilusion and once smitten by secular humanism my comments were fraternal in nature, not insulting or condescending. Maybe I’m projecting somewhat but I’m being honest with you about what I think about your writing and where it could be improved.

        St. Paul is an interesting case in point. I tend to think his example proves my point better than it does yours. Paul’s sophistry and obsession with language and custom undercut the power of the Gospels, in my opinion. The words of Jesus and the apostles are much more direct and devoid of the intellectual insecurities and justifications that plague, St. Paul’s writing.

        St. Paul probably makes the case that enababled sophisticated minds to accept Christianity and thus influence an affluent social and political class capable of making Christianity mainstream but apart from his great treatise on love, I don’t read a whole lot that inspires worship and fidelity. Words that are simple, powerful, inspiring and true.

        I imagine that it was the relentlessness of his preaching and not the words he used that impacted the average listener. “I could be wrong”.

        As for that ephitat, yeah it would sound about right written on my tombstone and many others, I suspect. I just take it as a matter of fact and don’t think I need to include it with every opinion I hold.

        As for the Christian mission, we have only one. To live out the gospels. To be wed to Christ in such a way that our inherent sinfullness does not define us and that by His grace we find the courage to live a life that will always be counter- narrative to whatever time and place we exist in.

        Finally, choosing to forego cultural relevence, is precisely the way by which we can be assured that our actions are not the self congratulative, performative type, we would bother prefer to avoid.

        April 1, 2023
      • Sorry…..both prefer to avoid.

        Finally, finally I want to contend with your statement, “The kingdom of peace does not come by force, physical or otherwise”

        I think you should offer a series of posts on the subject and encourage conversation and the sharing of opinions. If this community, such as it is, is to withstand the tides of war we are presently engulfed in we need to speak about what our resistence needs to look like and how we can support one another during this struggle.

        I ‘ll leave those opinions for another time but will conclude by saying that every great biblical story of redemption comes at a huge price with enormous personal sacrifice required of those who participate. We cannot murder but we should be able to talk about and consider what a righteous self defence includes and if the will is for pacifism, then martyrdom is the only acceptable end game.

        April 1, 2023
      • Gracious is my middle name.

        I like you when you go, “elbows up” into the corner with me. Keeps it real. Lol

        I’m not correcting St. Paul so much as I am stating the obvious. The man turned an intellectually simple and a physically and mentally demanding set of spiritual principals, into a theology.

        Jesus, as a perfect man, shows by example. St. Paul, as an imperfect man tries to make a better argument.

        April 1, 2023
  3. Elizabeth #

    Well since we are being honest here, I find the lunge – parry – riposte of Erahjohn exhausting to read. If he’s not calling you out rudely for your humanitarian stories – then he’s basically calling you a prophet while at the same time writing egocentric comments about band members with hot wives. When you don’t respond to him Ryan – he works himself up in comments – each comment carefully crafted to get under your skin and poke a response out of you.

    Lunge – parry – riposte.

    You are so correct in referring to it as circling wagons. I read the same ole – same ole “you should do this” “you should write that” “the end is near”. One time you outright said No and referenced the contradiction that Erahjohn represents.

    He declared himself your troll when he started a comment from under the bridge. He knows what he is. A clever writer with a talent for debate and contradiction and an occasional name caller.

    I find him confusing at best and a detractor. A bully when he doesn’t get his way.

    I’m exhausted by it all. I come here to learn and be inspired. I sometimes read the books you mention, I watch the videos too. I want more, I want better and I want change. Those things come to me the deeper I worship and fall in love with Christianity. You gently guide me there and I appreciate the kind direction and the open ended questions you present. I agree you are a true leader in your way and suggest you just keep keeping on.

    I’m listening.

    April 1, 2023
    • Elizabeth, why don’t you take an argument I posit and engage with it. Or ignore it. Your choice. You’ve spoken about me twice here, never directly to me and on both occassions have determined that I am a bully, a name caller and egocentric among several other charming attributes. You don’t offer specific examples and the rationale for why you make these charges, you just make them. I suppose your exhaustion reading my efforts is justification enough. Be careful though bullies and trolls come in all different shapes, sizes and genders. I’d hate you to have to third person lecture yourself here, should the need arise.

      I used the term, “from under the bridge” because I honestly don’t take myself as seriously as you might think. I can poke fun at myself and also use the term as general way of making fun of those on line, who defer to calling anyone who disagrees with them, a troll.

      I’m not preturbed that Ryan doesn’t engage with most of what I say. I am generally a contrarian and think challenging narratives is healthy and useful but I would be lying if I didn’t agree that sometimes my objections lack sensitivity and can offend. I don’t seek to offend, I seek to engage in discussion/debate, practice my writing skills, offer a perspective on Christianity around here, that is often maligned and hopefully learn something. It is also true that self righteous offense is epidemic on line and more people need to toughen up if they are truly intent on having a real dialogue over contentious issues.

      Strongly disagreeing with a persons perspective on a given issue is not an indictment of their character and we would all do better to take better care to make the distinction clearer. I just assume the best intentions of others when they disagree with me, I don’t take it personally. I’m also at an age where bullshit prefix like, “I don’t mean to offend but” or a host of other, ” sorry, not sorry” phrases, annoys me more than an occassional unfortunate choice of words. To each…

      Yeah, Sonny Bono had a hot wife. U2 Bono has a hot temper and might be the frontman for the world’s greatest folk band. (That’s assuming Peter, Paul and Mary have retired or are no longer on this side of God’s green earth). The first statement is without made without ego and with respect. The second one is just plain Gospel.

      I do get annoyed when Ryan censors comments, feigns incredulity and pretends that he doesn’t. As I’ve told him before, this is his sandbox, if he doesn’t want me playing in it, all he has to do is say so and block me. I prefer honesty.

      As for your last paragraph It is my favourite. I can be exhausting and believe it or not I too often leave here satisfied and fulfilled….and other times not so much. Lol
      And so it goes.
      After a quick reread try not to take my first paragraph here, too seriously. I’m being ironic and poking fun at you. I’m not offended by you or trying to be offensive. And if I ever do show up at your church some Sunday morning I’m gonna let you buy me that coffee and cookies you keep offering me. 😘

      April 1, 2023
      • These are familiar critiques, predictable insults. We’ve been here before. I will simply repeat two things that I’ve said numerous times over the years:

        1. I do not censor your comments. I have only censored two people in the sixteen year history of this blog. I am of the opinion that sometimes a comment, either by virtue of its content or its tone, is its own best refutation.
        2. You are not owed engagement simply because you post here. I have many things to do in a given week, and I often have neither the time nor the interest to parse your latest set of angry grievances or list of things that you think I should be doing or writing about.

        Neither of these will satisfy you, I know. Carry on.

        April 2, 2023
    • Thank you for this comment, Elizabeth. I share many of your frustrations. It means a lot to know that you find something of value here. This is why I write and it’s gratifying to hear that it connects.

      April 2, 2023
      • You read more anger into my concerns than is there. You always have. When I disagree with you I’m not speaking from a place of anger.

        Your defensiveness annoys me at times and ironicly what I read to be a dismissive and insulting tone. Your statement about comments being their own best refutation, cuts both ways.

        I challange your expressions of faith from time to time. You should be open to the challange. Faith is a serious business. Those who dare to speak should accept that words on the nature and being of God will often illicit a strong response. Sometimes an affirming one, sometimes an unaffirming one and every type of response in between. Words of faith are words of life and death. So excuse me but when I disagree with words of faith, I confront them, I feel compelled. It has never been personal for me, okay brief moments when I find you hyper sensitive to any challenge, avoiding the substance of my concern and then cleverly deflecting in a manner that calls my character into question….yeah that pisses me off..but the moment passes.

        Look at our last exchange. I made a point about the nature of St. Paul’s letters that many before me have made. I gave a brief outline as to why I thought it and was so and was confronted with a response that avoided my concern then questioned and mocked my character. You do that a lot, Ryan. You always seem to make it about, “angry Paul” and “justly offended but tolerant, Ryan”

        So, you write here, speak to serious matters of faith and refuse to engage with a critic. Good for you. So you owe me nothing, ok but what do you owe your audience? What do you owe, a good faith criticism of your work?

        April 2, 2023
      • I would welcome anyone to go through any of our exchanges over the years on this blog and come to their own conclusions about:

        a) who tends to avoid the substance of whose concerns
        b) who tends to mock, deflect, and use a “dismissive and insulting tone”

        I also would welcome anyone to look through how many comments over the years I have devoted to your responses and come to their own conclusions as to whether or not I have “refused to engage” a critic.

        April 2, 2023
  4. Thanks for blocking my last response. Why do you lie?

    April 3, 2023
    • Good grief, Paul. I just did a quick search of your email address in the comment history of this blog and found 632 entries. You have also used more than one username and possibly other email addresses over the years, so there could well be more than this. Does this sound like someone who is interested in blocking and censorship to you?

      As I say in the “On Commenting” section of this blog (which has been unchanged for approximately fifteen years):

      WordPress’s spam settings are not always 100% reliable—if your comment does not appear, drop me an email and I’ll try to fix the problem.

      Sometimes comments get stuck in spam for reasons that I do not understand. I can’t control this. As the volume of spam has increased over the years, I usually just mass-delete it. I am not prepared to go sifting through hundreds of bot-generated advertisements for porn and pharmaceuticals that litter my spam folder for the one occasional legitimate comment that erroneously ends up there.

      I find it very interesting that after reading and commenting here for as long as you have, after having (presumably) some sense of my character and convictions, after referring to me as your “brother in Christ” on numerous occasions, your instinct when you don’t see a comment show up is to accuse me of lying.

      April 3, 2023
      • Brothers can lie to one another. We all have. It is not a betrayal or contradiction of my character to commend some actions and condemn others. We want to get it right when we do either, but I’m sorry this type of response was due me a long time ago and still leaves me less than satisfied, but I will accept it as true. I will take your word for it.

        Many months ago, if not over a year, myself and another spoke to you about comments that didn’t publish. When we both shared this concern publicly on your blog, noting that it was only comments that challenged some of your ideas, that went missing. You were quick to assuage the other commenters concerns…as for me, not so much lol…this has still been happening regularly to me, again only the posts that disagree with you and often ones that give detailed explanations of my position. It doesn’t encourage confidence in you and my belief in your honesty….too much coincidence being no coincidence and all that….Futher it tends to make the comments that do get through blunt and rhetorical. No one wants to spend a significant amount of time crafting their best argument, while also taking pains to always use non judgemental and affirming language, in a virtual world every more obsessed with being inoffensive and politically correct and then see that effort wasted…and so it goes….

        So, “spam, spam, spam, …..spam, bacon, beans, spam, spam……and spam it is then.

        Have a good day, love your neighbour as yourself and try not to tumble dry a cat. As hilarious as that is to watch, it upsets the women folk….how can I trust feminism when an animal that would shred us all to pieces for play, if it could is the preferred partner of most of them, when they could have a charmer like me?

        File under spam.

        April 4, 2023
      • Brothers can lie to one another.

        Yes, I suppose this is true. You’ve just demonstrated it in saying that you will take me at my word re: your comment disappearing, and then devoting the next three paragraphs to outlining all the reasons why actually, you don’t take me at my word at all.

        I doubt anything I say will convince you at this point. That’s fine. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I suppose if 600+ comments over years of interactions (no small number of which, incidentally, were expressing quite sharp disagreement) isn’t enough to convince you that I’m not secretly editing your comments and filtering them out for those sympathetic to my views, then I’m not sure what will.

        Two suggestions I might make:

        1. Write your comments in a Word document or a note or something and the paste them into WordPress. That way, if they don’t show up, you won’t have lost anything and can try again (maybe slip one past me in an unguarded moment).
        2. Use your real name. I have no idea what “erajohn” means but it shares certain stylistic features to some of the names on spam comments.

        Just a few thoughts for you to consider. But if the persecuted unjustly-censored commenter narrative is one that’s scratching an itch for you right now, carry on.

        April 4, 2023
  5. Ok. I’m not trying to lie to you either, I do beieve you, I’m just explaining, in part, why I drew that conclusion and why it is hard for me to believe. I tried to make it humorous in order to alleviate tension, perhaps that made it more offensive to you.

    I do believe you to be a person of good character and intention, through what I have learned about you from your writing, so I can accept and believe you when you say you don’t fully comprehend how the spam filter works. That still leaves me confused by the selective nature of that filter but I believe you. I hope you don’t read this as more condemnation, I’m just being honest with you….

    I worry for the church. I worry that the traditions of faith are being betrayed by the very people who are positioned to protect them. From liberation theology, seeker sensitivity, prosperity gospels and creeping progressivism, I sense a spirit made in the image of people and the institutions they serve but not one made in the Spirit of the Lord I encounter in scripture, worship and prayer.

    So I sometimes shout like a fool….what else would you expect a fool to do. lol

    I persist with you, because I see greatness in you. A prophet even. But I truly believe, as profound as your writing about God’s love and mercy often are, you are failing to confront sin and God’s justice and judgement with similar vigour; similar profundity.

    So I do what I do here, to effect that end.

    Do not listen to Spirits that would lead you to believe that my actions are personal, manipulative, born of ill intent, or reflective of any other negative Spirit you could imagine them to be. They are not.

    But I am a sinner and sometimes despite my best intentions, I sin against you….

    So wash, rinse, repeat and for me, “our odd affair” continues. At the end of the day, I prosper from it.

    If it is truly is burdensome for you and detrimental to what you are trying to cultivate here, just say so. I will try to stop but it is likely better if you were to block me.

    April 5, 2023
    • It’s ironic that you think I don’t speak of sin enough. Some in my church and denomination would likely beg to differ. Some think I speak of it too much.

      April 5, 2023
      • That’s good to know. ❤️ I truly believe, my propensity for cynicism aside, that our priests and pastors sometimes need
        to make us uncomfortable about our sins and our complacancy with regard to our sins.

        Keep up the good work and feel free to kick a little butt over here from time to time. Mine occassionally needs a good hoof from time to time….or so I’ve been told 😜

        April 6, 2023
  6. Well the last one didnt print but this one likely will.

    All the best to you, Ryan. Keep searching.

    April 5, 2023
  7. wesg #

    Thanks, Ryan (for the original post). I see and experience the undercurrent of sadness, but not without hope. I mean, for pastors anyways, it’s already Easter-season simultaneously with Good Friday/Maundy Thursday season.
    I’m not sure that social media slaved to Puritanism can do quite (all) the heavy-lifting you’re suggesting, but I have noticed that chilling of good, diverse dialogue. I appreciate what your thought and engagement.
    I don’t have time/patience for the reading of all the comments. Maybe you or the troll from under the bridge noted this already, but what Adichie implies about good literature certainly applies to the Bible which is largely narrative. And the Hebrew people, being a rather plucky people pretty much only wrote about very flawed people with lots of shadow sides attempting to lead other flawed people. And they did it usually in very spare, efficient language! And, God authorized that telling. It’s dumbfounding that God places humanity (before and after the Fall, before and after Resurrection and Pentecost) so squarely in the middle of the action (whatever your view of free will and God’s foreknowledge) and expects anything good and beautiful of us (I do believe we have some semblance of freedom). And, it’s grace–God’s– that we often don’t disappoint. Blessed be God. I’m sorry about the parentheticals.

    April 5, 2023
    • But if we aren’t offering an unassailable, Jesus Christ to the world, what of any value are we offering that secular humanism can’t make a better and more relatable case for?

      It is precisely because we are not following the single narrative reality of the Gospels that the world struggles with sadness. If those who dare to speak for the Gospels do not affirm this truth, perhaps it’s up to the trolls and others, “under the bridge” to make the case instead. At least there is Gospel precedent in this regard. 😀

      We need to stop seeing symptoms, like social media and calling it disease.

      Historicly the Satanic method of undermining humanity has been to provide toxic versions of single narrative ideologies to displace the one true narrative. Bait and switch.

      As our self appreciation and deceptions evolve so do Satan’s….always ten steps ahead…in my lifetime I have lived and seen the toxicity of relativism and all it’s pathologies, to the point where even obvious truths are dismissed as lies and the defenders of said truth abused and dispised…another Gospel parallel.

      We have reached the point where everything is subjective and only power gets to decide what the subjective, “narrative du jour” will be. As insanely Kafkaesque as the narratives will be, rest assured of one thing, they will always promote power and Satan above all else. For the single narrative that these people believe in, is just that; Satan and power.

      So, spiritually speaking we are to offer nuance, diversity, freedom? A (self) righteous middle ground? A world full of oughts as opposed to a world that is? There is no middle ground that can be advocated for or even defended. It exists only as the space between, the tension between, good and evil. When either good or evil prevails over the other, the illusion of the, “middle ground” disappears also.

      It isn’t for nothing that Jesus tells us that he prefers us hot or cold but if we are lukewarm he will spit us out.

      April 5, 2023
      • Paul, I too, believe in and proclaim the unassailable Jesus Christ.

        April 5, 2023
      • I wasn’t speaking to you, Ryan.

        April 5, 2023
    • Thanks, Wes. Yes, well put:

      What Adichie implies about good literature certainly applies to the Bible…

      I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but you’re of course right. I was talking about this with the guys at the jail just a few days ago. The bible has no squeaky clean characters. It’s a story full of precisely the contradiction and complexity that Adichie speaks of. God primarily works in and through human beings, not angels, it seems.

      April 5, 2023
  8. On reflection, after some research, Adichie and political activists like her, represent the crux of our disagreements, as I see it. I honestly see the foundational priincipals and methodologies of the “progressive” expressions of identity politics, diversity, equity, feminism, gender ideology and sexual orientation, as anti ethical to the gospels of Jesus Christ.

    I hope you can find the time, after the Easter season to engage me in this discussion. I think it has been our inability to fully explain, understand, acknowledge or empathize with our different opinions on this subject, that leads to the mistrust and enmity that at times exists between us.

    My prayer is for a blessed Easter, for you and your family, Ryan.

    His peace be with you.

    April 7, 2023
    • I’m not sure what there would be to be gained by this, to be honest. I suspect any further engagement on this topic would likely yield the conclusion that I am “too nuanced,” not courageous enough to say the things that you think need to be said, not willing enough to wade into the culture wars, not eager enough to line up on the right side of the battle and go to war. As I’ve said, we’ve been down these roads many, many times before.

      I hope you had a blessed Easter weekend as well.

      April 10, 2023

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