What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?

Today is Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus’ final ministry, the Last Supper, His passion, crucifixion, and Resurrection. 

It also kicks off the season of “Muslims bombing churches in the Middle East,” but I digress. 

Maybe I should write about this instead of my intended topic–after all, we’re suddenly beating the war drums over Syria because the President was supposedly swayed by his daughter’s heartbreak over the latest gas attack. What about this? This, also, has been going on for years. Is it the type of weapon deployed that makes the difference here?

Yeah, I’m heated. 

But this does tie into what I wanted to write about in a way. 

According to Matthew, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people spread palms and their garments on the ground as though he were their king, the children in the Temple cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David!”

Indignant, the chief priests and scribes asked Christ if He heard, and to which He responded,

“[H]ave you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, you have brought perfect praise’?”

This has entered the culture as the saying, “From the mouth of babes,” denoting that children have some kind of wisdom to offer. 

So what gives? What does this mean? When do we listen to children? Even adult ones? Continue reading “What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?”

Heart and Treasure

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:21

Financial discipline has always been a little bit of a problem with me. Not that I’m delinquent on any bills–I have never missed one in my life, whether it be rent, mortgage, car, utility, Internet, credit card, insurance–but I don’t really save.
I also ran into some tough times of joblessness, and took time during one bout of joblessness to go back to school. And how does one fund this, even with a wonderful wife who works very hard?

Why, by selling personal possessions, using savings, and going into debt.

What kind of debt? Credit card debt.

Now, this credit card saved me a few times, and as I said I have never missed a payment. It’s just been difficult to pay off the whole thing, even though I (a) use it for staples like things my son needs, gas, food, clothes, (b) use it for situational things that come up (birthday or other gifts for family, medical bills, car repair), and (c) pay more than the minimum due every single month.

But I am yet to get it down to zero.

Just as a way of background, in my previous job-search blog, lost unfortunately to the sands of time, I wrote about this issue a little over a year ago when I had just started this current job. I had saved some of my posts in Word format, so they aren’t totally lost in the ashes of an inadvertently deleted WordPress blog:

Regarding food, let’s just say that it’s been a little tough, given my penchant for the stuff, but it’ll be good seeing as how I really would like to lose a stubborn 20 or so pounds I put on since I last shed a whole bunch of weight. I figure $150 should keep me going for a month, provided that I don’t eat out too much, buy coffee outside of the house, lay off of the alcohol and the cigars, and generally spend frugally

*     *     *

All told, I’m doing alright so far. Food-wise, I’ve been portioning everything out and meal-planning well in advance. Here’s what I did: I bought a three-pack of pork chops, a four pack of chicken breast, two cucumbers, six tomatoes, a bag of onions, a little garlic, three bags of frozen vegetables, a rotisserie chicken, salt, pepper, lemon pepper, four cans of tuna fish, four boxes of soup, a dozen eggs, a bag of apples, a half-gallon of milk, a half-gallon of orange juice, a box of cereal, and a huge can of coffee. Most, if not all, of this was store brand, and good Lord is the price difference shocking! And guess what? There is barely a perceptible difference in taste. I swear I saved over thirty bucks just by buying generics.

So I hard-boiled the eggs to have for breakfast, ate half of the rotisserie chicken that day, the other half the next, grilled three pork chops with onions and steamed the broccoli which, so far, has lasted me two days and will suffice again for dinner tomorrow. I’ve also been portioning out my salad because, come on! Greek boy’s gotta have his salad. And then an apple serves as desert. A little Spartan, yes, but I have family from there and I need to be as frugal as possible. I’m trying really hard to turn over a new leaf now that I have a job that pays MORE than I could have gotten right out of undergrad, pay down my debts, and save. The idea isn’t to just save a nickel, it’s to make a buck while saving a nickel!

As you can see, this has been a concern of mine for a while. Continue reading “Heart and Treasure”

“Be Nice . . . Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”: Surviving in the World with your Principles Intact

By nature, I am slow to anger and quick to forgive. This might make me a good Christian and a rather pleasant guy to be around, but in any kind of conflict or war I know I would be a liability–a good man but not good at being a man, as Jack Donovan would say.

The thing is, I do think we are in a war. Emotionally, I do you logically, spiritually, and increasing the physically, it is a reality, both at the national and international levels.

At least here in America, we are more divided than ever. I have tried, but I am sick of trying, to demonstrate to people that I do not hate them. Some people are going to hate you no matter what. How you deal with them is still a mystery to me, although I have my ideas.

Anyway, it seems that a sad fact of life that you were decency will always be used against you. Always.

I don’t think this used to be the case here in the United States. Cynicism is a very un-American trait, but I think we as a nation could afford to be more open, honest, and trusting if there were higher levels of trust and more social cohesion. Now, for a variety of reasons, society is breaking down. We are witnessing it in real time.

Paeans for unity are meaningless, because lots of the people who make them really want division, anger, and distrust. If there was actually unity, these people would be out of a job.

So is the only way to survive to be cynical? Distrusting?

I have a problem with this because this is not my nature. Both as an American and a Christian, I’d prefer to be decent and to treat others the way I would wish to be treated. However, given the hatred that I see and receive, I feel my basic outlook changing and I don’t necessarily like it.

With these thoughts bouncing around my head, I recently completed a two-day negotiation training course for work. In it, I had a little bit of an “Ah-ha!” moment when, in discussing game theory, I learned about Robert Axelrod‘s negotiation strategy.

How did something from the world of mediation and negotiation help with this internal dilemma? Let me explain. Continue reading ““Be Nice . . . Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”: Surviving in the World with your Principles Intact”

Religion versus Human Nature

hand of god

I saw an interesting tweet the other day. I’m paraphrasing, but it said something to the effect that Christianity is flawed because it holds that humanity is flawed. Therefore, any belief system that holds this flawed nature of humanity as a fundamental principle is destined to fail.

I reject this sentiment wholeheartedly. Hold on; there’s a lot to unpack here.

First, this sentiment logically implies that, if Christianity is flawed for this reason, so should the other two well-known Abrahamic faiths, as at least one of them is based on the same creation story. Second, I have to wonder about any religion that does posit humanity as perfect and complete. Even the pagans praying to rocks or whatever were seeking some kind of help that they couldn’t get on their own.

I’ve already discussed how Christianity is different from paganism, as Christians don’t pray to God to persuade him to do stuff for us. But that’s not the important question. What I’m thinking about is the fundamental nature of human beings.

If you ask me, any religion that doesn’t recognize the flawed nature of humanity is not worth your time. Continue reading “Religion versus Human Nature”

The Dry Spirit

The hardest part about being a Christian in the United States is the fact that events seem designed to throw into the pits of despair and hopelessness.

Yet we have a duty to be happy. To be cheerful. To be a shining light. 

Why? Isn’t Christianity a personal thing?

Yes and no. What is inside our souls is important, of course. But we also have an obligation to spread cheer and light and hope. 

Would things be easier if all of us, if not actually Christian, at least acted like Christ?

Absolutely.  Continue reading “The Dry Spirit”

Hatred and Revenge

Hate fist

Must we hate?

If it’s our obligation to fight for what we believe in–to fight for what is right–how are we supposed to drum up the passion? Isn’t hate the best way to do this?

Fighting is by definition nasty. But there comes a point in everyone’s life where they have to do it. So you’d better fight to win.

What does this matter? You’re never going to change most people’s minds, right?

True. But consider:

  1. You might be able to change some people’s minds; and
  2. You still have to live with people whom you disagree with, and real-estate is limited.

Familiarity and proximity breed contempt, and fighting is inevitable. Fighting, by definition, is nasty, but if you’re going to do it, you’d better fight to win.

Fighting is a necessary evil, and when engaging in a necessary evil, it needs to be mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

But there is danger in assuming malice and evil on the part of your opponents. If you view opponents as subhuman, you’ll do anything to them. Anything.

Hanlon’s razor is the name of this philosophical tenet: You shouldn’t assume malice when carelessness or stupidity will suffice as explanations.

I take that a little further. Most people believe that they are doing good when they fight for something or hold a particular position. Doing good is a much more sustainable motivation for most people than hatred and anger.

The trick comes, however, when the results of one’s positions are verifiably proven to be harmful. At that point, continuing to push for them may very well be the result of malice.

The trick has to be to fight for and against ideologies, not people.

On Fighting In General

For Christians like me, this might be a conundrum. The natural impulse–the natural necessity–to fight, to stick up for ourselves, is in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ.

Or is it?

As Jason Berggren puts it using the story of the adultress as an example, Jesus was the most judgmental person ever:

[T]he religious people in a specific town tried to entrap Jesus so they could find a reason to kill him. What they did was trick a woman into commit adultery, caught her in the act, and brought her to the town square to stone her (of course, the first question is, where was the guy?). In his brilliance, Jesus answers the religious people with, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” With that, they all dropped their rocks and split.

But did you know Jesus judged the woman after all that? That’s right. The last words Jesus said to her was, “Go and sin no more.”

This shows that He did stand up and fight back, or be willing to fight back, too. And turning the other cheek was a prohibition against personal revenge, not a call for meek submission in the face of all aggression.

Love the sinner, hate the sin, right?

There’s also that little bit about vengeance being God’s domain and no one else’s.

So the problem isn’t fighting per se–just war theory, after all, was taught by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The issue is with hate. Whether it’s war or politics, I argue that hatred, though a natural human inclination, is counterproductive.

In art, it’s a different story. Sometimes hatred can produce fantastic art (Pink Floyd’s late-1970s catalog is proof of this, as is most of Nine Inch Nails’ recorded output). But life is different.

I think most problems occur when we have malice in our heart. Continue reading “Hatred and Revenge”