Social Entropy, Easter, and a Really Big Toilet

Everyone has an opinion, on that one point, I think we have to agree. Maybe not on anything else, but on that at least. Whether you want it or not, I’m going to give you mine. If you don’t agree with me, that’s ok. My mind is all over the place today, and in sitting here thinking about the state of the world, for some reason I remembered a concept we studied in a sociology class back in the 90’s, during my first try at college.

Social Entropy. Wikipedia explains it like this (since I don’t have my ancient textbook anymore):

“Social entropy is a macro-sociological systems theory. It is a measure of the natural decay within a social system. It can refer to the decomposition of social structure or of the disappearance of social distinctions. Much of the energy consumed by a social organization is spent to maintain its structure, counteracting social entropy, e.g., through legal institutions, education and even the promotion of television viewing. Anomie is the maximum state of social entropy. Social entropy implies the tendency of social networks and society in general to break down over time, moving from cooperation and advancement towards conflict and chaos.”

I think that explanation tells us what’s going on, but in my opinion, it doesn’t offer any real answers as to why. That’s where my opinion comes in.

To my way of thinking, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that the social structure and social distinction of country—our culture, too—is devolving, to put it politely. Going into the toilet, to paint another picture.

I think we’ve gotten to the point as a culture where only one set of mores are permitted by a large and “new-fashioned” group of people within our society, those being more aligned with moral relativism than morals. People seem to think now that morals are little more than pictures on walls. I think this is a load of crap, and I will tell you why.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are moral absolutes. If there weren’t, people would go around doing whatever they want, because they believe it to be the right thing for them, no matter what the cost. There’s no God, and thus no consequences for actions, because everything is permitted when nothing is bad or wrong.

What’s that? There are some things that are wrong?

Where do moral absolutes come from if there is no God? Certainly, there are those absolutes dictated by law. Killing people is bad. Stealing is bad. Keeping a dude in a leather suit locked in a treasure chest? Yep, wrong.

But why? Where do the legal standards come from?

In my opinion, from moral ones. There are things we just know to be wrong. I believe we are all hard-wired to make decent moral decisions. That’s how we were made. We come pre-bundled with the ability to choose good over bad.

Right over wrong.

But how? How is that possible? Is it something we’ve evolved into? How did we go from being banana-stealing, inbred, low-level primates into higher thinking primates who know right from wrong instinctively?

Here is my point, and you can take what you want from it, or leave it entirely.

We were made by a creator, and we were endowed with knowledge of a few things by that creator. How to behave in public and in private. How to treat people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It isn’t right to take things from people just because we want them, including their lives.

Things like that, and many others.

With those endowments also came rudimentary knowledge of that creator. He made us. He wants us. He loves us. All of us (Before I go further, that really does mean all of us. Even those who don’t recognize the truth because they’re too busy trying to figure out how to clear out their ears from the big bang).

We are made to know our creator. We are made to know God, and love him. The world, of course, is the other part of God’s creation. And everything in it.

Where does social entropy come in? Glad you asked.

I think we were made to live together in community. We were created to worship together. To grow together in our knowledge of our maker, until the day we meet him face-to-face.

I think our journey toward social entropy and our metaphorical toilet began when we stopped recognizing that simple fact. We grew apart as a people. It happened slowly, and nobody noticed what was going on.

Now, we are a world full of people who don’t know each other, don’t love each other in every way that counts, and certainly don’t want to help each other. That sucks, but it’s what happened.

If we hear something we think will make ourselves better or easier, many times we will just do it, especially if it feels good.

In spite of the consequences, both legal and moral.

In spite of the inarguable fact that everyone doing what’s best for ourselves as we see it pulls us apart as a people, a culture, and a world.

In the words of the group Helloween, “we are credulous idiots.”

We are gullible, to be sure. But we are hard-wired for truth. We just have to be willing to receive it.

What’s that? Believing in God is also subject to credulity?

Nonsense.

Speaking for myself, belief in God, in Jesus, and in the Resurrection is the truth I came to that saved my life.

It gave me the ability to recognize the lies piled around me that obscured the truth.

God didn’t create evil, he created people, and gave them the ability to choose him, and recognize him for who and what he was.

Their freedom to choose him over themselves was also given. To choose absolute good over evil is also ours.

Sometimes—often—we make the wrong choices, both on a macro and micro level.

I also don’t feel like all the horrible things that happen on a global level disprove the existence of God. For me, those events are sort of an…alarm clock much of the time, both socially and spiritually. They remind us the world is finite, just as we are.

They remind us we have to make a choice as well.

The world is circling the drain—the toilet bowl, if you will—because so many of us stopped recognizing we aren’t in this life alone.

We don’t have to wonder how to live.

We don’t have to wonder why we are here.

We stopped believing there was a guiding light. We stopped recognizing there was truth.

We elevated ourselves to pedestal status.

We worship false gods, and real idols.

We forgot about God because when we remember we want to live differently.

That’s hard.

So we run away from God, and each other.

In our towns, cities, states, and countries.

Sometimes within our homes.

And a house divided against itself cannot stand.

A world divided against itself cannot stand.

Humanity divided against itself cannot stand.

We don’t realize that anymore.

And we’re falling apart.

We live social entropy.

But I have Good News.

There’s hope for the world.

There’s hope for us.

That’s because of what this coming weekend entails.

Our hope lies in the able hands of a carpenter, and in his death, burial, and resurrection.

But he’s more than a carpenter, to quote writer Josh McDowell.

He’s a savior, a redeemer.

He has good works for you to do.

His name is Jesus, and he’s waiting for you to call out to him.

Your life doesn’t have to be about entropy, social or otherwise.

Choose him, not the world.

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When is Enough Enough?

I don’t always agree with the things said by Glenn Beck, but this seemed an apt enough way to describe those crazy kids of the Islamic State, especially after their latest adventure:

“It is time to wake up. This is the enemy of all mankind. Make no mistake, this is a global jihad and it has everything to do with “their” religion and their fundamental interpretation of the Koran.

Jews, gentiles, straight, gay, black, white, western, eastern, atheist, Christian or Muslim — it is time you recognize what you are up against, look it square in the eye and call it by its name: evil and a plague on mankind”

Burning a man alive–a fellow Muslim, I might add–in a cage is brutality of a level not easy to comprehend. I have heard people say IS is no different than any other persecution done in the name of a god. Often, the crusades are mentioned as a way to take Christianity to the same level as ISIS.

Not possible, I don’t think. And one big reason why is THEY’RE DOING IT RIGHT NOW. The Crusades happened nearly a thousand years ago. IS is employing every means at their disposal to get their message out–their comprehension and use of “Western” media outlets is extraordinary.

But it doesn’t legitimize their cause, or their desire for an Islamic caliphate. Sure, the methodology of the Islamic State is not representative of all Islam. They are radicals, without a doubt. Yet I would submit to you that “mainstream” Islam needs to not only issue strongly worded statements, but take strong action against these folks.

I’ve read recently that people are criticizing Chris Kyle for referring to insurgents as “savages,” but I would say to you that if anyone at all is deserving of that label, it is the members of IS.

Savages.

And the enemy of all mankind.

This is probably going to get a lot worse before anything changes. I don’t know what the answer is, but I am fairly certain it will involve the use of many different projectiles and combustive materials.

I think in this instance, force will need to be applied until there is no more resistance. Problem is, the specifics of this are difficult. How to distinguish one group of people who hate Westerners from another. Perhaps the answer lies in those people of Islam who do not wish to be lumped in with these beasts.

Words are not enough. There needs to be action as well, because talk is very cheap.

Think of me what you will. Yes, in this matter I am decidedly conservative. Perhaps even right wing.

I’m just not interested in turning the other cheek anymore in the sense that pretending the upscaling savagery of these people’s demonstrations of hate and evil are anything but that.

Evil.

The religion of peace, in my opinion, needs to crap or get off the pot. These IS folks need to be destroyed. It’s what they understand.

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ALL Who Are Weary

My older son hates getting ready for church. Not going to church, or being at church. Getting ready. So much so that occasionally he will throw a giant fit because he doesn’t understand why he needs to get dressed up.

This morning I woke up at 0500 for some reason, and I looked at my phone, of course, because that’s what you do when you wake up. One of my sisters had posted the David Crowder song “Come as You Are” to me on Facebook and mentioned the song being beautiful.

She was right. It is.

That got me thinking about the Gospel, and more importantly, Jesus.

Come as you are.

I think the most beautiful truth about Jesus (in my opinion) that can be found in scripture is that of Matthew 11: 27-28

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In that passage, Jesus doesn’t make any qualifying statements about when you should come.

He doesn’t mention knotting your tie, or wearing a collar.

He doesn’t say anything about being ready, or in the right mindset.

He doesn’t even say you have to believe.

He says come to me, all you who are weary and burdened.

I will give you rest.

In my heart, he sounds something like this:

come to me with your doubt. Come with your loneliness and addiction. Come standing in that sin you just can’t seem to shake. Come mired in the filth of the world with your guilt about all the awful things you’ve done and seen hanging around your neck.

Come to me hurting. Come to me with your wounds still bleeding. With missing limbs. With that chasm down the middle of you that only I can fill. You don’t have to be ready.

Just come as you are.

As the year ends, have you been thinking about what’s missing?

Why 2014 blew so hard you don’t even want to know what 2015 will be like?

If I never write another word, or say another word, I think I would say this to you now.

Consider Jesus.

God.

Consider finding rest for your souls.

You may think Christians are full of shit, and many of them are.

Christ isn’t, I promise you.

You may think your life is too messy, that what you’ve done is too terrible for forgiveness.

It isn’t.

Consider Jesus.

Maybe you’re wondering about God, and yourself, and wondering what to do next.

Consider Jesus. Find a bible. You can get them free in the Kindle store if you have a smart phone.

Talk to someone.

Listen, folks. Maybe some of you will happen across this post and wonder who in the blue hell I am to tell you to do anything?

I’m no one special. I’m a man, like every other man. I’m a person just like you.

I doubt sometimes. I hurt and have been hurt. I am far from perfect. I lust. I hate. I mess up all the time.

But in March of 2000, I was able to literally lay my burdens down and it felt wonderful.

If you want to know more about it, scroll through my blog, or ask me in the comments.

If there’s anything you want to know about Jesus and how to know him from a regular person, I would be happy to answer any question I can without judgment.

If you don’t want to comment here, you can look me up on Facebook and message me. My name is on my blog page.

Talk to someone. Talk to God.

Come as you are.

Don’t wait.

Crooked Face Dad

I hate that at my advanced and decrepit age, I both need and crave reassurance of things, but lately I’ve certainly felt that way. More so than in a long time.

The Bell’s Palsy has really sort of made things difficult. The left side of my face is stone paralyzed, including my eye, which I have to tape shut much of the time. The resulting dryness has made it more susceptible to injury, which has already happened once and was incredibly painful.

Can’t drive, so I haven’t been able to work. All of that is bad, and a real pain in the butt. The house is decorated for Christmas and I haven’t felt like enjoying it. The worst part for me has been the inability to kiss my wife and kids.

So I have been getting really good at feeling sorry for myself.

Then a couple things happened yesterday. My younger son and I were sitting around and he said “will you play with me?”

I was about to say I didn’t feel well, and then I thought of a movie line from somewhere (of course). You’ve only got one life to live. You can make it chicken salad, or chicken shit.

Yesterday I made chicken salad. We played cars, and scooters, and ate peanut butter sandwiches. We got mom a Christmas present (I made all right turns going to the store), and when we were done, my little guy kissed me smack on my twisted lips and said “I yuv you crooked face, dad.”

Jen came home and did the same thing. I guess sometimes a kiss is a kiss. It’s the heart behind it, not the lips in front of it.

It’s going to be a good day.

Black People, White People, and Deuteronomy

I saw a YouTube video today from a man—a black man—regarding the “situation” in Missouri following the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. He made the video back in August, but I think it applies even more now, following the madness of the past two nights. Here’s the video, if you’d like to see it.

I think he’s got some really great points, and though his video is made with African-American people in mind, I think we can all (yes, white people, too) glean some wisdom from it. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.

You say you want change? Then change!

Deuteronomy 2:3 is mentioned, and I don’t think I’d ever heard that applied to this kind of strife before. It’s perfect. It doesn’t allow for apportioning blame. It just speaks the truth.

Haven’t we gone ‘round this mountain long enough? Turn north!

If you want things to change, change yourself! You need to. I need to. I want to be able to raise my kids and know I’ve done all I can to show them that people should be judged by the “content of their character,” not pigment.

That goes “both,” actually “all” ways.

We are all very different in the way we feel things.

Different in the way we react to things.

Different in our opinions.

Different in our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families.

But we are also all the same.

We can’t do it on our own. We are not made to be alone, or go through things alone. We were created to be in community with one another.

It isn’t impossible.

But we have to change to make it happen.

Haven’t we gone ‘round this mountain long enough?

Let’s turn North.

Better Questions

I read online today that Tim Cook—CEO of Apple since Steve Jobs passed away—came out as being gay recently. He said something to effect of he was “proud to be gay.”

Good for him. Even with today’s much more relaxed morality and tolerance for most things and lifestyles, that’s still a pretty ballsy move. Privately, people already knew, but being publicly anything is always a big step.

It made me think, though, and some questions came to mind:

Why does it seem the arbiters of political correctness in this day and age only allow people belonging to one minority group or another to be proud of it?

Proud to be gay, or African-American, or Green Party, or Latino, or whatever it happens to be rather than the majority.

So if a person can be proud to be in the minority—any minority—is the converse also true? Must someone else be ashamed to be a majority?

In other words, should I feel as if I cannot be proud to be who I am if that someone happens to be caucasian, middle-class, straight, and Christian?

I don’t know.

It seems like whenever someone comes out as any of those things, or espouses any of the views that seem to go along with membership in any of those groups, there are some who will automatically assume that means they’re hiding a noose under the white bedsheet they’re wearing.

The words “hate speech” have become so ubiquitous they’ve lost all their power.

For my own part, I am caucasian. I am male. I am straight. I am a Christian. Does that mean I am particularly proud of myself for being any of those things? I don’t know that it does, because to my way of thinking, that is just part of who I am, and whether or not I admit it is secondary to the truth I already know, which is that with God came awareness of my identity.

Pride doesn’t really fit with that.

While humility is something any human being probably struggles with, I guess I would say the parts of myself I am proud of are the things I worked at, rather than the things I can’t help being.

I am proud to be a college graduate, even if it took me until middle age. It was hard, and expensive, and I struggled at it. It doesn’t mean I have animosity toward anyone without a degree. It just means I worked my ass off to get mine.

I am proud to be the husband of my wife, and the father of my children. Marriage and parenthood are a grand freaking struggle sometimes, but I have never given up and I never will. It doesn’t mean I hate single people. It just means I love my family—who would not be in my life without God.

I am proud to be an American, because even with the struggles our country goes through on a daily basis—and we all know what they are—the fact that our country remains in the face of all the assaults crashing on her, the freedoms our citizens are allowed are pretty extraordinary. You can fly your flag upside-down, or even burn it. The constitution protects you.

Am I proud of my faith? That’s actually hard to answer. Not because I don’t have it, or because I question it, but because my faith is grounded in humility, and service. Not being served. I guess what I am proud of regarding faith is that he chose me. Who would choose me? I wouldn’t. I would pick my frail and self-serving ass dead freaking last, if at all. While there is some pride there, I am also daily humbled by my savior.

Yet.

I am proud to be chosen, and to have my name written in the book of life. I’m proud I was chosen to share that with people. These are my convictions, and I am certainly not saying I expect yours to be the same. Please do me the same courtesy. In Much Ado About Nothing, the character John the Bastard says something to the effect of “Let me be as I am, and seek not to alter me.”

It doesn’t matter that I’m white, or straight, or any of those other things. While membership in those categories doesn’t necessarily mean I should be proud of them, I also don’t need to be ashamed. Yet political correctness seems to demand I hang my head because of something I had no part in determining. So if you don’t want me to try and alter you, let me be as I am. We need to respect each other more than we do. And it goes “both” ways. All ways.

Yet.

If I cannot or should not be proud of being things I can’t help but be, then why is it different to be proud of different skin tone, or language, or which gender I feel called to be with sexually?

It may not be intentional, but it is without question a double standard. And it confuses me.

Oddly, just now I thought of this:

Earlier in the movie, Eminem loses a battle when he chokes out after being mocked and ridiculed by his opponent for a handful or inarguable truths his opponent throws up in his face to embarrass and humiliate him. It works. In the above scene, he does a couple of different things. One, he grows a thicker skin. Two, he realizes if he admits that which he knows to be true about himself, he takes away the power of that truth to hurt him. Also, he finds out some truth about his opponent which causes him to choke.

My point?

Maybe, if we all were just able to be truthful and open about who we are, opposing words would lose the power to hurt us?

I don’t know. I’m just a white, straight, bald, semi-conservative male who likes show tunes AND heavy metal. I’m a big ball of confusion.

And I have better questions than I have answers. So maybe we can figure this out together.

It’s the Great Comforter, Charlie Brown

Quite a few years ago, my friend Ken’s brother Ryan and his fiancé were driving to see Ryan and Ken’s dad at his Walter’s Camp cabin. The plans were to stay for the weekend, I believe. In the back of Ryan’s pickup was a 12 pack of Corona and their gear. On the way to the river, the pickup sideswiped another vehicle—a tractor/trailer—and Ryan was killed, almost instantly. His fiancé had quite a few cuts and bruises, but ended up mostly OK.

Ryan wasn’t drunk or on any drugs. Best guess is that he fell asleep at the wheel. In any case, he didn’t make it.

I remember there was a public funeral at some Unitarian Universalist church in El Cajon, and it was about what you would expect. Non-religious, lots of people crying, and a nice picture at the front of the church. Afterward was a reception, with even more tears and a few speeches.

Shortly after that, there was a much smaller gathering at the Walter’s Camp cabin, and I was a part of that. I remember we all had one of the Coronas which had remained completely intact in the back of Ryan’s truck, and toasted his memory. The next day Ryan’s dad attached a small, brown paper-wrapped package filled with Ryan’s ashes to a few very large balloons, with Ryan and his fiance’s wedding rings tied to the balloon strings. The object was for the balloons to be launched from a bridge over the river, and gradually drift down toward the water. The package would dissolve, and the balloons would rise to the heavens, carrying the couple’s rings.

It worked exactly as planned.

I remember standing on that bridge, and everyone was a wreck—though I was mostly able to keep it together. I placed my hand on the back of Ryan’s best friend’s neck as he knelt on the bridge crying and said anything I could think of to comfort him, praying silently for peace to come to these people.

We headed back to San Diego a little later that afternoon, and I never saw any of those people again. I don’t know if peace came to them, but I know those couple of days at Walter’s Camp made me heavily consider my own mortality. At the time, I also carried a lot of unresolved grief within my heart, and sometimes it was as bitter as bile, other times I was simply…stuck. In my grief, in my life. Stuck.

I would sit at home sometimes, or at work, and it would occur to me that for some, peace doesn’t come. At least not when you want it to, or the way you want it to. Sometimes, God doesn’t lift the burden right away. You get through things, and afterward you can’t remember how you did it, but you survive.

That was me. I realized it was mostly my own doing, but that didn’t change the way I felt.

I would think about my own experience—my many experiences—with death and grieving, and I would wonder why it had to happen that way? Hadn’t I tried to be the best person I could? I loved my parents, and they were gone. I loved my friend, and he was gone. He gave his life to a bullet, within shouting distance of my bedroom window on the day before the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded.

I didn’t really understand then—nor do I now—why endurance of those deaths was required of me. I trust God today that one day I will understand why those things happened. I don’t know how long that will take.

Maybe for me it’s like the refining process for gold. Heat is applied to the gold, and it melts. Impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off. The gold is cooled. More heat, more impurities, more skimming. Eventually, the gold is pure and valuable.

Perhaps I needed to be refined somehow. Perhaps we all do.

I just wish I hadn’t held onto my grief for so long. That was a mistake I didn’t really know how to correct at the time. I can tell you when things finally got to the point where I let go of them, though.

March, 2007. Canyon View Christian Fellowship.

Many years after everything went down, including those four deaths—five, if you include Tim Wakefield, which I completely should have. He died in 2000.

That day in March, my friend Ron came up to where I was sitting just before the service started, and said he was going to sit with me if that was ok. It was.

I had been a believer for about seven years at that point, but I never had given my grief to God, and that day it was heavy on my heart. Pastor Mike had given a bit of testimony just before Easter, regarding the death of his own mother. It hit me so hard I was nearly shaking. I made it through the sermon, but at the end I knew I was in trouble if I didn’t get out fast when church was over.

Without saying goodbye to Ron, I made tracks for the door. I stopped at the door like I’d hit a brick wall. I knew—somehow I knew—that today was supposed to be the day. I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want to grieve. I didn’t want to think about things, or remember.

Yet I knew that my grief had been a slow poison to my life over the years and miles and so many tears since those deaths happened. It was a weight around my neck. It was so damn heavy.

I went back to where Ron was still sitting, and I asked him to pray for me. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember he prayed for me with his arms around my neck, and his face right next to my ear.

That morning, in the third row of the CVCF sanctuary following the 9am service, I finally handed 20 years of accumulated grief to my God. I grieved my mom, and dad, and my friend. I grieved for Tim, and even Ryan. I think I was still puffy eyed when the next service began, and I sat through that one, too. I was surrounded by members of my small group, and I leaned on them. It was good.

If I learned one thing over the years since, it’s that holding onto things really doesn’t help. It may delay your pain, but it doesn’t heal it. Acknowledging your pain does, when it is done before God.

Sometimes the comfort doesn’t come right away. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it comes when you least expect it, through the comfort of a good friend and whispered prayers. It can be a long and intricate process—it’s like that for me.

Grief can also sometimes be like a broken windshield. It starts with a speck–a chip in the glass. If it isn’t repaired, it begins to gradually creep out over the rest of the windshield, like a spider web of pain—with offshoots in many directions. Sometimes I see or feel things I haven’t thought of in years, and it triggers those old feelings. It’s easier, now. I have God to remind me he will carry them for me. I have my wife, who knows how to love. I have my kids, who lift my spirits when they get heavy.

The hands of God can feel like a strong grip, and also a gossamer touch. Often, you feel them through proxy. It’s always been that way for me. Yet comfort is comfort, and pain can be assuaged in so many different ways. Remember, one of His many names is Comforter.

Surrender. Give him your grief. Drop that burden at His feet. Be refined. It can be a lifelong process, but it’s worth it.

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