Restoring the Ruins

“‘The West’ . . . was born from the telling of one sacred story — a garden, an apple, a fall, a redemption — which shaped every aspect of life: the organisation of the working week; the cycle of annual feast and rest days; the payment of taxes; the moral duties of individuals; the attitude to neighbours and strangers; the obligations of charity; the structure of families; and most of all, the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.

The West, in short, was Christendom. But Christendom died. If you live in the West now, you are living among its ruins. Many of them are still beautiful — intact cathedrals, Bach concertos — but they are ruins nonetheless. And when an old culture built around a sacred order dies, there will be lasting upheaval at every level of society, from the level of politics to the level of the soul. The shape of everything — family, work, moral attitudes, the very existence of morals at all, notions of good and evil, sexual mores, perspectives on everything from money to rest to work to nature to the body to kin to duty — all of it will be up for grabs. Welcome to 2021.” Paul Kingsnorth~

It might be hard to find a portion of work that better sums up our part of the world at this place in time than the above two paragraphs. Kingsnorth hits a bullseye as he sums up what the West was, and what we are today.

We wonder how we got here, how we got here so fast, but the decline was subtle and slow. From my childhood, I remember dressing a certain way for church or school, having no trouble finding movies that reinforced the ideas of good and evil, watching evening newscasts that rejected ugly, slanted, or illogical discourse, hearing political commentary capable of reaching an audience of broad perspectives. Our milk cartons advised us to attend our church or synagogue this weekend.

We point to moments. It was that election. It was this event. But the starting point of decline is impossible to pinpoint. History moves from moment to moment as we plan what’s for dinner, what to do on Saturday evening, and where to go on vacation next summer.

Yet, here we are among the ruins of our previously Christian culture.

Where to begin to rebuild?

We begin by feeding souls.

The Gospel is the obvious place to start. But the foundations that once helped Americans easily comprehend God’s truth have crumbled away. That bridge needs rebuilding, restoring.

To begin that rebuilding, churches and individuals can help families, single parents, kids struggling to find their way, perhaps with no one showing them a functional way forward.

That way requires some training–us showing others how to do things. I don’t mean an education that leads to specific employment later on. But learning leading to a satisfying life of doing, of action.

Cultivating relationships, developing skills like cooking, playing a sport or a musical instrument–work of a sort that someone can point to and say: “I can do that.”

Some people can’t say that very often today. Being able to say that is important.

And what can we do to enhance literacy around us? And why does literacy matter?

John Wesley opined that “A reading people will always be a knowing people.” Henry Peter Brougham said, “Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive.”

Knowing where we’ve come from helps us understand where our place and time will lead us. The past shows us how we got to our place today and how to get to a new place, a better one.

What can we do?

We can ask God to show us whom we can help, who wants to learn, who is searching for help. His answer may call me to help a neighbor and you to volunteer. He may call us both to donate books to a ministry that reaches out to those in need of soul-feeding–to donate food–to feed soul and body.

It’s up to us to show people “the wide picture of the universe — its structure and meaning, and our place within it.”

Civilizations build bridges–and rebuild them–one stone at a time.

Where will you place your piece of rock to rebuild the ruins around us?

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Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

HEADlines: Love or Lust

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, August 28, 2021~

Covenant: “a formal agreement or contract, between God and humans or between two human parties to do or refrain from doing something. Sometimes only one party was responsible to carry out the terms (a unilateral covenant, which was essentially a promise). At other times both parties had terms to carry out (a bilateral covenant).”

Commodify: “to turn (something, such as an intrinsic value or a work of art) into a commodity–a good interchangeable with other goods.”

We were unhappy with our cell phone carrier. The pricing was erratic, sometimes shocking. “Customer service” was a frustrating, time-sucking vortex.

When our contract was up, we jumped.

We’d ended the relationship with a business that didn’t seem so interested in serving our needs. We found a business that would serve us better. Much better.

So we begin and end business relationships.

And so, as Dr. Tim Keller explains, do we often treat our romantic interactions today, making them more accurate reflections of business dealings rather than lifetime commitments.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” he draws a distinction between the virtue of love as seen in covenant relationships, and the vice of lust, manifested in a business-like approach to romance.

Committed love is a covenant relationship. “Sex is supposed to be a symbol of what you’ve done with your life,” Keller says, that you have fully committed to another person, way beyond a physical relationship.

“You must not do with your body what you’re not willing to do with your whole life.” The language sounds limiting, binding. It is. Yet living love this way provides amazing benefits.

“In a covenant, when you have made a promise, sex becomes like a sacrament . . . . an external, visible sign of an invisible reality. . . . That’s why it’s so meaningful. “

In this way, sex reflects the intimate love God has for our souls.

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.” (Ezekiel 16:8, ESV).

Covenant, Keller says, provides a “zone of safety where you can be yourself.”

Covenant produces deeper feelings. “When you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow,” Keller says. As in parenthood, covenant marriage requires giving without regard to receiving, thereby producing “a deeper, richer kind of feeling.”

“Covenantal relationships bring freedom.” He references Kierkegaard who claimed non-covenantal relationships make us slaves. Commitment brings freedom. Freedom from commitment is oppressive. That can seem counter-intuitive in these days, but it’s true.

Lust, however, is a transaction. Sex outside of marriage is “marketing.” Marketing is anything but meaningful.

Keller says couples who live together outside of marriage are trying to figure out “whether this person is good enough to marry or whether I can do better . . . It’s not trusting. It’s not resting. It’s not giving.”

People who live together before marriage are learning how to live together as consumers.

As we’ve moved further down the highway of consumer/transactional sex, we see the results of sexual self-seeking instead of sexual (and otherwise) self-giving.

Our culture has almost completely abandoned any sign of covenantal love. We are becoming a strictly commodified society. Therefore, fewer are buying into marriage.

Edward Davies in “Forget Race or Class, Marriage is the Big Social Divide,” writes that marriage rates in the UK have “been steadily collapsing since the 1970s. Not just declining but falling off a cliff. Even at the height of the second world war, (sic) one of its previous lowest points, the male marriage rate was almost triple what it is today.”

America’s rates show a big drop too.

Link for graph

As my mother so aptly put it many years ago: “Why buy the cow when you’re getting the milk for free?”

Especially when the metaphorical cow you’re renting is trying harder to close the deal.

Many of us have been that metaphor. We sold ourselves short.

In the meantime, many have turned to pornography, primarily men, but women too. Porn is an enormous form of commodification, second only to prostitution.

Keller says pornography is “so focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. . . . [It] is everything the Bible says is not what sex is supposed to be.” He says porn affects all our relationships, porn influences social aspects from fashion choices to marriage rates, asserting that the drop in American marriage rates is largely due to porn.

Keller quotes Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker’s book Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying:

“People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. . . .

“A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships . . . shrink[ing] the marriage pool for women. . . .”

Pornography is “why the number of people getting married is going down.”

That’s easy to see. But fashion trends?

Regnerus and Uecker assert that “All women . . . are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviors and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”

The fashion industry influenced by porn? That seems far-fetched.

But Andi Zeisler agrees with Keller, and Regnerus and Uecker. “Porn is now not only represented in, but an indelible part of, everything from high culture to fashion magazines to college curricula,” she writes.

The discussion comes full circle when Zeisler references Naomi Wolf who predicted nearly two decades ago that “far from turning men into the raving, sex-mad predators that anti-porn crusaders . . . once warned against, [porn] is turning them off of regular, nondigital women.”

Marriage rates support Wolf’s thesis. But not all porn watchers are rejecting sex with a partner altogether.

Ponder this: Rod Dreher’s citation of The Telegraph: “A GP [general practitioner physician] let’s call her Sue, said: ‘I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.’ In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries [caused by frequent deviant sex] . . . not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, [I will too.] “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

What else is porn doing to women and girls?

We imagine the stereotypical porn user as a man sitting in his basement (perhaps his mother’s) in the dark in front of a flickering screen (his phone or computer). He is glassy-eyed and probably unemployed.

But Zeisler cites Adella O’Neal, publicist for Digital Playground, pointing out that “in 2000 roughly 9 percent of the company’s consumers were women; four years later, that figure . . . bloomed to 53 percent.”

Fox News reports: “Women aren’t excluded from this heavy porn-watching either. Pornhub released information in 2017 that revealed women spending more time watching porn than men, reports anti-porn advocacy group Fight the New Drug. Women were also more likely to search for harder versions of porn than men.”

That may be how we moved from the idea that porn exploits and victimizes women to the emerging notion that sex work empowers them.

Sadly many in the Church have been drinking the poison too.

Fox News continues: Covenant Eyes [a porn addiction recovery organization]” reports that “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women report watching porn at least once a month.” Take note: Christians.

Porn gives us a distorted view of ourselves and others. And this distorted vision is downloaded into the minds of a majority of Christian men and a significant percentage of Christian women–at least monthly–often daily.

Also this from Dreher: “At a conservative Christian college not long ago, a campus minister told me that every single young man he works with, helping them to prepare for seminary after graduation, is addicted to pornography (meaning that they use it compulsively, and find it impossible to stop, even though they want to). Sixteen young men — conservative, churchgoing men who want to serve God and others as pastors — caught in that trap.”

In Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free from Sexual Temptation, Ted Roberts writes: “Sexual addiction is not just a struggle over a mental perspective; it touches God’s very image, as well as the depths of a man’s soul.”

Here’s an ironic reality. Psychology Today quotes a scholarly study that shows porn use actually lessens sexual satisfaction rather than enhancing it.

“Notably, under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction. These findings, while correlational, suggest that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

Satan’s counterfeits never match up to what God intended in giving humans the gift of sex.

Where is hope for us?

As mentioned above, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start.

But first, we must recognize the problem. And it’s much more pervasive than we want to think it is.

It’s a heart issue.

We want what we want. We’ve bought so far into materialism and pleasure that we have lost sight of who we are. Of who every other person is.

Each one, imago Dei, the image of God. Each one, His poiema, God’s masterpiece.

Every one.

The child in the womb. The person on the street, homeless, alone, and hungry. The woman on the screen.

And everyone who sits on the other side of the screen.

No one is ever a commodity.

From Ted Roberts: “Numerous authors have written books concerning the clinical aspects of sexual addictions, and even more books call for believers to seek holiness. But our [ministry’s] ultimate focus is more specific . . . . [We want to] persuade the Church to become a place of hope and healing rather than of shame for those fighting sexual battles. .

“We need ruthless honesty that exceeds our comfort zones and pursues God’s heart, no matter the cost.”

Individuals and ministries need to pursue God’s heart. Such pursuit comes with a great cost.

The cost of ignoring this issue is much greater.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6: 18-20.

Photo Credit: Ben White, Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Until Unity–Drawing the Church Together

“When love is shallow, all it takes is something as trivial as a disagreement to divide us.” Francis Chan, Until Unity~

Christian accord–another word for unity–is something my heart has pursued for years. Now Francis Chan writes from his heart about the necessity for Christians to set aside our differences and move forward as the one Church Christ prayed we would be in John 17.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me,” John 17: 22-23.

But that hasn’t happened. Instead, over the years, centuries even, we have continued to divide ourselves over our interpretations of scripture.

Too often, we point to others as the problem. Maybe, Chan points out in his new book, the problem is us.

“In many ways, we have lost a sense of the true holiness of God, and that has caused pride to grow and fester in the church. Everyone seems to start out with the assumption that his or her opinion of God is right, rather than recognizing that all of us have an incomplete, flawed knowledge of God.”

Scripture permeates Chan’s text. He supports his assertions with God’s Word at every turn.

And Chan is stalwart in his devotion to essential Christian doctrine. He does not promote a false, Kumbaya awakening where we discard the basic tenets of faith for a superficial connection to nominal “believers”.

I recommend a great many books in this space. But this book presents, more than an intriguing read. As Chan points out unity is crucial to the future of the Church–and the eternity of many currently outside the Church.

Christ prays for us to be one “so the world may know.”

For us, unity is “not optional.”

Read this book.

Pray for unity among Christians. Love other Christians who are faithful followers even if they aren’t of your tradition.

Turning our corner of the world around may just be that simple.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

From Appalachia to the Seat of Government?

“Whatever talents I have, I almost squandered until a handful of loving people rescued me.” J.D. Vance~

He has become the voice of an unheard America. A part of America that has lost the American Dream. The dream that, if you work hard, you can make a good life.

J.D. Vance grew up in Rust Belt, USA. His grandparents had migrated from Kentucky to Ohio–but never escaped their hillbilly roots–until Vance graduated from Yale Law School.

Yet he doesn’t seek to disassociate himself from his forebears. He carries with him lessons they taught.

His journey to Yale is remarkable. But many of his peers remain in Appalachia living unremarkable lives. Their dreams are not remarkable. They have lost hope.

Many analysts blame the economic downturn for this lack of hope. But as with every sociological phenomenon, there are many factors. 

The economic downturn coincided with the sexual revolution, which coincided with a freer availability of drugs–marijuana, heroin, crack, then opioids.

The Soma of Huxley’s The Brave New World became reality for too many.

There are not only few good jobs, there are also few fathers–fewer male influences to pass down a concept of hard work and traditional manhood. And since the military draft ended, few young men enlist. Few learn, as Vance did in the Marines, what their true capabilities are.

Vance points out that there is “a lack of agency”–“too many young men immune to hard work.”

Small-town America changed too. Gone are the locally-owned mom-and-pop stores. Those places where everyone knew your name.

But there is always someone who does know your name–or at least someone who can find it out.

What made the difference for Vance? A handful of loving people–a few who cared. There were his grandparents; one was an alcoholic. They divorced, but never severed themselves from each other or the rest of the family. While Vance had a series of father figures, his own father was largely absent.

But his father took him to church–at least briefly. And his grandparents pushed him to work hard.

And the Marines made sure he knew how to balance a checkbook. How to buy a car. How to choose healthy food. How he could go to college. Basically, they taught him how to function in life. How to move beyond his limited background.

He navigated the Marines; he accelerated through college; he realized low-income people get a tuition break at Yale Law. He dreamed big; he applied.

And he worked hard. Teachers encouraged him. He met a girl.

She was the one he called once when he needed an answer fast. He was attending a high-stakes dinner where prestigious law firms sorted through prospective associates at Yale.

From the men’s room, he asked her what to do with so many forks beside his dinner plate. She gave him a quick lesson on how to work through his place setting.

That’s something you don’t learn in a typical household in Appalachia.

But in other ways, he was smarter than his Yale peers.

He and some friends went out to dinner. He and another student from a modest background were appalled at how their group had left the table. Vance knew what it was like to clean up after people who were careless and sloppy. Some never fathom what it’s like to do a dirty job.

The elite students grew up knowing they would go to college. They assumed success in the world. They learned how to fit in with other elite crowds. They knew which fork to use. They had table manners.

Vance and his friend helped clean up the table. They had courtesy.

Now Vance is a latecomer to a crowded Ohio US Senate Republican primary race for 2022. It remains to be seen whether his quest to bring the American Dream back to Appalachia will bear electoral fruit.

Ohio may or may not elect Vance. Our nation’s future doesn’t hang in the balance of primary election results. Perhaps it doesn’t depend as much on those who will choose between a life of dependence on feel-good life-numbing strategies or rising above these standstill ways to reach to fulfill their potential.

J.D. Vance blazed a trail of success and kindness.

But let’s remember that loving people helped him along that trail. Perhaps our nation’s future depends on them.

On us, if we are willing.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Lie of Doing Wrong to Do Right

“[T]his is the great Western idea: the proper route forward for the redemption of the individual and for mankind as a whole is as a consequence of the redemption of each individual.” Jordan Peterson

In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn writes that, in classical works, villains “recognize themselves as evildoers, and they know their souls are black.”

Real people aren’t that honest, even within ourselves. We work to convince the innermost part of our being that, even if we’re doing something others would consider wrong, we’re doing it for a good reason, so that makes it right.

“[T]o do evil,” Solzhenitsyn says, “a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.”

Solzhenitsyn dates himself with his mention of natural law–a concept now lost to America–to most of the West. (See Robert Bork.) But Solzhenitsyn was writing in the 1950s about great and obvious evil–the oppression of millions in the Soviet gulag system. And in that day, most still embrace the concept of natural law–of an innate human understanding of right and wrong.

We can credit the existence of natural law with producing the classical villains, the Iagos of Shakespeare, the Bill Sykeses of Dickens, and the Jokers and Riddlers of more modern times. Their authors/creators couldn’t conceive of them not acknowledging their evil.

In reality, clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson asserts, as we prepare to do wrong, we either heed or ignore an inner sense that what we are conceiving is wrong.

Peterson has evaluated why we ignore that small voice inside ourselves and has come to a conclusion he believes is universal: We know what’s right, what’s wrong. But we have the capability to convince ourselves that what is wrong can become right.

He warns that we engage in a “very, very dangerous supposition” when we assume that we would choose differently from the way others have in the past. When we assume we wouldn’t kill millions, that we could handle power correctly. That we can do evil but avoid replicating results the past produced when others decided to do evil.

Peterson says, “I came to believe that the problem was as Solzhenitsyn said . . . that the line between good and evil runs down every human heart.”

Any one of us can and will choose wrong–grave evil–unless we guard against it.

Peterson: “[T]he way to stop such things from happening, to remember [them] properly, is to understand that you could do it, that you could do those terrible things because the people who did them were like you.”

In order to avoid doing the evil we are all capable of we must stop telling “yourself lies you don’t believe in.”

Redemption, for Peterson, occurs through “adherence to the truth and courage in the face of being.”

Peterson won’t talk publicly about his beliefs about God. Perhaps those beliefs are still fluid, still taking shape.

Sometimes people come to a moral code for good through God. Sometimes they come to God by recognizing a moral code and our propensity to violate it.

Redemption comes through truth. Christ is truth.

But we can never come to truth by lying to ourselves about who we are and what is good. We can only come to truth by acknowledging the truth about ourselves.

We need to listen to the still small voice that only speaks truth.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14~

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Freeing Our Children for Excellence

“What’s always struck me about Huxley’s novel [The Brave New World] is that, even amid all this license, the savvier characters still recognize that they aren’t in fact free. Bernard Marx at one point refers to himself as “enslaved by my conditioning,” while the Savage contrasts “freedom” with the World State’s enforced “comfort.” This is the first thing to understand about what we’re doing to our children today: it isn’t liberty so much as the opposite. Huxley’s point is that even liberation can become subjugating if it’s turned into ideology and inflicted upon the young,” Matt Purple~

I remember sitting in a classroom in 1993 for parent-teacher conferences for my then-12th grade daughter. The class was health. I was the parent. The teacher was a woman who’d grown up down the street from my childhood home. We had played with our Barbie dolls together. Now we sat on opposite sides of a desk.

My daughter had told me that this teacher had the class line up, each student holding a placard with the name of a male body part. The supposed goal was to get the students to learn the correct order of placement for male sex organs. The class was co-ed.

An unintended (or not) result of such a classroom activity would be a diminishing of natural self-consciousness among the students, a self-consciousness I would argue is God-given and protective.

Twenty-eight years later, sex education in many districts occurs earlier and is often more graphic than placards with words for male body parts lettered on them.

Now we must ask why some people are working so hard to make sure children (now much younger than my daughter was then) understand all there is to understand about sex, sexuality, and sexual identity while others have ceased to ensure that said children can read, write, and calculate at a functioning level or beyond.

Sharon Slater, co-founder and president of advocacy group Family Watch International, [explains the] ‘harmful elements’ in the United Nations-developed, U.S. government-sponsored Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), including its graphic, pleasure-focused approach toward teaching children about sexual behavior.

“’The publication, ‘It’s Perfectly Normal,’ . . . is in many libraries and school libraries across the United States. [At least one state mandates CSE for classroom use.] It’s very graphic with depictions of children engaging in . . . various sexual acts,’ said Slater.”

Soak that in–children depicted in sex acts. Drawn images, we presume. Otherwise, how would it differ from the kind of pornography explained on our newspaper’s front page last week informing us that the guy who possessed it is now in jail?

And we must note the reference to “pleasure-focused.” Be sure to dust off your copy of Huxley’s The Brave New World, referenced above by Matt Purple. Huxley presents a culture steeped in–and controlled by–pleasure. Oppression through excess of pleasure.

As Purple points out, we have to ask how we got from #metoo to this stuff.

And again, why?

But now to the part most of us assume is the purpose of schools–education, which again, most of us assume is largely comprised of reading, writing, and math. We must be careful not to assume what has previously seemed reasonable to assume.

The state of Oregon is suspending reading, writing, and mathematics requirements for graduating students for at least the next three years.

Perhaps some sort of pleasure indicator will replace the academic requirements.

Maybe other states will follow Oregon’s lead. Even as America continues our decades’ long inquiry into why Johnny still can’t read.

Many dissatisfied parents are moving their children out of such classrooms. As record numbers of families become homeschoolers, private schools are also seeing big enrollment increases.

Newcomers to homeschooling have perhaps found during COVID shutdowns that teaching their own children is positive, effective, doable, and within their control.

Many pilgrims to private schools may just be looking for in-person learning as some shutdowns continue. But Kerry McDonald writes that the “trend [of increasing private enrollment] is likely to continue” when (and if) the COVID crisis abates.

It might be fair for us to conclude that some parents are moving children to new educational environments to enable them to pursue excellence instead of pleasure, to enable them to receive a traditional education of reading, writing, math, etc. Et cetera encompassing science, history, and the arts rather than the simple pursuit of pleasure. These parents know the journey to excellence is not always fun-filled. And it doesn’t happen by accident.

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny,” (Aristotle).

Some in modernity have figured that out too. Even in decadent Hollywood.

The recent anniversary of the death of actor Robin Williams brings to mind his portrayal of an English teacher at a boys’ prep school in Dead Poets’ Society (1989). Williams’ Mr. Keating wanted his students to seize the day–to make sure they didn’t let life slip by without pursuing great dreams.

Such dreams do not come true through hedonism–a devotion to pleasure alone.

“In his immortal performance, Williams gave humanity a great gift of remembering two truths: that we all die, and that the humanities, far from being unserious, drive us toward the serious business of life.” Matthew Becklo.

The serious business of life is the pursuit of full potential, the quest for purpose, the lifelong journey of service to God and people–thereby we find meaning in our lives.

Teaching children that pleasure is the be-all and end-all violates everything education should be.

It sets children up for bondage of all kinds of oppression–public and personal–providing passing good feelings instead of lasting fulfillment. Meaningless pleasure can never be more than a distraction from emptiness. And emptiness is compounded when grown-ups lack literacy and mathematical capability.

The quest for pleasure for its own sake combined with a void of capability creates enslavement as the enslaved one continually seeks more pleasure that provides only more emptiness.

True education fills minds and feeds souls. It recognizes that there is more to each child than a physical body.

Fulfillment comes through a developed character made from challenge and rigor. The work of learning bestows more than knowledge. It instills curiosity and discipline. It enables us to engage in wonder.

Applied thinking, through reading, wordcraft, and calculation, leads children to become people who know when and how to set pleasure aside to reach for a greater good. Only then can they know true pleasure.

Our nation is blessed with many teachers who urge their students toward excellence. Many of them hail from the classrooms of public schools. Not all states and districts have succumbed to the cultural decay of promoting empty pleasure.

Parents must not simply hope for the best. They must not assume all is well in their educational corner of the country.

To assume so is to invite a cost too great and a loss beyond measure. Too many schools ask little or nothing of their students. They promise more than their teachings can ever deliver.

Mr. Keating asks us to reach for more:

“‘[W]hat good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

From a Dog’s View

This article, guest-authored by Boomer, appeared in Honeyguidemag.com. Boomer is enjoying life with his master once again. This post is a look back.

I’ve been in this house for a few seasons now. I’m here temporarily, until my master comes home. They say he is deployed. I don’t know what that means. I pass the time until he returns.

I’ve gotten to know them–he and she–the two humans, parents of my master, who live here with me. They take care of me. And I take care of them.

For example, there was this BIG adventure. It seemed so to them, at least. He said he had plugged up that pipe sticking up out of the basement floor so nothing could crawl into the house. This particular creature of the rodent variety pushed its way in. I found the creature under the stove. And when the man lifted the front of the stove for me, that thing jumped right into my mouth. It surprised me so much I dropped it. I was quicker than it was and made short work of it.

It was all over before she realized what the horrible racket was all about. Good thing, too. She was afraid of the rodent thing. I didn’t understand why, but I was glad to do my job. He figured out which pipe was the problem pretty quickly, and he told her what he would need to buy the next day to fix the problem. She told him Lowe’s wasn’t closing for 15 more minutes. He had plenty of time to fix that problem that day. And that is exactly what happened.

I thought it was a bit silly that she was afraid of something that I could quickly dispatch. He didn’t want her to be afraid either.

I felt good earning my keep and soaking up their admiration for the work I’d done. He said, “Good job, Boomer.” They aren’t just doing my master a favor. They like having me here.

We don’t always understand each other. They’ve caught on to my cues for when I need to go out. We have a nice routine. We are flexible about it when we need to be. They’ve learned where I like to walk–to sniff and to leave my own scent around the territory. They see that my territory goes beyond what they consider theirs. Yet, they set boundaries. I can’t pee on these light up devices some of the neighbors have in their yards. These devices seem fine for depositing my scent, but they say, no. I comply, reluctantly.

For some time, they didn’t understand why I would get up on their bed and lie on his spot right before he got in at night. He was away again last night. So I crawled onto her spot. I waited there for a while as she got ready to sleep. (Takes them forever! Three circles and I’m set!). That’s when she understood. She saw I was warming it up for her, welcoming her to her own place, to her rest time on a cold night. She understands that I am not here just for the food, water, and occasional pats on the head. I want to give back, too. It’s good that I am here—for them and for me. I don’t know how long I’ll stay.

It seems like it’s been a long time since my master put me here. Time. It’s a word like soon. And wait. They keep saying those words. Time seems always to be just ahead of us, but we never catch it. Soon never seems to arrive. Wait never seems to end. It’s been a long time for the humans as well. They want my master to come home, too.

In the meantime, the humans and I get along fine. I’ve made a second home here. I have beds all over the place. The people here think a couple of them are for me. What they call a dog bed sits beside their bed, and there’s a blanket spread out on the floor in the office. I make do with them when I must. There are couches downstairs and beds upstairs. When no one else is around–all of them are mine. But someone new has moved in upstairs to a bed that had been there just for me. They say he is an exchange student. He doesn’t seem to exchange anything. They say he is here to study. Aren’t we all? He says he has two homes. That I understand. My favorite part of any day happens outside. They take me on walks. Sometimes just him or just her. Sometimes both. And now, the new kid comes along in the evenings.

When I walk with her, she carries this big stick. She calls it her walking stick. She uses it to help push herself up the hills. I was afraid of it at first. She’s pretty klutzy – every so often, it slips out of her hand. She doesn’t do it on purpose; she usually does it when I’m not looking. It’s alarming. So far, no one’s gotten hurt. Once, when we were strolling down an otherwise quiet street, this big beast of my own species yelled and screamed–you call it barking–and ran at me. I tried to scurry away, but that darn leash held me back!

Get this! She wasn’t running. She who feared a rodent. She just stood there. I tried to say, “Uh, let’s go,” but she held the stick out–kind of like Charlton Heston pretending to be Moses. Then she yelled back at the beast, “NO!” And the beast stopped! His master came out and got him. They both looked ashamed. I was dumbfounded. I felt as though the Red Sea had, indeed, parted. The rest of that walk was unremarkable.

I’m not afraid of the stick anymore. Well, ok, unless she surprises me, dropping it when I’m not looking (as I said–she’s a klutz). Now, I see its purpose. I had been afraid it was there to hurt me. It’s really there to protect me–and push her up the hill, of course. My human is expected home soon. Maybe he’s at a second home. Maybe he is pondering time and soon and wait and all that is life. Maybe he knows that sometimes people drop sticks when you don’t expect it. You’re afraid, but nothing happens. And when you actually see something worthy of your fear, your Protector stands His ground. Stands between you and the big ugly thing trying to scare you.

You can’t run away, because you wouldn’t understand how the Protector works. Soon you’ll be home where it’s supposed to be safe. Even if you’re with people who drop big sticks and make loud noises, but really take care of you. Soon.

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

HEADlines: Responding to Your Opposition with Grace and Love

Published in The Mustard Seed Sentinel, 7/24/21~

“Even biology tells us that a high degree of habitual well-being is not advantageous to a living organism.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Imagine being in a terrible place. The food is beyond bad. The clothing is inadequate. The weather is unbearably hot in the summer and way below what we in the continental United States consider cold in the winter. The work is hard, menial, and endless.

Then imagine you get to go to a better place. The food is better. You can be warm in the winter. You’re not afraid you’ll die from the bad treatment.

But you find out that, in order to stay there, you have to do things you don’t want to do. You have to help your oppressors spy on your fellow citizens. You have to help them send others to the place that is so bad.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn did not have to imagine this scenario.

After spending years in a Siberian gulag, he went where the Soviet government was doing research. In the 1940s, they wanted Solzhenitsyn to help them develop voice recognition technology. If he didn’t cooperate, they would send him back.

So send me back, he told them.

“Even in the camps, human dignity matters,” says Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Alexander’s son who tells the story of his father’s choosing discomfort over betrayal of his fellows. “We always have choices. Even in the camps. Even where everything is decided for you. What clothes you wear, what food … you’re given, and everything is regimented. There is always the choice to behave with freedom and a sense of dignity.”

Freedom in a gulag? Always. Freedom and dignity everywhere? All the time. Solzhenitsyn is proof that Soviet tyrants overplayed their hand.

“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.”

And that statement can apply even more deeply to Christians.

Rod Dreher writes: “The Christian life, properly understood, cannot be merely a set of propositions agreed to, but must also be a way of life. And that requires a culture, which is to say, the realization in a material way—in deeds, in language, in song, in drama, in practices, etc.—of the propositions taught by Christianity. To be perfectly clear, at the core of all this is a living spiritual relationship with God, one that cannot be reduced to words, deeds, or beliefs, (emphasis his).

With little fanfare from the mainstream media, the Washington Supreme Court [in 2017] . . . unanimously sided against Barronelle Stutzman, a 71-year-old florist who refused to provide flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

Stutzman battled the legal challenge, which threatened to relieve her of her life’s work and earnings, including her home.

She appealed to the US Supreme Court. A ruling favorable to religious freedom seemed unlikely since the court had already refused to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer, also sued for refusing service for a same-sex wedding. These cases are a harbinger of things to come.

Dreher: “Traditional Christians ought to see Barronnelle Stutzman as one canary in the coal mine (and there are many). The State of Washington, the ACLU, and two gay plaintiffs are trying to crush her, financially and otherwise. They may succeed in taking away her livelihood and then bankrupting her. . . . Whatever happens to her, they will not take away her faith and her dignity. She is a rock.”

And Stutzman’s faith has been rock-like. She has consistently reached out to those who oppose her with Christian grace and love.

It’s naive to think that this issue will never land at the doorstep of our churches and private schools.

The SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage would seem to reassure churches that in the pulpit religious freedom is secure. But the devil may be found in the details of the local laws that made a florist a civil defendant.

America has reached a point where the primary social imperative is the personal impression of the individual. This impression now trumps all. And it didn’t just begin with same-sex marriage. It’s been going on for quite some time. We have largely looked the other way as moral foundations of life and marriage cracked then crumbled.

Along the way, the Church or at least pieces of it have twisted themselves into pretzel-like contortions trying to—as many might put it—stay relevant.

“50 or 100 years ago, [conservative Christians] were convinced to broaden verses like “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female in Christ” (Galatians 3, Colossians 4) to justify our support of progressive agendas like feminism, while passing over other verses about sexual roles in the church, family, and society (1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, 1 Timothy 3, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 11…). This led us down a road that converged with the Enlightenment’s view of the individual.” David Goodwin

We stopped asking God what He wants for us and began to ask ourselves what we want. And that became our priority.

We have reached a line we cannot cross and still remain the Church because crossing that line would mean we have become something else, no longer the Church. Crossing the line means becoming a false church with a false gospel. The one that tells you it’s okay to worship yourself.

The one that tells you that you are not here to serve God; He is here to serve you.

Baronnelle Stutzman is here to serve Him. Even if it costs her everything. And perhaps it already has.

On July 6, 2021, the US Supreme Court declined to hear her case.

Stutzman’s lawyer Kristen Waggoner says, “This denial paves the way for Washington State and the ACLU to financially ruin Baronnelle.”

The picture is not optimistic. But we are not without hope.

The world rushes in with its noise and threats of coming persecution. We can set ourselves apart—even in the midst of chaos and decadence. We can be the people of hope who shine light in darkness. But only if we stand in the light against the darkness. And we can know we do not stand alone.

And if we do stand, we may see that the American left has overplayed its hand.

In prison, Solzhenitsyn found he could speak freely. He was already in trouble. What else could they do?

Even later in exile, he spoke. His iron will was forged behind the iron curtain. He was a man whose heart was full and whose character was steel.

He said,You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Coming War?

My husband and I visited China for the first time in 2005 as English teachers. We would return to teach again in 2011.

During our first visit, I had occasion to watch some afternoon television. As you might find on some channels in America, old movies were the fare of the day.

More than once I’d turn on the television and find the storyline of a Chinese village being invaded by Japanese aggressors during World War II.

A visit to an amusement park provided a similar form of entertainment. Along with rides and fast food, actors depicted the Chinese villagers overcoming Japanese invaders. Stuffed dummies with red paint on them represented the killed Japanese troops.

Little children and accompanying parents took it all in.

Most American schoolchildren don’t learn about Japan’s occupation of China or about the Nanking Massacre in which the Japanese military murdered hundreds of thousands, raping and pillaging along their way.

Japan has never apologized. And China has never forgotten.

America fits into the picture this way. China and America were allies during World War II. China had been in the midst of a civil war between Communists and the Kuomintang when the Japanese invaded. After Japan surrendered, those who were able of the Kuomintang, America’s ally, escaped to Taiwan and claimed Chinese sovereignty there.

After the Communists won the mainland, America became the ally of both Japan and Taiwan. But history made no standstill there.

In southern China, I saw a memorial to the Chinese soldiers who fought Americans in Korea.

In 1989, China acknowledged having sent more than 300,000 troops into Vietnam to fight US troops and the South Vietnamese.

America and China have been on opposite sides for most of a century.

Even so, sixteen years ago in 2005, the countryside welcomed us. People knew we were there to help their children succeed in the world. We’d often receive smiles and hear, “Hello, Meguaren” or “Hello American.”

Six years later we returned. While our students and hosts were beyond gracious, we no longer heard, “Hello Meguaren” on the streets.

What had changed?

A new American Administration was spending money in such a way that it devalued the dollar. The money our government had borrowed from China was coming back to them in dollars worth less than the ones we had received. Our dollars bought half as much as they had six years earlier. The Chinese yuan bought less than it had six years before too.

The Chinese people felt America had cheated them.

And long-festering wounds continue to fester.

In my interactions with Chinese students–there and in the US–I was surprised to understand how deeply many Mainland Chinese young people want to reclaim Taiwan.

In the same way they learned to view Japan as an enemy, they learned and embraced the belief that Taiwan must come home–one way or another.

Curt Mills quotes Gordon Chang who asserts that the Olympics could be part of what spurs war–not the current Olympics in Japan, but the games slated for China next year.

“The risk of a Chinese invasion—India, Taiwan, Japan, whatever—increases after the Beijing Olympics next year,” said Gordon Chang, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute. “The fear of a boycott of the February’s Games, it appears, is one of the few things keeping Xi Jinping in check at the moment. This, of course, is not to say he won’t do something awful before then as he calculates his interests and views the world differently than the rest of us.” 

Since China’s new administration took over in 2013, China has turned up the volume on its claim to Taiwan as well as some parts of Japan.

In a recent media broadcast, the CCP government announced that its promise not to employ “first-use” nuclear weapons was off the table if Japan were to join the US in defending Taiwan, implying the Chinese military intends to play its hand soon.

China has also disputed Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands last summer and continues to send fishing boats and military vessels into Japanese waters around the islands. The number of ships increased this year.

The Senkaku Islands are close to Okinawa. One Senkaku island is a mere 250 miles from Okinawa, the US base in Japan, and the islands were previously considered part of the Okinawa Prefecture, clearly recognized as Japan’s according to international law.

War drums are beating on that side of the world. The crackdown in Hong Kong was only the beginning.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Matthew 24:6~

This rattling of sabers might be the beginning of the end. Or maybe not. No matter. When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, we are not to fear.

We are to pray. To watch. To keep faith.

Lord, keep us faithful to truth and what is right.

Photo Credit: Yu Kato, Unsplash (Chinatown in Yokohama, Japan)

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hot or Cold? Or Lukewarm?

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth,'” (Revelation 3:15-17, ESV).

In his epic poem The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri placed the lukewarm at the gateway to hell, neither in hell nor in heaven. They are “melancholy souls . . ./Who lived withouten infamy or praise,” (Canto III, 35-36). They, in fact, “never were alive,” (64).

They were, Stephen Smith asserts, “souls who have lost truth, have lost God.” The lukewarm “would not exercise their liberty,” and missed out on life and eternity.

Not following God or Satan, Dante explains, they looked out for themselves alone.

Being outside hell sounds better than being inside, but Dante says such souls “envious are of every other fate,” (III, 48). Their end is worse than all others.

Of course, Dante’s poem is literature, not theology.

For theology, we can look to Francis Chan whose discussion of the lukewarm supports Dante’s placement of the lukewarm to either good or evil outside of heaven.

In Chan’s analysis, the lukewarm act like Christians. They go to church. They give money to good causes. But when what is right conflicts with what is popular, the lukewarm “care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.”

Chan says such lukewarm churchgoers don’t want to be saved from their sin, only from its penalty.

Their “faith” is emotional; they do not live it out with action. Jesus is part of their lives, but not in control of their lives. They structure their lives so they don’t have to live by faith.

In his typical fashion, Chan, as does Dante from seven centuries ago, convicts and calls us to overcome too much comfort, to be real in our faith.

Francis Chan’s new book Until Unity ties our embrace of authentic faith over a lukewarm counterfeit to Christian unity. Steeped in biblical evidence, Chan says “the unsurrendered will always be at odds with the Christ followers, lobbying for their sins to be overlooked and fighting for their own desires in ungodly ways. . . .

“[The lukewarm] find common ground [among themselves] in judging the radicals who dare think Christ calls everyone to deny themselves and pick up crosses. . . . They can even rally together against those who still believe that the commands of Scripture are still valid today.”

We watch this conflict within the Church. It goes on around us daily. It occurs both at high levels and in small congregations.

“[T]here are many people in churches who do not truly follow Jesus, and with them, there can be no unity. It is our responsibility to lovingly confront them and call them higher. But if they remain unchanged, it is never our responsibility to lower the bar in the name of unity,” (emphasis Chan’s).

The lukewarm live among us. Many sleep.

We will not win them by being like them. We must show them Christ. We must love them, but only in truth.

We can be the hot cup of reality in a community drowsy from the lure of the unreal.

And what must overflow from our hot cups are love and truth.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”