I’ve had the privilege of meeting, befriending, wooing, dating, and later being engaged to and finally marrying the love of my life.
Her name is Irma. No one knows how to pronounce her name, and honestly, the way she pronounces it is probably wrong too.
We met on social media, namely, Instagram, then Facebook, then Skype, and finally in person. She wasn’t a serial killer so I survived our initial meet and the second time we met up I asked her to marry me. We met in February of 2014, got engaged in June, were married in court on September 29, and celebrated that marriage with friends and family on October 18 of the same year.
That was seven years ago!
We’ve lived in Florida, vacationed in Brazil, visited Toronto together, and now live in Edmonton, AB, Canada. Our first little girl was born in Naples, Florida, the next two in Edmonton, and the fourth is slated to be born here as well if we don’t just so happen to move to Japan in the next week or two.
My heart is full. Everything I dreamed of and wished for in a partner I can gladly celebrate in my wife. The humor, the chemistry, the beauty, the proactive maturity, the effort, and the awareness of all things.
She’s my friend, my best friend and I’m glad we’ve made it this far but it’s not far enough since I hope to spend the rest of my life with her before I end up on a Cold Case file somewhere.
Anywho… what can I share with you from seven years of marriage?
Through thick and thin, ups and downs, wealth and almost sure poverty, health and sickness, life and well, abundant life?
What can I impart to you, my dear friend?
Nothing that concerns you anyway.
My marriage is none of your business therefore you can go out there and marry the love of your life and you’ll realize that it’s more important to spend time with them than it is to write about it for others.
So go live your life. Enjoy the ice cream and wine. And by ice cream and wine I mean sex.
Enjoy it and thrive in it.
Happy Anniversary, my love. You are my waking dreams and when you don’t salt the rice well enough, you become my waking nightmare. But that’s okay. Love suffers all things. Especially unsalted rice.
I cherish you, I praise your wisdom and intellect, I value our conversations about ideas, concepts, systems, structures, peoples, theology, eschatology, soteriology, race, childrearing, and yes, 90 Day Fiancé on TLC.
Distance dating was our story but that seems like a distant memory now because I cannot imagine life without you now.
I could not have found a better friend, a better partner, a better wife, nor a fellow conspiracy to commit… well, you know what than I have found in you.
To ice cream and wine.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Last Sunday, Freedom Life Church pastor and bible teacher, Rohan Samuels covered the Lord’s Prayer. This was the second installment of FLC’s Teach Me How To Pray series where we study whether prayer is efficacious or not.
Some of us spend time on our knees doing nothing but mumbling unintelligible things to God and falling asleep where we are without realizing what happened until we wake up snoring and drooling all over the place.
Prayer sleep is some of the best sleep I’ve ever gotten and hey, listen, taking a nap before God is a great thing if that’s what we went there for. But if our initial pursuit was to seek God’s providential will for our lives in this humbling medium of communication and the result was our brain slipping into a catatonic state then something went wrong somewhere.
Prayer involves communication, not just monologues where we dispense our righteous anger, relay our seasonal depression to God, divulge our momentary anxieties and then wipe our tears, stand up or lay down from our one-sided FaceTime session with God and off we go with our lives or into oblivion to dream about other things.
Prayer is more than one-sided monologues and information dumpster fires we drop at God’s feet. If we’re not making time to stand or kneel or time to just ‘be’ in the presence of the All-Mighty then we’ll find it harder and harder to receive Guidance and Perspective from Someone we seldom stop and sit long enough to listen to and understands our destiny.
Dr. Derwin L. Gray, pastor at Transformation Church, Indian Land, South Carolina, defines prayer this way:
“Prayer is more than talking to God. Prayer is a sacred journey of becoming who you were meant to be.”
Pastor Rohan with the Lord’s Prayer in mind deciphers a better way for us to communicate with God and at the same time dispels the harmful ideas we’ve come to make tradition and doctrine over time regarding prayer that is not true and eventually turns out to be not biblical as well.
Here are just a few ideas from Last Sunday’s message I managed to jot down to add to my prayer life.
“Prayer is not about us even though it requires our participation.”
This is true. Biblically speaking, prayer is truly about us being conformed to the will of God.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
Prayer is not just a means through which we communicate with God but also a place, an act, an action, a state of being in which we are molded into the person God has created us to be and also where we align our will to His will, which, thankfully, is always good for us. [Romans 8:28]
“You are not entitled to what you pray for.”
This point is critically important but emotionally damaging if our goal in prayer is to gain everything we want from God without knowing for sure if what we want is within His will.
When we bow a knee (which isn’t necessary) to pray we are again called by God to commune with Him and walk with Him. This intimate act calls for us to subjugate our will, which isn’t always in the right place, to His direction.
Us asking for that multi-million dollar residence in Texas, the three Mercedes -Benz Brabus rockets, and a multi-million dollar business to run without ever having taken a business management course, not knowing how to properly administer funds, and never having taken driving lessons, acquiring a driver’s license, having no auto insurance will only place us in a legally and financially compromising situation.
God sees the future as if it were the past. We must trust that when we ask for things or blessings we must first adhere our hearts and aspirations to the will of God and trust His best for our lives otherwise we’ll end up getting everything we want and not knowing how or what to do with these things.
Imagine someone asking for kids and once they’re blessed with them their kids are neglected, abused, and dismissed. We need to be in a state of peace and contentment with God over the things we get from God.
“Everyone should enter the school of prayer but no one graduates from the school of prayer.”
This is a given. No one is a prayer warrior as if there were a school somewhere where men and women go to train like samurai of yesteryear to kneel and stand for hours on end. Where they practice crying, on and off, and raising hands to strengthen their shoulders for lengthy intercessory prayer sessions. Where they carry on hours-long standing sessions to demonstrate their ability to withstand twelve-hour vigils. There isn’t a place where men and women go to train their speaking voice and then their praying voice.
Prayer is a lifelong commitment to communicating with and listening to God. Understand also that God listens to you.
You won’t graduate from a prayer program the same way one graduates from a Ninja Warrior class on how to climb walls and free-run across the surface of a building.
Humility in the life of a believer is demonstrated in this way: he or she is always willing to seek God for guidance in all things instead of relying on their history, wisdom, know-how, etc.
We are all here to learn from God and learn more about how He guides us through His word and His Holy Spirit. The moment we step away from these and onto our wisdom, we have damned ourselves to our folly.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Way to pray not the words to pray.”
Pastor Rohan recites the Lord’s Prayer, the one easily found in the sixth chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
The beautiful message Jesus portrays in this passage is that we needn’t get caught up in the religiosity of prayer where performance and eloquence are the goals.
Jesus relays to his disciples then and us today the simplicity of prayer: we acknowledge our Creator and are also acknowledged by Him by the grace of being heard.
We are blessed with the grace of His will, which reminds us that we are not alone in this journey without a guide or direction.
We are blessed with the grace of honesty in our moment of need. When we lack or when sustenance is something we rely on, which we do, we can gladly ask of it of God. Pastor Rohan alludes to the reality of how a first-century Jew would read this prayer, one who did not have the convenience of supermarkets and logistics we do today to get food and bread. Back then, if harvest went sour or if war swept the land, there was a very high chance you or your neighbor would die from starvation and malnutrition. So understand that sometimes we go through thirst or hunger of sorts, which may or may not pertain to physical hunger, where we desperately need to present this need to the Lord.
It is comforting to know that God accepts these petitions and hears them.
Our relationship with God is measured also by our relationship with our neighbors. Vertical only faith is no faith at all. When we place an emphasis on relationships we need to be aware that we are earthly beings with heavenly blessings, meaning, we need to care for both. Meaning, we need to properly administer both.
We must not only forgive others, but we must also love them as well. Displaying a forgiving character toward all, as hard as it may be.
We are graced with the ability to seek refuge in our Heavenly Father from spiritual uncleanliness and filth. We seek refuge and protection from spiritually impure and tenebrous spirits whose sole purpose is to disrupt our relationship with our Divine Creator.
God listens to us. And because He listens to our heart and our words, we ought to then communicate our innermost workings with Him more freely.
There is nothing that you can say that’ll surprise Him nor anything you can say that will hurt Him.
This is liberating news.
So you don’t have to pray this exact prayer as if it is holier, brighter, better, more effective, and somehow a talisman against evil itself, because it is a way for us to pray, not THE WORDS we ought to pray.
Jesus set forth a foundation for us to approach God our Father, but you are free to express your heart before Him your way, without using someone else’s words.
Give it a go!
Praise Him. Trust Him. Walk with Him.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Welcome to Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice series where I, Mr. Theory, give you the worst advice imaginable on just about anything. I’ll cover topics surrounding your family life, parenting, romance, money management, faith, and social interactions. Advice that is so appalling that you’ll have no choice but to do the exact opposite of what is mentioned here.
How To Argue With Your Wife
Do you regularly find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to argue with the love of your life? No, not the Ford Mustang. Your wife, remember? The woman you married and vowed to love and care for until death or a homicide cold case do you both apart?
You’re impressively patient when she approaches you with the occasional omen ‘we need to talk’ and the anxiety surrounding the ‘what about’ mounts with every passing minute. She lets you know that she wants to talk only after you’ve left for work or minutes past midnight while you’re out with friends.
Are you unsure of how to navigate these kinds of uncomfortable conversations with your beloved? Are you new to married life but you find yourself constantly avoiding weightier topics because honeymoon passion and disagreements over towel colors do not mix?
Look no further my neophyte male reader. I’ve got you covered.
And what about you, yes, you, the veteran husband who has been married for twenty-plus years but still struggles to say something more than, ‘yes dear’ or ‘sorry dear’ when arguing with your wife. Are you tired of being at the losing end of every argument? Are you tired of dealing with cold shoulders, cold cuts, and coleslaw for dinner six nights a week?
Well, it’s time you took your manhood and husbandry authority back so that every argument you find yourself, unfortunately, will be resolved without conflict, without hurt feelings, curse word laced tirades and broken beer mugs.
Follow these next few steps and you will become a veteran argument winner and your wife will begin to respect you once again. She’ll be the submissive wife you’ve always wanted but could never afford.
This is one for you, kings.
Step 1 – Avoid Her At All Costs
Imagine you get that dreaded text message as soon as the clock hits 12 AM. You know you stayed out past curfew, and curfew hour is subjective here. If you’re married with kids, the curfew is 6 pm. If you’re married but have yet to have kids, the curfew is 11 PM. Either way, you’re out way past curfew and you check your phone but your friends mock you for being chained to the woman of your dreams. You mock them back for being either single or married to a wicked caricature of their mothers and grandmothers. It works because it’s true. Your friends laugh it off but squirm with shame deep down inside because they cannot escape the fact that they have been ignoring their phones as well. They don’t have good taste in women either or they’re single so the only way they cope with life is by deriding one another, yourself included.
You check your phone again and this time, through the haze of exhaustion, tears, and whatever substance you’ve been consuming for the last hour or two make it difficult for you to see through the blur that you have sixteen missed calls and thirty-six text messages from your wife.
You know you’ve blown it. You’re out way past curfew and you recall your wife saying something about an anniversary or birthday dinner that was supposed to happen earlier but because you have a genetic flaw that prevents you from hearing dates, times, and events clearly and the same genetic flaw makes it hard to retain important marriage related information in mind so you forgot.
So, knowing just how precarious a situation you’re in, you have two options.
Option one is to call your wife immediately, as you head for your car, if you’re sober, of course, but you’re most likely not sober at this point. And you can have your greatest of friends pay your tab this night because you have to make it home alive and survive long enough for the police and emergency personnel to make it to your residence to resuscitate your corpse once your wife is done with you. You can be driven home or taxied home. Either way, you’re mincemeat.
Or, option two. Avoid her. Just don’t check your phone. Don’t take her calls and never, under any circumstance, respond to her messages. They’re book-length sermons at this point.
Sit there and enjoy the niceties of a night out with friends. Not only mock your married friends’ spouses but allow them to mock your wife as well.
When the establishment you find yourself hiding from your wife closes for the night or morning, be sure to sleep in the car. You can up the ante by crashing on your friend’s couch.
Come morning, wait for your wife to leave for work before returning home. You’ll need to do this if you want to take a quick shower. If she takes the day off to file for divorce, then wait her out. She’ll have to visit a family attorney sooner or later so you can get inside your house once she’s gone.
If you happen to be home once she returns, leave through a window or hide in the basement until she’s either asleep or she’s out of the house again.
You must avoid your wife at all costs.
Step 2 – Dismiss, Dismiss, and Dismiss
Your cover is blown and you’ve been found. You’ve been hiding in the basement for days not but it is no longer a safe refuge and now you’re faced with a woman whose anger is so strong you can taste it because the first thing she did when she found you snoring in the basement bathroom, slumped over the toilet seat, was punch you in the mouth.
What now? What can you do?
And you must be quick in putting this second step into motion otherwise it’ll backfire and you’ll have no choice but to be confronted with your immature behavior for the last 24-168 hours. She claims she knew you were sleeping in the basement this entire time because beer, spirits, and chips kept going missing from the fridge and pantry upstairs.
You’re caught. Red-handed. You know this because you left flaming hot Cheetos fingerprints on cabinet tops, door hands, and toilet seats you forgot to put down. The only way you’re getting out of this alive is if you dismiss everything she’s upset about.
That’s it. Dismiss it. She makes mention of your late-night escapades and you have to dismiss her because they weren’t escapades, they were outings.
She makes mention of your unwillingness to answer her calls and your incompetent immature nature in being unable to respond to a single text message.
Refresh her memory with the fact that the filthy dungeon you often frequent with your miscreant group of friends has little to no cellphone reception. And that there was no point in returning a missed call since it was missed, to begin with. Plus, even if you could text her back from the oubliette of body odors and bad jokes, your large manly fingers would not have been able to properly formulate a response she would be satisfied with. Plus, men don’t text back.
When she questions your manhood and points out how real men face their problems and deals with them when they come, dismiss her silly invective as a veiled invitation for getting down-n-dirty. Her degrading comments are nothing more than coy attempts at reinvigorating your robust masculinity.
Step 3 – Play the Trump Card
Your dismissals are not working but that is just fine. At this point, you have a key element in your treasure trove of argument-winning weapons that will resolve this issue without fail.
Use your Trump Card.
Now, this isn’t a physical card you carry in a fanny pack like your Harley Davidson Leather and Tights Tough-man subscription card. No. This is better.
Use this timeless, classless, and tasteless move to your advantage.
Walk up to your wife after ducking her second punch and grab her. Now, pay very close attention to the qualifications for the proper use of the Trump Card. This will only work if you’re a thrice-divorced, porn star hush-money-paying, failed businessman whose father got arrested at a Klan rally in the 1920s.
If that’s your gig, go for it.
Grab her by the… purse. When wives are mad they let you do it. You can move on her like a barbarian.
You need to grab her by the purse because when he found you in the basement she was actually headed for the family attorney’s office and she just so happened to have her purse on her.
You want to do this to reassert your dominance over her skin, or, eh, her leather accessories. It reminds them who’s the man of the house and they love it.
Step 4 – Play Dead
Once Step 3 fails and your wife is standing between you and the stairway, both of her hands rolled into fists and all, you have to grasp your chest with both hands, fall to the floor, and thrash your body violently like a fish would once out of water. And use that last packet of Alka-Seltzer tablets you keep in your pocket in case of an emergency when out with the boys for Philly cheese-steaks. Toss both tablets in your mouth and give your wife an Oscar-worthy performance. Fight the urge to spit the acidic chemical reaction taking place in your mouth all at once. This performance has to look as believable as possible.
Once you hit the floor understand that your wife will begin to mock your performance. She will again reduce you to the child you are inside but do not budge. Remain still for as long as possible.
If you lay still long enough your wife will walk away and the argument will stop there. This works for many men. Some, under the prudent nature of their manly intellect, opt for the Play Dead technique first, this way, the wife calls an ambulance and you’re carted off to the emergency center in no time.
I have heard of cases where men use this step often because they’re good friends with the ER physician on call that day. They’re kept in the hospital overnight where they’re forced to endure the grueling process of having to take more Alta-Seltzer tablets to mimic symptoms but I hear this is preferable to dealing with angry wives.
Some men and these are the veteran warriors I speak of, use this technique twice a week just to avoid an argument.
But should your wife call your bluff, which she does since this is the fifth time you’ve fallen prostrate, in the fetal position this month in an attempt to avoid conflict, she surmises you’re mentally incapable of having an adult conversation to resolve marital issues.
Step 5 – Raise Your Voice
Once you wipe the antacid from your chin you’ll need to wise up and even the playing field a bit.
Your wife, at this point, is yelling. The volume of her voice is what made you flinch back to life from your catatonic pseudo-myocardial infarction state. You attempt to explain to your now red-faced wife that you nearly died from a ‘mayo in-fart-session’ and she calls you on your nonsense because you’re a bad liar and you suck at pronouncing medical terms when plagued by a guilty conscience.
So you’re forced to take things to the next tier just to win this argument so you raise your voice to match hers.
This takes practice as most men struggle to sound masculine enough when they yell. Husbands who have followed my steps in the past have learned that when they shout their battle cry their voice takes on an orotund and stentorian tone scaring their foes into oblivion. Without practice, however, your voice may sound high-pitched and fruity. Instead of sounding like the leathered-up Harley Davidson advert you instead end up sounding like a bearded fairy from a Disney movie.
Practice makes perfect.
And this is where your high school Spanish or French comes in handy because when you raise your voice you cannot, by any means, say anything intelligible or logical. If you’re responding to an argument with another argument it’ll only further aggravate your wife and allow her to continue this altercation for another hour.
When you yell, be sure to say things in a language your wife does not understand. This will confuse her and in her histrionic state – which you must accuse her of in any and all cases when she wants to argue – will dismiss your nonsense as the initial stages of someone who needs to be institutionalized immediately.
Sample 1 – Spanish: Coge la escoba y barre la cocina. ¡No olvide sacar la basura!
Sample 2 – French: Vos compétences culinaires sont médiocres et vous salez rarement nos repas correctement. Lavez-vous les coudes.
And if you’re proficient in German, mind you, you needn’t be, you just need to speak with as much spittle dripping from the sides of your mouth and with as much resolute confidence as that of an infamous German dictator we seldom speak of anymore. That’ll make you sound as German as Berliner. Here’s an example.
Sample 3 – Deutsch: Du bist die Liebe meines Lebens, aber deine Einstellung macht Stinktierfurze und Spinat steckt zwischen deinen Zähnen.
Step 6 – Reference Her Best Girlfriend
Yelling normally gives you enough wiggle room to run out of an argument and if possible, out of the room. Especially if you sound deranged enough that your wife considers calling your mother. Find an opening to squeeze out of this situation without having to translate your psychobabble and if you’re stuck in a basement, like the husband in our example story is stuck, try and exit the basement now.
If this doesn’t work, it normally does, but if it doesn’t, consider the Jocular Evasive Revision Knock move.
You can perform the JERK move by reminding your wife that her best girlfriend, yes, the very good-looking one that just so happens to be single and looking, never yells at men or throws tantrums over trivial matters. Remind your wife that her girlfriend handles inconveniences with more grace and emotional intelligence than she does.
You must emphasize keywords when winning arguments or evading them with your wife. These include but are not limited to:
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know her.”
“I don’t recognize that number.”
“I did not ask for these pictures.”
“That is not me in those pictures.”
“It’s not even that serious.”
“Have you gained weight?”
Remind your wife that Sally, Lilah, Raquel, and Diane never once raise their voice at another man and that she would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
At this point, if the top of her lips begins to sweat from rage or whatever it is women feel when they’re inconvenienced by men having fun with their friends, just know that your technique is working.
Step 7 – Compare Her to Her Mother
Now that she has stopped yelling and is paying full attention to you, remind your wife that she is behaving like her mother.
Now it is crucial that you understand who your mother-in-law is. If your mother-in-law happens to be a saint, remind your wife of just how disappointed ‘mom’ would be to see her taking things out of proportion all the time.
If your mother-in-law is, well, the opposite of a saint, remind your wife that she is behaving like the daughter of the queen of the underworld. If your wife is theologically sound and asserts that there is no such thing as a ‘queen of the underworld,’ you must concede to that fact and then inform her that if there were to be one, it would be her mother.
Step 8 – Talk About Your Salary/Income
At this moment, most wives will walk out of the room to seek refuge from the brute realization that the argument is won by none other than you, king. Most women do not have the courage to face their defeat so they scurry off to a room to drown in their bitter tears or they end up in the kitchen. If your wife happens to run into the kitchen, this is the perfect time to ask for a sandwich and a beer or your spirit of choice.
But if your wife is not like most women and she has been cursed with a stiff back and an analytical mind, you’ll realize that she no longer looks at you but she looks past you, into the kitchen, where the knife block sits and her eyes go dark for a split second.
At this point, you must take the initiative to deviate her attention from violent ideations and onto something more important.
Now, understand that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, how much she makes, whether you make more than she does or not because what’s important is that you remind her that you are the breadwinner of this family.
And ‘breadwinner’ is just another term for king or lord of the castle but semantics and cultural degradation of etymological understandings over time have left us with softer terms for crucial authority matrix nomenclature.
Whether this is true or not is irrelevant.
Most wives will succumb to the indomitable fact that without their husband’s income, they’re days, if not minutes away from living in abject poverty. They tend to turn-tail and run for the kitchen, dutifully kneeling at your feet in submission at the mention of money.
If possible, remind her that the dress she has on, the food in the fridge, and the very home she lives in were all blessings that fell at her feet from your benevolent hands.
That exact wording, if possible.
Step 9 – Question Her Sanity
This next step takes careful consideration. Understand that your wife, when she is enraged by her inability to find joy in seeing you enjoy your life, will experience something called a psychotic break. You can call this hysteria.
You’re moments away from winning this and just about every argument the two of you will ever have. Keep following these steps to save your marriage and possibly your life.
Once you’ve convinced your wife to put down the steak knife and informed her that second-degree murder still carries a twenty-year sentence, reassure her that her mind isn’t in the right place.
Go for the jugular, king.
Take a step or two closer to your wife. Do not, by any means, attempt the Trump Card again. That is a very dangerous move to make while your wife is wounded by her delusions.
Quietly and softly inform her that she’s out of her mind and that she needs to see a psychiatrist who can help her deal with her anger issues. Let her know that a normal wife would not take a knife to her husband’s head, forcing him to duck to miss the first blow and then perform a stiff pirouette to dodge the second.
Kindly inform her that your love for her supersedes her mental stability or instability and that you can both work things out if she just puts the knife down and consults a professional first thing the following day.
Step 10 – Leave For Hawaii With Your Friends
You’re almost there, king.
This is the final step to win every single argument with your wife.
Once she is heavily sedated by the three bottles of red wine you were planning on drinking by yourself in the basement but had to sacrifice to save your life and other important members of your body, quietly reach into her purse, her regular purse, for her wallet and fetch her credit card.
Now, book yourself and your friends, miscreant friends, a trip to Honolulu with your wife’s credit card.
This has to be done immediately as women have the tendency to ruin any and all plans, especially the plans you tend to make with your guy friends.
Give your buddies a call, have them pack their bags, which just like the bag you’ll pack yourself, will include two pairs of underwear, six pairs of socks, which you won’t use, a pair of Abercrombie & Fitch beach sandals, and ten floral tank tops.
Be sure to leave for the airport as soon as possible and you’ll be in paradise in no time to enjoy the festivities of life with your fraternity brothers.
If you follow my ten very practical steps from How To Argue With Your Wife you will have a successful life, a happy wife, and a fulfilling marriage.
Ignore those calls, texts, and emails from that misunderstood attorney’s office and live your life to the fullest.
Just remember, you’re always right and your wife is always second.
You got this, king. You got this.
If you loved this episode of Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series – Chapter 4: How To Argue With Your Wife, stay tuned for the next installment in our series, Chapter 5: How To Argue With Your Husband And Crush His Dreams.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise. – Proverbs 17:28 NLT
If you know me well or if you’ve spent time on my blog, you’re aware that I spend a great deal of time dealing with and discussing reparations for black people in the Americas. Mind you, lest that introductory sentence seems vague and misleading, black people in the Americas have yet to receive reparations from their former enslavers, states, and the federal governing bodies that helped perpetuate this crime for hundreds of years.
The harm done to black people in general by the transatlantic slave trade to discriminatory laws and practices late on are at this point innumerable. But that is not an excuse that prevents us from quantifying or attempting to remunerate or recompense immediate victims of these horrors or their descendants who have experienced detriment as a result of them.
Typically, the excuses that are made about what happened, namely, slavery, happened so long ago that there are no slavers left to imprison and punish and no slaves left to redeem from bondage and assist with land, financial assistance, and social programs.
This argument is used by individuals who would rather see the Third Reich resurrected than witness minorities rise from poverty to find affordable housing in their racially homogenous communities.
Let’s Talk About Generational Wealth
The truth is that wealth is passed down from generation to generation. If you live in a house that was built in 1980, chances are your family has lived there since then or purchased it sometime after it was built. You grew up in that same neighborhood, your parents paid the house off by the time you were in college, perhaps, and now that you’ve graduated from school your parents can either sell their house to move to a smaller place; and bank on that resale, or pass the house title, which is already paid off, down to you. And this relieves you of the burden of having to apply for a mortgage for which you will be responsible come the next quarter of a century.
You are already financially ahead of many people in the country and your children are born into a home where mom and dad are both college graduates, they don’t have monthly mortgage payments deducted from their checking account. Trips to Florida, New York, California, and take place once every two to three years; and trips to Europe, are possible just as often as well. Your kids will have a college fund set up for them so that by the time they’re 18 or 19 years old, mom and dad have already saved up for them to go to school debt-free or with a very light financial burden to carry around.
Disposable income is a customary word in this home. Harley-Davidson motorcycles, boats, lifted trucks, hunting adventures with powerful and expensive bolt-action rifles take place once or twice every year. Fishing trips out of town, perhaps out of state are normal. Joining sports clubs is without a doubt a necessity because mom and dad have the disposable income to buy thousands of dollars worth of equipment for the two or three different sports each kid will join every year.
Field trips are accessible and asking for extra cash for the trip is never an embarrassment because mom and dad hand you a credit card and ask you to be mindful of your spending while abroad.
Holiday dinners are bountiful, never without a hefty turkey or ham. Your table seats eight comfortably and the room you dine in can accommodate even more people should that be the case because the family is, well, well to do, you know.
There’s never an incident of financial hiccups because the level of financial peace was passed down from one generation to the next. The ability for mom and dad to enjoy their lives is present and possible because they don’t have a mortgage to pay. Just property tax, once a year.
And the kids can focus on their schooling because they’re well fed, well entertained, well cared for, unbothered by financial disasters, their sporting events are financially covered, their field trip expenses are covered, and their every need is met by mom and dad without a bother or bump on the road.
This is just two to three generations of financial stability.
Now, consider the opposite.
Let’s Talk About Generational Poverty
Mom and dad attempt to purchase a home but they’re denied the opportunity of living in a particular community because that community does not accept certain groups of people so mom and dad have to live elsewhere, further from work.
Mom and dad are now stuck with paying for rent, which, as is always the case, is much higher than a mortgage. Mom and dad both apply for work closer to their apartment buildings but are given lower-paying jobs because the good jobs require higher education and a certain lighter complexion to qualify for. This isn’t in the job requisite write-up but the hiring manager and company president express it in conversation once mom or dad leaves the room.
So now mom and dad have to find work as administrators, custodians, handymen, or cleaners.
Once employed, mom and dad both work to support their family but their income is so low, inflation keeps rising, as does their rent every year, that they get behind on bills. This becomes a snowball effect and mom and dad end up having to get a second job, a part-time one, to supplement their full-time job income.
Mom and dad don’t have time with their kids now because mom and dad are working twelve-hour days. By the time they’re home the best they can do is purchase the simplest burger from the nearest burger joint for $5 just so their kids can eat at night.
Mom and dad do this because buy rice, beans, meat, and treats is too great a cost for them at this stage in their life.
This becomes their pattern of life for the next twenty to thirty years.
Their kids cannot participate in sporting events because the equipment necessary is too costly. The school they attend does not have the best possible educational programs because the school is underfunded because what subsidizes this school are the communities that surround it. Affluent communities invest in their schools and subsidize private and charter schools but poverty-stricken communities go neglected for decades. Teachers are few, underpaid, overworked, with too many students in their class, who, for lack of time with parents and lack of a proper meal and a financially stable home, cannot muster the energy to learn new things.
So mom and dad apply for loans and lines of credit with stratospheric interest rates just to cover a few more bills, get their kids a proper meal every day, sporting equipment for their sport of choice, and a new pair of shoes here or there for each kid.
The loan payments come around, bills accumulate, some bills are missed, loan repayments are missed, interest rates rise, and late-bill payment notices arrive with interest charges on them but mom and dad keep going.
Mom and dad’s boss, at each of their jobs, informed them that a raise is out of the question because of inflation and the salary cap on their position within the company cannot be adjusted. The boss, under a supercilious scowl, suggests they go back to school to earn a degree or a diploma by which they will earn better living wage and salary.
What the boss doesn’t know is that mom and dad have applied time and again for the opportunity to take technical classes at the nearest technical institute and also applied to college over the years but have been unable to fulfill the financial demands of these institutions and the demands of family time because they both work two jobs. Mind you, the scholastic institutions have continually raised their class fees over the years without explanation making it financially unfeasible to attend school.
The kids wrestle with aspirations of going to college but end up staying home and picking up summer jobs that transition into full-time jobs by the time they graduate school. Very low-paying jobs.
The kids are unable to get into school because their student loans would only pay for their classes but not their board. they would drive to school but they do not own a car. Mom and dad use the only car the family owns between them.
And also, mom and dad would love to drive them to college every day but mom and dad’s car just broke down and now they need to apply for another cash advance, payday loan just to fix their car, whilst being behind on bills, rent, loan repayments, and more.
Generational wealth versus generational struggle, poverty, and debt.
What we fail to realize or perhaps what we don’t want to admit is that the first family in this made-up scenario is white and comes from a line of wealth that dates back at least two-to-three generations.
The second family is black or a different minority and they inherited nothing from their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents because not only was material wealth and financial stability passed on to the first family but the only thing passed down to the second family was adversity to stall and halt their progress through life.
The truth of the western society we seldom think about is that white people have had generations of wealth, stability, education, and social capital over black, indigenous, Latino, and other minority groups. And this is not accidental as if white westerners just so happened upon an unclaimed body of land with treasures all about before anyone else. What happened is that the treasure belonged to someone else, it was taken, plundered, and exploited. And anyone who attempted to take it back was destroyed and later depicted as primitive savages in history books.
The truth is that western society has historically benefited one racial group whilst exploiting another.
As we have seen in the pseudo-albeit highly relatable and credible stories above is that poverty gets passed down the same way wealth does.
And much of the wealth America has accumulated over time has settled with a predominantly homogenous group; white or rather, Caucasian Americans of European descent.
What brings me back to this article is another article written by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, Wilfrid Laurier University.
In this article, she states that the reason why Japanese Americans were better suited to receive reparations or more likely to be repaid for crimes committed against them by their government was based on a tier system of qualifications created by the offending party, the United States government, and not the offended party, Japanese Americans.
“It is much easier to obtain reparations under the following conditions:
The number of victims is relatively small.
The victims are easily identifiable.
Many of the direct victims are still alive.
The injustice took place during a relatively short time period.
The perpetrator is known.
The injustice is easily identifiable.
The injustice offends values of equality, personal safety and/or the right to own property.
There is a symbolic victim around whom advocates for reparations can rally.
The amount of reparations asked for is not so large that the public will find it unreasonable.”
And I agree that it is much easier to quantify and calculate the immediate financial and property damage done to Japanese Americans because these crimes happened in 1945 whereas slavery as it occurred in what we now know as the United States of America began as early as 1619.
We have video footage of Japanese Americans being forcefully removed from their homes and bussed into internment camps. We have documentation of how many were moved, how many were displaced, how many lost their mode of income, job security, and livelihoods. We know these things and it makes for a case to repair the damages done because what was done was empirically wrong and evil; and quantifiable.
But Professor Rhoda lists these nine conditions by which to evaluate if one is deserving or not of reparations but she does not stop there on just how problematic these conditions can be to other victims who do not fall under this system.
“Slavery was abolished in 1865, but many injustices were perpetrated during the post-1865 Jim Crow period and beyond. These included continued violations of bodily safety, such as lynchings and police shootings. Segregation and discrimination violated the principle of equality. And even when African-Americans earn the same incomes as their white contemporaries, they own much less wealth because they do not inherit from generations of property owners.”
Japanese Americans perished in internment camps under American rule and this was enough to qualify them for reparations. Why then, is the same government so lazy and flaccid in repairing the hurt and damages done to black Americans for the last three centuries?
Mind you, the harm Japanese Americans suffered at the hands of racist and unnecessarily suspicious white Americans happened between 1942 and 1945. The second world war forced American racial exceptionalism to the limelight once again even though Japanese American citizens were willing to die for their fellow American countrymen were they to be asked.
But black Americans have been at the losing end of this war for centuries and they have been belittled, beaten, spit on, surveilled by the federal government agencies without cause, searched without a warrant, arrested without having committed a crime, deemed guilty by a biased jury, incarcerated albeit innocent of wrongdoing, and executed in gas chambers, electric chairs, or the noose, while still being innocent.
Black Americans have been lynched for hundreds of years. More so after the American Civil war when black Americans were granted their freedom from bondage, granted the right to American citizenship, and yes, the right to vote. But even then, they were terrorized by local governing bodies and policing divisions whilst the federal government turned a blind eye to it all.
Emmitt Till was lynched in 1955 for God’s sake.
Till was lynched nine years after the last Japanese American internment camp was shut down in March of 1946 and the Civil Liberties Act afforded Japanese Americans $20,000 as reparations for wrongs done to them.
Emmitt Till was murdered, his body brutalized and thrown into the Tallahatchie River and his assailants were set free after a speedy and biased trial.
Only nine years after Japanese Americans were granted their freedom from bondage in horrid internment camps and paid for being unlawfully imprisoned in their own country was Emmitt Till brutally lynched.
How long will it be before black Americans are recognized in the same light? Before they’re treated with the same decency and respect?
“No one is a slave anymore.” Was used immediately after the war.
What of their descendants who inherited their poverty? The ones who inherited generations of shame and displacement? The ones who are born into poverty-stricken neighborhoods that only exist because they were prevented from living elsewhere by white Americans of yesteryear.
Are we still under the intellectually vacuous mindset that the neighborhoods that exist today in say, Detroit, Brooklyn, Mobile, Beverly Hills, or Naples, Florida, just so happened to spring up the way are today? That affluence just naturally and gradually flowed to white Americans, over time?
Because white Americans just worked harder for what they have?
That black Americans are lazy? Consumed by a poor work ethic? That they’re unwilling to better themselves?
Perhaps I am asking more rhetorical questions than you are willing to accept the answers for but what I am getting at is that black Americans have and continue to experience injustices on the basis of race and have yet to receive a single dime for these injustices.
And this isn’t just about money. Listen, reparations supersede and transcend monetary recompense alone.
Reparations also include acknowledgment and change, cultural and societal change where power, authority, and influence are spread across the board and not relegated, maintained, controlled, and regulated by white hegemony.
Those Confederate symbols need to come down once and for all, all across the country, and the fetishized Confederate paraphernalia needs to be banned from federal and state properties and institutions immediately. Germany was able to outlaw Nazi symbols whilst preserving its history but America struggles to outlaw the symbols of a treasonous Confederate state.
We’ve taken many steps forward but for a nation whose wealth blossomed and bloomed because of the slave trade and whose wealth is only possible because of that initial sin, it is sad that it has yet to repay the descendants of its blessings for the curses it has passed down to others.
Professor Rhoda adds to this dilemma:
“It is easy to identify the perpetrators of these injustices. But there are so many that it might be difficult to persuade any one perpetrator willing to pay reparations. At minimum, perpetrators include the U.S. federal government and the governments of every state that ever permitted enslavement of African-Americans. More broadly, they include municipal governments, private businesses, educational institutions and churches.”
We know who benefited from these wrongs but they have yet to one, fully acknowledge the extent of their benefit from the slave trade, and two, repay the immediate victims of their descendants what is rightfully theirs.
The enlightened professor Rhoda concludes her informative article with a hopeful and yet dreadful thought.
“Some people who advocate for reparations also ask for such a large amount that the public would probably find it unreasonable. For example, in his 2004 debate with me, Rodney Coates asked for $12-15 trillion, which is 60 to 75 per cent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product of $20.5 trillion in 2018.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for the movement for reparations to African-Americans to succeed. A social movement for businesses, universities and churches to acknowledge their roles in slavery and the Jim Crow era has already started. Georgetown University in Washington, for example, has offered reparations in the form of preferential admissions to the 4,000 descendants of the 272 slaves it sold in 1838.
There have also been reparations for some injustices during the Jim Crow period. In 1923, about 120 African-Americans were burned out of their homes in Rosewood, Fla., and several were murdered. In 2002, victims and victims’ descendants were awarded $2 million in compensation.
Thus, attaining reparations to African-Americans is not an impossible dream. But it is, and will continue to be, much harder than it was for Japanese-Americans.”
My final curiosity is this: are black Americans not American enough? Were Japanese Americans considered high class, or more racially pure, or socially clean and acceptable to receive and properly redistribute and use their funds than say black Americans?
I believe we know the answer but we are too afraid to say it out loud.
Hate for the black skin has been and continues to be an empirically undeniable aspect of American history and current society.
Professor Anthea Butler, Geraldine R. Segal Professor in American Social Thought, and chair of the department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America when speaking about racism in the formation of American religious thought, specifically within white evangelical circles she said,
“Racism is a feature, not a bug, of American evangelicalism.”
If Professor Butler will allow, I will add that racism is a feature, not a bug, of the United States of America as it has routinely funneled money into international proxy wars, international ventures, middle-eastern governments, namely the formation of the state of Israel, it has accepted Nazi war criminals and Nazi high ranking scientists into its military and scientific research divisions to further promulgate worldwide white supremacy but it has yet to take steps to redeem itself in a national scale by repairing the wrongs it has committed against black Americans of yesteryear and yesterday.
The United States government will cross seas and venture into space but it continues to ignore the detriment it has caused and continues to cause to the black American community.
If someone wants to know why reparations have yet to be meted out on a federal scale to black Americans it is because racism continues to operate as the standard metric by which America blesses some and curses others. Japanese Americans endured three years of hard labor, discrimination, and internment camps and were liberated and remunerated for the injustices they suffered under white American oppression. Thank God they were treated well and cared for shortly after their release.
Their only crime was their ancestry.
But Black Americans endured centuries, yes, not just three years of harsh internment camps but centuries of brutal savagery at the hands of the American government and its many private partners and corporations, and have yet to see as resolutory a conclusion to their plight.
Racism is alive and well when it comes to who gets reparations or not and it shows.
Same old racism, new clothes, I guess.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Professor Wade Mullen, Ph.D., wrote a book on deciphering the veiled tactics abusers and abusive institutions use to maintain power and deceive victims into submission and silence. This book opened my eyes to the sketchy behaviors corporations and their ilk of lawyers and suits use to deviate blame, shift shame, and avoid guilt at all costs, all while saving face in the face of evidence, wrongdoing, malpractice, and abuse.
“Abusers and abusive organizations may concede the basic reality of the wrong—“Yes, this happened”—but quickly add statements that either soften their responsibility or promote their integrity: “We value all people and only want what is best for everyone involved.” If these concessions do their job, the accused will stay in power, stay in favor with the community, and stay far from the shame their actions deserve.”
There’s always that ‘but’ in our apologies, is there not? I believe it’s a defensive mechanism to protect our ego from one, being exposed for what it is, two, admitting wrong, and three, having to deal with the consequences of that initial or sequential wrongdoing we’re responsible for.
I’m guilty of this as well. Many times over.
I’ve apologized to others with the intent of protecting my image for the sake of my ego. No one wants to be destroyed in the public sphere or the public marketplace. Nowadays, being denied social capital is at times worse than actual capital because of ostracism from people on social media which, if left unchallenged, can last years, if not decades; or a lifetime.
“I’m sorry I did that to you but you kind of asked for it.”
“I’m sorry you felt that way but that wasn’t my intention.”
“I’m sorry this happened, it did, and I’ll put it behind me. You do have to forgive me, you know.”
These are just a few of the facades and barriers we create and put up to defang the brunt of our consequences. We’re not only afraid of the ramifications of our wrongs but we’re resistant to any form of discipline, especially if that discipline is meted out by the victim of our wrongs.
They pinpoint 23 identifiable traits abusive leaders can exhibit which, after a closer look, are patterns and behaviors we see in our own lives as well. I mean, I see a few of these in mine. It’s daunting.
Take a look:
Doublespeak—Language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts or reverses the meaning of
words using euphemisms, inflated language, jargon, or just plain nonsense
Unteachable Spirit—Claims to want to hear people’s opinions, yet talks down to and/or argue with the people who share them; pretends to listen, agree, and learn, yet makes no significant change
Corrective Theology—Use meetings or written messages to correct things that were said by others
Semantics—Distort and distract from what they and others say and/or mean by parsing every word
others say while refusing to allow their own language to be dissected
Blame-shifting—Refusal to take real responsibility; often directly blames other people and/or use
statements such as, “They just don’t understand my heart,” or “You are not listening”
Demand Loyalty/Respect/Trust—Often remind others of all the good they have done even as they
demand unconditional and blind loyalty/respect/trust
Sabotage—Ministries are secretly undone, content they can’t control is criticized, relationships are
Distorted Relationships—Heavy demands may be put on relationships, relationships tend not to be
reciprocal, they may speak well of you in-person while talking badly of you when you are not present
Demand Unity—Sincere sounding calls for unity turn out to be demands for conformity to the leader’s beliefs, ideas, and preferences
Gaslighting—Specific forms of manipulation intended to cause others to question their perception; may take the form of “remembering things differently,” withholding information, denying having said or done something, and/or lying
Credential Flashing—Degrees, position, titles used frequently to establish an air of authority
Paranoia—Concern that others are undermining their authority, talking behind their backs, or leaving them out
Image Obsession—Inflated concern about how others perceive them; often takes the form of public
name-dropping (though in private they may berate the very names they drop) and building a façade as a godly and/or deeply religious person
Blackmail—If challenged will used whatever he/she thinks he has on the challenger to quash the
challenge; may take the form of forcing a resignation, tying severance to NDAs
Public Admiration of Others—Publicly make highly positive comments about others (often fellow
leaders/co-workers) while privately tearing them down
Entitlement—Claim the right to the highest-ranking positions without having to do the actual work to achieve the position
Absence of Conflict Resolution—When approached about conflict swiftly and deftly to turn the conflict into the other person’s problem entirely
Distress is Highly Distressing—Often unable to handle the difficult emotions of others and will shut them down swiftly
Purposely Provocative—Will intentionally provoke distressing situations/emotions for/in others to
accomplish their own ends
Multiple Personas—Who they are in public, private, and specific ministry situations changes as if they are chameleons; when confronted about this lack of authenticity they will deny having multiple personas
Persistent—Above all, abusive leaders persist, don’t take no for an answer, overtly or covertly, passively or aggressively pressing themselves and their agendas on others
Best & Brightest—While not necessarily the best and brightest by training or ability, abusive leaders
work to be seen as the best and brightest in every room they enter
False Vulnerability—self-disclosures about past sin, attempts to evoke tears and emotionality in others
Now you may have noticed that the descriptions above reflect an array of leadership abuse traits within any structure but the authors focus primarily on leadership structures within faith communities. Namely, Christian church environments.
I believe it is critical to be aware of these deviations and character malformations because in the church we tend to value leaders based on their gifts instead of their character. If their performance and the results of their theatrics bring people to faith or balloons the attendance within our church circles, then, by all means, let us ignore their shouting bouts behind closed doors. It’s okay if the leader manipulates the board into giving him or her more executive and financial power without boundaries or accountability. It’s alright for the leader to exhibit multiple personas inasmuch as they visit the elderly, the imprisoned, and the orphan. It’s seen as a minor moral scruple when they sabotage relationships in the church, are obsessed with corrective theology; namely, his perspective of the ancient book is the only correct one, as long as the church stays full and tithes keep rolling in for years.
I mean, just look at the new church building we purchased! Isn’t just grand?
That is why it is so important to confront leadership abuse and abusers in every facet of society but more so within religious circles because leaders in this sphere are seen as intermediaries between us and God.
They’ve been given the keys to privileged access to the Divine. When they pray for guidance, Providence listens. When they preach the Word it seems as if the very Creator is present to reemphasize the gravity of the truth within the homiletical utterances of the minister behind the pulpit. When they counsel it is not the counsel of man but the very words of God.
And this isn’t a divinely ordained calling. These are positions, attitudes, and authority structures we create and honor and place men or women in the center of because we want palpable identifications of God here on earth.
Because our reliance on the supernatural is only efficacious if we can find a man or a woman of God to corroborate our faith. When that happens we then elevate them above the rest and call them Men of God or Prophetesses of God.
The problem with this spiritual sucking-up, if you will, is that the nefarious agents, namely, abusers who are talented, gifted, and amazing liars and chameleons of every form of good abuse their power every chance they get. They shape-shift their way through social tests of affirmation and acceptance, end up finding a way to lead the flock just by being performative.
Their results speak for them and in a results-driven society, they tend to rise to the top. Every. Single. Time.
It always ends up this way because church people are too gullible, conflict-avoiding, and kind-hearted to confront one another on these issues.
“Let us maintain the peace, please, brothers, let us have peace.”
And I am not innocent here. I have exhibited quite a few of these traits as a leader.
From unapologetic arrogance in being the corrective theologian in the room to being obsessed with how others viewed me in the church or para-church ministries. I’ve had my fair share of cringe-worthy public admiration of others moments, theologians and apologists I had never even met, who I would glorify and elevate to near-divine status. I avoided conflict because I didn’t want to confront the issues in me and less so in others, therefore so many issues would go without resolution in my circles.
I was only an authority over them as a teacher or youth leader but what the hell was I supposed to do about their personal lives? I’m not a guru!
The host and co-host of this podcast asked the authors of this list if these traits are mistakenly attributed to abusers alone because they have exhibited them from time to time as well.
The authors of the list stated that we humans tend to dip our fingers into selfish or self-preservative behaviors from time to time but these are just regular human mistakes we tend to make.
What they depict in this list of twenty-plus leadership character flaws are red flags that are persistent aspects of a person’s nature and how they deal with life and people on a daily basis.
The abusive traits we exhibit from time to time ought to be contradictory to our character, not complementary to it. There’s a difference.
In a moment of weakness or stress, we may lean on a certain practice because of a weakness or stress. We’re not naturally prone to sabotaging relationships, yelling at people who disagree with us, obsessed with correcting someone else’s theology, obsessive double-speak behaviors depending on the group we’re with. We’re not known for having multiple personas, one at home, one with a secretary, one with the board, one with the preaching team, one with this and that group. We’re one and the same all the time, just more professional in one sphere and more relaxed in another.
Our morality doesn’t change depending on who we’re with or around.
We’re not given to moral virtue signaling in front of the church in the morning and then off to rob banks, abuse kids, and cheat on our spouse in the afternoon.
We are all guilty of exhibiting one or more of these traits but out of a moment or a sequence of character weakness. We can find redemption from this by desisting from them immediately, confessing the wrongs, and rebounding within the community.
We’re here to restore people to fellowship, not power, remember that.
But if you find you are exhibiting these traits on a daily basis, that you are wholly reliant on them to control the narrative in your life and that of others, perhaps it is time to admit that you are an abusive leader. Or that you are obsessed or controlled by abusive traits.
And in that admittance, in that openness, it is time to seek help.
You can be helped but you must want it.
Again, we’re here to restore broken people to fellowship, not power. Fellowship helps build the individual. Power destroys the individual and their community.
So seek professional counseling today. Be it in the church or outside of it. Seek help to get your life and your character, back on track.
Because if you wait any longer your victim count will only increase with time. Eventually, you will lose the people you love and you will also lose yourself on this journey of life and faith.
Today marks five years since my wife and I (and our little Maya) moved to Canada. Who were we five years ago? What motivated the move? Do we regret leaving the sunshine state of Florida for the blizzardy winters and smoky summers of the far north?
So, we were broke five years ago. Not that we’re rich now but back then we were living with family, working two jobs, and barely making enough to pay our car and auto insurance every month. We struggled to have enough for diapers and formula. Yes. We saved a ton of cash by living with family but the alternative was to live in our spot, in abject poverty, under a bridge somewhere in the second wealthiest water-side city in the country.
Life was great in one sense. We lived no more than twenty minutes from the Naples Pier. Fifteen minutes from Coastland Center Mall. Twenty-five minutes away from Mercato and Waterside Shoppes.
We lived in the most beautiful city in all of Florida. Yes. My bias is kicking in here and I loved that city. We loved it. My wife still dreams about it too and would love to have a summer home there, just to escape the distasteful winters here, not that she’d move back though. But you know, have a place to go back to visit once in Naples. She loved it while it lasted. She has a thing for luxury. I mean, look at me.
My most prized friendships were formed in this city. Some of my most prized memories are from there as well.
But with such a life and city comes the cost of living there and we could live comfortably there. The industry I worked in, which didn’t pay me very well; and my wife not having the documentation to work in the US, would have eventually led us into poverty, without a doubt.
So we decided to move to the great white north to see if life could be more prosperous outside of the false American dream narrative.
Let me add, as a family of faith, we believed in following God’s voice to make this move when the opportunity presented itself. Long story short, as I received a prophetic word on two separate occasions to have my bags packed and be ready. We had peace amidst all the unknowns when the opportunity presented itself with the great family trip to Brazil, to make our move.
We spent a few weeks in Brazil after we left the US. We left nothing behind but a few furniture pieces and a ton of books that I miss dearly, but other than that we had no other earthly possessions to take with us. Our car loan was taken over by someone else. Like, we had nothing to our names so it was easy to leave. This was a bittersweet realization.
And, while in Brazil we applied for my visa to go to Canada. We left the US without knowing for sure if I would be granted access to Canada, to begin with. We could have been living in Brazil right now, for all we know. Maybe Germany, if Canada had not granted me access.
Once I left the Canadian consulate in Sao Paulo I was both ecstatic and uncaring about the future. Never before had my life been in such uncertain circumstances and for some reason, I felt at peace. Granted, being a person of faith you must understand my ease of trust in God through these times of utmost anxiety and stress and I had no other alternative. I trusted God and well, whether we got into Canada or not, I knew God would keep watch over us.
The visa didn’t take long to arrive and I used its arrival as a way to scare my mom into thinking I got denied and that my wife, my daughter, and I would stay in Brazil. This idea frightened the life out of her. Thankfully, however, it was a prank.
My parents helped purchase our tickets from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Toronto, Canada and we left Brazil. My uncle and aunt drove us to Sao Paulo from my hometown of Campinas and dropped us off at the airport. We hugged everyone. Thanked everyone for their help, their care, their hospitality, their food, and love. All without charge. It was so good to be with family, surrounded by people who spoke the language you grew up with and a culture you had come to love so much.
It was great but we had to go. We were somehow divinely ushered into these next steps.
Once we arrived in Canada, after my wife got into a verbal skirmish with a customs officer about her permanent residency status and whatnot; I was scared something was going to kick off and we were going to get deported before we even left Toronto. But we were granted access into Canada once in Toronto. We left that lovely and massive airport and flew to Calgary, Alberta.
And for you to understand just how delicate a situation we were in just check this out.
Once there, I realized it was very cold out. I didn’t like this because I left Brazil, in October, and it was warm out. We arrived in Calgary, in October, and it was cold. Ha. I hated it already.
But returning to the delicacy of our move. We set off to rent a car to drive from Calgary to Edmonton, where we would stay with my in-laws.
The car rental company accepted my payment for the car and whatnot but because I was using an American debit card and not a Canadian credit card they requested I place a damage deposit of something around 400 Canadian dollars or something.
I didn’t have that. I had little to no money left. No dollars to my name to buy my wife and my daughter a juice box, a sandwich, or a gumball. I had nothing to my name.
I walked outside as light snow began to fall. Tears welled up in my eyes as we were well over 200 kilometers away from our new home with my in-laws and there was a chance we would not be able to make it out of Calgary nor have a place to stay in that night because we were broke.
America has this sad mesmerizing power of making people very rich but the truth is that the American dream makes a lot of people rich but in the meantime, it makes millions more very very poor. We left America and charted north in a delicate financial situation.
I pulled my phone out and reached out to a friend to explain to him the delicacy of our situation, the cold, the snow, and the inability to rent the car. This friend, a gentle soul, wired me the money without question and suggested I never pay him back.
Through tears, I thanked him and promised to pay him back, well knowing I had nothing left to my name to honor this statement. With time, however, I did pay him back.
We rented the car and then drove north through the cold Albertan plain.
We arrived at our in-laws, hugged each other, ate a hearty meal, rested, and then lived for a time, without worry. Like, a day or two, because my wife had to find work because our work situation had flipped.
In the US I could work but she could not. In Canada, she could but I couldn’t. We needed money to apply for my papers (work permit and permanent residency). So she applied in one place and then another. Applied here and then there. And she finally got a job at a car dealership. A fancy one at that.
Problem is that we didn’t live in Edmonton just yet. Well, my in-laws didn’t live in Edmonton. They lived in a country area 70 kilometers south of Edmonton. And her new job was on the northwest side of Edmonton which meant she would drive about 80 kilometers to get to work and then 80 kilometers to get back home. We borrowed enough money to buy a car, cash, off of some wealthy guy in town, and by this point, it had begun to snow outside.
I would wake up around 5 am, drive this dusty and rusty old Hyundai Sonata through the snow for ten to fifteen minutes and then come back so that once my wife got into the car, the engine was warm enough and the heat was blowing hot in it. And off to work, she went. And she would get home very late at night because her job was so far away.
Eventually, this car would break down. I kept hearing creaks and cranks, metal bending and twisting, and I would tell my wife about the noise, how the car would veer to one side more than the other, and how it would groan when we turned this way or that way. She said it was nothing to worry about because Edmonton roads are just full of holes and whatnot.
They were. They are. Roads up here are horrible.
And one day, while driving nearby her work, caring for chores and whatnot, the car began to make louder sounds and my wife suggested we pull into the nearest Canadian Tire car shop for an inspection. Once there, I pulled into the parking lot and when I put the transmission in reverse, the front end of the car dropped to the floor and the car would not budge.
My wife saw the car drop and saw the panicked and desperate look in my eyes, as she stood outside trying to help me with reverse parking it slowly and she began to laugh a kind of laugh I hadn’t heard before. Whether it was stress or panic or fear or just pure comedy, I don’t know, but she laughed so much. She could not control herself. It’s the kind of laugh that happens when you sit in church and something embarrassing happens and you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you can’t help it and it bursts out. But times 10 in this case.
This happened late in the day and it was so cold out. I kept the car on so that Maya, our little one, could stay warm in the car. Our gas was running low and we didn’t have money for a cab back to Wetaskiwin, where we lived with our in-laws. We were in a rut. We were stuck. Literally. It was snowing out. There was ice on the sidewalks. Ice. That’s the strangest thing ever. You could die if you slipped on that stuff.
Anyways, my father-in-law, that gentle soul, who also worked in Edmonton was on his way home to Wetaskiwin when we called him to rescue us in Edmonton. He turned his car around and drove toward us, picked us up, and well, we went home.
That car experienced so many issues. We borrowed money from family and paid to have it towed from Canadian Tire to Wetaskiwin and then somewhere else and finally to a Hyundai dealership. We dropped it off at the Hyundai repair shop because a buddy of mine from Lehigh Acres diagnosed the issue after a brief conversation and determined the issue was a recall which placed the fault of the malfunction on the manufacturer. The repairs cost us nothing. The tow truck costs were eventually covered by Hyundai. The car was repaired. It broke down again and again but Hyundai covered those costs as well. At that point, we were allowed to trade that old junk in and get a newer car, which, we did on the spot.
We ended up getting a tiny Hyundai Elantra that suited our family needs just fine… had we not been living in a polar vortex. Driving a tiny front-wheel-drive car in flat sun-scorched Florida is an amazing experience. But driving that four-cylinder baby up a hill through a blizzard is one of the most devilish things one can attempt. Many a time I thought the car would stall mid-climb and we would slide down an icy road to a wintery death in the Edmonton Saskatchewan River.
Thankfully that never happened. We got close, but never.
We eventually saved enough of my wife’s recent earnings, to the last penny, to move into Edmonton so that we could be closer to my wife’s work. We looked into one apartment after another and we found one where the owner was understanding of our delicate situation.
I mean I wasn’t working. My wife was and we barely made enough to cover our costs but he saw that we were honest folk struggling to get by. His life story in moving from India to Canada, he would later tell us once he invited us to his home for tea and cookies, was similar to ours. His heart in all this was a heart of gold.
We got the apartment, my wife was pregnant, and wait, yes, my wife got pregnant again. How? I don’t exactly know but here we were in Canada, newly moved into the country, a newer car, added costs, it’s winter, and while we moved from Wetaskiwin to Edmonton a blizzard descended upon our vehicles thus proclaiming to us that to get to Edmonton we would have to sacrifice our firstborn.
We didn’t, of course.
We moved into our two-bedroom apartment, without a bed frame, just a mattress. No table, just, linens, sheets, a couple of plates, and cutting utensils. No TV, no cable, no internet. My mother-in-law was kind enough to take my wife and Maya to the store to purchase our new home essentials for us. From towels to dishes and pots and whatnot.
We had barely enough food in the fridge because, again, we had borrowed so much cash just to cover things, borrowed money to apply for my residency and work permit, borrowed money for a damage deposit on the apartment, but only paid the owner half and promised him the other half in two weeks when my wife got paid. We couldn’t afford it and so we were behind on a lot of things. We survived on the graces and food of our in-laws and the random acts of kindness from a select few church people we had met along the way.
My wife revealed to her employer that she was pregnant and within two weeks they had dissolved her position in that company.
My wife comes home after that depressing revelation, jobless and pregnant with our second child. I was home with Maya, jobless and unable to work. Bills were looming over us. Stress. Hunger. Stress. Worry. And so on.
My mind was not in the best of places.
Anywho, a few days later, miraculously, my work permit arrived in the mail and the very next day I set off to apply for work everywhere. I set up a new bank account, updated all of my info to reflect my residency in Canada. And I applied everywhere. I applied in so many places that I lost count.
One place was willing to hire me on the spot and at another firm, the finance guy who would oversee my work wanted to have a sit-down and chat.
I was exasperated for work and this dude sees me and wants to just chat. Like… I don’t have other places to be, dude.
That guy would hire me the following week and would also become one of my friends.
We worked at this construction association for just short of two years before this same guy helped me get a better paying job within a better work environment in a different company.
At this point, we had met a faith community that welcomed us in (we would later leave this community for many reasons) and we had made so many friends that we cherish to this very day.
As we worked, earned, paid back some people, borrowed here, lent there, helped here, were helped there, we moved to a bigger place, got a better car, and a better job, we kind of just kept moving forward.
Five years in and we’ve added three girls to our family. Four girls under our belt!
We’re not rich. Not even close. We’re not wealthy. Not even close either.
But compared to our life in sunny Naples, Florida, (aka, paradise) we are lightyears ahead in life. Like seriously, I’m not putting the US down but life and lifestyle up here are a thousand times better because, by God’s grace, we managed to accomplish in five short years in Canada what would have taken us ten-to-twenty years in Florida.
Life was a struggle there but it was an embarrassing life because all you saw around you was exuberant wealth.
Here, even though we struggled at first, and continue to do so (we are able to actually support ourselves and live in our own place now), we see that everyone is pushing and growing through something of their own. It feels more normal to work and strive and push and grow through things up here knowing that everyone is in the same boat.
Except for the Chinese-Canadians. They’re on another level of affluence that is equal to or greater than the wealth of Naples folk.
We still lend money to friends. Friends return the favor. Debts are canceled. People are helped. And whatnot.
That part of our lives is still a work in progress we hope to one day overcome.
But what I love about living up here is that the dream of actually making it is still very much possible and attainable. And I don’t mean Bezos or Musk kind of making it. I don’t mean Gates or Jobs either.
My wife keeps assuring me that we will make it one day, whatever that means. She has that Naples mindset.
No, what I mean is the opportunity at a normal life is attainable in Canada without sacrificing life and limb.
Plus, should that be the case, I can just rush to the nearest hospital or clinic where I will be attended to and cared for at no added cost because my taxes pay for my healthcare.
That’s unheard of in the US.
My kids visit their pediatrician and there’s no co-pay involved. Nothing like that. They go, get their check-up, get prescriptions for whatever, we pay cents on the dollar for their drugs because my work benefits… work.
I can get eye exams and dental check-ups for free. To an extent. New glasses and frames, covered.
I can fracture my knee into ten places and go in for surgery and come out without a single bill.
In Naples, when Maya was born, we spent three days in the hospital. Once we got back home we receive two bills from the hospital totaling up to $30K.
How…. how could we ever pay that off? We didn’t. We wouldn’t. We couldn’t. We never will. Trust me on that one.
We’ve had two babies here in Canada and the only bill we had to pay was the parking spot for our car at the hospital parking lot.
A third baby is on her way to be born here and we’re not worried about $30K bills coming in the mail.
Life is different up here. I’m not saying life is better for everyone but it has been better for us. We have struggled and we will continue to struggle and strive for sustainability so we can give our girls a better opportunity at life up here, the same way my family moved to the US to give us a better opportunity at life.
Every generation makes a sacrifice for their kids and not the other way around.
I thank my parents for going through what we went through but for decades when they moved from Brazil to the US. I can’t count the many jobs they worked, cleaning offices, laboratories, clinics, on top of their day jobs just to provide for us. Kept us in school and well-nourished, fed, loved, and cared for.
But when we, my wife and I, set off to start a life for ourselves, the US just wasn’t as profitable or as conducive a place for our wellbeing as Canada has been so far. I’m generalizing the US, and for that, I apologize, but the wealthiest country in the world also produces a hell of a lot of homeless people too.
Something’s wrong there.
Either way, Canada has been good to us in the sense that the opportunities promised to us by a meritocracy like the USA were only attainable and fulfilled outside of the USA.
I don’t know how many struggles we’ll face in the near future but we’re somewhat a bit more prepared, maybe, to tackle them now.
I’m older now. My wife got younger in the face but older in the heart because of my antics. We’re wiser. Four kids in. Fourth in the womb but still with us.
If someone were to ask us if we’re ready to leave Canada we’d say, no.
If someone were to ask if we’d be willing to move, say, to Germany. I mean, I love the place and I’ve never been. I’d say I would visit, first, and, this depending upon my immediate disdain or unabashed love for the country, I would pray about it.
I am not averse to the idea of moving to Europe someday or anywhere else.
It’s just I feel we’re not done doing what we’re meant to do here.
I don’t have that same agitation in my heart as I did when we were beckoned to leave Florida.
That utterance that pushed us enough to consider leaving the US.
My heart is at peace here.
And I’ve also played in a band!
Anywho, do pay us a visit. Don’t just show up because we won’t open the door. Visit Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Edmonton, and well… yeah, that’s about it for Alberta. Ha. Visit Vancouver, Whistler (winter, preferably), and Toronto.
Canadians aren’t all nice, you know. Some of them have a nasty temper. They’re just like you and me with the exception of the moose riding fetish thing. It’s a cultural thing. Don’t try to understand it.
Other than that, give the Canadian way of life a chance. We did and it worked out… so far.
Side note from my wife; if anything, this season only strengthened and grew her faith and trust in God. You’d think a life filled with struggles, month after month would make a person bound to give up, to doubt. However, she reiterates, indeed it proves rather how every time we were close to breaking God came through. She sees his hand in everything. I mean the times we’d see no food in the fridge and $0.04 in the bank account and the confidence she would have by saying “God’s going to provide” and He sure did. Somehow, someway we saw him working where obstacles and struggles came yet He made a way for us to be here, right now.
Welp, that’s five years in Canada for us. Let’s see what happens in the next five!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
Someone needs to hear this: God is love and God loves you.
Some of you were taught otherwise and it shows. The myopic view of God as a spiteful, rage-filled deity has discouraged many from seeking God.
Many of us grew up in faith communities that spoke bounteously about God’s punitive justice (abatement of evil) and sparingly about God’s reparative justice (restoration of good(s) lost in the sinful state).
And God’s justice is not punitive alone as many of you have been taught to believe. (Hellfire and brimstone preaching, anyone?)
Here is Timothy Keller on Herman Bavinck’s interpretation of divine justice:
“In his magisterial work on God’s attributes, Herman Bavinck argues that in the Bible, God’s justice is both retributive and reparative. It not only punishes evildoing, but it restores those who are victims of injustice. Yet interestingly, “God’s remunerative [restorative] justice is far more prominent in Scripture than his retributive justice.” God stands against “perverting the justice due the poor… slaying the innocent and righteous… accepting bribes…. oppressing the alien, the widow, and the orphan…” God “raises them to a position of honor and well-being… Doing justice with an eye to the needy becomes an act [also] of grace and mercy.” And therefore, God’s restorative justice “is not, like his anger, opposed to his steadfast love but is closely akin and synonymous with it.” His justice is “simultaneously the manifestation of his grace (Psalm 97:11-12; 112:3-6; 116:5; 118:15-19).”
One of the reasons why some of us hold hostile notions toward organized religion and suspicious sentiments toward communities of faith is because our understanding of God’s love and justice was twisted by nescient individuals within these institutions whose goal was to enslave us, not liberate us with the gospel message.
Our receptivity of God’s love for us is either amplified by a healthy understanding of God and His word or crushed by men (and women) who improperly use that same word to control people.
God reassures us that justice is a great thing. Especially when that justice is meted out to thwart and abate evil. God’s justice is also reparative in the sense that it is necessary to restore dilapidated souls, relationships, families, and communities.
God is not only in the business of neutralizing evil in the human heart. It is just of Him to stop evil. We need God to stop evil ‘out there’ in the world, physical and metaphysical, and, His grace allowing, ‘in here’ in reference to our community and also to the human heart.
God is love and this love demands that justice must exist and that it must be effective in a fallen world. We’re taught that sin breeds evil and that sin is entrenched in every heart thus postulating that every person has the propensity for evil.
Justice demands that sin be excised and abolished because its ramifications if left unchecked, spreads in the heart of the individual and in his community thus producing sinful structures.
Sin is destructive to the self and it creates systemic evils.
God’s punitive justice demands the sin in us be abolished but that sin is so engraved in our nature that to destroy sin God would have to destroy us. That’s normally what many of us know about the gospel and about redemption. Outside of the substitution of the cross, we are left on this earth as the receptacles of the full weight of God’s punitive justice; deservedly so.
That’s all some of us know. That’s all some of us were ever taught.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Learning about God must entail we learn as much as has been made available to us about God, meaning, learning more about divine justice being both retributive and reparative.
Meaning, God’s justice is set in motion not only to confront evil, which is actually an amazing thing, but also to restore that which was lost, stolen, hijacked, kidnapped, and ruined in us by sin.
Imagine a court is set in motion to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, which is a necessary aspect of a civilized society. But we must also remember that the judicial system exists to restore that which was stolen, pay back that which was sifted, repair that which was broken, remunerate where and when possible in accordance with the law.
Our earthly courts have demonstrated just how problematic it can be to only exhibit one form of justice whilst ignoring the other.
Take, for example, an innocent man wrongly convicted and forced to serve a twenty-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. Someone falsely accused him of something, his public defender was too over-encumbered with other cases to take him seriously, he was offered a plea deal to lighten the time spent behind bars, evidence was falsified against him by law enforcement, and the jury was biased against him because of the color of his skin.
Imagine fifteen years into his sentence he is exonerated. His name is cleared by his initial accuser, who still walks about free. The court does not apologize for its missteps. His public defender abandoned him years earlier. The police officers who falsified his confession have since retired with hearty pensions, without consequence. And this exonerated soul is set free into a different world from the one he left once he was incarcerated and he has no money or land to his name.
The courts did right by punishing evil (or at least it thought it did by punishing someone for a crime) but it failed to restore and repair that which was broken once the truth came out.
Justice must punish wrongdoing and at the same time, it must repair the breach the initial wrong caused.
Divine Justice is equally retributive and reparative.
What would make this case end on a brighter note is to imagine the man exonerated, his accusers jailed and tried for falsifying evidence, statements, perjury, and fraud. And also, that the court apologizes for its initial mistake and then repays the man the millions and millions of dollars owed to him for the harms he suffered behind bars all those years and as a means by which he can restart his life with something rather than nothing to his name.
The police officers involved must then lose their pensions for falsifying evidence. This seems extreme but perjury is a crime that deserves a consequence.
Justice is set in motion to hold wrongdoing accountable and deliver the victim of these wrongs into a place, a state of being, an identification of being restored by the systems set in place to restore righteousness to the land.
Justice is righteous, you know.
The cross is where punitive and reparative justice intersects to benefit us spiritually and physically.
Christ is punished for our sins and Christ is also the avenue by which we are restored not only to God but also to one another.
“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelations 21:5 is not indicative of just the new heavens and the new earth, but of a new people, transformed into the likeness of Jesus, living, breathing, operating, and working to live as He did on earth.
So, in light of this renewal, this indwelling, this transformative Person guiding us through life, we must walk as He did, restoring, repairing, and restituting wherever possible.
This is hope-inspiring for victims of abuse, mistreatment, violence, terror, and all categories of wrongs. It is refreshing to know that God is bent toward justice and He seeks not only to obstruct evil but also the infrastructure created by sin on which evil travels.
God’s justice abates evil and repairs brokenness.
If you are a victim, a destitute soul who has been harmed by a sinful world, seek God’s justice, not just in this life but the next.
To rectify wrongs and heal wounds.
Thank God we can seek both.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
What am I to you, World, but a passing stranger? A vagabond hitchhiking through your darkest corridors, going about shining the light of my Master. What have I to offer you World? A corpse. That’s all. Have I brought gifts; absolutely. Invitations really, to the greatest of all festivities, the grandest of all banquets; yes, even the largest supper you’ve ever witnessed, dear World. But, the truth is you will not accept this invitation from above, no, you will willingly crumble under the sins of past and present; oh yes, even the sins yet to be committed. Tell you what, soon to be destroyed World, the Lord is gracious and has promised to make you new as well. Did you really think the Creator would only focus on us humans? Absolutely not! Yes, your hopes are up even though you endure intense pains. Despair not World, for as a flower is crushed a perfume is made. With your death and destruction, a new place will be made and you will be new just like in the beginning. I cannot wait to meet you then and enjoy your beauty.
I launched this blog one year ago today. It began as a medium by which to better understand a craft, understand how I think and how those thoughts come out on paper (or on-screen), to better develop my prose, and practice just enough to the point where I don’t feel miserable when writing my first book.
By the way, I’m almost halfway through that first book. More to come about that in the future.
Looking back I am so happy that I started this page. It helps me think and perhaps it confuses me even more. Tackling history, church history, theology, faith, and relationships often lead the inquirer to more questions than answers.
And from time to time, that’s okay.
We were never to have all the answers all to ourselves. We learn best in a community and we grow better in a healthy community. And this blog is one of many communities.
I hope to improve my craft not only for myself but for you, dear reader, as well. Stories shape us. Great stories encourage and inspire us. I hope to inspire not just you but my girls. So that one day, when they decide to read their dad’s shenanigans they can understand the man I am, the man I was, and the man I aspire to be, through my writings.
108 posts down. Here are some of my favorite ones since Olivet Theory officially launched one year ago today!
The “Gospel+” Movement: Why Simplicity Matters
“The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.”
MTD vs Christianity Proper
“MTD isn’t a religion, like Islam or Judaism. It is more of a disintegration of one particular faith, namely Christianity, that melts into ideals that have been spiritualized and inculcated into American religious circles.”
Marital Advice for the Uninitiated
“Far too many problems arise in marriage because people want so much to live like, behave like, be empowered by, attain the same level of status like, promote a sense of stability like and be unimaginatively in love like power couples they see on social media or in their community.”
How “Policy Over Character” Destroys Our Christian Witness
“White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret.”
Avoiding Extremes: A Word of Caution From a Former Fundamentalist
“Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.”
Giftedness vs Fruitfulness: The Hidden Dangers of Following Gifted Church Leaders
“Check and see if what you seek, who you follow, and what you promote is reflective of the biblical Christ or if it is but a dim and dreary shadow of our savior poorly illustrated by gifted leaders.”
My Top Ten Rules for Girl Dads
“Love, be patient, listen, play, and yes, mess up from time to time so that she can see that dad is human and that dad knows how to humble himself enough and apologize for his mistakes.”
“We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.”
A Painful Rediscovery: A Look Into Where My Heart & Mind Are Today
“Mumbling some sort of prayer up to God, not sure if I asked for forgiveness for my feelings, my words, my rage, or if what I felt was a fear of these words making their way on to the screens of the very people who had hurt me. In my fear I wanted to avoid offending them, for having offended me.”
The Burden of History & The Curse of Heritage
“It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.”
Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series: Chapter 3 – How to Talk About Race and Racism
“Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.”
I Am A Neo-Evangelical
“I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.”
Here Is Why We Left Mill Creek Christian Assembly
“t would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.”
Here’s to another year of blogging, story-telling, craft-development, book reviewing, and trouble-making!
I cannot emphasize this enough therefore I will allow the words of the King to re-emphasize it for me: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Fox News opinion casters have been re-demonizing Muslims and Christians from Afghanistan because there’s an unfounded theory that undocumented brown refugees will begin to flood into the United States of America because of this Taliban crisis.
Most of the people who watch Fox News adhere to some form of a Christian or Judeo-Christian moral framework where they believe that God exists, Jesus walked this earth, that we should live by high ethical standards, sexual standards, and respect our neighbors.
Something like that.
But at the same time, these same viewers will swallow a building-sized gnat of hatred that Fox News spews against, you named it, immigrants.
And the darker their complexion the spicier the vitriol gets.
I don’t care if you watch Fox News to further numb the dead or dying heart inside of you. I don’t mind if your soul is so dark that the only thing that brings you warmth is watching millionaires discuss their hatred for the disenfranchised, poor, colored, and immigrants but if that’s the case I hope you’re not at the same time ascribing to a worldview that espouses love, kindness, redemption, and holiness.
The crisis in Afghanistan is so complicated and the United States of America’s participation in the formation and the financial backing of the Taliban in previous proxy wars has only made things worse. The United States does not walk out of this situation with clean hands.
I understand that this crisis is more complicated than we dare admit, collectively speaking. Some of us will blame Muslims for the bloodshed. Others will blame Russia. Others yet will blame Americans. And Americans will blame the Afghani people for not developing quickly enough to defend themselves against an insurgency like the Taliban.
The blame game works itself into a wheel spin that is hard to slow down once it’s in full steam. I’m concerned with the catalysts, yes, I’m concerned about the agencies that led this nation and its surrounding communities to such dire straits. Insurgents only become insurgents because every other way of life has been taken from them by bombs dropped by other insurgencies or government agencies.
American ones included.
It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do or how to do what needs to be done in a situation as problematic as this.
We’re all on the same boat when it comes to this stalemate, this uncertainty surrounding Afghani lives still in Afghanistan, who, at any moment, might be massacred for whatever reason by Taliban foot soldiers.
We’re in agreement there! We’re all worried about these vulnerable people.
But what disturbs me greatly is the ever virulent diatribe that ebbs and flows from Fox News and like-minded news stations about these unfortunate souls.
If 30 million (the actual number is somewhere around 2.5 million) Americans watch Fox News every day and they believe half of the stuff that spews out of that channel then we have 30 million Americans who have little to no compassion for immigrants seeking refuge in America, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and so on.
We begin to see people as animals and from there we then view them as insects. It isn’t far fetched to then believe that their decimation and massacre at the hands of Taliban terrorists is equal to that of cockroaches under our boots.
The rhetoric surrounding immigrants, especially brown immigrants coming out of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News pundits or whatever other hyper-nationalist news stations are is a rhetoric of hate.
Hate the immigrant. Say you’re sorry for their demise. Tell them they’re not welcome in your country and then smack their backside as they move on to another humanitarian crisis camp that you will call dirty, filthy, and deserving of the people who settle there.
And then go on about your life telling everyone how much your country needs Jesus because Jesus is love, kind, just, merciful, and holy.
People, for the love of God, love one another.
Love the men who are fleeing for their lives so they don’t fall under gunfire or the sword. Love the women fleeing for their lives so they do not become breeders for a terrorist organization and their sex-deprived lunatic foot soldiers. Pray for the children, boys, and girls, who are petrified and will possibly be traumatized for life because of it.
Love them. Love them because they are people.
Instead of complaining about immigrants coming into your country to take your jobs look at them, not through them, as extended family members who need rescue and help.
Canada is a nation large enough to possibly fit the population of the planet in it twice over. Just don’t send people to the North West Territories because there’s nothing up there but land, bears, moose, and the occasional horror story stalker.
But fill Canada with people who need help. The United States of America, too.
Why we’ve come to think of them as undeserving of our resources because they were not born here is insane and cruel. I understand nations have national sovereignty and borders but we’re all on the same planet, sharing the same air, eating the same foods, and drinking the same water, albeit, cleaner water in some places than others.
We’re all one race stemming from one place. People with an intrinsic value whose worth supersedes international and national borders and laws.
We need to love our neighbors and help them in their time of need. Not because one day we’ll need them; because we might, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We cannot settle for news stations whose personas non grata proclaim faith, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, humanity, love, and yes, supposedly, a Christian faith, but then say and report everything contrary to it.
Love your neighbor.
Be on the side of compassion and empathy. Gun powder and sword are great at making soldiers of children but love and compassion are better at making people of character, principle, and morals.
If we want to see fewer insurgencies then we might try and start by extending a friendly hand to our neighbors.
Even when that love isn’t reciprocated, we love them. We love them well.
I’ve placed a few photos of Afghanistan in this post. Bucolic settings, breathing taking ones, just to remind the reader that there’s more to a land when it is not constantly bombarded with terror attacks. More to it when it isn’t portrayed as a forgotten wasteland occupied by dirty brown immigrants who worship a different god. (I’m talking about you, Fox News).
Afghanistan is an extension of our land and our land an extension of theirs. Same planet, beautifully full and fully beautiful in all of its parts.
An argument can be made that there is an unhealthy level of hypocrisy in the pro-life movement concerning its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, to our western mind the portmanteau pro-life means that the person values life from conception all the way through to the grave. Conception through birth, through life, and so on.
And there’s disagreement on why some of the most adamant pro-lifers fail to appreciate life as much once the person is struggling to pay bills, find lodging, facing eviction notices, in need of healthcare, education, unemployment assistance, and whatnot.
That’s not my argument here. That hypocrisy is evident in these areas and more before all. I needn’t argue the case there.
My beef is with pro-life American and Canadian Christians who use their faith and their freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote a lifestyle that is antithetical to a God and neighbor honoring ethic. They use their faith and rights to promote unwise habits which lead to the death of others.
“The Christian motive for hygiene and sanitation does not arise in self-preservation but in an ethic of service to our neighbor. We wish to care for the afflicted, which first and foremost means not infecting the healthy. Early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygienic places to provide care during times of plague, on the understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.”
Again, in his words, understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.
I am shocked by every news article or tabloid post that informs the general public that another Covid denier, Anti-Vaxxer, and anti-establishment extremist with a Bible in one hand and the American constitution or the Canadian charter in the other has passed away from Covid related complications.
Stone, again, reminds us of just how far Christians and their Christ-centric ethics have come through the years whenever faced with moral or natural evil:
“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.
But the more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian, named for a bishop who gave a colorful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian helped set off the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster without the push from government entities, without the assistance of political agencies, without funds from wealthy corporations and yet they ventured past the green zone and into the circle of death to assist those most vulnerable, motivated by nothing more than love of God and neighbor.
The history of altruism found within Christian communities is so imitable. Their love for the destitute, the sick, the broken, the diseased, without much care for their own well-being was quite the example to follow. This nonpareil altruistic movement is what attracted so many, to the faith to begin with.
The difference, however, is that something has shifted our Christian witness. We have gone from petitioning for the sanctity of life to petitioning for the rights and freedoms of selfish living, which, in turn, and as a direct consequence of, has caused the spread of the coronavirus in so many communities that could have gone without it if we had been more Christ-like to begin with.
In ancient Israel, in the book of Leviticus in particular, the Jews required anyone with an infectious disease to quarantine away from the camp for seven days or more. Some, having a very infectious disease, would live outside the camp indefinitely so as to preserve the wellbeing and life of both parties.
And somehow, somewhere along with the development of the western Christian mind, this altruistic selflessness has gone out the window, and with it, compassion and empathy for neighbors.
Modern medicine has shown us how diseases work, how they spread, how they affect the body, disrupt certain bodily functions, and from there, how some of them can lead to death. We now know chemists can develop antibodies in the form of a vaccine to counteract the spread of diseases or the damage these pathogens wreak on society.
And one of the mechanisms we have developed over time and learned how to use better is the victimless tool of quarantine; which helps reduce the rate a pathogen transfers from one person to another by isolating and caring for the sick. On top of that, we have been blessed with access to masks, which have also proven to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases.
Social distancing and masks.
These are the two crosses we have been asked to bear by our society and even these have become steps on which we tread to cause the death of others.
Distance and face coverings are too heavy a burden for us to carry.
How does that make any sense?
In the onset of Christian monasticism, in the era in which Christian converts would disappear into the desert to seek God, and once there they would form communities that would open their doors to assist and house outcasts. It was there that many relinquished so many rights and privileges just to help their neighbor.
They would give up wealth, give up status, give up work, and yes, even safety to wander through the unknown for days and nights to reach a place where trauma existed, where abused and bruised souls needed refuge, a place where so many had lost family and friends and found a new family and new friends.
Christians for years upon years had given so much from their lives and personal comfort even if it helped someone else just a little.
However, the tides have shifted and today we’re trying to take as much for ourselves and even the little that would have gone to our neighbor and their stability in life as possible.
Had we been asked to give blood, relinquish the rights to our bank accounts, leave our jobs, turn in our citizenship and residency, face deportation and exile for the sake of Christ and the betterment of life of our neighbor we would.
But a vaccine shot, social distancing, and masks are too many steps too far.
Our pro-life stance is only pro-life when it deals with the rights of the unborn but let us not be challenged to protect the life and well-being of our neighbors who are already here.
Apostle Paul asked the first-century church in Galatia a question that I ask of our generation today:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? […]” Galatians 3:1 NRSV
He confronted a church that began with the salvific gospel and ended up with traditional legalism. Paul was curious about where and who tricked them out of the gospel and seduced them into a religion of works.
I, too, ask the same question of our fellow western Christian minds today.
“You foolish Americans! You foolish Canadians! Who has bewitched you?”
Who has sapped your Christianity of empathy? Who has taught you to reduce your neighbor to a number on a board? Who has asked you to see dollar signs instead of the elderly? Who has robbed you of love for your neighbor and taught you to believe that minor inconveniences like social distancing and mask-wearing are persecutory aspects of a democratic society?
You’re living with a persecution complex in a hedonist society. You’re more in love with and entrapped by comfort and rights than you are with Christ’s character of selflessness.
If you’re asked to carry your brother’s burdens you not only refuse to lend him a hand but you castigate your brother for being in the predicament they’re in, to begin with. And, at times, you’re the direct cause of their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NRSV
We see so many people pass away from Covid and much of that spread is due to our gross negligence of brotherly and sisterly love.
Christianity has thrived through thousands of years of strife, persecution, famine, war, social ostracism, pestilence, and plagues and we have shown outsiders time and again just how much love God has placed in our hearts as we care for our neighbors.
But something happened. Something went wrong somewhere and we’re too unbothered or too preoccupied or too distracted to stop and think about what and why went wrong.
Stone compares our gross negligence in spreading a pathogen we could have helped combat and stop a year ago, saving countless lives in the process, as gross negligence equal to murder!
And I agree!
There are pro-lifers committing murder. Either as direct agents of death or co-conspirators with it.
When we fail to help our world through a time like this… through a pandemic like this one… we help kill it.
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until George expired under this weight, has been found guilty of all three charges brought against him. The charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
It is both a relief and a reprehensible thought that we are relieved that a bad cop is facing punitive consequences for taking someone’s life without cause.
It is a relief to know that George Floyd will get justice. We can now celebrate that which we all knew and were continually denied for just short of a year: that what this officer did was wrong. It was unnecessary. It was grotesque. It was evil.
It. Was. Evil.
Law enforcement officers are sworn to serve and protect their communities. Sworn to uphold the law and embody a shield of protection, honor, and sacrifice for their fellow man. A stamp of courage shines over this profession, in theory, as men and women, public servants who rush into trouble to save those in distress and those under the threat of death.
We have been struggling with this emblematic view of law enforcement compared to its implemented force on the streets, where, instead of protecting the vulnerable we see them take lives, continually, without cause.
Mind you, this is not to dismiss the rightful case for use of force. No one is questioning the rightful use of force to subdue dangerous individuals. We’re calling into question the unnecessary excessive use of force, the disregard for human dignity and life, and the unnecessary killings of unarmed civilians.
We are relieved that another bad cop is removed from the streets and is paying for his bad policing.
But at the same time, it is reprehensible to think that we find relief in knowing bad cops are off the streets and we’re celebrating the first steps of accountability in a system as destructive as modern-day policing.
Why has it taken this long?
Mind you, our celebration is bittersweet because Floyd had to die so that Chauvin, a repeat unnecessary excessive use of force offender, could be taken off the streets and removed from a position of power and authority. Someone had to die, blood had to be shed, and life sifted from our world so that one bad cop could face the music.
Now, the bittersweetness of today’s conviction turns more bitter as we dive into the numerous high-profile cases within the American (in)justice system where bad cops managed to walk out of court free men. Free to offend again. Free to kill, again.
We can easily recall the names of the officers who wasted Breonna Taylor’s life, endangering the lives of her neighbors and whoever else could have been hit by their unnecessary flood of bullets. Plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove attempted to serve a complicated and perplexing warrant at Breonna Taylor’s apartment and there are conflicting arguments over whether or not they knocked before bashing her door in, they traded fire with the occupants within the apartment.
Not only is the documentation for the warrant dubious but the no-knock operation was also called into question when the residents of the apartment, Breonna, who is now deceased, and her boyfriend, Mr. Walker, and their neighbors, claim they did not hear the police knock on the door. Only that the door was bashed in. To protect him and his girlfriend from would-be intruders, the residents of the apartment fired a single round in their direction.
We know the rest.
Ultimately, one of the officers involved in Breonna’s death decided to countersue Mr. Walker for emotional damage.
None of them have faced a single day behind bars as bad cops, evil cops, or killer cops.
They’re free to roam the streets under a different badge in a different city.
And one of them has since signed a book deal with a major publisher to explain his side of things and possibly make millions from the sales alone. Not to mention future speaking engagements with police departments and law enforcement conferences around the nation later on.
I wasn’t old enough to comprehend the gravity of the assault Rodney King experienced at the hands of the four Los Angeles police officers, Sgt. Stacey C. Koon, Officer Theodore J. Briseno, Officer Timothy E. Wind, and Officer Laurence Powell. Watching the low-quality video of these same officers beating King to a pulp as a kid was disheartening. Rewatching the same video as a teenager, it was evident that what happened to the man was just wrong. Rewatching it as an adult, understanding the complexities of that stop, the history of race within the United States of America, was traumatizing. They beat King until his black body turned blue and purple. They smashed their batons over his head, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and back, and beat him even though he did not resist. He was on his knees, possibly begging for mercy, begging for his life, but they kept beating him.
This was all caught on tape, man. Evidence!
And, to no one’s surprise, the same four men were acquitted of all charges. Free to roam the streets again to beat more people, white, Hispanic, black, and Asian, to a pulp at a moment’s notice and claim they feared for their lives and that their victim was resisting arrest.
They were free to return to their position of power and authority where their operational methods would never be questioned again.
We revisit the unnecessary murder of a military officer from Maryland, Roman Ducksworth Jr., who was on emergency leave from his duties in order to be present for the birth of his child. He was on a bus on his way to the hospital when Taylorsville, Mississippi, Police Department officer William Kelly stopped the bus, pulled Roman Ducksworth, Jr. out, and claimed that he fired a shot into the military officer’s chest in self-defense. The case was closed because this was ruled as justified homicide.
Mind you, the only reason Southern officers were pulling buses over is that students and citizens from all across America were bussing from their hometowns to the South to join civil rights desegregation protests.
Riding a bus to desegregate the south was worthy of criminal charges. Of death!
In Roman Ducksworth, Jr.s’ case, he was a military officer who was excited to meet his new baby but was mistaken for a Freedom Rider and killed without cause.
His surviving family members were later forced to relocate because they would wake to a burning cross in their yard.
What. The. Hell.
I recall reading an article written by the University of Alberta professor of sociology, Temitope Oriola, Ph.D. In it, he delves into the different ways we can better our policing in hopes of maintaining a healthy stream of communication between police departments and their community without severing that tie through unnecessary use of force and unnecessary killings of unarmed civilians.
Concerning de-escalating police-related violent interactions he states:
“The evidence in support of reducing deadly force by hiring more women in police departments is overwhelming. Female officers are less likely to use (excessive) force as they deploy de-escalation techniques and engage verbally.”
And I’m all-in on hiring more women, competent women, of course, to police our cities because there exists an unhealthy rate of male officers sexually abusing civilians and too many male officers high on testosterone. So please, by all means, let’s diversify the sexes within our police force if that’ll help reduce the number of fatal interactions in this relationship between cops and their community.
Professor Oriola then suggests that:
“Officers without university degrees populate the ranks of killer cops. Officers with university degrees are more likely to request mental health support for suspects and demonstrate a higher appreciation for the complexity of social life, individual problems and subtleties of working in an increasingly diverse environment.”
And listen, I understand this can be a financially weighty burden placed on our police departments but listen to me, no, listen to the facts, I don’t care if police unions and departments are complaining about allocating funds initially set apart for tanks and frag grenades over to education banks for their trainees. I would prefer a well-educated police force that has a broader arsenal of tactics by which to resolve their problems other than batons, mace, tasers, and service weapons.
If they’re trained well enough to understand the difference between a civilian who is having a psychotic-mental episode, one who is having a drug-induced episode, one who is dealing with emotional stress, and one who is threatening a terror attack, that helps everyone involved.
Because a well-educated and trained officer will reach for his phone or radio quicker than he will his service weapon. This will have more persons hospitalized and in treatment than people rioting and burning down businesses to the ground because someone died at the hands of the law enforcement as a result of a mental episode.
On the matter of an ethnically diverse police force professor Oriola adds:
“Evidence from the United States is less settled regarding racial characteristics of killer cops. However, most studies find that white, non-Hispanic officers are more likely to shoot or kill civilians. A few studies suggest Black officers are more likely to shoot and kill civilians. These have been criticized for poor methodology.”
And listen, here is the thing, I understand colored people may be averse to joining a publicly funded force that had and continues to terrorize them but we need them to join. We need to see our community better represented in every industry, especially the industry sworn to serve and protect us.
I understand that we ought not to judge an officer by the color of his skin but history in the United States of America has been tarnished by the fact that far too many white officers have been complicit in committing crimes against innocent colored community members and hiding behind other white officers who help them cover their tracks.
If we have a more diversified force we can better instill trust between police departments and their communities.
If residents of Mobile, Alabama are 51% black and their police force is 80-90% white, I’m theorizing here, even if 100% of these officers are great cops, which isn’t the case, there will be a level of misrepresentation between the force and the community it represents and serves.
A diversified police force can rebuild their community.
Diversify and diversify now.
And lastly, professor Oriola speaks on accountability and as he calls it, ‘the way forward.’
“I propose a two-pronged policy — a “kill-and-go” policy and “three strikes policy” — for police accountability.
Kill-and-go means any officer who kills an unarmed civilian or a suspect who had a weapon but did not deploy it against an officer is dismissed from service and prosecuted.
The three strikes proposal is similar to the disused California anti-crime law of the same name. Any officer involved in three excessive use-of-force incidents in which a civilian is mistreated and sustains injuries is automatically dismissed from service and prosecuted. There should be no expiry to each strike across an officer’s career.”
And listen, listen to this man, a genius at work but compassionate where I lack compassion.
He proposes a ‘kill-and-go’ shift in policing where if an officer is involved in a shooting where an unarmed civilian is killed he should be let go from the force. Terminated. This is such a common-sense approach I don’t think I need to elaborate further but because I’m a sinner I will.
Interrogator: Did you shoot the suspect/civilian?
I: Did he/she have a weapon?
I: You’re fired. O: But I feared for my life. I: Get a job elsewhere.
O: But my life. I: Bye.
It’s that simple!
And then he proposes a three-strike system, which is reflective of the racist American three-strike drug laws that incarcerate black Americans for deplorable lengths of time for nonsensical and non-violent crimes. So, if you’re caught dealing weed on the streets three different times you will be given a lengthier sentence on the time you’re caught. Lengthier than that of a convicted pedophile. It’s crazy.
But here, professor Temi proposes that if an officer is accused of using excessive force three times he is fired from the force and prohibited from joining another force elsewhere. And listen to me. Listen. I’m shouting in my head as I type this stuff.
There is so much common sense involved in professor Temi’s approach to police reform that we can call it police reform instead of police defund.
We wouldn’t have the inflammatory moniker “Defund the Police” if “Reform the Police” had caught on, say, sixty years ago and things had actually changed.
I am content with this verdict. I am also distraught by how many other officers have escaped justice over the years. Not just abusive brutes who wielded their power and authority around as a means to control and abuse civilians but I am also referring to the socio and psychopathic killer cops behind the badge who have never faced a day behind bars.
Chauvin is a small fish in a sea of bad, corrupt, and evil cops. Killer cops who may never face justice.
But they will. In life or in death. They will.
Let us hope that Chauvin’s sentence is just. That he is not treated like an animal nor that retribution be the aim here. We’re civilized even when our protectors are bestial. We’re not asking for black America to be given the chance to kneel on his neck until he dies. We’re asking that he serve the maximum sentence for each of his charges, of which he was found guilty by a jury of his peers. Faithfully and justly so.
Let us hope the judge overseeing this case uses prudence and righteous metrics by which to sentence him. We hope that no matter how long Chauvin sits in a cell that his life is preserved. We’re not calling for the death penalty. We’re calling for this dangerous man to be held accountable. That he be taken off the treats so he doesn’t kill again.
We hope for peaceful times. Times without riots. Without the pain induced by cops killing unarmed civilians; the pain felt by cops killing black people. Unarmed black people. The history is weighty there and has yet to be reconciled in this would-be great nation.
Let us hope that Chauvin’s case sets precedence by which killer cops are held accountable. Unlike the cops in Taylor’s, King’s, and Ducksworth Jr.’s cases who all walked away from justice without an inkling of moral perturbance over their immoral acts and behaviors behind the badge.
When evil thrives undeterred the people revolt and riot. It is but the consequence of brokenness in our society. Evil must be stamped out and we have civil metrics by which to hold these criminals accountable. Because when we do our nation rejoices.
The old Proverb said it best:
“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.” Proverbs 11:10
Let us rejoice, but for time. Let us shout, but for a time. There is still much work to do. Many more killer cops who need to face justice.
I recall our home group discussing this revelatory chapter from the ancient post-exilic autobiography of Nehemiah. This Jewish cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes was born in exile and later managed to secure a temporary leave of work in Persia to take on the role of construction manager in Jerusalem. With the king’s blessing, financial support, and minor military escort, Nehemiah found himself at the entrance of a dilapidated city-state where his task was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
He is faced with the level of destruction the city had endured under the wrath of a now-defunct Babylonian empire. That which he had heard from his parents in tales and stories he now sees with his own eyes. The land that was promised to his forefathers lay in ruins, stones and the remaining citizens within, shattered and scattered.
His first opposition arose from the wanton efforts of foreign rulers and leaders who had settled in and around the crumbled city of God, their might on full display as their intentions were laid bare before Nehemiah.
If you think you’re going to rebuild this city, dear boy, you are wrong. We won’t allow it. We’ll take your life if we have to.
And Nehemiah, unafraid of the taunts of a physical and present threat, reverberates opprobrium so harsh the malefactors disappear from the scene for some time. His rebuttal was divinely backed, morally sound, and characteristically prophetic.
Nehemiah then encourages the local Jerusalemites to rebuild the walls of the city and manages to convince local cities and minor-states to join this effort. The construction is underway and we now know that it comes to completion in a record-breaking fifty-two days.
But what we miss out on is what takes place in the middle of this building process. In the fifth chapter of this thirteen chapter autobiography, Nehemiah faces troubles from within the walls.
He is presented with a social and moral dilemma where a famine sweeps through the land, Jerusalem’s enemies encircle their trading routes, and interrupting and disrupting their much-needed logistics to supply food and military defense. To further complicate this national disaster, the wealthy within the city begin to demand interest from the poor, hold their fields hostage against them, take their daughters as slaves as collateral for their debt, and mistreat the less fortunate as if they were dung.
Nehemiah hears of these issues from the outcry of the people and his response is heroically commendable.
“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.”
He set off to produce a case against his fellow countrymen before the general congregation of Jerusalemites. He demanded their immediate compliance, demanding they liberate those taken in as slaves, return the fields and livelihoods of those who were robbed of them, and repent of their avarice in the face of a national financial crisis.
Nehemiah does not allow injustice on a local scale; the secondary and possibly tertiary issues of the time, to prolong its stay in the hearts and minds of the Jews. He set off to immediately correct the wrongs his people faced and to restore and restabilize something that had lost its equilibrium within his society.
Wrongs were righted. Injustice lost its play to justice. Morale was restored. The poor cared for. The slave set free. And the reconstruction project for this great city was finished in less than two months’ time.
Murder Trial: Justice Delayed
What we can take from Nehemiah’s troubles in light of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial is that when presented with evil and wrongs our resolve is to demonstrate a posture of righteousness (doing the right thing and being just). This does not involve self-righteousness (gloating over one’s perceived good behavior) but one’s proclivity toward righting wrongs fairly and expeditiously.
We’re presented with a complex situation where a white police officer, sworn to serve and protect his community, is being charged with killing an unarmed, non-threatening, non-combative, hand-cuffed black man.
The world watched as George Floyd, the victim of this case, was brought out of a grocery store, hand-cuffed, manhandled into the back of a police car, and then pulled from it by four police officers and here cellphone cameras capture the moment where Derek Chauvin places George Floyd on pavement and places his knee behind Geroge’s neck and there it stays for the total of eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
The world watched and re-watched this grueling scene as George gasped for oxygen, begged for a moment of reprieve so that he might breathe through the arrest and his calls for help and statements of lack of oxygen went unheard and ignored by the four arresting officers.
What is of great import is that Derek Chauvin has been arrested for the senseless and unnecessary death of a man in handcuffs. What is of greater import is that Derek Chauvin faces a fair and just court system that will right this wrong.
Our expression should mimic that of Nehemiah in the face of a wrong or as we have seen numerous times within the United States policing system, systemic and systematic wrongs that have yet to be reckoned with.
Our expression should not be retaliatory but redemptive. In hope of restoring everyone’s humanity, that of the person whose dignity was violated and that of the violaters who degraded and denigrate their own humanity by progressing through their evil actions and later covering it all up.
Independent of the verdict that is given at the end of this trial our resolve should not alter. We are instructed by our Creator to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We’re not factious zealots who are ready, at a moment’s notice, to take up arms, torches, and bombs to bring buildings down in the name of a good cause.
Nehemiah assembled a people who knew of the Laws of God, called upon their memory and conscience to consider the fear of the Lord (respect and reverence of God), and to consider the weight of their wrongs compared to the weight of God’s justice should they fail to rectify the wrongs committed against their fellow countrymen.
Our contemporaries function upon a secular and all-too pluralistic system but that does not stop us, nor them, from seeking justice. And should they fail to live up to the laws, morals, ethics, and systems we have all built together, that is not a case nor an opportunity for us to forsake our peacemaking efforts to riot and destroy in the name of love.
There are cases where we are called to act upon these things but this case is not it.
Nehemiah called for restitution, invoked God and priests to the public square to make sure every wrong was righted, and should the malefactors fail to correspond to the promise of reconciliation then there would be spiritual and social consequences.
Let our resolve be unique in a face of a world that seeks to crucify anyone who does wrong. Our Christ was crucified not only that we could seek justice and offer mercy and forgiveness, but also that no one else need be crucified in the wake of riotous fervor and rage.
This will be best demonstrated after Chauvin is convicted, as I believe he will be convicted, if not for murder then possibly manslaughter, and his sentencing of lesser consequence and weight than that of a tax-evader or say, a mom who lies about her address so her child can attend a better school in a different district.
Our nation is ready to erupt at the slightest mention of injustice but our resolve is to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with and before our God. Meaning, again, independent of the verdict and sentence, we will not stop rebuilding nor will we stop loving God with all our heart, mind, and soul; nor will we stop loving and fighting for our neighbor, whose justice was denied. Namely, the late George Floyd.
And to conclude, should the question be asked of us in light of this delicate and all-too painful situation, How Should We Behave? I hope we follow in the footsteps of the great and humble cupbearer, Nehemiah:
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Ch.1 v.4
Then I prayed to the God of heaven. Ch. 2 v. 4
To which he found a response from God and a response for his issues:
The God of heaven will give us success. Ch. 2 v. 20
And should our efforts as followers and children of the God of heaven mirror that of Nehemiah then rest assured that no matter what happens our contemporaries will know that we are children of the Light and Truth.
The Cambridge dictionary defines the word attribute as a quality, characteristic, or feature of a person or thing, especially one that is an important part of its nature.
When we pause long enough to ponder on what sets us apart from those around us we begin to notice how we are different. Unique, even. It is not merely an aesthetic difference but a natural one in character, personality, and temperament. Some of us can withstand the galloping dance moves of our neighbors on the floor above our own while others cannot bear to listen to a birdsong first thing in the morning.
We’re all different and that’s fine. That’s good.
Depending on our upbringing, our socio-economic stability or instability, our body image awareness, or emotional intelligence quotient we see ourselves and the qualities we have as advantages or possibly as disadvantages in our society.
We know that in one culture it is acceptable for families to yell at each other across the dinner table as the discussion becomes a boisterous street-side shouting match where taking turns to speak and voicing one’s opinion is a war-like experience.
In another culture, speaking at the dinner table is discouraged. Some will allow the husband and wife to discuss minor happenings of the day and nothing beyond that. Children are reserved to utter silence out of respect for this dynamic tradition
This is why we can meet friends who will treat a restaurant waiter with utmost respect and decency while another friend will berate not just the waiter but their smile, their attire, the font size on the menu, the lack of light in the restaurant, the chef’s lack of variety in his seasoning choices, and ultimately the establishment as it stands.
We can road trip with friends who are considerate of their fellow passengers, their safety, who are considerate of their fellow passenger’s favorite fast food stop without trouble. And, perhaps, on the same road trip, we may have a friend who is ignited like a bomb to explode if someone cuts them off in traffic. They refuse to stop for restroom breaks because they’re bent on reaching their ultimate destination. This person will eat salmon in the car, chew gum like a cow chews grass, and light a cigarette with the windows shut without the slightest consideration for his fellow passengers.
One might consider this person a sociopath, but, he may, in his own mind and world, be doing that which he believes is right and normal.
These behaviors, these qualities, these mannerisms, and characteristics, good or bad, are present in all of us whether we know or not.
If your coworkers were asked to describe you, I’m sure some would say you’re amicable, approachable, helpful, funny, knowledgeable, expressive, and so. In another setting, say, in a social club where you refrain from interacting with community members, you’ll be described as aloof, rash, anti-social, and selfish.
We are vulnerable to the way those around us describe us, unless, that is, we introduce and explain to them who we really are and why we are that way.
The problem with us is that we’re constantly at risk of changing. This volatility creates in us a distrust of continuity of character because we are subject to our circumstances.
We change. In a blink of an eye.
Depending on our mood on a particular morning, we may be inclined to feel groggy and later mistreat a coworker or two. Bumper to bumper traffic can easily transport us from a state of peace to a state of resolute anxiety, especially if we’re running late to an important meeting. We are in one instance, the best of friends and in another, should the betrayal of trust, fraud, assault, thievery, slander or libel take place we then become the greatest of nemesis of that individual.
Our personal attributes, our characteristic qualities, and features are subject to our environment, our mental stability, our circumstances, and more. We are truly volatile creatures. Loving in one moment and hateful in another. Approachable and later, deceitful.
As created beings, it is quite our nature to be, say, mutable. But God is immutable. He does not change and as strange as that may seem I want to remind the reader that for us, it is a wonderful thing that there is at least one entity in our universe that is not subject to the environment around it. That being is God.
I want to list just six of God’s attributes that we can rely on for comfort when the world around us, and also the world within us, collapses and loses ground. We can look up and see that Someone is forever still, forever present, forever the same. I hope these attributes listed, which are so few, will bring you hope in your days of desperation, fear, loneliness, and uncertainty.
1. The Aseity of God
John M. Frame describes the aseity of God this way: “He is sufficient to himself, independent of anything outside himself. God’s eternality is his aseity with respect to time: Lord of time, existing above and apart from it, but free to enter it to accomplish his purposes. […] (1) he has no beginning or end, (2) he does not change, (3) he is equally conscious of past, present, and future, and (4) he is not limited by the passing of time in what he can accomplish.”
This brings us peace in knowing God is not dependent on us to exist. He is ever-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal, we can rest assured that He will not dissolve or cease to exist one day, leaving us and the cosmos to fend for ourselves. God is not a deistic, distant, and uncaring God, He is a Creator who cares deeply for His creation.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12-7-10
2. The Transcendence of God
“God’s transcendence is seen in that he is exalted in his royal dignity and exercises both control and authority in his creation. Divine transcendence does not mean that he is so far from and other than his creation that we are not able to understand his self-revelation in the Scripture or relate to him in any way.”
There is no authority that us above God nor is there a dictator whose reach can subjugate God to subservience or obedience. God is the only God. He is of a different substance, a different material, different nature than us. What He is cannot be added to the periodic table for He exists outside of the created order of things.
Let us not misunderstand Him as being beyond the clouds, beyond the stars, beyond the cosmos as they stretch through time. God is God. We needn’t worry about any other cosmic or spiritual entity threatening our existence for He alone governs existence and will wield it to His will. And thankfully, His will for us is gracious. The King is gracious.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but me. I will strengthen you, though you do not know me,” Isaiah 45:5
3. The Immanence of God
“Divine transcendence and immanence are the related Christian doctrines that while God is exalted in his royal dignity and exercises both control and authority in his creation (transcendence), he is, by virtue of this control and authority, very present to his creation, especially his people, in a personal and intimate way (immanence).”
It brings us joy to know that our Creator is self-sufficient, superior to all, and still, in His greatness, He approaches us and does not shun us. In many faiths, you see the distance a deity has between himself and his people. At times, God places certain barriers between people and His glory for their safety, not His. But, in time, He became flesh and walked among us, healing, strengthening, encouraging, hugging, smiling, and admonishing us. Truly, He understands our woes, our losses, struggles, our pains, and more. And He does not shun us.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Immanuel means God with us). Isaiah 7:14
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Hebrews 1:1-3
We can recall the betrayal of Julius Caesar by Brutus, one of his most loyal confidants. We remember the betrayal of Christ by one of his disciples. “You betray me with a kiss, Judas?” Asked Christ. Many of us would trade a blow for a blow, a stab for a stab, a curse for a curse but our God is benevolent and kind. In fact, He reminds us, that He is gentle and lowly in heart, slow to anger, longsuffering and merciful. Whereas we want nothing more than to retribute wrong for wrong, Christ shows us His unchanging love. Christ did not curse His enemies from the cross, in fact, He prayed that the Father forgive their sins for they knew not what they did. He is the archetype of integrity. He is whole and complete, unwavering for eternity past, present, and future. We needn’t worry about God betraying us when, we, many times, fail and betray Him.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
5. The Grace of God
English evangelist and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, defined grace as God’s “bounty, or favour: his free, undeserved favour, … man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that ‘formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,’ and stamped on that soul the image of God, and ‘put all things under his feet.’ … For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand.”
We know God is loving enough to provide for our salvation by His grace. We know God is gracious enough to justify us in Christ Jesus; removing sin from us and imputing us with righteousness in His Son. God is gracious enough to sanctify us; change our desires, our attitudes, our minds, and intentions so that we reflect Him more and more with time, by His Spirit. We needn’t rely on our efforts to please God for He is pleased in His Son and we are hidden in Christ Jesus.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.“ Ephesians 2:8-9
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
He did not shy away from this attribute of God. His fierce, piercing, unstoppable, and conclusive wrath. God is holy and His holiness demands that anything that does not qualify as holy and pure be annihilated from His presence, and because His presence fills and reaches every molecule in space and time, everything touched by sin and imperfection is worthy of total destruction.
It would be unfair of Him to allow the many Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, Pol Pot’s, Ibi Amin’s, Joseph Stalin’s, and Kim Jung Uns of the world to go without punishment. Can you imagine a world where one can commit the worse of atrocities; can violate women and children; bomb hospitals; instigate famine and desolation; raze cities to the ground; atomize generations into thin air; pollute waterways so that the thirsty are poisoned as they drink, and escape any form of judgment at death? Any God who would allow injustice and sin to go unpunished is no God at all. God’s wrath is as much a part and necessity of His character, His very essence as is His aseity, His transcendence, His immanence, His immutability, and His grace. His Holy Wrath is not mixed with rage or back-biting spite. His wrath is pure and impartial.
As frightening as God’s wrath may seem we must remember that God is not a raging bull with snot running down His nostrils onto his mauled victim. His eyes are not red with rage, his step is not a gallop of death, and His stance is not one of a creature who has lost control. He is like a Judge, who has reviewed the crimes and the cruelty with which an impenitent man has disgraced the lives of his wife and children by discarding them as one discards trash is led to sentence this man to life behind bars. There is no foaming at the mouth. There is no lust for sadism. No desire to mock and shame. Just pure, raw, unadulterated, unsullied, holy wrath.
And what is of greater comfort than knowing our God will not let evil win, in the end, is knowing that He has hidden us in His Son Jesus Christ. We know that our feet have slipped off of the Rock of Holy Standard ages ago but He catches us. He saves us, justifies us, and molds us into the image of His Son, Jesus. We need a God who is not shy, one who is not intimidated to throw a case, one who is willing to show us how evil, justice, love and forgiveness all met at one point in time: the cross.
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias confirms these four absolutes in this way:
“On a hill called calvary where all the evil intents of the human heart are hurled upon the very son of God. Where God in his justice took upon himself that justice but he manifested his love for you and me in a way that is indescrible. And he offers you and me forgiveness.”
God has so many attributes that if we were to spend time putting them down on paper or webpage and spend trillions of years doing so we would not even touch the tip of who God really is.
From what He has revealed to us through divine revelation, through scripture, we accept and we praise Him for it.
In knowing more about the character and essence of God we know more about ourselves.
Whenever confronted with death know God is more powerful than death.
Whenever you are intimidated by authorities, principalities, and entities, know God is superior to them all.
Whenever you are lonely, afraid, without hope and destitute, know God is near. In fact, He is with you.
Whenever you feel as if your identity has been lost, your purpose, your traditions, your dreams, and aspirations, know that He will not change. He is influenced by none. He is your Rock.
Whenever sin crouches at your door, attempting to force its way in, crashing your notions of eternal assurances to the ground, understand God is gracious. Salvation, justification, and sanctification come from Him and Him alone. He is your Advocate, your Counselor who will not allow His grip on your soul to slip nor allow your crown in Christ to be sifted away.
Whenever evil reigns supreme in the world around you, its presence felt, its touch cold, its face hideous and bold, roaring like a lion chasing whom it will devour next, understand that evil will not win. God’s just and holy wrath will triumph over evil. He incarcerate it for eternity, and all those who served it wholeheartedly with it. We love and serve a Just God who will not allow evil to win.
The more we understand our God the more we understand ourselves.
Take this to heart and continually seek Him.
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:17-18
Questions to Consider
Of the above-listed attributes of God, which do you struggle to understand most?
Does it bother you that “wrath” is one of God’s attributes? If so, why?
If God is gracious why do we treat each other with such cruelty and disgrace? Is there hope?