Take a Stand on Your Knees

Modern American Christians are emotionally and spiritually soft. We believe that society is persecuting us when stores greet us with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. We feel as though society is after us when a baker is fined and put out of business for not baking a cake for a same-sex wedding. Sure, this is a departure from past traditions, but is this religious persecution?

Is the government burning our churches down during a worship service? Are sales of Bibles illegal? Are any of us afraid to tell our co-workers about our Christianity because they might tell the authorities? Are we being stoned to death in the streets because we prayed in a public space?

There are Christians around the world who literally put their lives on the line to share their faith; and they still do it. We are afraid to ask our colleagues to church because they might stop inviting us over to watch the football game next week.

What happens when someone uses a racial slur among our friends and family? The person using the epithet is chastised, punished, probably even fired. Their reputation is devastated as they are labeled a racist for life. They need not even speak the offensive term to a person of color. The effects are the same.

A similar fate awaits those who use an anti-LGBT slur.

But what happens when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain in front of a Christian? Nothing. Society finds no offense. This is to be expected. However, should Christians not do something or say something about being offended? Are we so afraid to be sanctioned by peers BECAUSE of our faith that we, like Peter, deny Christ in public?

Race and sexual orientation, at least as a means of discrimination, has only been a thing for about 170 years. Christianity, as a means of discrimination, has been around for 2,000 years. Our savior was crucified. His closest disciples were tortured, killed, and exiled. Our religion was born from suffering in the name of love and salvation. Our history is filled with being enslaved and slaughtered. Our forefathers were fed to lions in the Colosseum. Our martyrs have been beheaded, burned at the stake, placed into iron maidens, flogged, drawn and quartered, and faced the worst punishments that human beings have ever devised.

We have as much right to be offended when Christ’s name is used as a joke or a swear as any race has when someone uses a slur.

We have as much right to be offended when society bashes our God and our beliefs as any sexual orientation has when someone refuses to bake them a cake.

No. Not as much. More.

We know that Christianity is losing its influence. We know that society respects us less and less. I think a big part of the reason is how we respond. We take offense and whine. We take to Facebook to complain or we might file an anti-discrimination lawsuit. What would happen if we actually took a stand, or a knee, in the moment?

Philippians 2:10 says, That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

Imagine the testimony we might have if when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain, we take this verse literally and take a knee and profess our faith. How the LORD would smile upon us at such a powerful display of faith.

Colin Kaepernick lost his job for taking a knee over police brutality. Would you be willing risk your career for God?

How much strength would we show if we were able to muster some fortitude in the face of adversity, rather than slinking away into the shadows? Maybe someone watching us take a stand (or knee) is a Christian who shares our apprehension, but is inspired by our displays of courage. Maybe our colleagues would begin to treat us with as much respect as they do minorities. Maybe someone would see us living our faith and come to salvation.

Christianity is not a joke. Our Savior is not a punchline. Our LORD is not to be mocked. Our God is the creator of the universe. He will punish the unjust and unsaved. He is coming to judge and destroy the world as we know it.

And we allow people we associate with to insult us and our God without mustering one ounce of character. Until we do, we will continue to lose our society. Even if we do not go as far as to literally get on our knees when someone utters the name of our Savior, the least we can do is say “I’m sorry, but I do not appreciate your using the name of my Lord in that way.”

It’s not much, but it’s more than we do now.

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Reductio ad Racism

A reductionist fallacy occurs when we take an incredibly complex issue and reduce it to one factor while ignoring other possible factors.

Race is almost always cited as being one of, and often the most, significant factors for arrests, sentencing, and incarcerations. However, I believe that this is due to lack of imagination on behalf of researchers. Race is often presented as a causal factor – because someone is black, they are more likely to be targeted by police or policies and end up incarcerated. However, there are other intervening variables.

According to the Cato Institute, native born blacks have the highest incarceration rate of all racial and ethnic groups (4.21%). However, black legal immigrants have an incarceration rate of 0.57%, which is lower than Hispanic and “other” (mostly Middle-Eastern) races. This is a massive difference, and is the largest difference between native and immigrant incarceration rates between any racial and ethnic group. If blacks from Africa have such a relatively low incarceration rate compared to native blacks, can we really attribute the discrepancy in incarceration rates to only race?
We again discuss race as it relates to poverty and crime, but we refuse to admit that poverty may be the more important variable. Blacks make up 34% of the prison population (while only 13% of the total population), while whites (67% of the total population) make up 30% of prisons. Blacks also have a poverty rate of 22% compared to 9% for whites. We MUST consider that the reason why black incarceration rates are so much higher than white incarceration rates, is because there is a much higher rate of blacks in poverty than whites.

When we tease poverty out, rates of violence, arrests, and incarceration are virtually identical. According to the BJS, “Poor urban blacks (51.3 per 1,000) have rates of violence similar to poor urban whites (56.4 per 1,000).” If poverty is an equalizer, then race cannot be the primary factor.

There’s also the argument of geography. Crime is generally higher in urban areas. There is a higher concentration of blacks in urban areas. Again, when comparing overall crime rates by race, we should consider that most blacks live in crime areas than whites, but that does not mean that whites living in urban areas are committing a lower rate of crime. In most crime data used to make an argument about race, urban blacks (the majority of blacks) are essentially compared to suburban and rural whites (where they are the majority). Geography is the lost variable that I have rarely, if ever, seen considered. Perhaps research exists, but I have not seen it.

Of course, culture, as always, is ignored. American black culture, African culture, rich culture, WASP culture, Hispanic culture, Japanese culture, Asian culture, redneck culture, etc. are all different. They often have different dreams and aspirations, as well as opportunities. Their beliefs, values, and social norms are determined within the group and are difficult to change. There are plenty of examples of people moving from one sub-culture to another within a more dominant one. Assimilation rates differ, and the desire to assimilate is different among various cultures.

The argument is much more nuanced than the racial disparity proponents want to admit, and we would be hard pressed to find a plethora of data out there that dives into these nuances. It’s easier to employ the reduction fallacy, especially when it constantly remains unchecked. Political correctness and the fear of being labeled a racist stifles any further investigation.

Future research should acknowledge that racial categories are not monolithic. I doubt that will happen, because it goes against the narrative of race being the most determinate status in the history of everything.

Miracles or A Series of (Un)Fortunate Events

Something miraculous happened to me in the last month.

If you do not believe in God, you will see a series of interesting coincidences, but I would ask you to consider the chances of each of these occurring at all then compound the exponential chances of the entire series.

  1. Last May, I got into a pretty bad car accident. I was, for the first time, confronted by my own mortality.
  2. Last September, I applied for life insurance for the first time. All went well.
  3. Last November, I lost my healthcare. I stopped taking my gout medication and have not seen a doctor since.
  4. About a month ago, I was informed that I missed a payment on my life insurance, and my plan was cancelled. When I called to get reinstated, they told me I could get a better deal if I just applied for a new policy. I did, and had to submit new blood lab work.
  5. Two weeks ago, after my 8-hour comprehensive exam, my vision became dangerously bad. I thought it was eye strain from staring at the computer for so long. Over the next week, I found myself needing a nap every morning although I slept 8 hours a night. I also began to drink a gallon of water every day, and my thirst seemed unquenchable. I urinated every hour, even though the night. I knew something nefarious was going on.
  6. Last Monday, I received notice that my life insurance application was rejected. I saw my labs and found that my glucose levels were pretty high. I believe I have developed Type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar, blurred vision, increased thirst, increased frequency of urination, and exhaustion are all signs that I missed.
  7. I immediately cut sugar from my diet. Since then, I have reversed every single symptom. My vision is back. I’ve stopped heading to the bathroom every hour, even though I still drink a gallon of water every day. I’ve stopped wanting to take naps. I’ve also lost 20 pounds in the last three weeks, but now I feel the pounds are coming off for the right reason.

Do you see the miracle, as I do? Or do you see a series of interesting, but otherwise unrelated events?

I never would have applied for life insurance if not for the car accident. I wouldn’t have had to reapply for life insurance if I didn’t accidentally miss that payment. Having no health insurance, I never would have had blood work done. Because it was for a life insurance policy, the blood work was free. If I did not have the blood work done, I never would have realized that I needed to fix my blood sugar. I may have let diabetes continue to develop into a much more serious issue than what I suffered.

I’d still be unable to see. I’d still be on a dangerous road to complications that I would not be able to afford to treat without health insurance. I believe that God intervened in this instance to provide answers and wake me up before things got worse. If not for the series of “coincidences”, I would be on a path to self-destruction through my diet.

Yes, hindsight is 20/20. Yes, I may be Monday morning quarterbacking. Yes, this may be a series of random and unrelated events and I am just reading too much into it.

However, what are the chances? If one link in this chain did not happen, I would not be healthier right now. If the bad things, like the car accident and losing life insurance had not happened, I would be shoving Easter candy in my face and killing myself.

We often take bad things for granted. As Christians, we often think that everything is supposed to go well for us. However, when God tells us “all things work together for good”, He means ALL things; good and bad. The outcome of ALL things is good. I suffered some pretty severe pain last year, but now I am motivated to live a healthy lifestyle for the first time. I took my health for granted, and I will never do so again. It took pain, suffering, and some pretty devastating news for it to happen, but the outcome will be a positive one.

Christians, please do not take God for granted. Do not mistake comfort for His condoning of our lifestyles.

Non-Christians, please consider that some coincidental events can actually be miracles. Do not dismiss miracles in your own lives. It is possible that God may be putting you in a place that may be useful for His purposes, even though you do not believe in Him.

This story is just one of many such miracles that I have experienced in my lifetime. I would be happy to write about some of the more incredible series of events that most people would take for granted, but I’ve realized are miraculous.

It’s all part of my testimony. I think more Christians need to be cognizant of their own miracles and properly attribute them to God. Miracles happen all the time. They happen to all of us as the Holy Spirit works through us to affect change in our lives and use us all for the glory of God.

Social Suicide and Mass Murder

On Valentine’s Day a 19-year-old kid marched into his old high school and opened fire on students who walked out of their classrooms when the killer pulled a fire alarm just before the end of the school day. Reports have come out giving us some insight on his life. The media (both mainstream and social) is focusing on guns and mental illness. Here is why I believe they are looking at the wrong thing.

In Emile Durkheim’s seminal work, Suicide, he looked at death records from several countries in Europe. He found that there are essentially four types of suicide: 1) Egotistic – when someone experiences a lack of social integration or are isolated (widows, hermits, victims of bullying); 2) Anomic – lack of moral regulation or a sudden change in life where the “new normal” feels overwhelming. There is a sense of “normlessness” where all of the social norms we abide by change and the new rules are difficult to grasp (losing a job or loved one; moving to a new country); 3) Fatalistic – overwhelming oppression and hopelessness (prisoners, terminally ill); 4) Altruistic – for the greater good (soldiers, firemen, suicide bombers).
Durkheim found that suicide is not a psychological phenomenon, but a social one. Changes in one’s social integration is a greater indicator of violence against oneself than any psychological condition.

Now, let’s apply this theory to what we know about the Valentine’s Day shooter.

  1. He was social isolated. Most reports are that he was bullied pretty regularly. He had very few friends. He was kicked out of school and other social organizations. This is indicative of Egotistic suicide.
  2. His adopted father died a few years ago, but his adopted mother died just three months ago. This dramatic social event would be a likely catalyst for anomic suicide.
  3. He apparently exhibited numerous histrionic outbursts – I believe these were to draw attention to an otherwise lonely boy – yet still managed to fly under the radar of law enforcement.
  4. Therefore, he was isolated from peers by choice (making numerous threats) or force (expulsion and bullying), as well as dealing with the death of his last remaining parent (and I have to wonder if being adopted started his feelings of social isolation). He also lives in a country where guns are weaved into the fabric of the nation and are constantly depicted in the media in both positive and negative lights.

It seems to me that this is a social recipe for a disaster. Rather than turning the weapon on himself, he turned it on others. Regardless, he follows a similar pattern to other mass murders, serial killers, and the suicidal. Reports are that the Vegas shooter, Steven Paddock, lost a lot of money before his rampage and was socially isolated from almost everyone except his roommate/girlfriend. The Columbine shooters were socially isolated and bullied. The same goes for the Aurora shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, and almost all other mass murderers over the last 20 years.

I truly believe that we need to stop thinking of these events as psychological anomalies. There is something wrong with the SOCIAL fabric of the nation right now.

We have been in perpetual war since 2001. We just experienced a major economic recession. Social media and online video games are keeping kids from face-to-face interactions. We are the most medicated society in history. Our social and demographic categories are being constantly challenged and redefined. Religion is becoming less and less of an effective institution. Our electorate is becoming more and more divided.

Basically, we are in a national state of anomic normlessness that is leading to increasing social isolation. As our institutions continue to crumble, so does our ability to maintain solidarity. Without social solidarity and stability, we feel hopeless. We feel socially suicidal.

Some of us develop depression. Some of us do kill ourselves. Some are committing mass murder. The signs and symptoms are all there.

Since Suicide was published in 1897, data continues to back up Durkheim’s theory. I truly believe that we are experiencing social suicide that is beginning to manifest in social homicide.

These shooters are not “mentally ill”, they are socially constructed monsters. No laws can stop the inevitable destruction brought about by social unrest. Medicating the problem like we medicate our citizenry will not solve the problem.

Sons of God: Angels or Sethites

Apparently this is quite the interesting argument in Christian circles. When reading Genesis 6, the KJV says in verses 2-4: “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

One side believes that the “sons of God” mentioned here are angels (fallen angels, to be more specific). The other side believes them to be the “sons of Seth”, or a godly line of male descendants from Adam’s “good” son who fell for the secular line of Adam’s “bad” son, Cain.

The “Seth” proponents point to Hebrews 1:5 which says “5For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”

Let’s break this down a little. This verse is saying that God has never said the words “thou art my Son” to an angel, therefore, the “sons of God” could not have possibly been angels.

HOWEVER, the next words are “this day have I begotten thee.” This is important because Jesus Christ is the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON (John 3:16). Begotten is an incredible important word here. Christians are “sons of God” through our Faith. We are essentially adopted into the family of God when we get saved. The angels are “sons of God” through creation. ONLY Jesus Christ was born into this world as the Son of God. He is the only one who is begotten.

The NIV and MEV (among others) leave out the word begotten here; a grave error in translation. The NIV, ESV, and others also leave “begotten” out of John 3:16. Whether you believe Genesis 6 is referring to angels or sons of Seth, someone other than Christ can be a “son of God”. Leaving out “begotten” is incredibly dangerous as it removes the deity from Jesus Christ, but I digress.

When the “sons of Seth” side leaves out “begotten” when they argue Hebrews 1:5, they are making a huge error. Their use of the verse to counter Genesis 6 is faulty.

They also claim that the very idea of the “sons of God” being angels comes from the “Book of Enoch” ch. 6 and 7 where the fallen angel leader “Semjaza” devised a plan to mate with human women and his followers made a pact to go through with the plan no matter what.

The Book of Enoch is, of course, not a book of the Bible. Therefore, the very idea that the angels are “sons of God” must be extra-Biblical as well. Right? That’s like arguing that since Jesus in mentioned in the Quran, that we should dismiss his mentions in the Bible.

Well, here is MY POSITION.

The “sons of God” are angels. In Genesis 6, they are fallen angels who came to Earth and did produce hybrid offspring with human females.

Yes, I know that this is a very strange concept, but bear with me through my arguments.

  1. The book of Job (not Enoch) references angels as “sons of God”.

Job 38:4-7 has God asking Job “4Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Did you catch that? When God was laying the foundations of the earth, the “sons of God” shouted for joy. Were the sons of Seth around when God was creating the earth? No. No human beings were. Clearly the “sons of God” are not human. However, there is more!

Job 1:6 (Job 2:1 says something quite similar) says “6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.”

So here we are in heaven where God sits on his throne, and the “sons of God” present themselves alongside Satan. To me, this is a picture of the fallen angels walking behind their leader, Satan. Those who believe they are the “sons of Seth” have to reconcile how in the world those human souls made it to heaven and why Satan enters among them.

Here’s the big problem. The “old testament saints” did not go to heaven. They went to “Paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom”, not the third heaven where God is seated. The sons of Seth could not have presented themselves to God in heaven, because they simply were not there.

Angels, however, were.

Furthermore, Jude 6 says “And the angels which kept not their principality but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” This is a clear reference to the fallen angels. They “left their own habitation [heaven]” and came to Earth. I believe that they are “reserved in everlasting chains . . .” because they had sex and produced children with humans.

Finally, 2 Peter 2:4-5 states, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Thus, the flood came upon the “world of the ungodly” when the “angels that sinned” were cast into hell. How did these angels sin? By mating with humans.

  1. The hybrid offspring of angels and humans are the “giants” and “men of renown” in Genesis 6:4.

This is consistent with the idea that these half-angelic offspring would be supernatural supermen. If an angel and human had a child, I would imagine that child would be a giant (and we are talking GIANT – as in 9 – 12 feet tall, like Goliath). I would also imagine that it might have some supernatural abilities. Could these beings be worshiped as gods? Absolutely! In fact, I can think of no better explanation as to how the concept of the gods could so thoroughly infiltrate every civilization on the planet virtually simultaneously unless there was a common genesis (pun intended) for their existence. Furthermore, there are countless stories of the gods (angels?) creating demigods by having sex with human women.

It also makes sense of how giants could still be around after the Flood, when only Noah and his family were on the ark. I believe that either 1) one of Noah’s daughters-in-law may have carried some of the hybrid genes into the new world (see my Notes on Genesis 8-11); or 2) more fallen angels could have come and mated with humans again to produce entire races of giants like the Anakim of the giants of Gath, where Goliath and his brothers hailed from.

  1. Angels are capable of producing offspring.

This is a point of contention that usually ends with the other side simply saying “I just don’t believe it,” although there is Biblical precedent that is often overlooked.

Opponents of the “sons of God” as angels who can mate with humans often point to Matt. 22:30 which says, “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” We see that the angels in heaven do not marry, but the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 did. Therefore, they cannot be angels. Right?

The key here is “in heaven.” As I mentioned before, the fallen angels “left their habitation” (Jude 6). They were not in heaven.

“Yeah, but angels cannot produce offspring,” you might say. However, this has a simple response.

Genesis 3:15 says, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

God is speaking to Satan here, so “thy seed” means the offspring of Satan while “her seed” is referencing Jesus Christ. Satan was an angel. Satan can produce offspring. Therefore, angels can produce offspring.

  1. The “sons of Seth” were not a part of some special, godly line of believers.

There is no evidence that states otherwise. This took place centuries before the Law of God was written for God’s children (Israelites). A believer marrying an unbeliever was not a sin at this time like it would be later, and polygamy was actually quite common even after the flood (Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon) and was rarely punished by God. It would take a fall of epic proportions to progress from a godly line of Seth to the destruction of all life on Earth save for those in the Ark.

Furthermore, there is absolutely ZERO evidence of the “sons of God” being the line of Seth in any other mention in the Bible. The aforementioned passages in Job are clearly not the sons of Seth, and in no other place are the sons of Seth found. In fact, the “sons of Seth” are not mentioned at all other than by name (Enos, for example) in the listed genealogies.

Just look at the text of Genesis 6. We see “sons of God” not Seth. We see “daughters of men” not Cain. There is no mention of the daughters of men being ungodly or of whose line they belonged. The daughters of Seth and Cain were most likely included, and we have no idea of their religiosity.

This topic will continue to be debated, as both sides seem to be engrained in their positions (which is common in almost all debates these days). However, there is more Biblical evidence to support that the “sons of God” are angels than there is to support that they are sons of Seth, or of any human being for that matter. It seems to me that the true “extra-Biblical” stance is to ascribe the non-Scripture based interpretation of the “sons of God” to anything other than angels.

What do I know, though? I’m not a “Bible scholar” and have never been to seminary. I’m just a regular guy who reads his King James Bible and tries to understand the worlds of the natural and supernatural in the way God intended me to.

Movie Review: The Last Jedi

I usually don’t write up movie reviews, though I watch so many that perhaps I should. I think most reviewers try to hard to find mistakes so they can be the most prolific basher of a film. I always factor in entertainment. I think there are “bad” movies out there that are highly entertaining. There are also “good” movies that bore me to tears. There are movies that I would never recommend for someone to watch that I find incredibly fun and have seen dozens of times. This film, is both “good” and entertaining.

I watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi over the weekend. I went into the film without reading or watching any reviews whatsoever. I avoided all trailers after the first one. I did not look up the cast on imdb, or watch any interviews with the cast. I took no part in any promotional material since October.

First of all, here are my general criteria for a film review: entertainment, acting, visual appeal, and storytelling. Since this is a Star Wars film, I will also include a contribution to the overall story arch.

  1. Entertainment: The Last Jedi is incredibly entertaining. It is a fun bit of escapism for 2 and a half hours.
  2. Acting: I thought the performances were all great, but Adam Driver as Kylo Ren once again dominates his time on the screen. I really felt the actors’ emotions throughout the film and it really drew me in.
  3. Visual appeal: This is a beautiful film full of rich scenery, top notch special effects, amazing CGI and motion capture. The directing is fantastic.
  4. Storytelling: Save for one idiotic twenty-minute span halfway through the film, I like the path that the story took. There were essentially three main plot threads, and two of the three were quite strong. There were a few character arcs that had great payoffs. There were others that seem like they will pay off in the next episode, which brings me to. . .
  5. Overall story arch: This film builds and expands greatly on the characters and story built in The Force Awakens. The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren is fleshed out more, the First Order is still hunting the Resistance/Rebels, and we find out more about what happened between Luke and Kylo. There are aspects of the force that are drawn from the original trilogy, and some new facets are included. I also think this film did a great job in diverging from some of the tropes we have come to expect. This apparently angers some fans, but I think it’s a brilliant stroke.

Overall, I think it is a great entry into the franchise. The criticisms that I have seen are misunderstandings of narratives and fans with unrealistic expectations not having their theories validated. Furthermore, I think many of the criticisms are unfair. We never judged the original trilogy this way.

There were dozens of plot holes and lack of backstory in the original films. We just didn’t care. Episode IV is vastly overrated, as it has been saved by the other two films. Episode V is long and tedious, but we give it a pass because of one of the greatest endings and legendary film moments in movie history. Episode VI has its flaws, but it finishes the story in a satisfactory way, thus closing the loop. We still knew NOTHING of the Emperor, very little of Darth Vader, Han Solo, Leia, and Boba Fett. Yet all of these characters were endearing.

Compare that to a much more fleshed out villain in Kylo Ren, an equally compelling hero in Rey, and the development of Snoke and Phasma in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are just as enigmatic as the Emperor and Boba Fett.

So get over it. I’ll wait for the epic finale to make any big decisions on “plot holes” (which, at the moment, are more lack of revelation than plot hole).

Immediately after viewing the film, I had it as my fifth favorite. Now that I’ve reflected for a day, I think it might be a top three Star Wars film. I like these first two entries of this trilogy more than the originals, and I understand that puts me in a minority. I take into consideration that the special effects are much better, and they are able to hire more seasoned actors. I also consider that nostalgia makes the original films seem better than they actually are. It is unfair to “compare” these movies to the originals. By capturing the spirit of the original films, they seem too much like them. By deviating from the original story, they seem too different. Either way appears to upset huge segments of the fanbase.

I, however, appreciate the new characters, story arcs, and bold choices in the deviation from what we expect, while also incorporating elements from the original story. The Last Jedi does not reinvent the franchise, but it does expand it.

It’s worth seeing in the theater. I’d suggest IMAX 3D if available in your area. The Last Jedi is an excellent film.

The Bully Dilemma

This story about young Keaton Jones, a boy who poured his heart out as his mother filmed his teary-eyed confession and posted it on social media, is heartbreaking. No innocent person deserves to be treated with such disrespect. That being said, the response to this video has me concerned with the profound lack of understanding when it comes to bullying.

I used to be a bully.

My friends and I once made a book of fat jokes that landed us in trouble with the school and incentivized a female classmate to leave in the middle of the school year. We were 11.

The armchair psychologists who plague social media with their uninformed yet equally passionate responses would blame my parents for not showing me how to respect other kids. In the case of Keaton Jones, an armada of celebrities would call for some sort of new measures to stop me from ever doing such a heinous thing again.

The truth is that my parents taught me well, and I knew what I was doing was wrong. However, there is something truly primal that happens when you exert power over another person. When the girl I teased left school, I wore it as a badge of honor. I was mean and nasty. I could dominate another person into total submission. I felt powerful.

I used to be a victim of bullying.

I grew up as the only white kid in an all-black neighborhood. Since I was different, my “friends” used to try to get me to do stupid things all the time. I went along because I was desperate to fit in. One time, they coaxed me into a fight with a kid from another street. We did not know each other, but somehow were convinced that we should fight. I had never punched another person, and the “fight” did not go well for me. I was 8.

School was not much better for me. I rode the bus with mostly black students, one of which seemed to make it his life mission to mock me for being poor. He threatened to fight me almost every day, and I cowered in fear awaiting the time he would strike. My previous experience dictated that I would not fare well. Almost 30 years later, and I still see his face. When someone said his name when informing me that his father died, I immediately got angry.

You see, I gave my power to these people. I knew that I shouldn’t, but fear drove me to act against my will.

A Complex Issue

Bullying is not just a result of faulty parenting or “bad” kids. In most situations, I was a good kid – just as I am a good man now. However, I am not impervious to doing bad things. In fact, I have a talent for doing or saying awful things to other people. If I am not careful, I can destroy someone’s day in an instant. It’s reflexive.

My parents taught me better. My wife and kids teach me to be better every day, but it is a struggle. You see, my penchant to bully others comes from the desire to show others how powerful I am. Having given my power to other people as a childhood victim of bullying, or in certain adult relationships, I learned to put up a wall. I learned how to re-direct that power.

Sometimes I can do amazing things with it. I pour my emotions into playing drums or I furiously research a contentious topic. Sometimes I escape into solidarity and pray. Sometimes, I lash out to show others that they cannot hurt me, but I can hurt them.

You see, not all bullies are always bullies. Not all have parents who ignore them. Not all of them come from broken or abusive homes. This stereotyping lynch mob mentality of our society has forgotten that applying the perceived traits of a group to an individual is an unacceptable outcome. #NotAllBullies

People Can Change

I have been a bully and victim, but now I am neither. In fact, the thought of someone getting bullied infuriates me. However, I believe that the victim mentality is one of the most dangerous trends growing in America.

The response to the Keaton Jones story is troubling to me. His video is a great conversation starter. We can discuss bullying with our friends and our children using his words as a catalyst. But what will he learn from this?

Sean Hannity is leading a charge to raise thousands of dollars. Glenn Beck is inviting Keaton to his radio studio. Dana White wants to bring him to a UFC event. Others are calling for additional fundraising and starting up new and improved anti-bullying campaigns. This kid will have tens of thousands of dollars given to him by the very same people who complain about entitled “snowflakes” who cannot withstand opposing arguments.

His bullies are about to be socially ostracized. If the community does not already know their identities, they will figure it out soon. What will the negative sanctions be? A phone call to children’s services? Public shaming? The potential for bullying the bullies without understanding WHY they say what they say is an awful precedent.

None of the children involved will have a chance at natural change. Most kids grow out of bullying by the time they reach college. Most victims learn to develop thicker skin. The power imbalance that we see in instances like this often ends up equalizing.

A massive scale public interaction disrupts potential learning opportunities for these children. Society is robbing them of a healthy growth experience. This is the impact of social media. It can lead to great things, with both positive and negative ramifications.

Let’s not overreact.

What Worked for Me

I was born a sinner. I still am. That is why I find satisfaction in the pain of others. It is natural instinct for me. Thankfully, God has forgiven me for my sins. I need not dwell on my past, which allows me to learn from it. I can take an objective look at bullying because I have lived on both sides of the issue, allowing me to step back and analyze it properly.

There will be victims if there are bullies. There will be bullying so long as there is sin. Like it or not, all societies have suffered from one form of social inequality or another. Human nature is to exert our power over another, but we can overcome human nature.

Rather than giving or taking my power to/from other people, I give it to God. I let Him deal with my problems. When someone harasses me, I pray and ask for God to handle it, so I do not have to. I have learned to hold back and not hold on to anger. The solution is not raising money or new social programs. The solution is found in the Bible.

Matt 7:12 says, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you: do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

This is also known as “the golden rule.” Every sinful child must learn this principle. It is not innate. Some can grasp it more quickly than others. I pray that the bullies who are cruel to Keaton Jones learn this lesson soon, because others are about to do some not nice things to them and their families.