Social Media Responsibility

Most of us feel compelled to post only the “best” aspects of our lives on social media. Others post mostly the “worst”.
Those of us who present the “best” parts of ourselves on social media are not only seeking validation and praise, but are inadvertently harming others.
Those of us who present the “worst” are not only seeking validation and sympathy, but are inadvertently harming ourselves by perpetuating pain for temporary relief in the form of pity.
We constantly seek validation for our lives. We need to either feel praise or pity from the masses. We, as a society, are beginning to measure our self-worth based on “likes” or retweets.
I do my best to be honest with anyone who reads my posts. I do not seek sympathy or self-esteem. I view social media as a means to distribute information as quickly as possible to many people at once. Not every one of my posts are meant for you specifically, though I desire for those who do read what I write to know that they are not alone in their pain, passions, or pleasures. Not everything I write lands as well as I would like, and I accept that reality. That does not stop me from attempting to reach out, nor do I re-evaluate my own self worth if I receive zero “likes.”
We are complicated beings with a myriad of emotions and experiences and we can often feel like we are alone and isolated in our lives; like “no one understands” what we are going through at any given moment. We hop on Facebook to see how our friends and family are doing, only to see them living the “perfect” life filled with beautiful family photos and elaborate vacations.
We then internalize the envy we experience, because our lives are not perfect. We cannot afford to pay a professional photographer or go to the beach with the family. We are struggling to pay our bills, while our high school and college classmates appear to have everything going right.
This is why social media is dangerous in an age when most of us lack the ability to self-reflect. We should not covet the “perfect” lives of others. We also should not be prideful. The Bible warns of both of these extremes. Numerous academic studies have been warning of “social media depression” as suicidal feelings in kids younger than 13 has seen a 300+% increase over the last decade.
Adults are becoming more depressed, and our kids are attempting to kill themselves in near record numbers. As both producers and consumers of social media, we need to be more responsible. Seek validation from your immediate family or closest friends, not your extended social network. Most of all, understand that we are all intrinsically valuable and your life matters to someone who you personally interact with. Spend real time with those you love and who love you. You will benefit in ways you never thought possible.
Most importantly, develop a personal relationship with God. When you feel that no one else will be there for you, know that you have a heavenly Father who loves you and cares for you. He will make sure your basic needs are met, and He never leave or forsake you.
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An Ode to Suffering

One year ago from today, I was living in Las Vegas pursuing a Ph.D. while my wife was working her way up through the casino industry. She was beloved at work and was in line for a better position. We lived in a reasonable home with reliable transportation – we just took out a loan for our first “new” car (more likely gently used). Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

One year ago from next week, everything changed. I failed out of my Ph.D. program and began struggling to find work. We prayed about the situation, and felt very strongly that God wanted us to move back to Ohio. There is a casino here that Mandy could work at, and my retired parents were here to help with the kids. From there, everything fell into place for us. We were able to put together the funds to move, Mandy essentially had the job before interviewing. We miraculously found a place to live with the perfect combination of locations for cheap utilities, great schools, and proximity to family. I was able to find a job in the most amazing “circumstantial” way possible. My wife just happened to be at a party for my cousin who just happened to be marrying a man whose mother just happened to be the director of an agency who just happened to be looking for a male to do a job I was actually qualified for. Things were looking up, and the future was bright.

Seven months ago, everything was working out – now, I am not so sure.

Mandy did not feel comfortable at the casino and quit – which was financially devastating, but not everything is about money. Besides, she found another job that supplemented my income within a couple of weeks. However, that job also turned out to be a waste and they cut her hours until the point where she had to quit. It’s okay, we will survive. We made it this far. At least I have a job and we are around family.

My agency decided two months ago to completely restructure. They changed the name, logo, mission statement, personnel, and many of the policies and procedures that we have been operating on. The decline in employee morale across the board has been amazing. Very few people in my position are even mildly satisfied with these changes – in fact, the vast majority have become openly hostile and several have quit or are threatening to quit. It has been an unmitigated disaster.

Throughout the last year, we have also been struggling to find a church home and make interpersonal connections there. In Vegas, we had a great social network in a thriving church – but that church also changed many of their policies and we left even before moving across the country. In Ohio, we have visited several places and spent several months at one church where we failed to connect. It has been almost three months at our current church, and again we seem to be struggling.

Somewhere, there has been a disconnect. We went from thriving in church, in school, and at work to struggling everywhere. We are spiritually, socially, and financially in the worst place we have been in probably six or seven years. Bankruptcy is around the corner and we are just trying to meet our basic necessities at this point. We are going to have to give our second car back, all while Mandy needs monthly doctors appointments. I dread going to work every day to the point where I have begun to have panic attacks about once a month. Things do not seem to be looking up, and the future does not appear very bright.

The frustrating part of everything is that we are trying to stay motivated. I still read my Bible and pray to God every day. We go to church every week. We tithe even though it is difficult to do so. I keep asking for God to show me the path He wants me to walk, but I still feel like I am off of it. I feel like I was led to this job in this place, but now neither of them seem to be working out.

During a conversation with my wonderful wife, she pointed to the life of Job and the struggles that he went through. He was faithful without equal, and still suffered. Our losses cannot match his. He watched his children die. He lost his property and wealth. His wife’s advice was “curse God and die.” Job expressed frustration among his friends and vented his feelings. However, God revealed Himself to Job and restored everything Job had lost tenfold. Job’s patience in the midst of suffering brought glory to God, and he was rewarded in this life and the next for his faithfulness.

This is my hope now. I do not expect rewards here on earth, but I want to lay up treasures in heaven. I want to show the world that even when I am in poverty, I will remain faithful to my creator. Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that I could be wealthy, but so that I could accept his free gift of salvation and spread the gospel. If I need to lose my home, my money, and my family to do so, then I suppose that is what will have to happen.

I understand that not all suffering is equal, and I am probably feeling stronger effects because I am presently in the storm. I acknowledge that there is always someone who has it worse than I do. In hindsight, what I am dealing with right now may be a blip on the radar in the full context of my life. I understand that I am blessed. I am blessed to have an amazing wife, children, and parents. I am blessed to have good friends. I am blessed to have food to eat, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. I am blessed to be a child of the King. Like Job, I still need to vent.

All praise be to my Almighty God. Things are looking up, and the future is bright.

The True Freedom of Religion

A common meme from anti-Christians is that Christianity is a restrictive religion. Many modern churches have also begun to sing this refrain as they attempt to abandon “legalism,” which they mostly define as rigid rules put in place by churches on music and attire (this is not true legalism, but difference in preference as I wrote about here). The Bible is a book of negative liberties – it tells us what NOT to do, therefore, true freedom can only be found by abandoning organized religion.

This line of thinking is dangerously ignorant.

Most people fail to realize that the “fun” they have at social gatherings is not due to drinking or taking other substances, but from the social gathering itself. Sociologist Emile Durkheim called the euphoric feeling at a social event “collective effervescence.” He theorized that it was this very effervescence that formed the basis of religion as a social system. He believed that religion is the worship of the group, therefore, specific doctrine, rites, and rituals are irrelevant. What matters is that people do it together.

This effervescence transcends substances. The only necessary ingredient is having a group of people in the physical presence of others, and essentially performing the same ritual – whether that be prayer and worship at church or doing the wave at a football game.

Religious groups are incredibly fun, in that they enjoy the same effervescence that secular groups feel. It is euphoric to gather and get to know people with similar interests. The only “restrictions” at most Christian events are no drugs or alcohol, no nudity or sex, and not engaging in other taboos. Again, if fun is based on being social, those additional “freedoms” are unnecessary.

Notice I put “freedoms” in quotation marks. This is because I do not believe true freedom comes from the sins of secularism.

Go to any recovery group and ask the members there if drinking or doing drugs brings freedom. At Reformer’s Unanimous, the Faith-based recovery group I attend, we speak of addiction as bondage. You might be fortunate enough to not suffer from a substance addiction, but a huge number of people do. They will tell you that the urge to use supersedes basic life functioning. Addicts often struggle with depression and other mental health issues.

This is not freedom.

If you have fallen for the lies of the “free love” movement of the 1960s in which we should all have the “freedom” to engage in uninhibited sexual conquest and public nudity – would draw your attention to the recent allegations throughout the #metoo movement. This social movement was born the minute that we told men and women that sex outside of the confines of marriage comes without repercussions. We now have exceptionally high single-parent poverty, abuse of power through sexual assault, increases in sexually transmitted diseases, and contentious debates over “toxic masculinity” and our universities being bastions of “rape culture” manifested on campuses.

This is not freedom.

Furthermore, Cultural Marxists infesting the media, universities, and Leftist political parties constantly remind us that we are all oppressed in some way. Racial and ethnic minorities, women, Muslims, LGBT, the poor, the uneducated, children, adults, the mentally ill, etc. living in a Western, capitalist society are oppressed by our economic system. Those not living in a capitalist society are oppressed by economic colonialist nations. Unless you are a member of the white, patriarchal, bourgeoisie, you are oppressed.

Statistics show that many of those elitist bourgeoisie also face greater risk of suicide and stress related deadly diseases. Being a wealthy, white, male business owner is oppressed by health risks.

This is not freedom.

Far too many in society try to convince us that wealth, sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol, and constant partying are expressions of freedom. This is simply not true.

Is religion, particularly Christianity, also oppressive?

There are certain periods we can point to in which major atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. The Crusades and Inquisition are blights on “Christian” history, but these events are not based in true Christianity, rather, they are based on the evil acts of wicked people who happened to call themselves Christians.

True Christianity demands that we avoid dangerous behavior. We have plenty of evidence that “the wages of sin are death”, not just spiritually, but they often lead to an early and painful demise in this life. Diseases linked to drinking, drugs, and smoking cigarettes number in the hundreds of thousands (the majority come from smoking). Contracting an STD can be range from perpetually irritating to deadly.

What comes from behaving in a Christ-like fashion? Being ostracized from society from not being like them. Have any diseases been linked to any specifically Christian behavior? Are there any unhealthy Christian addictions? Do true Christians start wars? Starve citizens? Murder children? Rape women? Enslave minorities? Murder the innocent?

The answer is clearly no. Christianity does not oppress Christians or anyone else. True Christianity is freedom; not freedom to be enslaved by behavior, but from being enslaved by it.

If you want true freedom, turn to Jesus Christ.

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.

The Satanic Era

In the first episode of Mindhunter, the Netflix show about how the FBI serial killer program began, an interesting proposition was presented. The gist is that prior to the 1970s, crime had motive. In the contemporary era, however, motive was no longer a factor. Serial killers may have a modus operandi, and even a purpose, but they essentially kill indiscriminately. Random people become targets. Of course, this is a fictional story, but does that make the point any less relevant?

We may understand a killer has a motive, such as creating fear or terror, but there is no motive for target selection. Consider the most recent case of the Las Vegas shooting. As of this writing, a full month has passed and no one knows what motivated Stephen Paddock to shoot 500 people. Many terror attacks are on large groups of people, but none involve a personal motive.

Gone are the days of organized crime when gangsters wanted to “send a message” by killing a rival or snitch. No longer must a woman die because she was cheating on her husband. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is as dangerous as infidelity in today’s world. When did this change?

I will once again point my finger at what I have termed “the Satanic Era” of the 1960s. Prior to the 1960s, the majority of mass killings were familicide. Since the 1960s, mass killings have been in public places against innocent bystanders. The deadliest decade prior to 1960 was the 30s, with 9 mass shootings. The 1960s had 6, the 70s had 13, there were 32 in the 1980s, and over 40 in the 1990s. The number since then as only increased.

Again, low numbers of mass shootings which primarily were targeted at family members prior to the 60s. Much higher frequency of shootings with a major increase in bystander fatalities since the 1960s.

How about serial killers, the focus of Mindhunter? According to one site, there were only a dozen or so serial killers in the United States in the decades leading up to the 1960s. There were 19 in the 1960s, 119 in the 70s, 200 in the 80s, and 141 in the 1990s. The number has since dropped to 60 or less in the twenty-first century, but the line drawn through the Satanic Era is still worth noting.

It does appear that this notion of random killing has increased since the 1960s.

17,000 women were forcibly raped in 1960. By the end of the decade, the number of victims had more than doubled. By 1992, the number peaked at over 109,000.

Recreational drug and alcohol use, though prevalent regardless of drug laws, has exploded since the 1960s.

Increases in violence against strangers, depictions of violence and sex in film and television, sexual assault, drug use, alcoholism, the opioid crisis, teen pregnancies, deviant sexual behaviors, homosexuality, transgenderism, mass murder, and serial killings are directly correlated with the decline in major religion and distrust of major media and government institutions.

In every single one of these categories – religious decline (secularization), increases in crime and deviance, the birth of new religious movements and serial killers – you can draw a line before and after the Satanic Era of the 1960s and see that there has been a seismic social shift in the United States.

One cannot help but notice that many of the same issues of the 1960s are manifest today. Civil unrest, shouts of racism, segregation, unending protest, free love, excessive drug use, sensitivity toward anything deemed “offensive”, attacks on free speech and the Constitution, militarized police, political corruption, calls for revolution, Marxism, and the list goes on and on.

I am a child of the 80s, but I would love to hear from those who were alive during the 60s. Does your lived experience mirror my theory? Has the shift been noticeable? Do you think there has actually been a shift? Please, I want to hear from you.

Debate Should Not Lead to Death

I have been in my fair share of arguments. I have debated on Facebook, among friends, and in classrooms full of people. When the situation isn’t resolved, I generally leave the conversation feeling awful. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot convince the other side that I am right. I do not want innocent babies ripped apart in the womb. I do not want speech, no matter how hate filled, to be banned. I do not want anyone to go to hell when they die. I do not want my Constitutional rights taken away.

I do not like being wrong. I come in to every argument with as much knowledge as I can muster. I approach every debate with the mindset that empiricism trumps emotion. I want to be able to point to statistics and use my Sociological training to raise awareness and debunk irrational arguments. When I fail, I take it personally. After all, if I cannot convince an atheist that my religious beliefs are correct, then I’ve just my shot at seeing them saved by God’s grace. If I cannot convince a liberal that abortion is murder, then they will continue to advocate for the slaughter of innocents. If I cannot convince the Left that I have the RIGHT to bear arms, then my family may be in danger one day and I will be weaponless.

These are important arguments to me.

However, there are an increasing number of times when I feel rage from my opposition. Whereas I am saddened by my failure in disagreement, the other person HATES me. When I am disappointed, they want me silenced. They want me to lose my reputation and job. If I were to take social media seriously, I’d think they want me…dead (as a member of the NRA, there have been dozens of calls for my murder).

After this most recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, irrationality has become the norm. I know people who were there. I know others who lost someone. I drive past Mandalay Bay several times a week on my way to UNLV. I can see it from school. I can see it from the highway. I can see it when I drive to my home from grocery shopping. No one has to tell me the impact and devastation caused by the actions of an evil mass murderer. I am reminded of it several times a day, and most likely will continue to be so long as I live in Vegas.

Although I am shaken, sullen, and uneasy, I cannot and will not use this tragedy as justification to rid my city or country of firearms. As a matter of fact, I want MORE freedom and LESS restriction on firearms. Rather than feel weakened by the event, I feel my resolve strengthened. When I feel unsafe, I want to increase my own stockpile of weapons. I want to freely exercise my Second Amendment (that is, GOD-GIVEN) right to protect myself and family by any means necessary.

No counter-argument can change my mind. I see the statistics that show the correlation between INCREASED gun ownership and DECREASED crime rates. I understand the scenarios where a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. I know personal instances where having a firearm stopped robberies and sexual assaults from happening. I know that if someone were to come into my home in an attempt to violate the safety of my family, they will be met with lethal force.

More guns save lives than take them, not matter how many mass shootings occur; it’s just not sexy to report them on the news. It’s difficult to know the actual number, as gun saves are not often reported to the police or FBI.

We can disagree on this matter. You can push for gun control, and I will work tirelessly to resist your effort. I can promise you this, while I may be disappointed in our disagreement, I will never wish you dead. I would never want you to lose your job over it. I would never want you to lose your life. I just hope you feel the same.

Notes on Deuteronomy 28-29

Chapter 27 ends with 12 curses for those who don’t listen to God’s commands. Chapter 28 begins with 8 blessings that come to those who “hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God” (verse 2). The “balance” is 12 negatives to 8 positives (so far). The “balance” goes even further off kilter (according to what our limited understanding would have us believe), as Deut. 28:16-19 piles on 7 additional “curses.”

That’s 19-8 negatives, which, as I wrote in my Notes on Deut. 21-27, is more evidence that the Bible is a negative book.

The rest of chapter 28 is one of the most horrifying passages in all Scripture. God lays out 53 consecutive verses of curses, destruction, and punishments for the children of Israel if they do not heed the commandments of the LORD.

Students of history can see how many of these came true, as there are descriptions of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar that would occur about 1000 years after this was written. There are descriptions of the reign of Titus that happened almost 40 years after Christ’s death. There are VERY detailed descriptions of Hitler’s Holocaust which came almost 3500 years after the book of Deuteronomy was penned by Moses.

First of all, Israel would be “removed into all the kingdoms of the earth” (Deut. 28:25) in each of these historical periods. Other nations would move into Israel, enjoy the fruits of the land, and the Israelites “shalt be only oppressed and crushed always” (verse 33) and “thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations” (verse 37).

We know from history that this has absolutely come true for hundreds of years. The Israelites were kicked out of their own land for almost 2,000 years, they have been “oppressed and crushed” the entire time. No one wants to be a “Jew” in modern society. Shakespeare’s Shylock is an infamous literary character whose very name has become a racial slur. One would not want to be “Jewed” out of their money. As predicted, the Israelites have become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword. They are a cautionary tale.

Deut. 28:49-50 is an extremely accurate prophecy of the German invasion and Holocaust. It begins with “a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand” (Hitler’s symbol was the German eagle, and they spoke a foreign language). Hitler led “A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young” (verse 50). The Holocaust slaughtered over 6,000,000 Jews, including the elderly and children.

By the end of all these persecutions, the Israelites “shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven” (verse 62). The Israelites have been scattered “from the one end of the earth even unto the other” (verse 64) and “among these nations shalt thou find no ease” (verse 65).

Verse 68 says “there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen and no man shall buy you.” In 1945, Adolf Eichmann and Joel Brand offered to sell 1,000,000 Jews for trucks in an effort they titled “blood for goods”, but no one took them up on the offer.

The warning to Israel in verse 63 is chilling. God says “And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.”

God’s love is so absolute that he totally enjoys dishing out blessings. His wrath is so absolute, that he will enjoy bringing those who disobey him to nothing. All this destruction has been poured out “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (verse 47).

This is not just a warning to Israel, but to all nations.