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.

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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.

A Masculine Manifesto

The patriarchy is alive and well. Men are the highest paid group in the United States. Over 95% of the Fortune 500 has a man as CEO, and most of the other executive positions are held by guys as well. The richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, is still only the 14th wealthiest person in the world, and only 11% of the world’s billionaires are women.

Men dominate the global economy.

There are only 15 women in the on the planet who are considered a “world leader.” That means only 7.6% of the world’s nations are led by a female.

Men dominate global leadership.

The U.S. Congress is over 90% men, our executive branch is led by men, 5 of the 8 (soon to be 6 of 9) members of the Supreme Court are men, and 45 of 50 states are led by men.

Men dominate American leadership.

Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide. Men use a wider variety of drugs, and have higher overall rates of use of illicit drugs and alcohol. Males are close to 4 times more likely to be murdered, and more than 10 times more likely to be killed at work. Men die more often of stress related diseases (and non-stress related diseases as well). Men live an average of 7 fewer years than women. Men are more likely to fight and die in combat.

Men dominate being killed.

There are 1.47 MILLION men in prison compared to 111,000 women. Men comprise over 85% of military personnel, and almost 100% in combat. 52% of mental hospitals, and 97% of VA mental health clinics are filled with men.

Men dominate total institutions.

You see, while we keep hearing about the patriarchy, men are giving their lives for it. The ramifications of public social pressures to be the breadwinner lead men to work longer hours or take more dangerous jobs that pay more money. This causes stress related heart attacks or death by work related accidents.

While women may dominate the service economy now, they also dominate our universities. This means that the “good jobs” of the future that typically go to those with higher education will be filled with women. The calls for women to be wealthy CEOs are rising, but the calls for women to take sole responsibility as the breadwinner are not so prevalent. When a woman fails, she is told how strong and brave she is for even trying. When a man fails, his role as a leader, breadwinner, father, husband, and man is challenged by both other men and the women that expect him to live up to social standards.

The response when a man cannot fulfill this traditionally historical role is to take to substance abuse or a collapse in mental health; possibly even suicide.

Moreover, the media ignores any sort of abuse that men and boys may suffer. 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. This is very similar to the 1 in 5 statistic for women that is touted by every social justice warrior and public university in this country. Do you hear about men?

Men wear masks to cover our insecurities. When we laugh around others, we may be feeling the most pain. We act toughest when we are the most vulnerable. Men are less likely to have any sort of emotional outlet. When a woman faces a problem, she can call up a dozen friends and pour out her feelings. Men who do this are almost immediately checked and told to “man up,” so we put our masks back on.

Bottling up emotions leads to violent outbursts (over 90% of our prisoners are men – more than half of those are for violent offences). Men are taught at a young age that the only acceptable emotions are anger and aggression. All others are shunned.

Is it no wonder that men are having more difficult times committing to one woman and understanding what love and compassion are?

If a man enjoys art, opera, or poetry, he is labeled as feminine and called a “fag” by his macho friends. Our generations forget that some of the greatest men in history were artists or enjoyed going to plays and musicals. Men are supposed to like women, guns, sports, and cars. All else results in the return of his “man card.” George Washington and Thomas Jefferson studied philosophy while wearing powdered wigs and tights. Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching live theater. If only they were “real men,” right?

In the name of “equality,” our young boys are finding out that they are no longer allowed to buy lunch or open doors for the opposite sex. Having any sort of intellectual conversation has now been deemed “mansplaining” and this notion of patriarchy – which is not felt equally by all men – has become a staple meme in the feminist movement.

Men can be bullied, but men cannot be victims.

We also tend to forget that not all men are CEOs of major corporations. Men in poverty are the most at risk for suicide, criminal behavior, job related deaths, and substance abuse; though CEOs are the ones having early heart attacks and stress related diseases.

What I propose is a radical solution. We should teach men that it is okay to show a full range of emotions. We should teach men that failing is sometimes necessary, and bravery is overcoming adversity, not avoiding it. We should teach men that they are human, they are loved, and they are free to enjoy football or ballet.

 

The model of true masculinity is Jesus Christ. God became a man who did get angry at times. However, Christ traveled from region to region helping the poor and downtrodden. Jesus respected all women, especially his mother. He was charitable, giving, caring, and loving. He showed a wide range of emotions and avoided any temptation that would have tarnished his character in any way. He stood against the political and religious powers of his day with brazen courage. He spoke truth to power with insurmountable wisdom. He was consistent in all things. He wore no mask.

And neither should we.

 

Taking God for Granted

Think of all the things we take for granted in life.
The concepts of white privilege and patriarchy are that white males have certain historical advantages that they never actually think about. Things are becoming more egalitarian, for sure. However, Western civilization has been, for better or worse, a product of straight white men exploiting others.
Don’t believe me? When we identify colleagues or even friends, we often clarify the race of minorities, but not whites. You do not hear things like “famous male inventor Thomas Edison…” or “the straight, white Founding Fathers like Jefferson and Madison.” On the other hand, we do that for racial minorities, homosexuals, and women.

In other words, heterosexual and white are default categories. The all-encompassing term to describe all of humanity is “mankind.” Consider the term “straight,” which is the opposed of crooked, which has the negative connotation of deviance. These are taken for granted assumptions typically made by straight, white, men and are often challenged by those who violate one or more of those categories. The reaction from those in the majority is shock and denial of their privileges.

This happens when we take these concepts for granted, and Christians have been doing the same thing with doctrine. From everything from Bible translations to baptism, the modern American Christian has been fattened with privileges that go all-too-often ignored.

Our Christian Founding Fathers were persecuted and murdered for their Faith. The history of the Church is filled with meeting in secret locations under penalty of death from their governments, which still occurs in many countries. What do we, as Americans, do? We use our Christian colleges as an excuse to challenge and “correct” the Bible that our brothers and sisters and the Middle-East are being beheaded over. While we bicker about whether we should wear suits or have drums in a worship setting, Christians around the world are being crucified or burned alive.

We need not fear being used as gladiatorial fodder in the Colosseum of Rome, so we find minor things over which to quibble.

Almost 80% of Americans identify as Christian, but the average weekly church attendance for a believer in this country is 1.7 services per month. Attendance is not low because Uncle Sam is waiting to bust in our doors and imprison those inside, but because to 22% of American churchgoers, watching football has become a priority. Rather than being thrust into the arena to face lions, we can watch others combat live on television. We take our churches for granted, because we have churches to go to.

American Christians have taken church attendance for granted, but have also taken prayer and daily time in Scripture for granted. We can tell you anything you want about what our favorite actors are up to, but nothing about Solomon’s life. We can quote Tom Brady’s QB rating in the 2004 playoffs, but can’t quote a verse other than John 3:16. We have time to text, not call, but text our best friends with every detail of our daily lives, but spend no time having a conversation with our Heavenly Father.

I cannot tell you the number of fellow church members and Church members who gleefully post party pictures on social media with faces distorted by drunken frivolity; forgetting that we are called to be pictures of Christ to our unsaved friends and families. How can a drug addict be helped by someone who is right next to them shooting up? How might an alcoholic have a life change while we sit at the bar sharing shots? With no thought of the repercussions, we indulge in the very same behaviors as those who are lost. How will they ever be found when we throw the map in the garbage?

We do these things because we CAN do these things. We do them because we CHOOSE to do them. We put God’s will behind our own ambitions because we ignore the manifestation of His grace in our lives. We no longer count our blessings, because our insatiable thirst for humanistic pursuits has us spoiled and privileged.

No one is perfect. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. The difference is that the heroes of the Bible felt regret when they fell from grace. King David never fully recovered from his tryst with Bathsheba. Peter spent the rest of his life trying to make up for his denial of Christ before the crucifixion. Will we do the same, or will we continue to take our privilege for granted?

Check your privilege. It is there, and we must acknowledge its existence. The only way we will be effective at bringing others to Christ is if we throw away our hedonistic lifestyles and BE LIKE CHRIST. If you sin, it’s okay. Jesus’ blood covers Christians for all eternity. However, we must all try to avoid the temptation to flaunt our sin to everyone in our social networks.

Becoming a Christian is an easy decision for most privileged Americans. LIVING like a Christian is incredibly difficult. The first decision is personal, while the second affects the lives of all those around us. Remember who you represent. You are a child of the King of Kings. You are privileged, whether you want to admit it or not. Time is running out for our loved ones who have yet to accept Christ. Do them a favor and dare to be different. Be a rebel. We are already experiencing a revolution, so be revolutionary. Stop taking God for Granted.

The Triune Self

My name is Alex Simmons, but what does that really mean? Who am “I”? I am a Christian, a husband, the father of four lovely girls, a sociologist, a drummer, a UNLV graduate student, and a UNLV employee. These are roles and statuses, but is that all I am; the sum of roles and statuses? I was not always a UNLV graduate student, and I hopefully will not always be. As this status changes, will I cease to be me? Of course not. That’s silly.

Perhaps I am what you see. I am the physical body. Then again, what would happen if a part of me was removed? Our soldiers go overseas and wage war for us, but they often sacrifice their limbs. Does that mean that they return home and are no longer themselves? They may be damaged, but they are still them.

Perhaps I am not what you see on the outside, but I exist inside the body. The brain is the computer center of the central nervous system. It operates everything ranging to pain sensation to breathing regulation. However, there are times when the brain is physically damaged. Are football players who receive concussions no longer themselves? There are some of us that suffer from chemical imbalances in the brain. When an anti-depressant is prescribed, the patient becomes “the medicated self.” They need drugs to feel whole, but are they whole if they need a substance to make them that way? Moreover, the brain is made up of cells that are shed and leave the body when we sneeze. Does that mean that whenever I have a runny nose “I” leave the body? Absolutely not.

Rather than my roles and statuses or the physical self, I am the metaphysical mind? Closer, but no. Rene Descartes famously said, “Cogito ergo sum” – I think, therefore I am. Our thoughts manifest as ideas and memories and are expressed through creativity. However, cognitive impairments occur all the time. Mental illness takes part of our mind from us. Dementia also impairs cognitive function. If we are no longer able to recall memories, are we still our “self”?

Furthermore, the mind is not physical, but could “you” exist without a body? Photographs are representations of us, but they are not us. We put our souls on paper when we write. Our images and social media posts become “the digital self,” a term that postmodern researches use to describe a digital representation of the “self.” Yet our photographs, manuscripts, and social media posts can be deleted. If they are destroyed, or even hacked, do we also cease to exist? No.

Rather than roles, statuses, the physical or metaphysical representations of me, I believe that I am the triune self. I am comprised of a body, soul, and spirit – like the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost). These three parts are all one, but I am not all in one. If a piece is cut off, I am still me. The digital self is still me. I can change roles and statuses and still be me. Before I was born into a physical body, I had no “self,” but the triune me exists now and forever. The triune self is eternal. My body dies, but soul and spirit live forever. The Bible shows us that we will get a new body in Heaven, thus reuniting the triune self.

Who am I? I am me. All of me, and I always will be.

A Conundrum

Let’s pretend that there is an ideology that, if practiced according to its fundamental document, would encourage pedophilia, abuse of women, killing homosexuals, and murder of those who disagree with said ideology.

Let’s pretend that for 1500 years, those who follow their fundamental document have engaged in violent conquest leaving behind a trail of corpses and severed heads.

Let’s pretend that this ideology follows a book written by a man who married a six year old and only became more violent as he aged.

Let’s pretend now that the apostates who refuse to follow the violent, pedophilic, minority murdering book were now seen as the “fundamentalists” of the ideology, while those who continue the 1500 year traditions are called “radicals.”

Let’s pretend that the leaders of countries where these “radicals” have been waging a targeted war decide that there should be a safety measure in place to make sure that the locations where violent pedophiles generally form en masse have less access to their targets.

Let’s pretend that a group within a targeted nation is one that would be slaughtered by these “radicals” if they were in these dangerous locations, and these minorities who would be murdered now protest to fight for the very “radicals” who want to kill them to come over to where they are.

Does this make any sense?

Let’s pretend that there are 20 houses on my street. If one house in my neighborhood was full of people who wanted me dead, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t send out invitations for my cookout to them and their friends.

Let’s pretend that not only did I know that those in that house wanted me dead, but I knew that they had already killed some of my neighbors and even burned a house to the ground with a family inside.

Would it make sense for me to not want them on my property?

The Bias of Unbiased Science

It’s fun to think of the scientist as a person seeking empirical knowledge without bias.
 
The belief that science is the superior, or even only, means to gain knowledge IS biased; and flawed. How many of sciences findings have been replaced with updated research? The Earth was flat until it wasn’t. The sun revolved around the Earth until it didn’t. Newton’s laws of physics were the standard until Einstein. Einstein’s findings have been surpassed by quantum physics. Pluto was a planet until it wasn’t. The “Big Bang” was the catalyst for the existence of the universe, until it wasn’t. Brontosaurus was a type of dinosaur until it wasn’t. Piltdown man provided evidence of evolution until it didn’t. Fat is bad for you, now it’s good. Butter was bad until it wasn’t.
 
I could go on and on.
 
Yet scientists (and those who value science above all types of knowledge acquisition) would have you believe that this is superior to religious texts. In my study of The Bible (KJV ONLY, baby), I have found more verified scientific data than any evidence that has been “debunked” through scientific study.
 
The TRUTH is that there are so many phenomena that science has no answer to. The Bible is riddled with the supernatural that science either ends up verifying (germs, blood disorders, intelligent design, Earth revolving around the sun, a round Earth) or contains supernatural phenomena that science cannot disprove nor verify.
 
Most phenomena is supernatural until we come to understand it. Science, as it slowly progresses, verifies Biblical phenomena. It stands to reason, then, that The Bible may very well hold the answers to questions of the supernatural that are true, but have yet to be scientifically verified.
 
Of course, by no means does that mean that God’s Word is not empirically tested.
 
We test the teachings of Scripture every day, and we collect data through our experiences that we need only to apply a theory to (in this case, that THE BOOK is always true) in order to obtain knowledge.
 
Some of us put our faith into a dogma of scientism that is constantly challenged by more current science.
 
I put my Faith into The Bible that has never been debunked and has only been verified by empirical study.
 
But what do I know? I am just too biased.