Tag Archive: Relativism

This past week I had the honor of attending a training on Critical Incident Stress Management.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?  Not really.  We all face stress.  I personally believe that all the technology we have does not alleviate stress.  It probably adds to it.  We do not have to personally experience a major event to be stressed.  Watching a shooting, terrorist attack, or anything that disrupts our personal shalom (I love that word) causes stress.  Right now, reading this article on stress can cause stress.  

We were made to be at peace, or better yet, shalom.  In shalom with God, man, and creation.  Well, that didn’t last all that long.  Man chose to go his own path, and shalom was totally disrupted.  Now we wrestle with God instead of walking with him, hate our fellow man instead of loving him, and cannot seem to be in harmony with the creation God gave us.  Shalom is more like STRESS!

We often associate stress with certain events.  Avoid them or make changes in our lives and we can be functional again.  If we can’t avoid it, we medicate it.  I don’t think we can stay isolated, nor is there enough medication to bring us shalom.  It’s a state of being we were made to have but will not find  this side of the glory land.  We might think we can obtain such a state, but we really can’t.  Don’t let a preacher tell you otherwise.  In fact, studies have shown that the three professions with the most stress are:  1. Military,  2. First Responders, and 3. Ministers.  If they are not stressed, they aren’t doing their job.  

Talking about all the stress, the teacher made a profound statement.  He said, “Hurting people hurt people.”  I knew that desperate people do desperate things, but his statement hit me like a ton fo bricks.  

The person screaming at you is expressing his hurt, and it might not have anything to do with you.  The individual who constantly is a thorn in your side is either poking you where you have past hurt or is expressing her hurt by poking somebody else.  The one pulling a gun, wielding a knife, bringing death and destruction is hurting others in his own hurt.  We know this!  We don’t know what to do.

The more I read psychology, I see a diagnosis of hurting people who have adapted to their pain in certain consistent forms.  We aren’t necessarily plagued with brain damage.  We are finding ways to find a sense of shalom.  Add relativism to it and the only peace we are concerned with is our own.  Add more stress avenues than ever before and it’s a mess.

No wonder people don’t want their doorbell rung once they enter their peaceful home.  No wonder moms want help.  No wonder dads are stopping to get a beer or escaping on their smart phones even when it isn’t very smart to do so.  No wonder no one wants to engage anyone anymore…they are trying to survive their own stress in their vain attempt to discover the long lost shalom.  

Jesus talked a lot about unity and shalom.  I love the story of the disciples thinking they were drowning when they had the Prince of Peace asleep in the boat.  They wake him, and what does he say to the creation?  “Peace, be still.”  Look at it another way.  The word “peace” is translated in some versions as “silence.”  Silence.  Peace.  Shalom.  There isn’t very much anymore, especially when we carry a source of noise, chaos, and destruction right in the palm of our hands.  

So what are we to do?  In some respects there are ways to minimize some stress.  We can exercise, turn off some of the external sources of stress, and studies actually tell us to drink more water.  Some need to take their preferred lifestyle and drop it back a level or two.  We all tend to live over our heads.  But with all the “answers,” we will still have stress in our lives.  This is where the church comes in.  

This is where Jesus instructed constantly, and the disciples carried it forward.  He taught us and encouraged us to “Love one another.”  That love was to be expressed with great grace and mercy.  Instead of inflicting more pain, we were to be the givers of grace and mercy, knowing that the love of God is the only thing that can truly help mitigate the stress of this fallen world and fallen people.  By incarnating Christ, we extend a hand, offer an ear, give a shoulder, and offer words of shalom.  It’s kind of interesting.  When we purpose to walk with another in his or her hurt and stress, it softens ours as well.  

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are stressed and I will give you shalom.”  As we go to Him, we, as his people, incarnate his teaching.  Are we bearers of calm or chaos in these crazy days?  

Have you ever been tired and you don’t have any idea the cause?  That defines me today.  It seems to define me more often these days.  So, I decided to go to the doctor.  Basically, he gave me a clean bill of health .  He said my blood tests looked good, and, after l lost 26 lbs., he was greatly encouraged.  

I’m not diabetic; that’s good news.  According to the good doctor, I’m not pre-diabetic either.  I’m not anemic, of course, that depends on who you ask.  My cholesterol is a little high but nothing to lose any sleep over.  If I’m such a specimen of good health, why am I so tired?  The question of the day.

I meet a lot of tired people.  Lately, when a few counselees have come into the office, my first question is, “Would you like for me to step out for 20 minutes so you can catch a quick nap?”  They laugh.  They laugh because they know it’s not all that bad an idea.  

We all know the look.  No smile.  Bags under the eyes.  No spring in the step.  No emotion in the voice.  Maybe it’s me, but I think the relativistic consumer-driven world philosophies in a post-modern and post-Christian era are possibly imploding our culture, and people simply cannot keep up.

We used to talk about trying to keep up with the “Joneses.”  It’s the mindset that whatever my neighbor has I have to have one and possibly the latest model.  Just last week I was asked if I had an iPhone X.  I said I had the eight.  Without missing a beat, the young lady, with an attitude of disgust, informed me she had the iPhone X and was going to get the next model as soon as it came out.  I have to say, I was not impressed.   

I used to think the pace of life was going berserk.   I don’t think so anymore.  It’s the cultural expectations causing each individual to think they need more.  The instant access to information on the phone feeds the idea that no one should be a step behind.  We submit to the mindset and it doesn’t take long till we are distracted consumers spending time just trying to keep up.  

A few weeks ago, I heard of a family that took all electronics away from their young son.  He was having issues using them.  Eventually, the parents realized things were not going well, including his attitude.  They have been put away with no timetable for their return.  Did I hear a collective gasp?  Yup, no cell phone, tablet, or computer use unless necessary for school.  It was time to break the addiction cycle for a very young child.  Everybody expected withdrawal and anger to dominate.  They were wrong.

The opposite happened.  The young child’s pleasant attitude returned over the next few days.  He began to return to life.  His acceptance of his siblings sweetened.  His parents reported that he said, “It’s amazing, I’m enjoying all of life once again.”  They are not sure if the electronics will ever return.  

I asked another set of parents a few hours ago why they felt it was necessary to give their 11- year-old daughter a cell phone.  No, let me change that.  I asked why they felt it was necessary to give their child a smart phone at such a young age.  They said, “So she can get a hold of us at any time.”  The young child gave the better answer.  She replied, “Well, everyone has them.”  Does anybody realize that the young child is having access to a lot more people (good, bad and evil) than her parents?  Are we blind to the fact that the good does not necessarily outweigh the bad? 

I didn’t even mention that when we put more and more people into our life, including electronically, it eliminates time for family and God.  We don’t live in a vacuum.   Time given to one person takes away from time with another.  The word that replaces God is “I.”  I need a phone.  I need to be just like so and so.  I want it.  I have to be important.   I have to be relevant. 

There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of this stuff.  It’s the user.  The problem is they are all user-friendly.  I am concerned.  Tired people do tired things.  Suicide rates are up, especially among the young.  Evil is only a few seconds away, and we might not even be looking for it at times.   It’s not just the young.  It’s everybody.

My grandkids came over the other day.  I asked them if they wanted to take a ride to the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.  They happily agreed.  We talked the whole way there and back.  We laughed looking for gators and birds.  They are probably the source of my tiredness.  It’s worth it.  No.  They are worth it. 

Sometime I wonder what God thinks?  I know that is quite impossible to figure out what God is thinking.  Isaiah told us His thoughts are not our thoughts.  We are so limited.  However, as my mind wanders the far spaces of time I wonder what God thinks about technology, the current state of the church, my thoughts (how few there are at times), our culture, as well as our lack of culture.  The list could go on.  Maybe I’m going crazy.  

Have you ever wondered what God thinks about the Internet?  It can be such a wonderful means of communication and information processing.  On the other hand, it can lead us down a dark, dark path.  The ability to read this article as a blog post allows readers to never have to go out and get the newspaper in their bare feet.  Amazing if you think about it.  My guess is God gave us the ability to create it.  It remains the heart of the user that is the issue.  

I wonder what God thinks about air conditioning and garage door openers.  Yup, I’m really losing it now.  Before these great technological advances, we sat on the porch in the cool of the evening or left the widows wide open for a little breeze.  Once the night air began to change, the window fan sucked all the fresh air through the house.  In the process, during the open window age, we heard our neighbors.  We spoke with our neighbors.  We knew our neighbors and, probably, a little more than we liked.  Once the air conditioner came along, we no longer heard our neighbors and don’t talk with them either. 

The garage door opener allows us to get in and out of our car without going outside. Actually  I’m not sure that is possible here in the Lowcountry.  Garages have become our basements.  The cars are outside.  But, you get the point.  Our castle became a little more secure and if we want to, we can isolate ourselves a little bit more.  I wonder what God thinks about our isolation from a real neighbor but our tendency to allow a stranger to greatly influence our lives through a computer screen.  My guess is that, it remains the heart of the user once again.  If we care for our neighbor, AC and garage door openers will not separate us.

I wonder that God thinks about our relativistic, consumer driven, critical, narcissistic culture. That one isn’t too hard.  We like to think our culture is unique to Americans and our current place in history.  Wrong!  King Solomon, in all his wisdom, said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  He was correct.  In the book of Judges it says, “Man did what was right in the sight of his own eyes.”  That fits relativism and the narcissism running the day.  All we did was label things.  Man has always wanted to be God.  That’s the curse.  We should be an extremely thankful people since God loves his man creation and set forth to redeem us.  His thoughts are wrapped in his love and grace.  

So, last of all, I wonder what God thinks about the current state of the church.  There will be many disagreements on this one I’m sure.  When over 50% of American churches hold to some form of health and wealth, prosperity teaching, the state of the church is far from healthy.  When pastors’ and priests’ evil sexual issues are brought to light, the church has serious issues.  It has been said that once the church responds poorly to a major cultural issue, such as sex abuse and harassment, the church has lost it’s ability to be heard due to its image being tarnished.  To quote a famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.”  Actually Apollo 13 had a huge problem.  It was only by the grace of God and men and women who worked overtime that it made it back.  

That is our hope as well.   The hope is not just to survive.  The hope is to see Christ in all His splendor and love.  The hope is to humbly love and express the grace of God to others beyond our computers, air conditioning, garage doors, self-consumed thinking and sin.  That is our hope in Christ.  It’s not what church we go to on Sunday morning.  It’s how we live the rest of the time.  That defines our heart.  It remains the heart of each person that consumes the thoughts of God. 

As the plane was preparing to land, the pilot came on the audio system to inform the passengers that an earthquake had set off a tsunami. The northern coast of Australia was on full alert. The joyous passengers suddenly became quiet. It wouldn’t take too long until we landed and faced the devastation and death that quickly followed just to the north of us. Our trip took on a new dimension.
We made our way to Darwin from Sydney. The sleepy coastal town suddenly became the center of the Australian relief effort. As supplies went out survivors came in. Restaurants became places where many would sit and listen for hours to the first hand accounts.
Heads would shake. Hands trembled. Tears would flow. Drinks would be passed around. In our lifetime we had never seen nor heard of a tsunami. Christmas went from a time of great celebration to sudden dread and disaster. Over 225,000 people lost their lives that day. It will be a Christmas I won’t forget. We had flown into Sydney to study the biomes of Australia on Christmas Day and ended up with a unique view of the fragility of life.
Some told stories about the ocean retreating before the first wave struck. Nobody was thinking tsunami. There was a total lack of knowledge and understanding. Instead of running the opposite way many were walking far out, picking up shark’s teeth and amazing sea shells. Minutes later their lives would be on the line. Others reported that the death toll did not accelerate upward as the water drove inland. More lives were lost as the water raced back to the ocean. Unseen debris-laced water ripped people out of the trees and buildings sending them to certain death.
Several days later, pictures left us breathless. Towns were gone. Buildings had disappeared. Families were lost. The infrastructure was totally destroyed, leaving more sickness and death to come.
First hand accounts and images not seen in the States etched memories that will last a lifetime. How we could be snorkeling on the great barrier reef, enjoying some of the most beautiful creation observed by man, only to have the same nature take so many lives at will just to our north was beyond comprehension. The Indian Ocean tsunami took place 14 years ago. Many of the communities have recovered but many, many lives will never be the same.
In the late 1990’s a cultural tsunami crashed upon American shores in full force. It should not have been a surprise to the Christian community. Unlike the Indian Ocean waves, we were warned. For some reason we didn’t listen to the warning sirens. Was it spiritual arrogance? Maybe. Was it ignorance thinking the church itself could withstand such mind-numbing influences? Maybe. We spend too much time wanting to lay blame instead of facing the fact that the tsunami has struck, and we are woefully hanging on for dear life.
Between rampant consumerism and pervasive relativism even the church looks like life back in the book of Judges when every man did what was right in his own eyes. King Solomon was right: “There is nothing new under the sun.” We like to look out the window of the church with condemning attitudes. In the 60’s, we blamed the hippies. In the 70’s, we blamed Vietnam. In the 80’s, we blamed politics. In the 90’s, we blamed technology. In the early 2000’s, we blamed the Islamic Jihad. In the teens, we blame them all.
Meanwhile we continue to refuse to look inside the walls of the church and our own hearts. We need to set up confessionals. Instead of hearing confessions, we need to confess our sins. We are just as much consumers as the wolves on Wall Street. We treat Biblical truth as if we are at the Golden Corral picking and choosing what we want at any given time to make us happy. A friend of mine once said, “We call ourselves sinners but we won’t dare say what kind.” We show up on Sunday thinking we are more pious then our non-churched friends. Maybe we are like those who were looking for sea shells instead of comprehending the signs of massive change unlike we have ever seen before.
Martin Luther called the church in his day to repent. That was the message in the 1st of his 95 theseis. We need the same today. The call isn’t just for those who have remained in the pews. It’s for those who abandoned the system established by God himself as well. We look no different than the world anymore. They mock us with the name “Christian.” Instead of resentment maybe we should consider their words as truth. Jesus said, “He who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I know that message doesn’t fill pews. It wasn’t supposed to.