Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Too good to be 9?

I honestly can believe that this has finally happened, a 9-year-old is so much better than the rest of his piers that he must be banned from baseball. Let’s not pretend that we couldn’t see this coming. You see, it all started with those stupid participation ribbons they started handing out to all the kids on each team even though they did nothing to deserve recognition. I was absolutely stunned to find this out several years ago when I enrolled my own son for baseball. His team won just a few games, only but one or two kids stood out by their play, yet at the end of the season all the parents were hit up for a $20 bill to pay for trophies and prizes. I of course had the temerity to ask, “why?” After all, back in the day, there was one trophy handed out at the end of the season, and that trophy went to the first place team, and the coach was the one who got to keep it. What was funny about that was, no one cared, rather, they all knew that was the way it was supposed to be. Fast forward a few years (okay, many, many more years) and imagine my surprise at having to fork over an extra $20 for participation awards for all the players on a bottom of the league team! What I failed to notice, was that this was the way of the “new generation.” The children of today apparently are all suffering from low self-esteem and they are in need of constant affirmation that they are “special” and deserving of awards for things they never worked hard to earn.

So now you see my point, right? We got here at this point where we are penalizing 9-year-olds because of superiority by making a practice of rewarding mediocrity. It started by telling all the kids they were good even if they were not, telling them they were valuable to the team even if they didn’t spend a moment outside of practice and games working to get better, and affirming their effort whether they played hard or not during the game. Once mediocrity is the norm, excellence will always end up being penalized, because as soon as someone stands out above everyone else, then he will be made to be a villain because he is damaging the self-esteem of all the other kids.

This unfortunate story ought to be a national wake-up call. We are rearing a generation of cry-babies and underachievers who are bloated with self-esteem while mediocre in performance. Don’t tell me that this mentality won’t spill out into other areas of life either, because it will. We are currently undergoing a cultural revolution in the work place and academy due to the effects of this “awards for all participants” mentality that has been practiced now for the last 15—20 years in this country. So, I for one am hopeful that this embarrassing national story over penalizing an overachiever will finally shame us into our senses and cause us to realize that the only way we will get better as a nation is if we only reward excellence in achievement and effort in order to motivate people to move out of mediocrity.

I say, let little Jericho play. So what if he strikes out every 9-year-old in his league. Maybe that will cause the rest of those kids to try harder so they can hit him next year when they are 10. In the mean time, as they make that long lonely walk from home plate to the dugout with a bat on their shoulder after striking out, they will learn an important lesson in life, that hard work and sharpened skill acquired through drilling the mechanics of a good swing, will not only help them get that bat on the ball, but will also be a lesson on how to get ahead in life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bigfoot Proves Elusive Once Again

I have to say this was a real disappointment for me. My hopes were soaring high on August 15 with the press conference held at the Cabana Hotel in Palo Alto, California, thinking this finally might be “it.” But no, hopes were dashed once again by two pranksters claiming to have finally captured irrefutable evidence of Bigfoot, when the “evidence” contained in a giant freezer turned out to be just a rubber gorilla suit. Now, I must admit that part of me thought it would be awesome if a bona fide Bigfoot had finally been discovered, though honestly, part of me was a little disappointed because the lack of a verifiable Bigfoot sighting kept us all in suspense and made everything more exciting, and if this was really it, then it might peel a bit of the luster off the Bigfoot mystique. I can personally attest to the fact, having grown up in the hill country of Northern California, that the legends are large and the tales are colorful about the supposed sights and sounds of Bigfoot. Hunters and campers alike tell of strange sounds in the night, unexplainably large footprints in the soft moist dirt, and large clumps of reddish-brown hair stuck on trees in the forest. If you drive through some of the more remote areas of No-Cal you will find that the legend lives on in road side stands and small ma and pop shops as a whole Bigfoot cottage industry has grown up around the legend and people are shamelessly profiting off this supposedly fury and wily creature. For now though, the legend is safe, the suspense is in tact, and Bigfoot is still on the loose. So all you hunters, hikers, and campers, a word to the wise, keep your eyes peeled and your digital cameras handy because you never know, the next time you hit the woods, maybe, just maybe, Bigfoot will finally slip up and you will come home with the proof that everyone has been waiting for. Good luck!

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Guy church": how evangelicals still dont get it

About a year ago we launched with the express intention of trying to have conversations with men which might in turn lead them to be open to have further conversations about Jesus. Basically the articles here range from current events, to Ultimate Fighting, to some basic philosophical issues, all cast in the form of a conversation you might have with another guy on a bar stool over a cold one. So, if you joined the conversation when this all started you are aware of the aim of this site, and if you are just tuning in, then go back and check out those key articles and get caught up to speed.

Naturally, given that our focus here is to engage other men in conversation that will end up having a spiritual focus, we are happy to hear that others are doing the same thing. After all, it is no secret that attendance of men at church is on the decline, at least in North America. On any given Sunday, over 60% of the people in the pews are women, about 90% of males who grow up in church leave it by the time they are 19 years old, and only roughly 30% of American men attend church on a regular basis. With those numbers in mind, of course we laud attempts of the local church to reach out to men. Given that build up, you might be surprised, that I almost pulled the tiny little hairs out of my neatly shaved head as I read the recent article in USA Today by Cathy Lynn Grossman entitled, “Guys are few in the pews: churches change to attract men.” http://http//

In the following paragraphs I want to critique what I read and offer an alternative.

Now, to be fair, perhaps Miss Grossman is not an "initiated evangelical" and is simply reporting what she sees in the new evangelical trend of “guy friendly” churches, and, being uninitiated, is unable to perceive the deeper philosophical moorings of these churches. So as you read this critique you might keep that thought in mind. However, what she does report leaves you shaking your head once again, saying to yourself, “stupid evangelicals!” Honestly, how many gimmicks are these people going to try before they realize that gimmicks don’t work, and in fact, that gimmicks hurt the faith and build up even more obstacles for us to beat down before we can have a decent conversation with unbelievers?

Grossman appeals to the 121 Community Church in Grapevine, Texas, as a model for this new trend of “guy church” with a hearty masculine vibe. Initially, she focuses on the décor of the church, which of course is a significant part of their strategy for reaching men according to the pastor Ross Sawyer who says, “No pastels. No flowers. No sweet music. The tone is intentionally guy church.” So naturally since guys don’t like those things the floor is concrete, the walls are hunter green, and the ceiling is made of rough timber. Surely, most men don’t like pastels, flowers, and lame music, but is the problem with reaching men merely about cosmetics? The heavy focus on the cosmetic aspect already shows how superficial the approach is going to be.

Next, we are told that the new model “guy church” has a certain ethos. David Murrow, a leading “guy church” guru, explains in the advice he gives to pastors seeking to reach men what really captivates a pagan guy: infuse adventure, challenge, boldness, competition, hands-on communication, ferocity and fun" into congregational life. If you are wondering what that looks like, well, just listen to a report from a 2002 GodMen ministry event which includes the following shockingly foolish set of events: videos of karate fights, car chases and a song with lyrics urging, "No more nice guy, timid and ashamed … Grab a sword, don't be scared — be a man, grow a pair!" (I told you that you would be shaking your head and saying “stupid evangelicals!”) So, "action packed" is the key ethos needed to reach men.

Lastly, Grossman notes that “guy church” is intentionally relational. Now, here, I believe they are getting one component right. In order to reach guys, you have to spend some time hanging out and getting to know them. But once again, as you might already be able to predict, these evangelicals mess this up to. Churches seeking men in the Sun Belt region of America are choosing to reach men through a particular kind of relational event called a “Beast Feast.” Yes, a “Beast Feast.” Apparently, men of the church invite non-Christian men they know to come eat some wild meat that they have harvested while out hunting in the woods. Stop and think about it, this could almost be a good idea if it was in some guys back yard, they threw out the title “Beast Feast,” and they mixed in some cigars and good beer. But no, its at the church banquet hall, and its named “Beast Feast,” and you can bet there are no beers and cigars. Relationships are a great way to start reaching out to men, but stupid evangelical potlucks with ridiculous names are not.

Okay, anyone can be long on criticism, but being long on solutions is better. So, what would I propose? One, strip away every stupid evangelical sounding thing from your approach. The North American species of pagan male can smell a gimmick a mile away, and a stupid evangelical gimmick from 10 miles away. So, don’t do dumb, superficial things. That is my ethos rule. Two, build relationships with men the old fashioned way: at a back yard barbeque, on a local bar stool, or at the gym. That is where you are going to find men hanging out and probably willing, over time, to let you talk to them about “big picture” ideas. Here is where I like J.I. Packer's advice when he says (I am paraphrasing here from Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God), “you have to earn the right to present Christ to men by building a relationship of trust first.” Three, when you finally get men to come to church, just do church! You know for all the hype about how they are doing “guy church” with their guy friendly décor, these churches go back to doing the same lame things that drove men away in the first place: skits, videos, music, creative worship (and oh yeah, don’t forget the guy friendly name change of Vacation Bible School to “Bible Extreme”). Basically what Grossman describes is that churches have changed the tone, repainted the walls, torn up the carpet, and rearranged the furniture, but have not touched the substance.

Here is what we need to do to reach men once they get to church: stop being lame, and just do what the Bible says when you meet for worship. Make the preached word and the administration of the sacrament central. Every week reinforce the majesty and holiness of God by reading the law and corporately confessing sin. Tell men that their relationship with Jesus is not based on “feeling good” or even “cool” at church, nor is it based on how many “guy friendly” small group meetings they go to (in fact, be sure to systematically eliminate all small groups from your church!), but rather, it is based upon worshiping once a week with the whole church and partaking of Christ and his grace in the preached word and sacrament. Tell them there are no gimmicks, no extra works to perform, no Vacation Bible School (or Bible Extreme for the ones who have unfortunately been exposed to hip "guy churches") to be guilted into teaching, no church softball teams to be a part of in order to be a good Christian. Just tell the men that Christ is their justification, and that their relationship with him is strengthened every week at 10 a.m. on Sunday when God meets with His church and gives them the grace of Christ in the word and sacrament. That’s “guy church” that will make a difference, and the good news is, it wont just make a difference for guys, it will make a difference for everyone who comes and is a part of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Housework and Sex: Gettin' You Some More or Role Reversal?

I know most of you guys think that you would do anything to get more sex. If you think about it every 8-10 seconds, then it stands to reason that you probably are not opposed to doing just about anything (lawfully of course) that it takes to get more of it. I wonder if there aren’t some prices that are too high to pay though. As I was reading this article on sex and housework, I began to think that just might be the case. As I walk you through this I want you to be the judge.

In her article entitled, Housework and sex: What's the connection?, Maureen Salamon records these words from a working mom:

"I am very turned on when he's doing housework," says the 36-year-old Camden, Delaware resident, a middle school teacher. "If there's a sink full of dirty dishes, he knows I'm going to take care of that before I want to get intimate. If he wasn't helping with the housework, I would not find that very attractive."

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that working mothers have a lot of pressures on them between work, mothering, driving the little tikes to their t-ball games, and finding a moment to squeeze in some personal time. Of course, given that, I believe any reasonable husband is going to figure out how to lighten the load for his wife out of love and gratitude. But, I cant help but sense there is something more here in this article when this working mom says she wouldn’t find it “very attractive” if her husband wasn’t doing some of the housework. Is this sound practical advice, or is this a ruse? Well, as you read the rest of the article, it doesn’t take long to find the real agenda: husbands doing more house work is not about getting more sex, its about giving women a sense of control over the man. In other words, it is about role reversal.

There are all kinds of anecdotes I could bring in from this story to prove my point, such as men being guilted into doing 7 hours of housework a week more than their 1976 counterparts, the fact that all but 1 of the “marriage experts” quoted in the story are women, and the fact that the mere presence of a “man” in the house creates 7 extra hours of work in the house called “emotional labor” consisting in, “tasks like writing holiday cards, scheduling doctor appointments and planning family gatherings” which usually falls to the woman. That last example is a real kicker for me; how can the mere presence of a man create 7 extra hours of work such as writing out holiday cards and setting doctor appointments? Are we supposed to believe that holiday cards would not have been sent out if men weren’t in the home? Or, would there be no doctor appointments to schedule if a man wasn’t hanging around the house and sawing his fingers off while cutting down an old tree in the back yard? This is ridiculous, and if that kind of work takes you 7 hours a week, you have got to be totally inefficient.

Anyway, the real clincher for me, that this story is not actually an article for men informing them how to get more sex from their wife by pulling out a bottle of windex and a squeegy and wiping the windows clean, is the story about Jennifer Armiger. Sister Jennifer is 33 years old and a full time Ph.D student who is disgruntled with her husband. Why is Jen so upset with her husband you ask? Is he out “trolling for chicks” while she is holding down 2 jobs and trying to get a degree? Is it because he is a deadbeat and wont work? Is he abusive and addicted to drugs, alcohol, or porn, you ask? The answer to those questions is no, no, and no. Our friend Jennifer is upset because she wants to work out with her husband but cant because he is working 15 hour days running a trucking company so she can stay at home with their 4 year old son and finish off her degree (oh yeah, and cook the lazy slob of a husband a meal for dinner and then clean up afterwords). By the way, she is also mad because he “walks right past a sink full of dishes.” To show her disgust with this kind of chauvanistic behavior, she switched to paper plates (that will show the ingrate!). Jennifer thinks this arrangement they have (him working like a dog to provide for his wife and family while she goes to school and takes care of their child) is sexist, and she would like it all to change. What she wants instead, is a more “egalitarian relationship” when she finishes her degree and gets a job teaching.

Have you heard enough yet? This article is not about helping you “get some,” its about redefining marriage roles, either in the direction of putting the woman in charge or putting the man and wife on an egalitarian footing, and leaving you high and dry (if you know what I mean). This is about telling the man he must hand his “jewels” over to the wife and she gets to store them away in her purse and only “loan” them back when its convenient for her. Guys, go read the article for yourself and see whether I have misrepresented it. As for me, I think this kind of a marital relationship is a recipe for disaster. Go ahead and reverse roles with your wife if it suits you, but I am warning you, if you do, extra sex with your wife is not in the future, but you can look forward to more nagging and a pair of dish pan hands.