Christian Discipleship, Cultural Warfare, Teen Suicide, and Genocide
We've received several more email in response to Steve Jobs on Living and Dying (2005.06.20), The Steve Jobs on Living and Dying Letters (2005.06.29), and Letters on Living, Dying, Religion, and Truth (2005.07.07). Although this discussion isn't specifically related to the Mac, it does tie into Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford this past May. - Tip Jar
- Discipleship, Not Religion
- Reluctant Cultural Warrior
- The Hard Road to Christ
- Anguish of Teen Suicide
- Christianity and Genocide
From Hal Howell
Believe it or not, I just found your discussions on Christianity and read with great interest the observations of the people who wrote and your answers. I just want to commend you on your answers and the attitude you exhibited.
As for me, my name is Hal L. Howell. I'm a retired Navy Chief with both my B.A. and M.A.R. in Bible. I am currently serving as a volunteer Chaplain at the John Middleton Unit in Abilene, TX. In the course of the last 6 years spent in talking to men in prison, both in classes and one on one, I have found the greatest proof of the truth of the Gospel is in its ability to change men's lives. In the last 4 years we have baptized over 3,000 men, and I have had the honor of teaching the vast majority of them along with other volunteers.
One of the things I try to stress is discipleship. I agree with some of the remarks concerning Christianity. While the connotation 2,000 years ago was different than today.
I think we have to admit that over the last 2,000 years the name Christian has accumulated some rather bad baggage. When a person asks another if he/she is a Christian, inevitably the next question is, "What kind of Christian are you?" However, as I went back to reread the Great Commission for the umpteen-millionth time, it finally dawned on me that Jesus did not say to go make Christians. He said go make disciples.
Here's the point, since the very word means to follow and imitate, one cannot be asked, "What kind of disciple are you?" One is either following/imitating Jesus or not. Simple.
He also said that those baptized were to be taught to obey all of His commands. As I read the Gospels, Jesus' commands have to do with loving God, our neighbors, one another, showing compassion, living lives where God has first place in our hearts, etc. At Middleton we endeavor to make disciples of Jesus. This continues with success as God blesses our efforts.
In short, what I discovered is that Jesus spent more time teaching about how to live vice how to follow a religion. The result is that His teaching has more to do with relationships (God and man) than religion.
I have heard Christianity called a "Great World Religion". If that's all Jesus had wanted to do, He could have done that without dying on the cross. All the others you mentioned accomplished that. So why die? He did it, as I'm sure you know, to restore a great relationship. His resurrection from the dead is the final stamp on that selfless act.
I also want to share a final thought on the resurrection. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul, as you skillfully pointed out, stated that the truth or validity of the resurrection rested squarely on the historical fact of it. It either did or did not happen.
Here is something else to ponder: What would have happened if Jesus had not been raised from the dead? First of all, we would have never known that there ever was a Jesus of Nazareth!
Certainly, the dejected disciples would have simply gone back to fishing (something they did even after the resurrection) or whatever. There would have been no Pentecost, no church established, no Apostle Paul, no Gentiles converted, and no New Testament written. There would have been no St. Patrick to convert the Irish. No Irish monks to copy all of the ancient writings, thus preserving the knowledge of democracy and republic from the Greeks and Romans. I strongly doubt there would even be an America, since our forefathers based their idea of democracy and republic on their classical training.
In short, the whole world has been influenced by the event of that first Easter morning. I don't know what the world would be like without the resurrection, but it sure wouldn't resemble the one we live in today! Even the prison I volunteer in is different because of the teachings of Jesus.
As for me, the resurrection is not merely an article of faith but instead a point of fact! It is that fact which shapes my life as I try to live for Him. I hope you find this encouraging which is my intent. Again, I praise God for the fine way in which you defended the faith, may your tribe increase.
Love in Christ,
PS - I use a 20" G4 iMac (which I intend to keep from now on). Tiger seems to have made the system much faster than Panther, which seemed to make it run slower. I don't know what they did, but whatever it was I hope they keep it up. I'm not adverse to the switch to Intel, but I have decided to resign from the "gotta have the latest and greatest" crowd. The race has become old and tiring and expensive over the years.
Besides, Seal said it best when he pointed out how "futuristic" the G4 iMac is "Like something out of 2001." As a fan of "2001: A Space Odyssey", I couldn't agree more.
I forgot one more reason I like the G4 iMacs. Have you noticed that the base resembles a certain Star Wars character? R2D2. Just one more reason to keep my iMac.
I recently heard of an upgrade for the earlier G4 iMacs, which I think is great. Do you know of or have heard of any upgrades for the 1.25 GHz G4 iMacs in the making? If you have any influence in that direction I think it would be a great way to keep these systems going for some time.
Thank you for your excellent comments and observations. I agree with you enthusiastically about the paramount importance of discipleship and the historical significance of Christ's resurrection. I have long contended that what we take for granted as Western civilization is profoundly based on Christian ideas and the sociopolitical influence of the Christian church down through the centuries. The world would be a very different place had Christ not risen from the dead.
And you are right also that Christianity is more than a religion (that is, a set of rules, rituals, and formulae for proper living). Jesus Christ claimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life, which - if true, as we Christians believe it is - amounts to much more than another religious system.
Shifting gears, if you are a fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you might enjoy reading this essay of mine on the topic: Revisiting Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in Its Eponymous Year.
I'm interested to hear that Tiger has speeded up your iMac. It had the opposite effect on my 550 MHz G4 upgraded Pismo PowerBook and had a pretty much neutral effect on my 700 MHz G3 iBook until I updated to OS X 10.4.2, which did speed things up. I suspect the explanation in all cases would be respective video support specifications of these machines, but I'm hoping for an improvement when I eventually update the PowerBook to 10.4.2 (a printer driver issue is the holdup).
And finally, with regard to your question about G4 iMac upgrades, this a Daystar press release may be of interest:
- Daystar announces last stages of development for its 700/800
MHz to 1.35 GHz Upgrade for the iMac Flat Panel Systems
Daystar Technology, an Apple Authorized Reseller and Mac Technology Integrator, announced today, that it is completing development of its iMac Flat Panel CPU Upgrade. The iMac Flat Panel CPU upgrade dubbed, "MAChSpeed iMFP G4" is scheduled to ship later this month.
Like the MAChSpeed G4 Pismo and Lombard upgrades, the iMac Flat Panel upgrade will be a full system upgrade, requiring the user to send their system to Daystar for installation. Daystar uses the latest model CPUs in order to provide perfect quality and long-term reliability.
Pricing and final specifications are expected to be announced closer to the actual product release date of July 28th.
Additional features include:
- Xbench Scores jump from low 70s to over 130, surpassing the fastest iMac G4 every shipped.
- Factory installation via Apple Certified Technicians.
- Effortless shipping with Daystar's custom boxes and prepaid DHL shipping options.
- Compatible with any Mac OS since 9.2... Including Tiger 10.4.1.
- Supports dual boot systems
- Includes XLR8 MAChSpeed Control for exclusive G4 performance / compatibility.
- All upgrades warranted at speeds sold, with Daystar's exclusive 90/720 warranty program.
- "It is incredible to see a 700 MHz iMac, jump to lightening fast response on Tiger - even a complex content search completed in seconds", said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar. "Now users can get state-of-the-art speed, in one of Apple's classic designs."
For more information, visit http://4daystar.com
From Stephen Pruett
I just came across your responses to emails on Christianity. As a research scientist who is also a traditional Christian, I have had many occasions to address similar questions and comments from anti-religious scientists (including one Nobel laureate). Your responses are excellent.
However, on one issue I have recently begun to change my views to some extent. I have been an enthusiastic cultural warrior since reading Francis Schaeffer in the early 80s. I still admire his writings, but I am concerned that the culture wars, or at least the way traditional Christians are fighting them, may be counterproductive.
The Bible says,
- "9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; 10not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber - not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside"
- 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
It is difficult to reconcile this with our penchant for judging our culture and trying to use the secular political system to force our moral code on people who have not accepted the basis for that code (Christ). I am all in favor of engaging people in respectful discussions and trying to persuade them that Christian moral positions are rational and would result in as near as possible to an ideal world.
However, when Christians become too entangled in politics, we inevitably begin to consider those who oppose us as enemies, and they regard us similarly. How can we then effectively share the gospel with them? I have often puzzled over Paul's assertion that he would go so far as to act weak (spiritually, I assume) in order to reach the weak.
I wonder if he meant that he went out of his way to avoid being perceived as personally morally superior? It seems that in fighting the culture war, we Christians have done just the opposite.
Finally, the ultimate consequences of winning or losing the culture wars suggest to me that the wars may not be worth fighting. If we (Christians) win by having conservative judges appointed who allow more expression of religion in schools and other public places and reverse Roe v. Wade and by passing laws or a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, we will still not have changed the minds of the people who oppose these views. Worse, we will be much less likely to be able to effectively present the gospel to them, because they will feel we are already forcing our morality on them.
To be sure, I agree with the ends, but I am unsure about the means. We need to be acutely aware of the situation in Europe, where Christianity has been largely abandoned, in spite of being the official state religion in many countries. The past abuses of power by the church and its association with the government in an insipid, institutional way - but without the passion expressed by Jesus - have relegated the church in Europe to the status of irrelevancy.
I agree that at present the balance is too far in the direction of knee jerk exclusion of religion from the public square, but I would be even more concerned if we went too far in the other direction. Suppose we lose the culture war and the present trend of exclusion of religion from the public square becomes complete and support of gay marriage and abortion become official government policy, and the schools are mandated to teach not just tolerance, but support for all manner of lifestyles.
These occurrences would distress me, but I really do not fear them. As a parent, I have been active enough in the moral and religious education of my children that I have become convinced that virtually any negative influences of our culture can be overcome or avoided. In fact, it seems that one of the factors in the remarkable spread of the Christian faith in the first century was the emptiness of the people and the inadequacy of the religious or philosophical answers of the day.
Losing the culture war would put us back in that position, which might be what is required for a resurgence of Christians who really act like Christians and thereby attract people to Christ. It seems to me that the only way to really win the culture wars is not to defeat our enemies, but to convert them. This will not happen as long as we regard them as enemies. I have more than a passing suspicion that the Christian dedication to the culture wars is as much about pride and simply wanting to win as it is about our concern for our culture. For all these reasons, I have become at best a reluctant cultural warrior.
I am sorry this communication is so long, but if you find the time to wade through it, I would appreciate your thoughts on it.
All the best,
You have an interesting point, and I don't entirely disagree with you on principle, but the problem is that there has to be some sort of moral code underlying civil law and public mores. In our culture, that has traditionally been the principles articulated in the Christian Bible, and that motif has worked pretty well. Not perfectly, by any means, but arguably better, I would contend, than any other system that has been tried in human history. The culture wars, as I perceive them, are resistance to the aggressive push of secular humanism to replace the traditional Christian based underpinnings of our society with something other.
Politics is essentially a process of imposing a particular point of view about how things should be ordered. In that context, the assertion that Christian values are biased while secular humanist values are somehow "neutral" is a sophistry. Unless we are to descend into anarchy, certain moral views are going to be reflected in civil and criminal law - and thus imposed upon factions in society that don't necessarily agree with them. That goes for either the values of Christianity or the values of secular humanism, or any other set of moral values that might gain ascendancy.
Particularly given the foundational status of Christian values in our culture, I think their place of primacy is worth defending, ergo rationale for participating in the culture wars. I am a traditional Anglican, and there is imprimatur for this in the Book of Common Prayer baptismal vow in which one affirms "manfully to fight under [Christ's] banner against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end"
One of the most eloquent apologetics for this perspective I've ever run across was written by First Things magazine editor James Nuechterlein more than a decade ago in an editorial entitled "Life At The Intellectual Barricades," about the necessity of participating in the culture wars. Here are few excerpts:
- "It would be disingenuous of us to pretend to an attitude of
disinterestedness and neutrality in the culture wars that rage
about us.... Ideally of course, conflicts of ideas should be
carried on with civility and decorum, with assumptions between the
combatants of mutual respect and good faith... The polemical
instinct natural to politically engaged intellectuals needs to be
tempered by regular reminders of provisionality and
"But however regretfully, it is indeed a culture war in which my colleagues and I find ourselves engaged, and it is worth emphasizing that this is not a conflict of our making....
"This is no rarefied battle of the books, no mere esoteric disagreement among obscure scribblers. Ideas, as they say, have consequences, and it is our entirely sober judgment that in this war of ideas the fate of the American experiment in ordered liberty is itself at stake. We make no claim concerning the motives of our radical adversaries, but we do not hesitate to insist that their ideas range from the merely silly to the deeply pernicious. We take no particular pleasure in engaging the militant feminists and homosexual activists, the Nietzschean deconstructionists and relativists, the enemies of traditional morality and religious faith; indeed the ongoing conflict with our various utopians and Gnostics is a dirty business from which no one emerges with entirely clean hands or uncoarsened sensibilities. But we persist in our struggle because we think it is our simple duty to do so, and we frankly do not take it well that so many of our fellow intellectuals - who if they cannot join us in the struggle could at least offer moral support - prefer instead to strike ostentatiously Olympian poses above the fray and to chide us for our combative ways....
"Precisely because we know, with the writer of Hebrews, that we have here no abiding city, we are from time to time tempted to retire from the fray, to set our minds on higher and better things. But the evils of this world, so far as it is given us to discern them, are to be resisted, not merely endured. And there is, we pray, a measure of honor and dignity even in our grim vocation. So restraining our naturally irenic impulses, we return to the struggle with all the courage, wisdom, and ingenuity we can muster. It is, to repeat, a matter of duty."
I agree with him.
From Stephen Pruett
Thanks for your informative response. I agree that Christians are obligated to try to improve our culture, which most often will involve attempting to incorporate moral principles consistent with Christ's teachings in public law and policy.
However, my concern is that many, perhaps most, Christians have become so focused on secular mechanisms and on open war (including explicit characterization of opponents as enemies) that we no longer view our cultural enemies as potential converts.
I suppose the crux of the issue is the balance between vigorous participation in secular politics and even more vigorous emphasis on the power of spiritual change in individuals to change the whole culture. At the moment I think the balance may be too far in the direction of secular war. Anyway, I found your comments very interesting and had not previously thought of the matter in the ways you describe.
By the way, I also enjoy Low End Mac and your work on that site.
I entirely and enthusiastically agree that the central objective is to convince and make converts of our ideological adversaries in the culture wars, and that without the power of spiritual change in individuals to change the whole culture, the whole exercise would be ultimately futile. After all, even St. Paul was at one time more than a rhetorical enemy of Christianity.
There is a delicate balance to be struck between staunchly defending and advocating Christian principles as the primary foundational anchors of our civilization (which is indisputable, historical fact) and maintaining a benevolent disposition towards those who are aggressively attacking those principles in the culture and not coming across as self-righteous. A difficult challenge for sinful humans.
Thanks for reading,
From Terry Otness
Wonderful topic, Charles. Thank you for reaffirming my faith - Thanks be to God!
Its wonderful to read testimony to our shared Lord and Saviour in one of my favorite Mac publications. God has gifted you with the ability to put our shared faith in a logical and sensible fashion. I thank you for articulating it so well.
Like, Mr. Jobs, I was raised Lutheran but didn't even finish confirmation. I took the hard road to Christ, but it was my path. The journey, even as it continues back on the right path, still continues with its hardships, but I know in the end what glory awaits.
I'm so glad for your testimony, I think it will bring perhaps many who've wandered off [the path] back on it. Perhaps even Mr. Jobs as well. What a fine catch for our Lord. Just as all who have strayed or haven't yet heard The Word, will be when they finally acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
I appreciate especially how you responded to the presumed arrogance and superiority our non-Christian brethren think we have for them. You put that forward very well indeed.
Thanks for your witness.
Thank you for your kind comments. If I have not been a not too disastrously clumsy an apologist for the Christian faith, and my musings do encourage anyone to investigate it more thoroughly and open-mindedly, that would be wonderful.
But ultimately, everyone has to make their own decision. The best we can do is to try and help make it an informed decision, emphasizing that Christ rejects no one - but individuals have the sovereign free will to reject him.
From John Peter Gabriel Kaytrosh
I have long been an avid reader of your columns at both Low End Mac and MacOpinion, and you have been a great model to work by in my time at both TheMacMind and Apple-X. I certainly enjoyed your article about Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford, your perspective as a member of another sect of Christianity being very interesting to me, raised Roman Catholic my whole life.
It is also unsurprising that our culture's repressed fear and dread of death often resurfaces in destructive and dysfunctional modalities, ironically a "culture of death" (as Pope John Paul II called it). Many contemporary socio-cultural phenomena - abortion, euthanasia, teen suicide, and violent entertainment - are essentially death-cults, attempts to facilitate an illusion of control over human destiny. But the more we deny our sinful and morally compromised human condition, the tighter a grip sin, evil, and delusion exert on us.
Personally, I am pro-life and always have been. (I should say, however, that this stems out of my belief that abortion is a human rights crisis and my belief of what God wants for his people, and not from the RCC's specific position on the issue.) I have honestly not considered the issue of euthanasia enough to form an opinion on it.
However, I question the next subject you list with abortion and euthanasia - teen suicide. Speaking as an individual who has had far too much experience with this issue (along with self-injury, medically unrelated but often found in the same individuals who contemplate suicide). As a teen and one who is in a high-risk group for teen suicide, I question your description of it as a "death cult".
A cult, death or otherwise, is a following, a group. Those who commit suicide as teens are usually part of anything but a following or group. Teens who take their own lives usually do so out of the feeling that they are alone in the world - teen suicide is anything but "cultish" - it is one of the most solitary activities a person can do, the pinnacle of loneliness in the world. As Christians, we believe that God is with these teens. I do. And I'm sure you do. However, they don't.
Teen suicide is also far from an attempt to control human destiny. Teens are brought to this point by feeling that their life is not important to anybody - that there is no plan for them. Above all, teens who are victims of suicide deserve our compassion above all.
John Peter G Kaytrosh
Hi Mr. Kaytrosh,
Thank you for your comments. Believe me, I am not insensitive to the painful realities of teen suicide. A young person very near and dear to me has recently weathered a stretch of serious suicidal self-destructiveness and is only still with us by, I believe, the grace of God. Happily, I can report that she is doing much better recently.
I also had a good personal friend, in whose home I had been a guest and who was on the surface a wonderful, witty, delightful fellow, who committed suicide some years ago.
So I would surely not want to leave the impression that I am callous or uncompassionate toward the very real anguish and suffering that so many young people experience nowadays in our increasingly dysfunctional culture, which actually was the real point I was trying to make.
I do believe that our culture has become "death-cultish", although in some instances those most radically affected will be persons who fall by a cultural wayside.
When I made my comment, I was more in mind of instances like the Columbine duo and the tragic cases of youngsters who apparently copycatted Kurt Cobain's self-termination, some in group settings.
With regard to your observation about my being a member of another sect of Christianity, I am Anglican Catholic, a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and personally a very big fan of Pope Benedict XVI since long before he became pontiff. The TAC has been in talks with the Vatican toward the objective of full restored Communion, and doctrinally we are not very different from Roman Catholics.
I appreciate your insights on Mac stuff and Christianity.
You do well standing in the gap for the faith, and your remarks following the Steve Jobs' speech were eloquent. One charge against Christians that came up in the "mailbag" dialogue always rankles:
- "In general, they create more havoc in the world than anybody else. It is the so-called Christians who killed Jews, Gypsies, and others by the millions."
The greatest slaughters of man by man has been perpetrated by regimes that sought to eliminate Christianity - most notably Communism in the former Soviet Union and in China.
Between the two, most estimate over 100,000,000 deaths by direct means. The number of deaths easily doubles when adding in those starved as a result of failed agricultural policies. Of course, I'm leaving out places like Cambodia, North Korea, Vietnam, and most of the Eastern European bloc nations when under Soviet influence.
I'm guessing the writer was hinting that Nazism claimed to be "Christian", but (as you pointed out) claims of Christianity must be measured against the teachings of Christianity. Hitler was no Christian. The greatest per capita genocides of our day seem to be taking place in Africa under Islamic regimes.
It is clear that people - even Nazis, Communists, and (dare I say it) Islamists - are far safer under governments abiding by Christian principles than under the alternatives.
Yes, you are correct. Some horrible things have been done in the name of "Christianity", but they pale in relative terms compared with atrocities perpetrated under other ideological banners. Hitler, for example, was a wannabe Teutonic neo-pagan who hated Christianity.
It is estimated that Hitler deliberately slaughtered somewhere between 6 million and 12 million people, which is mind-numbingly horrific, but not nearly so much as communism's 20th century body count.
The Soviet Union murdered some 20 million people. China's communist dictators slaughtered an estimated cumulative 60 million. Ho Chi Minh killed 850,000 Vietnamese in "education camps". Cambodia's Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people - 20% of his countrymen. In China, dissidents still rot in concentration camps known as "laogai". North Korea's madman dictator Kim Jong-Il starves his people and threatens to unleash nuclear war.
The 1993 Act of Congress authorized by President Bill Clinton to construct a national monument honoring the victims of communism cites "the deaths of over 100 million victims in an unprecedented imperial communist holocaust."
Writing in the Atlantic Monthly, Jonathan Rauch cites an address by the University of Pennsylvania historian Alan Charles Kos in which the latter observed:
- "The West accepts an epochal, unforgivable double standard. We rehearse the evils of Nazism almost daily; we teach them to our children as ultimate historical lessons; and we do every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of communism. So the bodies lie, unmentioned, everywhere."
What is the reason for this deplorable state of affairs? In part, it's capitulation to pseudo-intellectual bullying. The self-styled intelligentsia that dominate literary, academic, and entertainment/media circles continue to heap scorn and derision on anti-communism, caricaturing it as a neo-McCarthyism and ridiculing those they stereotype as imagining Communists lurking under every bed. These pink demagogues have been at least morally lobotomized by immersion in a tight culture of snobbish ideological indoctrination and peer pressure, and they propagate and perpetuate the dynamic at the academic level by exploiting their bully pulpit from which to essentially brainwash young people at an impressionable time in their lives, and I mean in grade schools as well as universities.
His methods were questionable, but old Joe McCarthy wasn't entirely mistaken. As Rauch contends, "Communism, not Nazism or racism or whatever other ism you please, is the deadliest fantasy in human history."
Of the 19 countries rated "Worst of the Worst" in the Freedom House 2005 global freedom survey, only one, Belarus, was ever majority Christian, and it's been run by communists or communist sympathizers for nearly a century.
On the other hand, of the 89 countries rated "Free", a preponderance are majority Christian by history, culture, and tradition. I don't think this is a coincidence.
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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
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