Category Archives: Faith

Gillette 3:16? The SimGospel According to Procter & Gamble

Recently the most famous razor company Gillette made an advertisement that, at length, participates in the drama of our culture’s tensions on important issues. I have seen the commercial. There is a lot of good content there. There is also a lot of crap there too. Depending on your focus, you will see what you want (or don’t want) to see.
The “crap” opinion regarding aspects of the commercial can immediately (possibly) make a couple of you reading this to shudder, re-question your opinion of me, and think you have me pegged religiously and politically.
The positive elements of the commercial involve the apparent call to men to be more than stereotypes, not evil, and stand up for the truth and the underdog. “Have some freaking morality!” it screams at the viewer while rattling the conservative and liberal buttons positively and negatively simultaneously. It calls men everywhere to have some deep convictions and ethics in society. Who can be against that? It is a very brilliant ad.

The crap part of it all, however, is that it is solely about money (I know you thought I was going to jump on it against the “#metoo” issue, (that too, in this commercial is about the end-goal of money)… I have seen how many of my Christian friends (who I respect the snot out of) have jumped in to praise the ethical message interwoven around the other messages within the commercial. Church culture has long used commercials within their worship services/sermons to make an illustrative point. The reason commercials grab us is due to their attractive nature. The people who create commercials are not stupid. They have to grab our hearts in a short amount of time in order for us to cough up the treasure that’s connected.

Ford sells Trucks, Pharmaceutical companies sell drugs, and Gillette sells razors. That’s what they sell. Gillette has felt recent pressures from other companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. One of these have an advertisement where they talk about how they are “disrupting the billion-dollar industry” (men’s razors and grooming products). Gillette has been criticized over overpriced products their “best ever” slogan is put forth so they can give the consumer the perception that their product is worth it. These other company’s creative destruction was simple… Be better and be cheaper. With the threat of competition, maybe Gillette became desperate and took a cue from the Nike playbook. The reality is that the issues they attempt to address are the flavor of the week. This is an observation, not a declaration that I am happy or excited about. Ethics, morality, love for neighbor, care for the marginalized, mercy, justice, love of enemy, embrace of the outsider, dignity, humility, etc… etc… is a duh if you are a follower of Christ (not to say that you have to be a follower of Jesus to practice these things).
Now before you damn me (if you are still reading). I will give my main point to offer a couple of thoughts from a Christian participant in this conversation. In his book “On Earth as it is in Advertising”, Sam Van Eman convincingly makes the point that most advertising (including mediums beyond commercials) pulls at our soul strings in order to get our money. Sam’s starting presupposition (Christian perspective) is that all of humanity (men and women) are broken due to sin. I am owning my presuppositions as much as possible to let the reader know that I obviously know that for some “sin” is not only not true, but a dangerous belief due to damage to a person’s self-worth. This, however, is not a post about that. It seems that every blog post that could cause offense, however, needs to die the death of a thousand qualifications so that a person realizes we are talking about ideas in an attempt to consider many angles and not just trying to tick people of the opposite opinion off. Our time is a time of reactionary absurdity of being offended by things that should not be given the air time that they do (when no loving and philosophical conversation is possible to ensue).
Sam’s book offers the illustration of the SimGospel. Because humanity longs for God, meaning, worth, value, life-to-the-full we will try to find remedies. We in our sinful experience are drawn to things that simulate the Gospel (Good news about our hopeless evil situation). We long to be saved. We long to be redeemed and live in a world where love and peace flow exhaustively (especially toward ourselves). The world/creation, however, does suffer due to wicked choices done by humans.
SO… my thoughts (which that is all they are) is that Gillette’s gospel is not sustainable since its purpose is derived from it’s end-goal of money. I believe that ethics are derivative of something or someone. For me, that is that ethics and morality are derived from a response of a human to a/the Holy God (To unpack “Holy” here is too big of a task for this post, but acknowledging this since it is a word that one might think I am using loosely in order to further Christian-Godspeak which isn’t necessarily helpful… or my point!).
The mediums, stories, and emotions that companies use to sell their products achieve their purposes. Profit. Profit is not, in my opinion, the problem. It is how we are moved in such a manner by the content that reaches for our souls to get to our wallets. Gillette cannot provide what human suffering/evil needs in order to address the problem. It is commend worthy to note the positive humanitarian call in the commercial. Those who bear the name of Jesus might remember to discern the reality that all truth is God’s truth and can be found throughout the creation. Jesus followers must remember that we often should not fit into a ditch of cultural or political assumptions. We must prophetically stand in a third stream to try and be a voice that points to the person full of Grace and Truth. Jesus. The Gospel is the Gospel. We must think through what the New Testament writers tell us about our identity before we quickly and completely baptize a SimGospel.
Instead of Gillette 3:16, I believe the Apostle Paul reminds what the Holy Spirit produces in those who are in a surrendered relationship with Jesus Christ: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the real Gospel and ironically is too quickly characterized, misunderstood, or rejected. And then out of nowhere… occasionally it can be popular for a season when it is presented through a slick medium.

Jehovah’s Witness Funeral Part 1.

I had the opportunity to experience my first Jehovah’s Witnesses funeral this past Saturday. I promised a blog post on this, so I am attempting to be somewhat faithful to that promise. I say, “somewhat” because there is a lot to say about the differences in my theology than the those of the JW’s, but my point (I hope) is not to poke fun or be condescending to their beliefs per se.

In my worst self… there is pride that needs to be “checked at the door” of judging another person’s beliefs (this happens with people who even hold the same orthodoxy as myself). We all do it. We long to be right. We long to be part of the TRUTH tribe. We want the “A” at the end of life and the cheese at the end of the maze. We all want to do it for various reasons. I believe one of the reasons we judge other people’s beliefs is out of fear and out of our own sinfulness. I am no different so I guess I will apologize on the front end (when saying “judge” I am meaning being judgemental with harsh perspective, not “judge” as it should be used as to mean to judge rightly or think critically).

James Sire talks about how we believe things for mainly four reasons: 1. Sociologically (My parents, friends, society told me it was True, 2. Psychologically (a supposed Truth makes me feel good), 3. Religious (The priest, rabbi, church, guru told me that it was true), 4. Philosophical Consistency (I have surveyed the data and looked for the most logical and consistent explanation). I think I first read this in a book “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”.

These four categories are interwoven in all of our belief systems that we carry (knowingly or unknowingly). I love the language of Rob Bell’s oft quoted “What we caught and were taught” by all the influences growing up. Some of us explore our beliefs and try to make sense of the inputs we received. Other people sometimes do not care that much, and others lose faith along the faith journey or even get angry (a lot of times all of these happen along the exploration of beliefs/faith). Facing questions concerning the things we have held dear can be a very disturbing and lonely journey. Most faith traditions have an ostracizing, excommunicating, shunning-kick-you-out-of-the-family-and-never-talk-again-kind-of-policy (spoken and unspoken) about them. Some even use violence to enforce the group think and ensure compliance with the faith tribe.

This is probably my biggest hang up with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They do not allow any outside feedback loops to question themselves. They are unwilling to seek truth (unless it is from their own tribe/Bible translation). They practice information control. They are exclusionary. Many Protestant Christians do this too to be fair, but they do so not because they get that instruction from the Bible or Church History (Church History must be qualified but obviously not here). Christianity is a “faith that seeks understanding”. In my opinion, the Bible welcomes the scrutiny of the curious and the skeptic (even if a particular denomination or group of persons don’t).

Reflecting on some of my experiences with information control: (I have had acquaintance relationships with probably six to seven individuals from this faith background). A girl that I worked with at Starbucks in Colorado was instructed by her father not to talk to me anymore once I had some basic non-coercive conversations with her concerning God and gave her some books to read on the subject of reflecting on biblical theology and interpretation. She even explained that she was afraid that her family would disown her for even having taken the books…

Another example is of a couple that are super great people that I know who claim Jehovah as their God. They are some of the most outgoing and kind people I have met (from the JW faith community) who often probably ask themselves WWJ(ehovah)D? Many Saturday mornings they would bring me their pamphlets and Watchtower magazines in the most professional way. They would offer to share a Biblical passage with me (from the New World Translation of course). I would oblige and sincerely listen to their offerings and their gentle sincerity. I would read their materials and ponder the data (which is often pretty general and doesn’t go into any major theological positions but rather encourages good moral behavior inspired by Jehovah).  A couple of years later I went to this couple’s house to bring them a copy of Max Lucado’s “The Story” as a gift (Our Church was giving them away to help spread biblical literacy). The guy (who I do respect) refused to take my gift. There are many reasons that he rejected it, however, the main reason was that he was trained to do so. He expected people to take what he was pushing, but was unwilling to receive anything from anyone else.

PLEASE STAY TUNED ON THIS BLOG FOR PART 2.

Selfies, Death, Hope, 2019

A friend of mine recently went to a seminar that encouraged parents to be engaged with their kids’ use of social media. The ill impact of mindless hours of scrolling through “news” feeds on one’s Facebook is a complex reality (not just for kids). My friend brought back a reflective statistic that basically acknowledged that on average people will have spent 11 years of their life on Facebook and 1 full year of taking selfies! This is a powerful thing when one thinks how one spends their short life. Sleeping, working, and eating take most of our lives and along the way we try to make and maintain meaningful relationships.
Another year gone. New outcomes at the end of this one. New plans and resolutions to make it happen and unwire bad habits. I often think about (sorry if it seems morbid) about how short life is and how close death is for each of us (even if it seems like we have a lot of time ahead). Not very hopeful sounding am I?
I do, however, have a lot of hope and I attribute that hope to my Christian Faith. This past year I performed the funeral for four different people that died. I have been a bi-vocational pastor for a few years and I am on the backup list of who to call when one of our local funeral homes need a pastor (for multiple reasons including that the deceased individual didn’t have a church affiliation or that other Xian pastors refused to perform the service).
Funerals are a major part of a full-time pastor’s role in Christian service to the church and community. For me, most of my time is not spent in Christian church buildings or settings. My experience is a lot like most of the lay people in Christian congregations, and it is a very interesting feeling when I step into those moments to be and perform the high task of servicing the dead and their families. The key point I am trying to make with all this part is that dealing with and thinking about death is something we as Americans try our best to avoid. We want to feel alive. We want the moments that we get to last. Most all of us are shocked when death happens. Some people have been blessed to live long lives and many often realize how fast life had gone. Death definitively feels like a blow. It sucks. The biblical story, however, is never shy regarding the grit of life and death (as so many people have assumed). Words and concepts like “peace”, “save”, “hope”, “resurrection” etc. carry the revelation that God’s plan is not death of creation but the restoration of it. Death’s sting is even questioned by the Apostle Paul.
So… what does this have to do with a year of your life spent on selfies? One thing is that there is a reminder that life is precious and short. Maybe that we would spend that time and those selfies a bit more serious this year. This morning was the first morning of 2019 and I took a picture of my kids and I eating breakfast together at our family dinner table (Andrea was at the gym working out and practicing her stuff for her class). When I snapped the picture, I had thoughts that dealt with how special the moment we were sharing was. This was a moment I wanted to hold onto while realizing someday this picture would be far in the past.
Simultaneously I had a flashback memory that brought emotion to the forefront of my mind. In college and when Andrea and I were first married, I worked at Chipotle. Within the first few months of working there one of my managers died. A couple of months later another manager shot himself at his home (I still think about him when I see our Betty Crocker Cookbook, he gave us for our wedding gift). Both guys were in their early forties. I was age 22.
The first manager I mentioned was named John, and he died of a heart attack. The second manager (Cory) of despair and self-infliction. John’s family had a funeral for him at a local church and we went to pay our respects. I never heard again from Corey’s family. I was as close to John as most people are to their co-worker/managers in that kind of work. I was not that close to him as others might have been, but I do remember him being a good guy as far as I had been able to know him. At his funeral we stood in the back of the room and outside of a couple people from work we didn’t know anybody else there. They started a common video containing pictures of his life. Life with his friends and family.
I remember a rush of emotions coming over me while I was watching the video and his kids watching the pictures go by. Almost twelve years have gone by since that seemingly forgettable moment, but I remember the universal human experience of what loss of life feels like. I think that this was the first time I had reflected on death in that kind of way. Someday will be each of our turn for death. I know that those can be for some very intense thoughts going into 2019. Let’s make the moments of each breath and day we are given. For those of us who know what faith in Christ means, let us share that with one another and share that hope through our love this coming year. Death is not the end.
One of my favorite bands released a song from their upcoming album. Demon Hunter’s song “On My Side” explores the ideas of 1 Cor. 15:55 and Romans 8:31. Ryan from the band explained that because of Christ, death is not a period. Hope in Christ gives hope for the now and the eternal. Lyrics below:

“On My Side”
I’ve been waiting, give me a sign
There’s nothing left to face, only the time
I see shadows, devils, decline
I’ve lost my faith in us, found my design
So now…
Where is the enemy
I can feel no bite
Where is the enemy
When death is on my side
Something building, raging inside
This hope gave me release, gave me a why
Can’t shake this ground beneath, I came to fight

Consuming victory
The trumpets calling out to me by name
By name
No looming debt for me
No, death will find his aim to be in vain
In vain
-Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter)

Link to YouTube Song below:

Demon Hunter “On My Side”

Grief of Place

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.”–C.S. Lewis

Grief… “A universal human experience”. Gary Collins explains that grief is a normal response to the loss of any significant person, object, or opportunity.* The past couple of years, I have borrowed others experience of grief. Sometimes I have absorbed and experienced the feeling/knowing of loss myself. I have seen the loss of my grandparents, my step-mom, friends, and even had the honor of leading the funeral for an awesome lady from my church.

Not to downplay the grief born out of the loss of someone special, my focus here is that I want to reflect on the grief caused by the loss of place. I want to think about the loss of space and environment. In fact the reason to start this blog is partially caused by the feelings of a certain event. This past week I learned that the college I went to has decided to close its physical doors. Nazarene Bible College will move to a completely online platform. NBC was founded in the 1960’s and aimed at preparing men and women to serve in various ministry capacities. The campus will move to a completely virtual reality. Obviously this is the logical outcome for many reasons, I assume mainly, due to economics.

This place is very significant to who I am. To what makes me tick. To what makes me think that the Church that proclaims Jesus matters. I moved to Colorado Springs in 2003 fresh out of High School to attend NBC. That decision changed my life forever. I enrolled with the intention of becoming a Youth Pastor and obtaining at B.A. degree in Pastoral Ministries (with the help of many my goal was achieved). There were no dorms and I was broke without any financial help (outside of student loans). I worked three jobs throughout college which took me nearly six years to complete. One of those jobs was cleaning each of the six buildings on campus.

Many other things shaped me in that place. I met the girl I would marry from my former youth pastor (who graduated and nudged me to attend NBC). I married my wife in the chapel on campus. The professors were (are) of the highest caliber (academically and of character). I am forever grateful for these teachers of Scripture and life. They did not give easy answers to my questions but challenged me in all areas of my mind, heart, and soul. Their influence shaped me for the better. I did take online classes when I needed to, but I would not be the person I am today if I had not been in the physical environment of that place and in the presence of the great mentors. I believe that NBC will continue its mission, but I believe that an important shaping of that mission has been tragically lost and will need new mediums to recreate and foster human interaction beyond the computer screen.

I felt deep parts of me were hit, like when you hear someone close has a fatal accident. It is interesting how the loss of place can even cause incredible “shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance”. This causes me to reflect on the sacredness of creation. The life we live and the people who make up the moments and spaces in which we share them truly do wind their way into the fabric of the reality of who we are.

Spaces are important and not meaningless. Nazarene Bible College as a place will remain a constant reminder of the special reality that place has in life. It also reminds me that places come and go but just because they are gone does not diminish their value. It is no wonder that the Apostle Paul found his geography “in Christ” able to live in a larger reality happening. One commentator notes that the language of “In Christ” appears over 160 times throughout the New Testament.* As humanity goes through life creating spaces and memories, those who trust a loving God can always grieve like those who have hope (1 Thess 4:13). Maybe someone can relate to these thoughts. Grieving is not easily understood or easy to process. May the God who holds all things together and in who we live, move, and have being give each of us hope when we feel loss of someone or something special.

Works Cited:

Collins, Gary R. Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

Snodrass, Klyne. The NIV Application Commentary, Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996.