“We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” – 2 Samuel 20:1

This quote comes from the mouth of a troublemaker speaking in a troubled time thousands of years ago. Sheba, a Benjamite, questions King David’s authority as the united tribes of Israel are splintering into factions. It was a time of confusion and grief, anger and betrayal.

“Every man to his own tent!” The call sounds familiar to my modern ears. I read this part of 2 Samuel again recently, because the story felt applicable to the state of the world today.

Many felt grief and confusion this month. The shooting in a Florida high school has affected many hearts. We air our theories, mourn, rage. It seems easiest to pull away, to splinter into comfortable factions–everyone to his or her own tent.

I’m not saying that we should accept the status quo, not speak out against injustice, or push for cultural and political change. I hope we explore avenues of thought, get involved, check in on our loved ones, bend the ears of our leaders. But let’s try to do it in ways that don’t tear us apart.

Because we are tearing society apart. We tear out institutions like organized religion from our lives, sometimes for good reason, but we may weaken connection to community and vision for the future in doing so. We tear up roots from home towns and move away; this isn’t immoral, but it’s hard on social animals who thrive on meaningful connection. We dig ideological trenches and lay waste to what could be neutral territory; critical thinking and civil discourse are things of the past, frets social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.

In “The Age of Outrage,” Haidt describes an idea he calls “intersectionality.” Increasingly popular among young adults, intersectionality is identity politics on steroids: “America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression” and that “a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups.” While this might sound forward-thinking and inclusive, the unintended effect is continual conflict and a heightened us-them mentality. Haidt writes,

“‘The American experiment . . . is a thoroughly artificial device designed to counterbalance the natural impulses of group suspicions and hatreds . . . This vast, artificial, trans-tribal construct is what our Founders aimed to achieve.’ Intersectionality aims for the exact opposite: an inflaming of tribal suspicions and hatreds, in order to stimulate anger and activism…. It does not speak of forgiveness or reconciliation.”

Humans are good at tribalism, and we easily revert to tearing ourselves apart–geographically, culturally, ideologically. We stretched bonds of compassion and understanding until they break. When we remove social institutions and revert to infighting among tribes, some don’t feel like they belong anywhere. The consequences of an atomized society are apparent and tragic.

The statistics surrounding America’s opioid epidemic, for example, suggest that many seek to tear themselves away from reality because it is too painful, hopeless, or empty. At the end of his deeply disturbing article, “The Poison We Pick,” Andrew Sullivan concludes,

“To see this epidemic as simply a pharmaceutical or chemically addictive problem is to miss something: the despair that currently makes so many want to fly away. Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many.”

If the truism, “the opposite of addiction is connection,” Americans must be very disconnected indeed. But in this dark conclusion I see hope. If we know why our hearts, relationships, and communities are fraying, we can begin to make repairs.

Women before us knitted, sewed, and wove. While modern women don’t do those things out of necessity, we can knit communities, bind loved ones together. We can help mend the social fabric.

New Christian women could have a unique role in this process, responding to tragedies and cultural blights no matter where we live. Women receive married love and the love of little children from the Lord. With those gifts, we can reach out and support each other in our marriages, collaborate in raising children in loving networks, and support institutions in our church, country, and community that lend life meaning.

We can be mindful of the existence of a hell–influences that encourage human indifference and hatred–and a loving God who wishes for our eternal happiness and connection. If hell has its way, we will trust no one, love no one, but ourselves. We’d crouch in our ideological tents, licking wounded egos and nursing grudges. But the Lord offers a vision of a Holy City, where grief and sickness and pain have no place, and where everyone lives peacefully together under the true King.

Grateful musings on 50 and even 10

Genesis 18:20-33

“And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there.
And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.”

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Men and Women Are Different

Today, there is a growing trend in society to treat everyone the same or equally; on the surface, this sounds fair; even a necessary change from previously popular worldviews. Unfortunately, when society tries to apply this newfound principle of treating everyone the same we run into a much bigger problem; people are not the same. It seems like an obvious fact, everyone can easily look around and see that people are different; race, gender, culture and values and so on; yet, there is a notion that to treat people fairly we must treat them the same. Society needs to accept the differences amongst people, embrace that people are created uniquely and should find uses that they can serve best. The biggest difference that is being undermined today is between men and women. The difference between men and women is vital for them to optimize each genders usefulness.

“With respect to [men’s] employment, reason sees that it has to do with things involving the intellect, or things in which the intellect predominates, most of which are occupational and are directed towards serving the public. With respect to his behavior, reason sees that his customary habits all stem from a predominance of the intellect. Consequently, the actions of his life, meant by behavior, are directed by reason – or if they are not, he wants them to appear so. A masculine exercise of reason is also visible in his every virtue.” (Conjugial Love 90)

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Spiritual Muscles

Everyone should be able to do at least one pull up. Or so I’ve heard. This has never been a reality for me. It’s never bothered me that much either–physical strength and muscle tone just haven’t been a part of my life. I’ve always considered myself as very middling: not UNfit, but never truly fit, and never someone who could be.

Lacking physical strength is a relatively unimportant issue… sort of. Because along with this lack of physical strength came other handicaps that were so much a part of life I didn’t even consider them. My back got easily strained in everyday activities. My calves were always tight, sometimes painfully so. If I put my baby in a carrier for more than 20 minutes my shoulders hurt badly, meaning I seldom wore her. Spiritually speaking these are not important problems, but they were still inconveniences, and ones I never even sought to change because it didn’t occur to me that I could. They were just there, a side effect of being alive.
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