Wednesday, May 05, 2021

You Need to Change if Things Are Going to Get Better

(Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya)

This principle applies to all relationships:

You need to change if things are going to get better.

Repeat after me.

I...  

need to change....

if things....

are going to get better.

J. Doe (not their real name) contacted me. J said they wanted help. Their marriage was failing.

But J did not really want help. To be helped, J would have to change. In J's eyes, their spouse, K. Doe, was the problem. K needed to change, not J. J wanted me to affirm their ways of doing marriage, and join them in blame-heaping their significant other.

I told J, "If you want your marriage to be rescued and upgraded, you will need to change some things. You will need to do things differently." 

I gave J this assignment: Make a list of things you have done wrong in your marriage. A list of things you have done to hurt K. Then, confess them one by one, asking for forgiveness for each one. 

I told K to do the same thing.

The underlying idea here is: If J and K keep doing marriage the way they have been, the results will be the same. J and K both need to learn new skills if their marriage is to come together. Nothing gets better without change.

J refused to follow my counsel. 

J contacted me and asked to meet again. I explained that J had not followed through on our first session. I am not J's counselor if J refuses to follow my counsel. We would not meet again.

J was a hammer, K was a nail. This was their marriage. 

Both needed to change. 

Change is hard. 

Life without ongoing change in the right direction is harder.


***
For further reading see - 

The First Two Steps In Relationship Restoration


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

God Is Presently With Me, In Experience

(Glen Lake, Michigan)

9 AM. May 4, 2021

Pandemic. The economy. Cultural upheaval.

God's presence. 

I'm in God's presence, this morning. I am experiencing the presence of God.

God's presence is not a function of life's circumstances. God is not limited by whether we sail on smooth waters or stormy seas. God is in the chaos as well as the calm. 

God's presence is experiential. I have stacks of spiritual journals recording my encounters with God, ranging from possible (could have been God), to probable (probably was God), to certain (beyond a reasonable doubt, that was God).

It is possible to experience God. There is nothing logically impossible about experiencing God. "Experiencing God" is not logically incoherent, like "square circle" is.


It is probable that I will experience God. Because I find the Christian story to be true, I expect to experience God. Experiencing God's presence is integral to the social imaginary of Christian theism. Today, I have expectation.


I know I have experienced God. I have had events and situations where it would be unreasonable for me to disbelieve. In such instances, reductionism to a purely physical explanation without remainder would require a leap of faith too vast for me to make.


These experiences keep me going, spiritually. They encourage me. They change me. They guide me. They provide ongoing confirmation to my belief that God comes to me as Emmanuel, God-with-me.


Thomas Merton writes:


"There exists some point at which I can meet God in a real and experimental contact with His infinite actuality. This is the “place” of God, His sanctuary— it is the point where my contingent being depends upon His love. Within myself is a metaphorical apex of existence at which I am held in being by my Creator. God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it."

Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 37)


***
My two books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Monday, May 03, 2021

Letter to My Church Family - May 3, 20211

 

                                                                       (Levi and me.)

Good Morning Redeemer Family!

Here are some things I want to share with you.

GIVING. You can give online to our church's General Fund - HERE. Thank you!

MOTHER'S DAY! We have special gift bags for our moms this coming Sunday. Once again I am including a 5X7 photo of picture I took a few months ago. If you are a mom who is not able to come Sunday, and would like a gift bag, please send me your home address. Trevor Robinson will bring it to you on Sunday afternoon (thank you Trevor!).

SUNDAY MORNING MAY 16. Tim and I will stand on the platform together and co-preach on PREPARING FOR PENTECOST. We are excited about what God is going to do!

HOW TO COMMUNICATE WHEN IN CONFLICT. I will share how to do this - Sunday evening, May 16, 7 PM. Feel free to invite friends who might benefit from this. The zoom link is -  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81697331062

PENTECOST SUNDAY, MAY 23. Robby Dawkins will preach. We are looking to have this service outdoors. More information TBA. Invite a friend for this Holy Spirit event!

ON A PERSONAL NOTE...  Today I begin what may be a summer-long study of the Book of Romans. In addition to the biblical text, I am using several commentaries on Romans that I have collected over the years. If you are interested in joining me on this study, let me know, and I'll share with you resources and thoughts.

Blessings and Love to you all, on this great day that the Lord has made!

PJ

Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Spiral of Silence

 

                                                                  (Monroe County)

Imagine there is a theory, called X. Five years ago "liking" X was unpopular. But today, X is popular. So, a lot of people now are liking X. If X was not popular today, these same people would not publicly like X, just as they were voiceless concerning X five, maybe ten years ago.

The "spiral of silence" explains this behavior. "The spiral of silence counts among the most cited and replicated theories in social sciences." (Here.)


The theory of the spiral of silence can be broken down into the following core hypotheses (Ib.):

  • Most people are afraid of social isolation.
  • Therefore people constantly observe other people’s behavior in order to find out which opinions and behaviors are met with approval or rejection in the public sphere.
  • People exert “isolation pressure” on other people, for instance, by frowning or turning away when somebody says or does something that is rejected by public opinion.
  • People tend to hide their opinion away when they think that they would expose themselves to “isolation pressure” with their opinion.
  • People who feel public support, in contrast, tend to express their opinion loud and clear.
  • Loud opinion expressions on the one side and silence on the other side sets the spiral of silence into motion.
  • The process is typically ignited by emotionally and morally laden issues.
  • In case of consensus on an issue in a given society, it is unlikely that a spiral of silence will be set into motion. The spiral is usually elicited by controversial issues.
  • The actual number of partisans of an opinion is not necessarily decisive for their weight in the spiral of silence. The opinion of a minority may actually be perceived as majority in the public sphere if their partisans act assertively enough and publicly defend their opinion with emphasis.
  • Mass media may have a decisive influence on the formation of public opinion. If the media repeatedly (in a “cumulative” way) and concordantly (in a “consonant” way) support one side in a public controversy, this side will stand a significantly higher chance of finishing the spiral-of-silence process as winner. 
  • Fear of and threat with social isolation operate subconsciously: Most people do not consciously think about how their behavior is oriented by public opinion.
  • Public opinion is limited in time and space. Wherever people live together in societies, public opinion will function as a mechanism of social control. However, what specifically public opinion approves or rejects will change with time and differ from place to place.
  • Public opinion stabilizes and integrates society because conflicts will be resolved through spirals of silence in favor of one opinion. This is what is referred to as the integration function of public opinion.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

The University of Affirmation

                                                 (My back yard, a week and a half ago.)

A year ago one of my former philosophy students asked to meet with me. They had become a "progressive Christian," a term I could never embrace. (See, e.g., here, here, and here.)

At one point in our discussion the former student shared a belief about a certain philosopher's theory. I responded with, "You are wrong about that." I proceeded to tell them why they were wrong, but the look on their face told me I had upset them.

"How can you say I am wrong! You have offended me!"

I responded, "Because you are wrong. And, I'm not saying that to offend you."

My response didn't help them. I had wounded them. I had hurt them. (See 1 below.)

Here was, in this former student, manifested much that is wacked out in American culture. Here was Philip Rieff's "triumph of the therapeutic," Tom Nichols's "death of expertise," Jonathan Haidt's "coddling of the American mind," and Bradley Campbell's "rise of victimhood culture." Here was Neil Postman's "public discourse in the age of show business," and David Wells's "no place for truth." 

Here was the open abyss of the "spiral of silence." 

Here was the irrational face of "cancel culture." Before me was sitting a graduate of the University of Affirmation. Which, BTW and "Yay!", universities and scholars are rising up against, in the name of education, in the name of truth and academic freedom and free speech, to include entertaining dissenting voices.. (See here.)


***

1) In the postmodern metanarrative, authorial intention means nothing. To tell this former student that I had no intention of wounding them carried no weight, due to their unconscious and nonreflective embrace of the postmodern metanarrative.