Rachel Marie Stone on the dangers of being legalistic in the hard-set, rigid diet rules we follow and how it may harm the communal aspects of enjoying meals together:
But I’m equally concerned when I see how easily the devotion to ‘healthy’ and ‘righteous’ eating can take a pernicious turn and become legalistic, judgmental, isolating and even crippling. Not long ago, I met a woman who was deeply concerned about her granddaughter. “She doesn’t eat anything anymore! It’s not that she wants to be thin, she just thinks so many different things are unhealthy. She doesn’t eat grains. She doesn’t eat anything that comes from an animal. She tries to eat only things that are raw. She wouldn’t even eat this,” she said, gesturing to the home-cooked meal we were sharing.
The grandmother was putting her finger on a key aspect of food and eating as well as one of the dangers of dietary legalism: food is communal and community-forming, and restricted diets of all sorts tend to isolate and damage people. Dr. Stephen Bratman explores this dynamic. The author of Health Food Junkie, he coined the term “orthorexia nervosa” (from the Greek ortho, “correct,’” and orexis, “appetite”) in 1997. In an essay, Bratman talks about his time as a cook in a commune. Some members were vegans, some vegetarians, some macrobiotic eaters, some who wouldn’t eat anything from the onion family of vegetables and some who were raw foodists. All could marshal “experts” to support their dietary doctrines. And it was really, really hard for them to eat together.
Alicia Cohn’s review of the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc which “explores how and why breast cancer awareness (also called “pink ribbon culture”) became such big business, and whether heightened “awareness” is really making a difference in the lives of real women”:
Pink Ribbons Inc. is an investigative documentary that makes everyone involved complicit in a flawed system, from the women who want to help to the companies that donate money. And it takes long digressions to speculate about the motives of various companies participating in questionable marketing campaigns for the cause.
A deeper and biblical way to think about the road to marriage, and the pitfalls of an “attraction-as-foundation” approach. Here’s the story behind the title of the article:
I once counseled a Christian brother in his dating relationship with a great woman. She was godly, caring, and bright. She was attractive, but not a supermodel. For weeks I listened to this brother agonize over his refusal to commit and propose to this woman. He said they were able to talk well about a lot of things, but there were a few topics he was interested in that she couldn’t really engage with, and sometimes the conversation “dragged.”
He also said that, while he found her basically attractive, there was one feature of hers that he “just pictured differently” on the woman he would marry. I would ask about her godliness and character and faith, and he said all those things were stellar (and he was right). Finally, he said, “I guess I’m looking for a ’10’.”
I could hold back no longer. Without really thinking, I responded, “You’re looking for a ’10’? But, brother, look at yourself. You’re like a ‘six.’ If you ever find the woman you’re looking for, and she has your attitude, what makes you think she would have you?”
Here’s something else the world won’t tell you. Even if you find your “perfect 10” — however you define “10” — marriage is still hard. When you search for a spouse, you’re looking for someone (a sinner, like you) who you will be serving God and living the Christian life with until Christ returns or one of you dies.
Adam R. Holz on how too many choices can actually imprison rather than liberate us. Holz asks if we are maximizers (only accepting the very best option) or if we are satisficers (going with the “merely excellent” and not losing sleep over whether they missed out on a better option). This article speaks volumes to me since it describes what I went through during my law school decision process. I think God gave me a slew of awesome choices that he wanted me to enjoy as a satisficer. Unfortunately, I became anxious, paranoid, imprisoned by the wealth of choices, letting my intentionality go the other extreme where I kept demanding to myself that I needed to make the perfect choice. Looking back (and I’m sure I can give an even stronger confirmation a few months from now), it’s not the choice itself, but what you make of the choice that counts. So in that regard, it won’t matter if we make the best choice or not if we don’t steward over whatever choices we make:
As I read this section of the book, I had this thought: How often do we hear about someone who’s praying for guidance to make sure that he doesn’t stray from God’s will or to ensure that he receives “God’s best,” with regard to some decision.
Now, I believe God cares deeply about our choices. That said, I found myself wondering how much this way of thinking about decisions — a posture of maximizing that ultimately leads to anxiety and uncertainty — creeps into our spiritual journey. We — and I — can get so transfixed on the options in front of us that we end up a paralyzed, anxious mess instead of moving forward in life and in our decisions with a sense of faith, confidence and freedom that God is at work in and around us.
It’s a good thing to honor God with our decisions, be they large or small. But if and when trusting Him with our choices produces more anxiety than freedom and gratitude, it’s time to consider whether we need to relinquish our ideas of “the best” and to receive His idea of “the good” instead.
Timothy Raymond on Pastoral counseling:
If you do (or hope to do) any amount of pastoral counseling, the following are 20 statements you’ll probably hear at least once or twice (or more) in your ministry. I’d encourage you to think through how you’d respond, and more importantly, what specific passages of Scripture you might connect to each situation. God’s word provides us with “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3; ESV), but we pastors need to know how to bring the Bible to the issues that beset us.
Jordan Ballor, by way of Augustine, on the importance of hating the sin but loving the sinner particularly when obeying the Great Commission. Ballor notes what a delicate balancing act it is and to slide to either extreme is to tread down a dangerous road:
There are two errors that are often committed in these areas. The conservative error is to reject both the sinner and the sin in the interests of purity and holiness. The liberal error is to minimize or even celebrate the evil of the sin as good in the interests of acceptance, tolerance, and “love.”
Augustine helps us to avoid both errors. If we are at pains to legislate against certain types of behavior but are not undertaking evangelistic efforts to convert those who need it most, we engage in Pharisaic legalism. If we do nothing to rebuke sin, we engage in licentious antinomianism.
Here are some thoughts from Augustine, that could arguably be pretty well summarized in the bumper sticker slogan, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” (clearly in light of the second quote the word “sinner” would need to be properly parsed):
“That is, he should not hate the man because of the fault, nor should he love the fault because of the man; rather, he should hate the fault but love the man. And when the fault has been healed there will remain only what he ought to love, and nothing that he ought to hate” (City of God, 14.6).
If there’s one thing that the movies have taught us it’s that evil never succeeds. Yet most of the time evil fails for silly reasons. In 1994 Peter Anspach published the 100 things he would do if he ever became an evil overlord. They included such gems as:
- If my advisors ask “Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?”, I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
- When I’ve captured my adversary and he says, Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?” I’ll say, “No.” and shoot him. No, on second thought I’ll shoot him then say “No.”
- I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line “No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!” (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
But while following such prescripts are likely to lead to evil-overlord levels of success, is it financially viable to do so?
We went through each of the items on the list and looked at how money it would either cost (or save) to follow through with it. We assumed an army of 1,000 Evil Legionnaires of Terror, and a rebel army to consist of 100 traitors. Our conclusion? It would cost just $14,268,632, or a little over 14 million dollars to ensure that your reign as an Evil Overlord is truly unstoppable. Scroll through the sheet to see the cost-savings breakdown, and click on the “Notes” cells to find the sources for our estimates. You can sort the columns by clicking in the sheet.
Castles aren’t the popular form of residence they once were. Mostly because advancements in civilization have rendered them obsolete. But there was a time when castles were a practical real estate choice, as both a sign and means to protect wealth. Now these sort of accommodations are much more discreet, yet there are plenty of ways to let the world know you’re successful than to build a pile of stone that is visible from far distances (Donald Trump notwithstanding). Let’s go back in time to when castles were in and technology was out. Here are ten interesting castle facts.
Remember when you used to go to your grandparents’ house and whenever you walked in, your nose detected a change in the air? You’re not imagining it — there really is such a thing as “old person smell,” and your ability to detect it may have evolutionary roots.
In a study published today in PLoS One, researchers report that young people aged 20-30 are able to accurately guess when a scent comes from an elderly individual aged 75-95. While study participants were also able to determine when a smell was associated with someone in middle age or in their youth, they were much better at smelling old people than young people.
Ronald Bailey discusses whether or not we would want to live forever while he discusses Stephen Cave’s book, Immortality:
Imagine you are offered a trustworthy opportunity for immortality in which your mind (perhaps also your body) will persist eternally. Let’s further stipulate that the offer includes perpetual youthful health and the ability to upgrade to any cognitive and physical technologies that become available in the future. There is one more stipulation: You could never decide later to die. Would you take it? Metaphysician and former British diplomat Stephen Cave thinks accepting such an offer would be a bad idea.
Cave’s fascinating new book, Immortality, posits that civilization is a major side effect of humanity’s attempts to live forever. He argues that our sophisticated minds inexorably recognize that, like all other living things, we will one day die. Simultaneously, Cave asserts, “The one thing that these minds cannot imagine is that very state of nonexistence; it is literally inconceivable. Death therefore presents itself as both inevitable and impossible. This is what I will call the Mortality Paradox, and its resolution is what gives shape to the immortality narratives, and therefore to civilization.”
Although Cave is coming from a secular, scientific point of view, Bailey’s article is an interesting look into a book that I’m sure is an interesting read in itself. On another note, while I agree with Cave’s conclusion that it would not be worth it to become immortal, I do disagree with some of his reasoning with regard to the shortcomings of what he calls “immortality narratives”, particularly where Christianity is concerned (I’m sure Cave goes more in-depth than the amount Bailey quoted, but the parts that were quoted were dripping with presumptuousness). After his analysis of the shortcomings of the various “immortality narratives”, Cave goes onto bolster his conclusion (that it’s not worth avoiding the mortality paradox and chasing immortality) by noting that it’s nonsensical to fear death:
Since the immortality narratives fail, we are still left with our fear of death and non-existence. To overcome our fears and to escape the clutches of the Mortality Paradox Cave advocates turning to what he calls the Wisdom narrative. He thinks that he has made the case that a genuinely unending life would most likely be terrible. However, he acknowledges that this realization is unlikely to convince people that it’s great to be dead. So the next step toward wisdom is to accept the notion that the “fear of being actually dead is nonsensical.” And the final step is to cultivate virtues that undermine our will to live forever and thus reduce our existential angst.
The model for realizing that the fear of death is nonsensical is the Greek philosopher Epicurus who wrote, “While we are, death is not; when death is come, we are not.” Cave interprets Epicurus as chiefly arguing that we should not fear the state of being dead. Being dead is nothing, so why fear nothing? Cave asserts that wisdom comes when we realize “that we can never be dead, that fearing being dead is therefore a nonsense.” Oddly, I don’t think that I (and many others) suffer from Cave’s Mortality Paradox—I can imagine non-existence. Consequently, with regard to death there is nothing to fear but nothing itself.
In order to further undermine our fear of death Cave counsels that we adopt the three virtues of empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude. Empathy reduces our fear of the death by shifting the focus from ourselves; mindfulness encourages us to enjoy the present moment; and gratitude makes us conscious of what an incredible stroke of luck it is to be alive in the first place. It seems to me that the cultivation of these virtues is valuable in its own right, and if such cultivation happens to reduce one’s fear of death then that’s a nice bonus.
Ultimately, as interesting a read this was, our rationales end up taking different forks in the road. First, while Cave believes death isn’t to be feared because there’s nothing beyond it, I believe it isn’t to be feared precisely because of what’s beyond it. Moreover, what Cave calls a “stroke of luck”, I would call “grace”. Finally, while Cave says we should reject immortality because we’d eventually become bored, I would say that it’s less “boredom” than it is a “void”.