Married to Reality

The room is ripe with excitement. Fifty to one hundred adolescent girls arrive at a Christ in Youth seminar on marriage to hear barely post-adolescent women discuss a topic near and dear to each girl's heart: the promise of marriage. And the seminar leaders do not disappoint—familiar sappy drivel is spoon-fed to this willing audience, who wants, hopes, and must believe that marriage is the answer to their teen angst. As the older women discuss the amazing intimacy, the wonderful attentiveness, the sheer joy to be found in future husbands, one dissenting opinion emerges: that of the already married.
You see, these instructors were not highly qualified marital counselors. In fact, they themselves had never been married at all. They had not known the sheer joy of a husband who has to work late, or of one who simply will not work. They had never felt the amazing intimacy between two people who are mentally and physically exhausted after caring for their newborn. In short, they sold these optimistic girls a glossy picture of an often lackluster institution. It was time for the already married to step in and explain that marriage is not all eye-gazing and hand-holding. It's not that easy. It requires work. And many marriages will fail. (In fact, false expectations like these help put the divorce rate in perspective).
Unfortunately, this situation is not the exception. When it comes to marriage, Christians are often so concerned that young men and women will not take the plunge that they purposely omit survival instructions for drowning. I have to admit, the proverbial knight in shining armor is rather appealing. But it is not reality. So is it time to relegate marriage to its spot in history and evolve to a different type of relationship? According to some, the answer is yes.
Cultural icon Oprah Winfrey was heard last month touting her opinion that marriage has served its purpose over time, but has become outdated. She said she believes that it is nearly impossible to state what one will want twenty or thirty years down the road, a feat which the wedding vows "till death do us part" require.
Kerry Howley of Georgetown University agrees. "Weddings encourage people to make wild, irresponsible claims about who they will be in 10, 20, 30 years," Howley said at thehoya.com.
How can Christians argue with this sentiment? The answer is two-fold. First, we must consider marriage as a discipline which forms us into Christ's image and then promote this idea to young Christians. Without doubt, the continual practice of prayer, fasting, tithing and Bible reading is important for the Christian. As author Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote, "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible." But what if we considered marriage to be a spiritual discipline? Hosts of disciplined acts are required for this complex exchange between humans to work, including self-sacrifice, unity, conflict resolution and self-control.
Not convinced? Read Ephesians 5:22-33, and note the balancing act husbands and wives are asked to perform: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies…The wife must respect her husband." No wonder the vow reads, "'till death do us part." It would take more than a lifetime to get it right.
Ridding the church of its overly optimistic stance on marriage will take more than a fair number of married women speakers at teen seminars, however. As Wade Horn, President George W. Bush's marriage and family policy point man suggests, "We need to debunk the mystical view of marriage. There's this idea, believed by some and reinforced by television and movies, that a good marriage is magic. The more [realistic] good marriages young people see, the more a good marriage becomes the norm, not the exception" (Jim Killem, 'Promoting Marriage' in Marriage Partnership).
A good marriage involves misunderstanding, conflict and anger, as well as blind love and optimism. Young adults about to be wed should be exposed to the occasional spat as well as its imminent resolution. They need to understand that 'forgive and forget' is not only an essential part of a happy marriage, but is also one of the most difficult. By no means should we use scare tactics to move couples away from the decision to marry. These burdensome topics should be equally discussed with the benefits of a loving relationship between a husband and wife. But our overarching desire should be that, through marriage, couples become more like Christ.
Second, we must consider the image of marriage itself in a greater construct—its place in the rest of the world. How do our marriages measure up to those outside the church? Why are we failing, as a group, to raise the standard? According to David Neff of Christianity Today, "By practicing what we believe, Christian marriages can transform our society" ('A Marriage Revolution'). Here is his five-pronged approach to mainstream influence (paraphrased):
1. Admit that the current church's marriage record is no better than that of the world. "Divorce statistics inside the church are indistinguishable from those outside," Neff states.
2. Repent for allowing our culture's penchant for individualism to taint our understanding of marriage as a whole. Likewise, we need to:
3. Restore the community context of marriage, counseling other couples through difficult situations and providing positive reinforcement for a willingness to 'stick it out'.
4. Recover the sense of human limitation inherent in marriage and family life, re-establishing a focus on God's power.
5. Continue to help people learn the practical skills associated with all the challenges of married life.
Explaining the harsh realities of marriage may take more time and patience than selling a fairy-tale existence to hopelessly-in-love couples, but, in doing so, we improve their chance of success. And though more talk of marriage as an antiquated institution may surface, most of us are not ready to give up. As Wade Horn explains, "If there are groups out there that want to tell the American people that marriage is a horrible institution that needs to be deconstructed, they can do that. I just don't think that message resonates with most Americans around the kitchen table."

Drive a nice car, get free music

Test drive a Lexus, get 60 free songs from Sony Connect. Fill out the form online, print off a voucher and take it to the Lexus dealership. I wouldn't mention to the Lexus salesman that you're too cheap to pay $0.99 for an mp3.

via techbargains

Geek test

I took the geek test and got 31.2% - Total geek. Who can beat that?

via Metafilter

101 things you can do in Mozilla

Hopefully you're not using MS Internet Explorer anymore. If this didn't convince you to switch to Firefox or Mozilla, then perhaps this will:

101 Things you can do with Mozilla that you can't do with IE

via linkfilter.net

They Might be in Missouri

My favorite band, They Might Be Giants, will be playing the Blue Note in Columbia on July 13. Email me if you want to go, too. I'm excited because I've never seen a proper TMBG show. I did see them live during my freshman year of college, but they weren't the headliners. They played at the very end of the night, after the Urge and they didn't get a very long set. It was funny to watch people leaving the stage area after the Urge finished and the geeks just started coming out of the shadows and up to the front. Big Wreck also played at that concert, and I thought they were pretty cool.

Top 5 things I figured out at a relatively old age

1. Wal-mart was named for...
Today I was talking to Danny's mom, getting ready to go to this beloved store when, all of a sudden, it hit me. Sam Walton began Wal-Mart, hence the name. I'm so stupid.

2. 'Windshield factor'
Until my senior year of high school, every time I heard the weatherman speak of the 'wind chill factor' on the local news, I thought they were talking about the temperature of your car's windshield. Apparently, it has less to do with glass that you never touch in the winter and more to do with the wind as it blasts your face.

3. Premium Night
Sodexho, Truman's food service provider, used to serve us 'steak' and baked potatoes (and sometimes unidentifiable seafood) in the dorm cafeteria on what I thought was a random schedule. Hence, each time I would stumble upon a Premium Night menu, I was pleasantly surprised. The last week of my dorm life, I realized that Premium Night took place on the first Tuesday of every month.

4. 'Back burner'
As a communication major and English minor, I really should think about the origin of words. But, alas, I am just not curious. Honestly, why didn't I figure this one out earlier?

5. Hastings jingle
The purveyor of all things media used to run commercials touting it was "your entertainment superstore". Unfortunately, I was once singing along to a jingle and couldn't hide my lack of understanding: "Hastings-You really tamed this superstar." Before you mock, remember, it's not the only commercial that doesn't make sense.

Ïf you were really brave, you would tell me your own tales of stupidity.

Also, check out this guy's list of mispronounced words.

Speak directly into the transmitter

From the funny old booklet department: How To Make Friends by Telephone

Church and State: Keep Them Separated

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

(This is the article I wrote for the June church newsletter.)

On my recent vacation I stopped by the Truman State University campus and visited some teachers and people I used to work with. One of them, a secretary who didn't know me well, but knew I was a minister, asked me this: "What do you think about them taking God out of everything? No prayer in schools . . . what's the world coming to?" I'm not sure if she honestly wanted to know what I thought, but I didn't tell her. We had one more stop to make, we were running behind already, and I wasn't about to try and start a discussion then and there. But it is something I've been thinking about, and my thoughts may surprise you.

Read more »

ChristianExodus: A Christian nation

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

I finished my article about church and state / theocracy. I'll post it here as soon as I can, but in the meantime, check this out:

Would you like to live in a Christian nation with government similar to the early United States? Well, here’s your chance!

ChristianExodus.org. Apparently a group of people are planning on moving en masse to a single state for the purpose of withdrawing from the US. The candidate states are Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.

I think this is a little scary. What do you think?

(via metafilter)

Vacation photos part II

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

After a brief stay in Macon, MO, we drove up to Kirksville to see Erica and Kyle, some friends from college. We dropped by a Campus Christian Fellowship service and saw some people we hadn't seen in 2 years. We also found a babysitter so we could go out to dinner with Kyle and Erica at Il Spazio. We all got fire-roasted pizzas. The strangest one on the menu was the Spam and Dorito pizza. We decided to split one to see if it was any good. We thought that even if it wasn't it would give us a good story to tell. Here it is:

I thought it was good, but I think I was the only one. Here's a picture of Sara and Erica:

But my favorite part of our stay in Kirksville was helping Kyle set up his new blog. He has some very interesting and thoughtful posts, and he's got some good ideas about using blogging as a tool in a high school English class.

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