Monday, September 13, 2010

Johnny Walker and King James

This is an email I sent to some men from our church. Twice a month, we get together for The Eagle & Child Men's Forum, where we attempt to have substantive conversation over food, drink and cigars. We've been meeting for 2 years now, and as the group has grown we've had some guys raise questions over Christians and alcohol consumption. I sent this email to the men, and I got some good feedback so I'm posting it here now:

Since starting the Eagle & Child Men’s Forum 2 years ago, I have never really addressed the issue of Christians and drinking. The main reason for not touching on this subject is that I personally feel this is one of MANY issues that cloud deeper issues of the heart.

You can easily spend hours talking about alcohol – everything from why it is a sin, why it is not sin, why we should or shouldn’t drink, why Joe-Christian really isn’t a believer because he had a beer, why Dude-Alcoholic needs to get a grip, all the way down to what is your favorite drink, the best beer, wine, vodka, etc.... People on all sides get angry, tempers flare, fights ensue and the next thing you know everyone really DOES need a drink; y’know… to take the edge off. Hours are spent “tackling” the issue of alcohol.

The pious man goes home feeling really good about himself.

The agnostic goes home feeling he clarified his lack of commitment to either side, because he just doesn’t know.

The “casual” drinker feels he defended his right to have a drink well, and goes home for a nightcap; oblivious to his own addiction.

The alcoholic quietly leaves, distraught over the fact that once again, nobody really understands his pain and prison.

The latter is the one I am most concerned with here. If you’re the pious man, you have bigger fish to fry and we can’t really help you until you start getting over how great you are.

Because we are a “church” group (whatever that means) in the eyes of some, and because our group is growing, I feel clarification is in order.

I believe some men use alcohol in much the same way other men use the Bible.


I believe men can hide behind a glass of Scotch the way other men can hide behind a King James. Both can be used to self-medicate; one with a buzz, the other with self-righteousness. Both can also be used to mask the real issues of the heart that go unaddressed for a lifetime. Some men live their lives to a ripe old age, hiding behind career, sex, church, religion, intellect, X-Box, theology, unbelief, empire-building, laziness, food, TV… whatever, always avoiding self-examination. They never face their real issues as real men should, preferring to hide behind their excuses and self-loathing; making sure the world is always revolving around them, and also at a safe distance.

The man who has identified himself as an alcoholic instantly has my respect and admiration because he has begun his journey of self-examination; a journey of honesty and grace. It’s a journey that I’m on in fact, recovering from a life of addiction to self-absorption, lust and pride, and a life of hiding behind all kinds of different things. I still have a long way to go.

The quote that defines the Eagle & Child Men’s Forum from G.K. Chesterton reads “Because we are imperfect, we need friendships to fill up the imperfections”. Whatever path you are on, please know that Eagle & Child is a place to come and be yourself. Eagle and Child is not a place for drinking and smoking. However, we do drink and smoke… and eat sausage, chips… sometimes sliders and nachos. We also drink Coke and Sprite and on occasion Cuban coffee or red-eye gravy and country ham. It is a place of honesty and really, just a night to hang out with other guys and relax. If you have struggled with any of these issues I hope this email cleared some things up.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Times Have Changed

From Spurgeon's Morning & Evening, to one type of person he says:

"These words may answer your scruples, devout reader, concerning the ordinances. Perhaps you say, “I should be afraid to be baptized; it is such a solemn thing to avow myself to be dead with Christ, and buried with him. I should not feel at liberty to come to the Master’s table; I should be afraid of eating and drinking damnation unto myself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

And to another type of person he says:

"You think, poor seeker, that you are not allowed to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; if you are permitted to get inside Christ’s door, or sit at the bottom of his table, you will be well content. Ah! but you shall not have less privileges than the very greatest. "

Both very humble expectations of the readers. As I read this I thought how different his audience is today; how different I am. Today, the average Christian wouldn't feel unworthy to be Baptized, but would rather spend time questioning the various methods of baptism, or question the church performing the baptism. Rather than run with desperate and humble knowledge of his sin to be baptized, he would spend a few years thinking about baptism because maybe it's all just meaningless ritual. The LAST thing on our minds today is our unworthiness because after all, the sun rises and sets on my comfort, how I feel, and what is owed to me.

Do I feel as if I am not allowed to rejoice with "joy unspeakable"? Do I think I would be content enough to sit at the bottom of His table?

No.

I believe I have rights, and those rights extend to worship. I have the right the worship to the kind of music I like. I have the right to participate in sacraments, or not to. I have the right to attend the church I like, after I've perused all the channels and found the one that fits me, with the right looking people who say the right things and do the right things (based on my criteria of course).

Spurgeon's reader is vastly different from the readers of his lifetime. We are spoiled. God used Spurgeon to reveal this about me this morning.

Spurgeon also says:

"When the Holy Ghost has given you to feel the spirit of adoption, you may come to Christian ordinances without fear."

Come without fear. And in case we have forgotten, come humbly.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Maniacs

"Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums… " - Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 2 - The Maniac

I bought the audio book and this passage fascinated me. By virtue of this passage, Miami is full of lunatics, and I struggle everyday to get out of the asylum and at least into the outer gardens.

We are all so self-confident; materialists and narcissists.

We love our Facebook posts where we can write about our jobs and our cars, or show our empty faceless empathy and "caring".

We love our careers and our achievements; our vanity and our beauty.

We love our anger, and protect it with all the self-confidence of a 2 year old hugging his toy car to his chest screaming "mine!".

We love our augmentations, lifts, and shallowness.

There is insanity in Miami of the worst kind. And of course, this insanity is not Miami specific but if you live here, you know what I mean. Just look at all the Mercedes, BMW's and Bentley's flowing out of West Kendall and Hialeah; vehicles to house our insecurity at the risk of our souls and families.

We want it all and we want everyone to believe we did it on our own.

Some people see belief in God as a mark of the insane; a false hope, a belief held by simple folk. Chesterton asks, what is crazier... belief in God, or belief in yourself?

I think belief in yourself is not only insane, but the worst kind of dishonesty and ignorance.

Orthodoxy is a great book. I'm enjoying it immensely.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Glenn Beck, Jim Wallis and Social Justice - Revised

I've been following this whole Glen Beck vs. Jim Wallis battle royale over Social Justice, and the use of that term by Christian institutions. I also just finished reading an article written by the Rev. Wallis on The Huffington Post entitled, "What Glenn Beck Doesn't Understand About Biblical Social Justice" .

Glenn Beck makes a great point about the use of the term social justice. At the same time Rev. Wallis also brings up some good points. Read the article and you'll see what I mean.

My problem with the term social justice is its use and implementation in the work of the Gospel, when the work of the Gospel (spreading the good news) should stand on its own. In other words, stick to the original formula. The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is transcendent and eternal. No ideological system can touch it, because it is simply true and because it goes beyond mere ideology.

So why take something so simplistic, so earthly, as the idea of "social justice" and add it to the language of the Gospel? The only reason I can think of is to force similar sounding ideology to a truth that doesn't need it. When that happens, we can only assume something is up; there are games afoot.

“Our political philosophy is, representative democracy and social justice in a well planned economy.” So said Fidel Castro, on camera, in English, just prior to the success of the revolution.

So we have the use of the term "Social Justice" tacked on to the ministry of the church, followed by Christian college and seminary students all over the U.S.A. wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and celebrating socialism because gee, it sounds really good and besides, that t-shirt looks really cool.

Here's another quote:

"Fascism and Communism, like all other evils, are potent because of the good they contain or imitate... And of course their occasion is the failure of those who left humanity starved of that particular good." - C.S. Lewis

Redistribution of wealth sounds really good in the context of the church, meaning the Body of Christ. As Christians we believe it, and we should live it. In fact I think we do, though of course, maybe not as well as we ought to be (the point Lewis is making above). We can always do better, but that's part of the growth process; our walk of sanctification.

But in case some Christians missed it (especially those who study and teach the Bible for a living), the Bible is a mirror. Looking into it, we see that we are broken, full of sin, and unable to do any good outside of Christ. I'm not speaking of doing good acts; anybody Christian or not can do good works on occasion. The Bible speaks of something deeper, and shows us our true nature. Our hearts betray our best wishes and good intentions. We are full of darkness, and this is what the Bible teaches us.

Social justice as defined, can only work in the context of Gospel believing Christians, at best. By at best I mean, it is still flawed because we will not achieve true social justice in this world. As long as we are here, it won't work. Do we stop being the Christians God called us to be? Of course not. As the church, we strive to live out the Gospel, to serve, to love and to give until it hurts. But, unless the church is in the business of assisting tyrants to rise to power, I would suggest staying away from adopting terminology that will end up being used as justification for conquest, control, and ultimately slavery. Some would say this is a stretch; that I am simply exagerating. However to say that I am exagerating is the same as saying there has been no past, current, and will be no future attempt to undermine the message of love and redemption offered by the Gospel. To say that, my friends, would be ignorant and naive at best, foolish and disastrous at worst.

Redistribution of wealth, outside of a Gospel context will always result in oppression, not equality and certainly not justice.

Finally I would just like to go on record and say that while I agree a lot with Glenn Beck, he is the last person Christians should be listening to in matters of the Gospel because well, he is a Mormon and not a Christian. Regardless, as Americans we should listen to Glenn Beck because his warnings on the deceptive nature of social justice are true.

To the Rev. Wallis and other Christians who should know better, stop trying to be relevant and re-package the Gospel as if it were something to be sold. Christianity is and always has been relevant because it is true, and transcendent truth does not require our assistance. The Gospel is the very definition of justice. Leave it alone.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The March


Primero que nada, Partagas Benji Master Series cigar... amazing. Smoking it right now. One of the best I've ever had.


Tonight, I missed meeting with my brothers from other mothers at our Eagle & Child forum. Instead, I attended the march organized by Emilio and Gloria Estefan to stand in solidarity with Las Damas De Blanco (the Ladies in White).


I don't know what the final numbers are, but I guarantee you there were several thousands gathered there today; mostly Cubans of course, but folks from different nationalities as well. Flags I saw represented there; Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, Spain, Colombia, Venezuela, United States of America.

Gloria Estefan gave an amazing speech, honoring Las Damas, and their peaceful and lonely battle for freedom. These women persevere; they are tenacious. As we were meeting in their honor, they were walking the streets of Havana, again, bruised and beaten; never giving up their struggle. Mr. and Mrs. Estefan walked with us; as did other local celebrities. Of course, most people couldn't help but notice they were there. But their celebrity status didn't seem to obscure the intent of the march. The crowd and the organizers did everything with great reverence and tact.

A prayer was given by a local clergyman. His prayer was powerful. A moment of silence was observed (it wasn't too long though. After all, we are Cuban and we don't deal with silence very well).

The National Anthem of our beautiful country, the land that lovingly embraced our parents and grandparents, was played and yes, sung by the throngs of people gathered their. I was so moved by it, I could barely sing along. Watching the American flags flying high next to the Cuban flags makes so much sense to me. A dance of red, white and blue, signifying pride and loss; life and liberty.

When the Cuban Anthem was played, there was pain in the voices. It was sung louder than the American Anthem of course. But still, one couldn't help but notice the mixture of pride and loss in the voices.

The best part of the march was being able to experience it with my 11 year old daughter, my father and my mother.

The "old guard" of Cubans was amazing to see too. These are the ones who really appreciate what the United States represents. You can see it in their sage faces. Their eyes have a wisdom from a life experience that has allowed them to appreciate this country as much as the greatest American patriot. They have felt the sting of oppression, and the exhilaration of liberty. I love being with them; especially my mom and dad. It's hard though, because even after more than 50 years, their wounds are still fresh.

It's late, I'm tired and I think I'm rambling. But most of all, I'm hurting tonight for the Cuban people; even for those who are inflicting pain on others who are crying out for that liberty. There is so much anger and rage and confusion in that place of loss and memory.

My little girl went to bed late tonight. She was really tired. She asked me if she should request a prayer for Las Damas tomorrow at school. I told her it was a great idea. I'll pray with her before she goes to school. I think I'll have a talk with God now too, over this cigar.






Monday, March 22, 2010

Cuba Blog


Time to let the cat out of the bag. I went to Cuba in December, and contrary to popular belief, there are still cats in Cuba (meaning they are no longer part of a daily diet).

I went to Cuba because an opportunity opened up for me to go, and because I just had to go. There was a time last year where I had made a firm decision that I would never go, caught up in anger and pain over the injustices that are occurring on the island. Then I realized that there are people there, and that these people are desperate for something; anything besides the life of despair they live in. I met amazing people, cried with them, laughed with them; even met family I never knew existed because of time, pain and polarization. Going to Cuba changed me, yes. But more importantly, the Gospel changed me yet again. The term "Cubanaso Gospel" has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

I'm still working on my photo blog. The reality of Cuba makes me feel I need to be selective with the photos I post, lest I jeopardize people on the island. But it's a great story. I hope you enjoy it.

Here's the photo blog.