Jesus Antennas

I attend a fairly large church, upon which my wife and I decided based mainly for its scripture-centered focus. So, the actual format of the service is secondary to the message, which is good, because I’m distracted every Sunday during the music.

The music is “contemporary”, which means that it’s like a rock concert  – electric guitars, keyboard, bass, and drum set – with a band consisting of male hipsters “straight outta’ Starbucks”, plus one token female on accompanying vocals, all wearing the requisite “non-churchy” apparel. (Would Jesus wear skinny jeans? It’s not a particularly theological question, but it crosses my mind every service.) (The answer is, “It doesn’t matter.”)

The band has about six songs that they rotate from Sunday to Sunday, all of which sound like variations on Coldplay’s “Fix You.” The words are displayed on giant screens on either side of the stage; however, once you’ve figured out which song it is, you don’t really need to look at the lyrics since you sang them two weeks ago. I find myself looking around at people with their hands raised during the music, which I’ve come to call “Jesus antennas.” I’m utterly fascinated by this.

That I can tell, there are five varieties:

– Single antenna – One arm, usually the right, held straight aloft with the hand open

– Rabbit-ears  – Both arms aloft, which could either be seen as two singles, or calling a touchdown, depending upon how badly you’re anticipating the football game that afternoon

– Bob-and-wave – Single antenna, but waved back and forth in time with the music, in conjunction with bobbing the knees to the beat

Orans posture – I knew I had seen this one somewhere. Elbows to the side, with the arms extended upward and outward, palms usually inward. At first glance, I thought it looked like an Eastern prayer position, like there should be incense rising up between the hands, but, upon investigation, it appears to be of very Christian origin, which frankly makes more sense.

– The “Rose” – Arms straight out to the side, usually with the back arched  slightly, chest out, as if the music is washing over them, or they’re in a high wind à la the character Rose from Titanic (“I’m flying, Jack!”). Practitioners of the “Rose” often like to stand in the aisle, probably because they’re worried about getting tangled up with some bob-and-wavers and taking them all down.

I’m obviously having some fun with this, but please don’t interpret that as me belittling or demeaning the practice. I  believe that it’s a genuine expression of worship, and I don’t think that people doing it are trying to be ostentatious or showy. The raised hands captivate me because I’m generally more reserved in public, especially in church, and wouldn’t conceive of doing it myself.

I can’t help but wonder where this originated. I don’t remember it from my childhood, when I attended a similar church with a less “contemporary” service, which made me wonder if that’s not part of it. I’ve noticed that the lone female singer has no instrument to hold, and so has nothing to do with her hands other than hold them up. I understand this, because I’d be a complete Ricky Bobby in that position, and so I pondered initially if maybe it started because people simply imitate those on stage who aren’t sure what to do with their hands.

That’s too simplistic, however, and it’s more likely that those on stage and in the congregation are raising their hands for the same reasons. Several sources point toward the “Charismatic Movement,” an adoption of Pentecostal-type practices that has been slowly infusing itself into both Protestant and Catholic churches for decades. The movement is traced back to Pastor David Bennett of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Van Nuys, CA, who told his congregation that he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on Easter Sunday, 1960, and changed the church’s style of worship accordingly. From there, it caught on to other churches and denominations and began spreading. By the 1990’s, networks of independent charismatic churches existed. The charismatic churches mostly favor the raised hands and more exuberant worship style of Pentecostal churches while omitting the speaking in tongues.

This is not to say that raising hands in worship is not biblically-based. There are numerous verses in the Bible that advocate the use of hands in different applications of worship – primarily in supplication to and in the blessing of God (incomplete list here). Most are in the Old Testament; however, there are references in the New Testament as well, so the practice continued through the intertestamental period into the time of the early Christians. Paul mentions it specifically in 1 Timothy 2:8, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (ESV).

Interestingly, I found it noted in several sources that the hand position most familiar to Christians – hands folded or clasped together – is not mentioned in the Bible. Origin theories for it include it being an ancient Jewish custom, the Roman indication of surrender, and a medieval sign of submission, any or all of which could have transferred into what we know today.

So, while it may not be something that everyone does, it appears that those who raise their hands up in worship are actually more correct that not. Which is not to say that everyone should start…regardless of how one worships, the expression should be genuine. If that’s with your hands up during the music, then so be it. My hands will probably be in the pockets of my relaxed fit khakis.

Sources:

Raising hands:

http://www.joyfulheart.com/scholar/hands.htm

http://www.hcna.us/columns/lifted-hands.html

https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1093-are-christians-required-to-lift-up-holy-hands

http://www.godswordforyou.com/answers/518-lifting-up-of-hands.html

Charismatic Movement:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charismatic_Movement

http://www.gotquestions.org/Charismatic-movement.html

http://www.jeremiahproject.com/prophecy/charis1.html

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/charismatic-renewal-movement.html

http://www.wheaton.edu/ISAE/Defining-Evangelicalism/Pentecostalism

http://www.jimfeeney.org/pentecostalreligionbeliefs.html

Folded Hands:

http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2007/what-is-the-origin-of-praying-hands-folded

http://goedbericht.nl/english/hands-folded-eyes-closed/

http://www.joyfulheart.com/scholar/hands.htm

Photo:

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I groupthink, therefore I am a college student.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I probably would have told you that “Mizzou” was a character from Harry Potter. For better or worse, I, and anyone else paying attention, now know that it’s the shortened appellation for University of Missouri, where they’ve had weeks of protests, administrative resignations, and poop swastikas (okay, just one)(allegedly). There’ve been hunger strikes, boycotts, football player walk-outs, and allegations of the now-former president hitting a student with his car. In the words of Sci Martin, a top high-school football recruit who announced that he was removing Mizzou from his short list: “Their campus is out of control.”

The spark for all this is reported racial injustice on campus. I have no intention of wading into those waters; instead, my interest is in the stifling of campus free speech in lieu of politically-correct groupthink. Mizzou is just one out of several recent disturbing examples.

My interest in this goes back to my own college days, where I started out at what was ostensibly a Christian college that instead bowed at the alter of political correctness. I transferred, found more of the same, and decided to start railing on it at every opportunity.

I once gave a speech about political correctness on college campuses that had half the class fuming at me. I wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper regarding the university’s reaction to anti-homosexual graffiti. As a Journalism major, ethics debates were usually me (the lone conservative) vs. everyone else, eventually withering down to just me and another guy: my polar, liberal opposite.

Here’s the thing, though. After my speech, I had several students come up to me, interested, and ask more about its content. After my op-ed (which condemned the graffiti artists and criticized the administration for giving them what they wanted in the form of a blown-out-of-proportion response), I had a journalism classmate approach me and tell me she was a lesbian and that my views on the matter weren’t too far off from hers, which she never would have guessed, and we ended up being friends. And my polar, liberal opposite? We used to eat lunch together, where we’d have very cordial back-and-forth discussions. We never agreed, but we respected each other’s opinions.

The point is that I found that there was always common ground between differing viewpoints with a little discussion, tolerance, and open-mindedness. From what I’m reading, though, any open-mindedness I found in my college days is gone on today’s college campuses, in favor of goose-stepping to a mob-driven PC drumbeat that drowns out any dissention in the ranks.

Take, for example, the case of George Lawlor at Warwick University in Coventry, England. Lawlor posted a blog arguing that anti-rape “consent workshops” were demeaning and unnecessary, as the majority of people “don’t have to be taught not to be a rapist” and that those men who were inclined to rape would not attend the workshop anyway. For this, he’s been physically threated and verbally assaulted by both female and male students (called “rapist”, “misogynist”, “racist”, “classist”) to the point where he is afraid to attend classes, and is worried that his name online will be forever associated with “rapist”.

Of course, that’s the UK. It can’t be that bad in the US, where the 1st amendment instills an inherent tolerance of free speech, right? If only…

– Students at Amherst College in Amherst, MA, recently called for “re-education” for a group that put up posters decrying, ironically, the death of free speech on college campuses in the wake of the Mizzou protests. Stalin would be proud.

– Yale professor Nicholas Christakis was surrounded and berated by a large group of students upset with his wife (also Yale faculty), who sent out an email suggesting that the university need not censor the students’ Halloween costumes. Seriously. For this, the Christakis’s were accused of “not creating a safe place” for students. (The videos of this incident are unreal. At one point, Christakis has to preface his reply to a student with “I’m raising my voice so that others can hear me. I’m not yelling at you.” And the now-infamous “shrieking girl” teeters between shocking and hilarious.)

– Students at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA, threatened and demanded the expulsion of Emily Faz, a senior who criticized the Black Lives Matter group at the Mizzou protests. The furor reached the point that she was asked not to return to work until it died down.

Which brings me back to Mizzou. Again, I’m not aiming to discuss the validity of the claims of racial injustice, primarily because I’m not sure that they actually matter. Assuming that the protesters have 100% verifiably accurate and provable claims, they still lose credibility when they a issue a lengthy list of demands, punch out preachers, and chase away student press. It’s hard to feel sympathetic towards people whose immediate response to the Paris attacks is to complain that it takes attention away from them, or to see a guy doing a hunger strike as a victim when his parents are millionaires.

Instead, they look like petulant bullies.  No debate. No negotiations. Do what we say, or else. And that’s pretty much what the Mizzou administration did…they caved, cut, and ran. As Cal Thomas noted, “To put a twist on a cliche, it isn’t about the inmates taking over the asylum; rather it is about the children taking over the daycare center.”

Where’s this coming from?

Wikipedia’s definition of groupthink starts with “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking.”

That could have been written with the college protestors as a template.

I doubt that there’s any single root cause for all this; rather, it’s probably a conglomeration of factors. Maybe it’s an entire generation raised on “participation awards,” from which they’ve come to feel entitled to reward without putting in meaningful effort.

I hate to bash on social media again (not really), but I’m sure there’s something to a constant real-time flood of information chosen mostly to reflect your world-view, especially in an environment like college campuses today where individual thought is rapidly discouraged. Need today’s marching orders? Whip out the iPhone and check Twitter!

It looks like I broke out my tin-foil hat for the previous paragraph, but students at Yale actually yell at Nicholas Christakis that “it’s not about creating an intellectual space,” but rather scream that he should be creating a “safe space”, as you hear someone in the crowd yelling “Re-Tweet!”

They’re afraid of anything that challenges them to think outside their pre-conceived notions, and react with hysteria when faced with uncomfortable ideas. Copycat protestors at Smith College in Northhampton, MA actually tried to ban media not sympathetic to their cause. What has caused college students to be unable to mentally process and argue with opposing viewpoints? Public education? Years of liberal college indoctrination coming home to roost? I believe there’s no easy answer.

As copycat protests continue to spread, I wonder how colleges – and the country – will reason with this outbreak of unreasonableness. I take comfort in knowing that not all college students think like this, and that the pendulum will surely swing back as this craze dies out. Maybe it will even open dialogues as students start to discuss this madness. Homogeneity, especially of thought, is boring, and it appears that if there’s one thing millennials hate being, it’s bored.

Other articles:

http://dailyfreepress.com/2015/11/19/students-unite-against-racial-inequality-support-mizzou/

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/mizzou-yale-and-free-speech/

http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article45333150.html

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FREE_SPEECH_COLLEGE_PRESIDENTS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-11-22-10-48-11

http://theweek.com/articles/587967/yale-mizzou-death-liberal-toleration

Photo:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/97041449@N00/784943566″>here we go again…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Archie

I spotted him between two cars, a bug-eyed little puppy with grease smeared across his face. He appeared to be some sort of lab mix. This was at the apartment building where my wife and I were living, two days before we moved from there and into a house. When no one claimed him, we named him Archie and took him with us. That was fourteen years and ten days ago.

Today, we petted him and talked to him softly as he ceased breathing and his heart slowed to a stop.

We liked to describe Archie as “different.” As a puppy, he was all mouth. Wherever you tried to place your hand to pet him – head, back, belly – you found his mouth, wide-open. He would twist and contort acrobatically to get his mouth into position, so he was never still. My father’s first comment about him was “What’s wrong with him?” We had to put a rawhide chew in his mouth just so we could pet him. He thankfully grew out of that.

He mellowed only slightly through the years. He filled his time in the backyard playing with our other dog Dixie, patrolling the perimeter of the fence, and chasing every noise he heard (he went crazy every autumn when the acorns fell). He loved to chase. I called him a “Labrador Chaser”, as he would run down everything you threw, but wouldn’t retrieve jack. He would stand away from whatever you threw, like he didn’t care, until you finally gave up and went to get it yourself, at which point he’d dive on it so you’d have to fight him for it. He used to put his toys in the path of the lawnmower so I’d have to stop to move them out of the way, at which point he’d attack.

Despite his affinity for toy-wrestling, Archie didn’t have an aggressive bone in his body. He rarely barked. He adored people and loved all other animals, and would flip over within seconds of meeting a stranger for an all-important belly rub.

He was a thinker. At one point, I built the dogs a shelter in the corner of the yard, using the fence for two of the walls. I’d kept the dogs away during construction, and was curious to see how they’d react to it. Archie ran inside for one second, then came running out, where he bolted to the side, jumped on top of the shelter, then bounded over the top of the fence to a six-foot drop to freedom. He never hesitated or slowed down. I stood there, stunned, and said, “Huh. I never thought of that.” My wife replied, “Archie did.”

Life for Archie had been getting harder lately. We lost Dixie one year ago, and he had gone downhill from there, especially in the last two months. He seemed to be in pain, and he wasn’t happy. I put it off as long as I could, but today finally took him to the vet. He had the usual old man problems – senility, arthritic hips and knees, bad eyesight – but it was an enlarged organ, either the kidney or spleen, that indicated something more ominous. We could run tests, do procedures, load him up with meds, but ultimately, for a fourteen-year-old-dog in his condition, it would prolong nothing but the inevitable, and not for long.

I made the call. I know that it was the right one, but I still have to come to terms with that fact that I walked in with my friend, who trusted me completely…and I walked out without him.

My wife came to the vet’s office, and we sat with him as he passed. We both agree, no more pets. We can’t do this again.

Sociably anti-social

So, this is my first blog. Admittedly, I’ve been reticent about starting a blog.  Not because I have anything against them; in fact, I’m rather a fan of the concept, and, if I’m to become serious about my writing, it seems a necessity. Most agencies I query ask authors to list their blog site. Most of the freelance writing gigs posted are a blog of some sort. Finally, a blog forces me to write, at which I would get better with frequency and practice, presumably.

My hesitation with blogging is that it seems so social media. While it’s indeed the way that the majority of information dissemination, marketing, and advertising is headed (or is already there), I can’t help but lump in social media as a whole with other good ideas distorted and twisted by popular culture. Remember the yellow bracelets Lance Armstrong came out with for cancer research? Great idea, and it worked so well that soon there was a bracelet of every color for every conceivable cause. Same thing with the pink ribbons for breast cancer. Facebook started out as a way for college students to connect; now, practically everyone aged 13 to 65 has a page, mostly filled with news articles, advertisements, and posts about someone else’s work, kids, pets, or political ideation. Take a good idea, and the original concept is degraded and lost in the tsunami of mass adoption and imitation.

A recent study states 76% of Americans on the internet in 2015 use social media of some sort, while a 2012 estimate stated that the average enterprise-class company had 178 corporate-owned social media accounts. It’s not going away. Yet, somehow when I hear the phrase “social media”, I think of giggling 20-somethings glued obliviously to their Smartphones as they walk down busy sidewalks or ignore customers at work. I think of guys lighting farts and posting it on YouTube. I think about that girl streaming herself driving drunk on Periscope. I think Kardasians (about whom I am unable to give a krap). I am uncomfortable participating in this. Indeed, when it comes to the social media proliferation, I feel more like one of old men on the balcony on The Muppets – present but disengaged, while joking about and mocking the spectacle.

All that said, of course I have a Facebook account…two, in fact. I’m not beyond redemption. I used to sneer condescendingly at all the suckers in the line at Starbucks to order their triple venti latte cappuccino half-caf blah blah blahs. Then I actually tried Starbucks.  Today, I can walk up to the counter and order my grande triple no-foam skinny mocha with only a twinge of irony eating at me.

So, I’m going to start blogging, and I’m going to learn how to disperse myself over as many social media outlets as possible, and maybe something good will come of it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go figure out how to “tweet.” God help me.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76284765@N00/6251450994″>A Subconscious Past Study</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;