Facing Evil in America

In his introduction of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Alfred Kazin writes, “The influence of a great book can have amazing repercussions in the life and mind of a country.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin certainly had some spectacular repercussions – it helped to start the Civil War which ended slavery. Apparently, the author, Mrs. Stowe, always intended to write for a deeper purpose. Kazin says that Mrs. Stowe, “was the first to maintain that in writing it she was less concerned with producing a work of literature than with the urgent need to persuade people through literature that slavery was wholly immoral.” The purpose of this article is to highlight the way Stowe dealt with a major social issue of the day. Her strategies for facing evil are still ones we should be applying today.

  • Biblical obedience over political correctness

One of my favorite conversations in the book is between Mr. and Mrs. Bird. Mr. Bird is an exhausted state senator who has worked to pass fugitive slave laws in his Northern state – laws that would make it illegal for anyone to assist an escaping slave. Though against slavery himself, Mr. Bird helped to pass the law in order to make peace between his state and Kentucky, a slave state. Mrs. Bird is described as a meek, gentle woman, but as soon as she hears about this law she flies into a flurry:

“Now, John, I don’t know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I mean to follow.”

“But in cases where your doing so would involve a great public evil – ”

“Obeying God never brings on public evils. I know it can’t. It’s always safest, all around, to do as He bids us.” (Page 90)

Americans face the same choice today: Biblical obedience or political correctness. With issues like abortion, gay marriage, sexuality, and even welfare, Christians must choose to either obey the Bible or follow the mainstream. The Bible is crystal clear on these issues, but many Christians refuse to take a stand because they are scared of the potential backlash.  But as history shows, God’s way is truly the only safe way.

  • Recognize the humanity of those being wronged

In chapter 12, a young man witnesses a slave wife tearfully saying goodbye to her husband who has been sold. The man has some powerful remarks for the slave trader who now owns the man:

“My friend,” he said speaking with thick utterance, “how can you, how dare you, carry on a trade like this? Look at those poor creatures! Here I am, rejoicing in my heart that I am going home to my wife and child; and the same bell which is a signal to carry me onward towards them will part this poor man and his wife forever. Depend upon it, God will bring you into judgment for this.” (Page 141)

This man was a master of empathy. He acknowledged that the slave being carried away had the same feelings as his own. We should carry the same mindset especially when facing social issues. Using abortion as an example, those who are pro-choice argue that the fetus is, “just a clump of cells”. One of our best weapons to counteract this argument is simply acknowledge that a fetus is a human being who can feel pain as early as eight weeks. Regarding the modern day sex trade, we can recognize the suffering and pain of the women and children whose bodies are being sold. Their sexual safety is worth protecting just as much as our own. When we put ourselves in the place of those being abused, we can fight more effectively for them.

  • Doing the right thing means sacrifice.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin introduces us to a community of courageous Quakers who are helping slaves escape to Canada. This operation was quite dangerous and the father in this scene has already been caught once. The family is discussing the potential consequences when one of the fugitive slaves speaks up, expressing his concern for his protectors. The father of the family, Simeon, says, “If we would not meet trouble for a good cause, we were not worthy of our name.” (Page 161)

More often than not, Americans refuse to do the right thing for one of two reasons: the consequences or the inconveniences. Taking a stand for Biblical values will gain you many haters in our world. It might even hurt you financially or land you in jail. If we are not too afraid to voice our convictions, then sometimes our fear of inconvenience causes us to talk instead of act. Taking action on our convictions is often disruptive to our normal lives. In a conversation with his pious Christian cousin from Vermont, St. Clare, a southern man with slaves, admits to her that he actually detests slavery. Despite his strong anti-slavery opinion, he argues that pointing fingers at the problem is easy, but taking action to solve the problem is a whole other matter.

Like Mrs. Stowe, we need to pull our heads out of the sand and face our glaring social issues head on. The Bible is always our authority on social issues. Every other voice will only lead us astray. We must learn to see people – whether they are born yet or not, captive or free – as individuals who God hand crafted and loves dearly. Finally we must take action on our Biblical convictions, because convictions without action are entirely useless. Even when we do find the courage to speak out, we must follow that up with movement. There is still hope in our fight. After all, America managed to abolish slavery. If we can do that, then we can certainly see more victories in present social issues.

Uncle Toms Cabin

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Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy!

Some of you may recognize the famous quote above, made by none other than Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. Simple and concise, it brings forth a powerful message. Achieving great things always requires us to step outside our comfort zone! Most people want to avoid taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy, which is why few people accomplish the incredible. Every single person in history who left their mark on the world made many mistakes and got messy in the process. However, they refused to give up, which is why they eventually succeeded!

Take Thomas Edison for an example. He is primarily famous for his invention of the lightbulb. He was an incurable experimenter, but not all of his experiments went well. One of his very first experiments was not only a failure, it was extremely dangerous! As a young teenager, Edison sold newspapers on a train. He decided to set up a laboratory in one of the train’s baggage cars. Unfortunately, one of his experiments caused a chemical fire which set the baggage car ablaze. After this, his days selling papers on the train were over.  However, Thomas was undeterred, and he went on to become one of America’s greatest inventors and business men.1

Let’s look at a modern day example. Dave Ramsey owns a very successful company that trains people to budget and stay free from debt. However, Ramsey himself declared bankruptcy as a young adult! He made foolish choices, and found himself desperately in debt with a young family and a new baby. Collectors even confiscated his furniture! After losing it all, Ramsey voraciously studied resources on how to wisely handle money. His work paid off, and now he helps other people get out of the same situation he found himself in years ago. Ramsey’s initial failure only propelled him into success.2

Victory after failure is as old as the Bible itself. Just look at Peter. He probably could have won the “worst disciple ever” award, second only to Judas. Peter put his foot in his mouth when he told Jesus that He wasn’t really going to die on the cross, then later when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus Peter violently lashed out. Worst of all, after promising Jesus that he would remain loyal even to death, Peter ended up denying his lord three different times. Even after all of this, God did not revoke Peter’s calling, and Peter went on to fulfill his destiny as a rock of the early church. The New Testament says that the callings and giftings of God are irrevocable. That means that God doesn’t pull the rug out from underneath as soon as we fail. He gives us a second chance, and a third, and a tenth, and a fifty-fifth, and a three thousandth and so on.

We have all seen that the process of achieving success requires failure along the way. My speech and debate teacher would always tell her students, “Fail forward to success!” Our first speech presentations were horrible, but we improved over time. In order to learn a new skill or start a new project, you must go through the rough patch at the beginning. As long as you keep moving forward, your failures can actually propel you into your triumphs.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to step out and fail. Failure isn’t fun, but it often leads us to our greatest victories. When we learn from our mistakes, they become stepping stones to future greatness.

 

Less Unwholesome Entertainment, More Excellent Entertainment

Every day we face decisions about what kind of entertainment we watch, read, and listen to. Making entertainment choices can be confusing and seemingly complicated. The guidelines and rules for entertainment vary astoundingly even in the Christian world. Thankfully, our God is not a God of confusion. The Bible provides clear instruction on what followers of Jesus should be filling their minds with.

For starters, let’s look at Philippians 4:8. It says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.”

We should use this criterion to judge what we fill our minds with. This is not a rule to repress us, but rather a guideline to help us. The input we receive affects our thoughts, and what we think has a drastic effect on how we live our lives.

 

Which Path?

You may be tempted to read a book or watch a movie that does not promote the virtues listed above, especially when everyone around you is doing so.  The world may rave about a book, movie or song, but that does not mean that you should go along with them!  The popular path may look intriguing and exciting, but it always leads to a trap.

As Matthew 7:13-14 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

This verse is referring specifically to Heaven and Hell and the way that we are saved, but following Jesus is a lifelong pursuit even after we receive forgiveness from our sins. As followers of Jesus, we must continually follow the narrow path. The path that eventually leads to destruction is easy to take and extremely popular.  No matter how comfortable, fun, and easy it looks, the path that is wide and popular leads to disaster.  The narrow path is hard and few follow it, but at the end there lies a true treasure. Taking the narrow path can be difficult, but the reward is far greater than the cost.

Raving reviews and admirable themes can make a movie or book with questionable content look appealing.  Unfortunately, positive content will be overpowered by the adverse effects of questionable content. Finding entertainment that is completely pure can be difficult, but extreme care should be taken to verify that the positive content drastically overpowers any questionable content.

 

The Best Choices

Thankfully there are plenty of entertainment choices that are incredibly entertaining and completely clean.  These songs, books, and movies might not be raved about by the world, but that is actually a promising sign.  We should not want to love what the world loves.  As Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Some entertainment may be neither inherently bad nor overtly beneficial. When facing entertainment choices such as these, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves, “What is worthy of my time?” Time is our most valuable asset. We must use our free time for the best entertainment available.  If an entertainment choice is neither encouraging nor inspiring, it doubtfully will qualify as being worthy of your precious time.

Whenever you are faced with entertainment choices of any kind hold them against Philippians 4:8. Refuse to indulge in entertainment solely because everyone else is doing so. Make your own choice to go down the narrow path with the treasure at the end. Something could be appropriate regarding its content, but if it is not truly beneficial and uplifting it will prove to be more detrimental than positive. Do not settle for entertainment that fails to truly inspire and encourage you.

 

 

Home Makeover

Hey Everyone!

This is a series of a home makeover that I am helping a friend with. Today, I worked on her entertainment center. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

entertainment cabinet before

This is the top of her entertainment cabinet before I started. I had about two hours to work on it, and this was what I was able to do:

entertainment cabinet after

I’m definitely not done with it yet, but there’s some major improvement!

Side note, I found a dead, shriveled up lizard amidst all the junk as I was clearing out. It scared me half to death lol.

How to raise a chivalrous child

Most of us have heard of the chivalrous knight during the Middle Ages. His character was a refreshing change from the barbaric character of most of the people around him.

What most people don’t know, however, was that a boy began training for knighthood when he was seven or eight years old. He would be sent to a knights home and was expected to learn what he needed to know in order to become a page.

The child preparing to become a knight lead a disciplined life. He would rise early, attend to personal hygiene, and attend morning mass. He was instructed to extend a courteous “good morning” to whoever he met.

He was also instructed to work diligently at whatever was set before him for the day. He was to be truthful in all he did and said, be sincere when he made a promise, love God and his neighbor, be respectful of all men no matter what his financial status, be humble, and not elevate himself beyond his place. When he was speaking to another person, he was to be courteous, hold still, and look whoever he was talking to in the face.

Good habits must be developed and practiced early in life. I strongly feel like the standards have been lowered as to how we expect children to behave. If someone as young as seven was expected to do all that I listed above, I believe a child today could do it too.

We need to raise our bar of expectation for kids and teenagers today. Important habits are developed during these years, many of which won’t be undone later in life. I believe that inside each and every one of us is a desire to be challenged. Children are rarely challenged today. We expect the bare minimum, and we get the bare minimum. We can train our younger generation to act respectfully, even when those around us act a little bit like modern barbarians. 🙂

TruthQuest Rome Investigation Supreme

I’ve been doing a history curriculum called TruthQuest. One of the main things TruthQuest has you do is write short analysis of what you are currently studying. Here is an example of some of my work:

Investigation Supreme “What do you say when an empire dies?”

 Rome was one of the longest surviving empires to ever appear in history, but it did eventually fall. When it fell, it fell hard. From the outside, it might appear as though the empire fell all at once. However, it began to fall from day one.

This may seem like a bold statement, but if you don’t start with a strong foundation, you’re bound to fall into trouble eventually. Rome’s big two beliefs, which are absolutely vital to true success for anything, were messed up. First off, the Romans didn’t have the right beliefs about God, and consequently they didn’t have the right beliefs about the true value of humans.

Undeniably, the Romans had a very weak religion. The Roman gods appear under different names in history, but the Roman religion was indeed hijacked from the Greeks. This was a definite problem because this religion already wasn’t working well for the Greeks! The Greek religion basically consisted of worshiping many fake gods that were basically glorified humans. The character of all the gods was very uncertain which of course caused uncertainty in the worshipers. One thing is for sure, the “gods” didn’t love their subjects (unless they were heroes, then that was a different story).

Another flaw in Roman philosophy was the fact that instead of valuing individuals like God does, the Romans basically worshiped the state. All of their loyalties were dedicated to the prosperity of the state. People really didn’t matter. Duty to the state was very important instead.

Another flaw that caused serious weakness in Rome was the decay of the Roman character. The early Romans could be called serious, no nonsense people. They were all about fulfilling their duties and working hard. Unfortunately, this character did not last. When slaves from conquests of foreign countries were bountiful in Rome, slave owners were able to run huge farms and plantations that were able to sell their products much less expensively than small, freeman farmers. This caused business to majorly decrease for small businesses. Since they no longer had purpose and work to keep them busy, the middle class began to strongly depend on government handouts of corn and entertainment to keep them fed and occupied. Obviously, the character of the average Roman went from industrious and hard working to demanding and rather lazy.

I’ll say this for the Romans; during the time of the Republic they formed a pretty decent system of government. Instead of having one sole ruler, they had consuls who shared power, a senate, and tribunes who represented the lower class of people. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when an emperor took full control of the government. There were no real checks and balances. One decade you would end up with an absolute crazy man in charge, and then the next you could have a fairly decent ruler.  Even worse, since the Roman’s gods were just glorified humans, the Romans began to worship their emperors because they too were in a sense “glorified humans”.

 

In conclusion, without a firm, unshakable foundation, a society will fall. The only true foundation is Jesus Christ. Everything else is destined for failure. Even though Rome tried to wipe out the Christianity, Christianity could not and cannot be wiped out because it rests on the one true foundation. We need to take the fall of Rome as a reminder to ensure that we stay on our firm foundations. Something may appear to be strong from the outside. Rome certainly did, but inner decay was rapidly happening which soon became visible from the outside. Now that we’ve observed what caused weakness in Rome, we need to help keep America on the firm foundation that it was built on.

The Roman Empire played a special part in history. After all, God chose to have his son and the church born in Rome. One benefit of Jesus being born during the Roman Empire was the speed that the Good News could travel through the known world because everything was basically connected under one empire! Even though the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire was horrible, it actually strengthened the church because everybody who was a part of the church was absolutely on fire for God.

 

What I learned from studying Ancient Rome that can be applied to our world today:

  • Infanticide was common in Rome. When the church started, however, they stood up against it. We are in a similar situation today, and we must remember to follow the early churches lead and rebel against any cultural aspect that goes against God’s Word.

 

  • Worshiping the government is always a bad idea. The government should not be the center of a society. It is merely a system to provide some rules and organization, so people should never pour all their loyalties and love into it. The less control the government has the better (if people are willing to self govern themselves).

 

 

  • Government handouts are a bad idea! The middle class became dependant on food handouts from the government, which was a pretty sad way to live life.

 

  • Entertainment was a central part of Roman culture. People loved watching plays in the theater, but they loved to watch gladiator fights even more. Entertainment itself is not necessarily wrong, but it needs to be carefully controlled. The Roman people became absolutely obsessed with bloody, gruesome fights and came to demand them. We should never be entertained by others being torn apart.

 

  • Sexual perversion was rampant in Rome. Brothels and homosexuality were common. Whenever families are weak and sex is abused, trouble comes.

 

  • Rome went through some of its worst days when they gave all the power in the empire to one ruler, the emperor. It’s always wise to spread out power as much as possible and to put multiple checks and balances in place.

 

This is why studying history is so vital. We can observe the mistakes that Rome made, and then we can fight against those things in our culture today. It’s frightening to see so many things that weakened Rome prevalent in America today, but we still have the power to do something about it.

 

How to stay consistent

If you are at all like me, you find yourself decluttering in splurges. You’ll do awesome for a week or so, and then you nosedive and don’t do anything for a month. Decluttering splurges are definitely necessary for getting some head way quickly, but if you want lasting results, you’ll have to change your methods. After all, New stuff is consistently coming in, so old stuff has to consistently go out.

Try getting rid of one thing per day. Or perhaps set a goal of decluttering four things per week if your don’t have time to declutter every day.