Tuesday, March 20, 2012

History of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" Poster

The story of a British WWII war propaganda poster that was discovered in a bookstore and subsequently made an Internet meme.

The iconic white letters and crown on a red background with the words "Keep Calm and Carry On" has seen multiple variations both in the United States and modern-day Britain, even making its way onto T-shirts and coffee mugs. It's almost famous for being famous—but have you ever wondered what it was?

Cool, huh?

Until next time,

Science Fiction, Philosophy, and the Soul

It should go without saying that if our consciousness only consisted of the physical brain, time travel would always be impossible. If it were, we would travel back in time and entirely forget that we had done so. Somewhere deep in all of us, we know that we have a soul or spirit, or at least a mind apart from the physical brain. It's not just in our religions—it's in our science fiction. Maybe it's human arrogance. Maybe more than anything we want it to be true: to be transcendent, to see and to watch events happen from a third person perspective—maybe even one day, to see justice done by a God who knows everything, and the whole earth to be put in order.

René Descartes (1596-1650)

Philosophers have wrestled with the idea of the mind for ages. French philosopher René Descartes wrote about the issue of the mind versus the body in his Six Meditations:
"...I rightly conclude that my essence consists only in my being a thinking thing [or a substance whose whole essence or nature is merely thinking]. And although I may, or rather, as I will shortly say, although I certainly do possess a body with which I am very closely conjoined; nevertheless, because, on the one hand, I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in as far as I am only a thinking and unextended thing, and as, on the other hand, I possess a distinct idea of body, in as far as it is only an extended and unthinking thing, it is certain that I, [that is, my mind, by which I am what I am], is entirely and truly distinct from my body, and may exist without it."
René Descartes: Meditation IV from the Six Meditations

Modern Darwinian philosophy—which is rather evolved from Darwin's original philosophy—holds with B.F. Skinner's early 20th century ideas about behaviorism: that everything I am is predetermined by my genes—and since all my body is cells with genes, there must be nothing else left. So, for example, if both my parents cheated on each other and they have the gene for marital infidelity, there's a good chance that I have it too. In this scenario, I would have no moral or deciding self—my mind, or soul—to overrule such genetic determinism. Such thinking in psychology can be very dangerous because it denies very human ideas of free will (choice), uniqueness, and un-measurability that give us all inherent value. Without inherent value, dehumanization is inevitable. If we call ourselves animals...well, you get the point, and I'm sure you know the history of Nazi doctors. But if you don't believe me, modern evolutionary psychologists—the most liberal people at your universities—believe that blacks are inherently stupid. And rhetoric about overpopulation in Africa is just downright scary.

Aren't you glad that God gave us a soul?

Monday, March 19, 2012

What I Learned About College Groups in College

In college, I was involved in a controlling college group. I wouldn't call it a cult. Maybe borderline—a "thing." Not bad, but just enough to be somewhat harmful. (I can't even imagine what people in real cults go through. Twisted stuff. I'm not blaming it for any of that.) It taught the truth, so it didn't have to be. But it was. Now that I'm part of another church and undergoing the healing process, there are some things that I've learned.

1. Everyone in the churches of Christ should know the history of the Crossroads/Boston Movement. Everyone. Controlling campus ministers take advantage of the lack of knowledge of people who have little to no prior experience with church. If your campus ministry only accepts completely new people, sets itself up against "church kids" and is criticized by faithful college students who grew up in the church, there's a red flag that there's probably some manipulation going on. Even if your group isn't near as bad as a Boston Movement group, it's helpful to know what the negatives of that movement were so that if the group starts going that direction, you're aware. I could have avoided a lot of confusion and hurt if I had known this history.

On a related note, I'm glad I developed relationships with people in the church who were older than college age (which is Biblical), because my campus minister isolated the group from the church on purpose, telling us that none of them were as evangelistic or purposeful as us, and even that they weren't real Christians. I found out that this was false.

2. Think for yourself. If you're a college student, you're an adult. Unfortunately, college professors and campus ministers alike think you're still a kid and that you can be "easily molded," and it sucks to be a victim of both at once. The Bible says what it says. Read it for yourself, and if you find something in your group that is unbiblical, tell an elder or elder's wife and ask them to keep the source confidential. People like to make life extremely difficult for college students who think for themselves (every institution wants your soul), but that doesn't mean you should stop. Freedom of thought (free will) is the most basic, God-given provision a person has. If you're being asked to give that up, you're agreeing to being owned by something that is exercising more authority than our exceedingly gentle God.

3. You only get one chance at college. I'd be the first to vehemently tell you that evangelism is important. This is evidenced by the fact that I probably brought a lot more people to Christ than some of the more "favored" members in my college group. That said, if you need to study for an exam and your campus minister thinks you're a bad Christian if you don't play flag football, go study. My campus minister told me that I needed to sacrifice getting straight As if I wanted to be a real Christian. I also allowed him to pressure me into changing my major to something less demanding so that I could be more involved in the group. I now regret listening to both of these pieces of advice. What's worse, I have to live with it for the rest of my life. Here's the truth: God will give you just as many opportunities to evangelize while you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. In fact, it'll be even more effective because you'll be meeting people who actually share your interests.

4. It's okay to be who God created you. My campus minister told me, "You can't be an introvert and be a Christian at the same time," and he tried to make me into an extravert. False! God created me an introvert, and introverts sometimes evangelize even better than extraverts because we're not afraid to get deeply involved with someone. For the record, it's also okay to have talents for music, dancing, or other non-church of Christ authorized activities. It's even okay to be crazy if that's your talent. 1 Corinthians 12 clearly states that each of us is different and has a different gift to offer to the body, and each is indispensable. What's not okay is being all the same, which is what controlling people want. Far too many people get hurt and leave because their campus minister is setting himself up against God himself!

5. Following my college group's evangelism model, I hurt people. I readily admit this, and I apologize with tears to anyone I hurt. I realize that this was my fault. There was a lot of pressure to get people to convert quickly, without the freedom for people to go at their individual pace. Sure, these people could have paused to soul search first too, but being more knowledgeable, I was more responsible. In this group, I was "friends" with so many people I normally wouldn't have been friends with because of this pressure to keep meeting and bringing. These "friends" ended up leaving. And no amount of new people was ever enough for this campus minister—current people were always devalued. I should have seen through that at the beginning. I was brought to Christ by someone who studied in-depth with me for a full year and would have been friends with me had I converted or not. (Amazingly, they didn't even need a study packet.) That seems like a much better way.

I'm temped to wonder: Is this post too harsh? Maybe everyone else felt really at home in the group and my campus minister just didn't like me or something. But the more I think about it, it's both—he didn't like my type. Anytime a group favors one "type" over another, there's a problem. God created us all equal—our value and our ability to serve the kingdom comes from him, not any group. Maybe that's why the whole service-by-assignment thing has always bugged me. You basically have to be an approved member in order to do your job as a Christian, and even then, no one can know what you're good at as well as God, then yourself—especially not some campus minister who has to pay attention to 40 people at once. I mean, come on, you're just going to end up wanting someone else's assignment, and it can only end in drama and nothing ever getting done properly anyway.

So although I probably got treated worse than a lot of people in the group, I think that my experience alone—and some experiences that I'm hearing come out after mine—is enough to warrant some concern. I just can't decipher whether hyper-charged, controlling groups are better than groups that do nothing for the kingdom, or vice-versa. I guess you just can't control everyone (and shouldn't try).

Any contentions may be taken up in the comments section forthrightly.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Project: Pink 1950s Dress

A new sewing project is up on my BurdaStyle!

It's an Advance pattern from 1953—with bound buttonholes. Cool, huh?

I am ecstatic to have this as an Easter dress, but boy am I glad to finally be done with it! Especially the petticoat underneath, which was a huge pain (my teacher told me I did it the hard way, and pooh, because it doesn't even really do much.) 

Theo got a little curious about why we were just standing out there, so he came to say hi. It's hard to believe that in just two more months he'll be full-grown. Big kitty, huh?

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Four Greek Words for Love

Since this subject was brought up at church on Wednesday night and I had my Greek Bible out, I decided to expand upon it here by outlining the four words for "love" in Greek. If you think about it, it makes sense: in English, you can say "I love God," "I love my husband," "I love my friends," and "I love Nutella," and use the same word. Love in modern American culture is already a confused concept. Wouldn't it be nice if we knew what you meant?

1. Agape (ἀγάπη) - This is the most common one that people recognize. It's also the one used most in the New Testament (106 times). This is "love" in the truest sense of the word: looking after another's needs ahead of your own. In modern Greek, this is referred to as "unconditional love," but in the New Testament, this is used to denote God's love, and the love of the believers which flows out from God's love. Some synonyms (from biblestudytools.com) are "brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence and love feasts."

2. Eros (ἔρος) - Romantic love. Although people often refer to this as sexual love, it doesn't have to be sexual. It can refer to either dating or marriage—any time you love someone more than philia (more than a friend). In modern Greek, this is "intimate love." The word "eros" is not used in the New Testament.

3. Philia (φιλία) - Friendship love. Can also refer to affection toward family, the general enjoyment of an activity together, or companionship in a romantic relationship. This is only used once in the New Testament, in James 4:4: "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (NASB). 

It also creates half of the word philadelphia (φιλαδελία - brotherly love), which is used in 2 Peter 1:7 (philia for "love" and adelphos for "brother"): "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love" (NASB). Philadelphia was also the name of a Roman-occupied city in Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation 1 and 3—and, of course, one in our own state of Pennsylvania.

4. Storge (στοργή) - Also not used in the New Testament, this word can refer to either natural affection between parents and children, a duty-driven love for family, tolerance, familiarity, or love for one's enemies—although interestingly, Jesus commands in Matthew 5:44 to "ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺσ" (agape love your enemies).

Often people will erroneously claim that there are five or seven words for love, but there are really only four. Some people will count mania (μανία), which means madness or frenzy, but since I've never heard of it being used to describe something between two people, my guess is that this is a cultural error (unless someone can correct me). Mania is only used once in the Bible, in Acts 26:24: "While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad" (NASB).

1. Bible Study Tools - New Testament Greek Lexicon
2. Wikipedia - Greek Words for Love
3. SBL Greek New Testament
4. The New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Am The Three Percent

This is not a political post. This is about the teeny, tiny percentage of people who wait until marriage to have sex. A 2002 survey reported on by the Washington Post estimates that about 97% of people engage in premarital sex, but percentages of those who wait vary between 5% to as low as 1%. The point is, this is a very small minority. The point is, if someone is talking to me about their relationship problems and purity isn't mentioned, I have to go ahead and assume that most people are in the overwhelming majority just based on logic, and that weighs heavily on my heart.

Being in such a radically small minority can be a little intimidating. Even at church, I've been called a "prude" (which I take as a compliment), have been made fun of for dressing in high collars, and—the worst—people always assume I'm judging them when I'm not. But the truth is, when you're in such a small minority, people are going to think you're a little kooky or extreme (hint: you kind of have to be. If you want to be different, you're going to be, well, different.) But if someone puts an entire lifetime of effort into what they believe is important and succeeds, they're not going to stay quiet about it. In fact, this is the case I am going to make: If you are one of the three percent, the church needs you.

Imagine for a second that you're training for a marathon. If you're already a marathon runner, think of the hardest marathon or triathlon or whatever that you can think of. If you want some advice for how to win, who would you ask? Probably someone who has done it, right? Sure, there are plenty more people who would be able to tell you what not to do because they tried and didn't finish, and that advice is very helpful. But if you really want advice for how to win, you'll seek out one of the few people who actually succeeded. Waiting until marriage is kind of like that. It's hard, it requires constant mental vigilance, and people are going to think you're an oddball. Of course, you can't take it lightly and expect to succeed, and if you've sat on the couch and eaten a lot of junk food in the past, training is going to be a lot more difficult for you. But the excitement of seeing the finish line and crossing it feels great! 

If you're one of the three percent, young couples in the church need to know who you are. We wouldn't have been able to do it without couples mentoring us from both sides of the fence. All of them gave us the tools we needed, taught us how to avoid land mines, and made sure we were still running. But the most empowering advice givers were the ones who inspired us by telling us how the purity they kept while they were dating became a constant source of joy for them in their marriage. One needs only to look around at the amount of adultery, abuse and divorce to realize that this is important. I won't get into any deep analysis here, but I hope the small percentage of people who wait until marriage starts rising instead of declining.  I want people to know that it's possible—doable—even if you've fallen before. Forget dancing—I hope you keep running.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Turquoise Polka-Dot Skirt

Hi everyone. I've added a new sewing project to my BurdaStyle. You should check it out!

Turquoise Polka-Dot Skirt

This is just a basic, knee-length half circle skirt that sits 1" below the natural waistline. It's nothing special, but I'm still a beginner. I have one or two other completed projects to get up there, too, so you'll be able to watch my progress.

Stay tuned! Next up is a 1950s dress and a petticoat.