Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Can you accept me?

I am not a perfect person, and while my persona may put off some people because they think I'm arrogant or someone who thinks he has it all together, but I'm nothing like that... If anything, these past few weeks have been some of the most humbling weeks of my life and I have no one to blame but myself. Sure, I can point out contributing factors to the faults I have, place blame on this influence and that influence. I could give you a laundry-list of reasons why it isn't my fault that I am the way I am, but the fact is that I am simply not perfect and I make mistakes.

Shortly after graduation I smoked a celebratory cigar, which in my opinion is not wrong, but after a while it fed my curiosity about smoking cigarettes. I took one and found myself getting into it, against my better judgment and years of long-standing hatred for the stuff. I bought my own pack and then another after I had finished it, but half-way through my second pack I looked at my cigarette and said, "This is disgusting... Why am I doing this?" I threw away the rest of the pack and didn't touch another for about six months.

I thought this was the end of it. I never stopped thinking about cigarettes, and occasionally I was tempted to buy a pack so that I could stop thinking about them, but I wanted to be done with them. One night though, a friend of mine wanted to celebrate his legal passage into adulthood with a couple of mutual friends. We went to a cigar shop and bought cigars, and I'm ashamed to say it, but I spent money that I saved for a harmless video game I had been looking forward to for nearly a year. It wasn't the cigar that did it, because I never inhale the smoke from a cigar, but one of the mutual friends is a smoker and when I was offered a cigarette I didn't refuse. After that night, I found myself needing a cigarette. I couldn't understand it, but I literally got anxious and sickly. That's how the downward spiral became my fall towards a premature death.

I compromised my beliefs, my strict code of ethics, because I wanted to try something new and do something that some of the most prestige class does: smoke cigars. From there, it was only a half-step down to try a cigarette, and another half-step to keep smoking them even after I had had my first one. Pretty soon I had taken so many half-steps down the ladder of ethics that I found myself where I am now. I had to tell my parents because I couldn't avoid it forever, the smell was on my jacket and I'm not the type that likes to hide things from my parents. My siblings found out by the smell, so eventually I flat out told them the truth because I wasn't going to lie to them.

I can make it sound like I'm better than other smokers, as if there was such a thing. I don't litter my butts all over the place and instead put them out in the snow and then shove them in my pocket until I can find a trash can. I also don't share my cigarettes with anyone who doesn't already smoke, because I'm not going to contribute to someone else fantasy about looking cool for smoking. The reality is that there is nothing I can do to be better than any other smoker, accept to continue to try to quit. I want to quit and stay quit; not throw away the cigarettes and then come groveling back to them.

Most people think that you can't be a Christian and be a smoker, but the truth is that's like saying you can't be a Christian and make mistakes. Smoking is addicting; plain and simple. I think that in school that little fact is downplayed by the overwhelming list of horrible things that are in cigarettes and the destruction it does to your body. My point in saying all that is that making the choice to smoke even just once can have a long lasting consequences which may be harder than you think to recover from.

If you can accept me, and still hate the fact that I smoke; that's the kind of person I need. I'm not looking for people to accept my smoking. I want you to loathe the smoking, but I need you to accept me. If all you see when you see me is the smoking, then don't bother. I can't be around you and you obviously wouldn't want to be around me. It's okay though, my own mother basically told me I'm stupid and my sisters told me they hate me now because of it; I can understand if you'd like to join the growing throng of people who would rather disown me because of a mistake I made.

Until next time,
De Facto

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is Christian Music? What is a Christian band?

About five months ago, back when I had a Facebook, I wrote a blog entry there that basically announced I was getting rid of my secular music and owning only Christian music. For a while everything was fine and I didn't run into any problems. After time had passed and things had settled down, after telling people that I don't miss Facebook and don't regret leaving; I began to run into a few points of confusion. Here's the situation:

The question, "What is Christian music?" may sound a bit ridiculous to you if you're the kind of person who sees it as a very black and white issue. There's Steven Curtis Chapman and then there's Marilyn Manson, right? Well, unfortunately it really isn't that simple. You've got Christians in a band playing music, is their music Christian Music? Or what about a secular artist who plays real Christmas music, is it Christian Music? The answer becomes a little more complicated now, doesn't it? The truth is that Christian music and calling a band that plays it a "Christian band" is really to put music into a box that limits the audience to whom a band can reach.

Take Switchfoot for example. They do not market themselves as a Christian band. Each of the band members individually have a relationship with Christ, but the band makes no claim to be Christian and their music doesn't blast, "Jesus this, Jesus that..." On the other extreme we have Flyleaf. They are also all Christians, and they don't market themselves as a "Christian band." Their lyrics however, say something to the effect of,

"Beautiful bride,
Body of Christ,
One flesh abiding
Strong and unifying
Fighting ends in forgiveness
Unite and fight all division
Beautiful bride..."

Are they anymore Christian than Switchfoot? Music by Switchfoot has been used numerous times by Christians to make human videos that demonstrate the sacrifice Christ made for us, while Flyleaf plays shows alongside bands like Korn, Theory of a Deadman, and Disturbed. So then which band is Christian? Are either of them Christian bands? The term "Christian band" is just way too vague without a satisfying definition.

I'll give you one final test to bring my point home. I'm going to give you the lyrics without telling you what band it is, and you decide for yourself if it is Christian.

"We're more than carbon and chemicals
We are the image of the invisible
Free will is ours and we can't let go
We are the image of the invisible
We can't allow this, the quiet cull
We are the image of the invisible
So we sing out this, our canticle
We are the image of the invisible

We were all lost, now we are found
No one can stop us or slow us down
We are all named and we are known
We know that we'll never walk alone..."

Let me wrap it up by asking you one more question, if there is a plumber who believes in Jesus Christ as his lord and savior, is he a Christian plumber?

Until next time,
De Facto

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year... But the vermin still squirm free... And the starving continue to starve, hooray!

In case anyone wasn't aware that there are starving children all over the world while America throws away more than 30% of its perfectly good food. There are cruel dictators oppressing the once free people, and others who oppress the freedom to think for oneself in the most devious ways. In places like Russia and China, abortion is like going in to get your teeth done. Women on average have between 6-8 abortions in their lifetime, after which they are usually rendered infertile because the procedures have left them without the internal parts to sustain a life in the womb. There are children who should be holding teddy bears, but instead hold AK-47s and rocket launchers while sipping poisoned water.

As I'm writing this, in my small portion of the world, we're a half an hour into 2010. Although many of us dream of new beginning and things to achieve in the next 364 1/2 days, there isn't much beyond our limited scope of "Me" that we're willing to change, is there? How many of you put down, "End world hunger", "Overthrow a dictatorship" or, "Free the 250 million slaves in the world" on your list of new years resolutions? I didn't think so. The truth is that we may start a new diet that last for a week or two, but does that diet involve donating food to a food shelf or organizing that sends food to starving children? No, I didn't hope for as much. Oh yeah, there are a lot of evil people in this world to blame for problems and things that are happening all over the globe, but you don't need to look to some remote country in Africa to find the dwelling of the wretched contributor to the filth and destruction that goes on. We only have to find a mirror. That's right, we are all take a part in the blame game because we each know of something that's wrong with this world and yet it still goes on.

Oh, and I'm not just talking to Christians, although I have something special to say to them. This is for humanists, Buddhists, Hindus, Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, and every other religious or otherwise existing person. We, as capable human beings are not able to only provide for ourselves, or even just our family should we decide to have one; we are also capable to help our fellow man. We may not be able to rescue a slave, but maybe you're able to put in a couple extra hours to send money to an organization that works to rescue slaves. You may not be able to fly an orphan all the way from Darfur, but maybe you can skip going to the movies and and instead send that money to an organization that has set up refugee camps for these orphaned children. Maybe you just don't have the money to send to any organization, but perhaps you can volunteer your time to package food for a distribution company or at the food shelf. Maybe it's something as simple as knitting scarves for the homeless in colder climate areas.

Christians, of all people, should be going above and beyond this in any way they possibly can. The way I see it, there's a lot of us that have been more concerned with the political delicacies of Washington's filth instead of actually trying to be apart of the solution. It seems like too often we've got our heads so far up our asses that we can't see all the work that has yet to be done. Enough arguing who's is right and wrong, it was never meant to be about rules and regulations, but about Love. We can't be about the Father's business if we're focused on pounding the gavel on somebody's head. Before you try to defend yourself by pointing a finger at me and asking what I'm doing; I readily admit that I too am not doing all I can to help the causes of the weak and oppressed, but that doesn't justify your apathy and lack-luster performance as light in the darkness. If you're waiting for me or someone else to lead the charge into battle against the evil in this world, then you're a fool. Wake up! Tomorrow is too late, there's people dying today, and you're content to sit and eat your Cheerios and drink your Tropicana OJ. Wake up! There's too much to do to just sit on your behind all day and dream about Eternity.

Wake up, because you never know if there will be a next time,
De Facto