Monday, June 27, 2011

Something's Queer About The Homosexual Movement, Part II

If you haven't done so, please read Part I before continuing. Thank you.

Homosexuality went from practical obscurity in as late as the mid-twentieth century to a publicly endorsed media circus in this day and age. The main reason for this abrupt spike in the approval of homosexual behavior stems from said media. Executives in print, radio, television, and movie industries understand that they have a vast influence over a captive audience and what they see, hear, and watch. These executives know it, and the homosexual community knows it, too. Oftentimes, the media is more influential than the school, church, and even one's family. As such, it doesn't take much to add two and two together and realize that normalizing illicit behaviors en masse will eventually tear down what once were unshakable values. The staining of the American fabric that homosexuality brought came in no small part to the gradual portrayal of homosexuals as freedom fighters and their heterosexual counterparts as bigots.

Perhaps no greater medium is indicative of this than television. The average American spends nearly three hours per day watching television and, unless you're into educational programming or CBN, are bound to stumble upon homosexual characters/themes at some point. Today, MTV leads the way in devoting prime time coverage of the homosexual lifestyle per year at 207.5 hours, which is equivalent to 42% of their programming. MTV has long been notorious for airing programs that condone drunkenness and fornication, so this is nothing that's too surprising on their part. But what's more surprising are the underlying influences that practically shove these representations down their audience's throats. While there may be no conclusive evidence that any one individual or sponsor directly encourages the spread of homosexuality, I find it more than coincidental that certain stations who back homosexual ideologies are themselves backed by homosexual organizations.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ode to Michael Jackson

Dear Michael Jackson,

As a Thriller, you may have been Off The Wall, but you were never Bad or Dangerous. You told us to look at the Man In The Mirror if we want to Heal The World. You told us it's important to Beat It, Jam, Scream, Cry, Smile, and Keep The Faith. And whether you're Black Or White, The Way You Make Me Feel has turned you into Another Part Of Me. You Rock My World. And you were Gone Too Soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ten Nights In Omaha: A Fan's Take On An Improbable Run To A National Title

On the eve of yet another forthcoming College World Series, I have a sudden impulse to give my own firsthand account about the defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks and the week and a half long journey that culminated in the school's first major athletic title. But first, some context.

As stated on here and my Twitter account, I am a South Carolinian, born and bred. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stand up when my home state is mentioned in a positive light. By extension, my loyalty to the University of South Carolina is as much a part of me as are my green eyes and wavy, sandy brown hair. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I've had memories. I've also donned the garnet and black associated with the school, too. And with the latter, those colors have long held an ignominious distinction with their athletic program.

Leading up to the 2010 College World Series, the South Carolina Gamecocks (as a whole) were always the bridesmaid, but never the bride.

In football, they've only won one conference title: the ACC in 1969. By the way, their football program dates back to 1892. It took them until 1995 to win their first bowl game, and they once lost 23 consecutive games between the 1998 and 1999 seasons. True, they did produce a Heisman trophy winner in running back George Rogers in 1980. And yeah, things are looking better heading into this fall, but Gamecock football has historically trended downward as the year neared its end.

In men's basketball, their shining moments spanned one decade from the late '60s to the mid '70s. In that time, Frank McGuire coached the Gamecocks to a 205-65 regular season record and three consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 1971 to 1973. Since then, they've fallen off the map, but they regained relevancy in recent memory, including back-to-back NIT titles in 2004 and 2005. Then again, who cares about the NIT? Just the bridesmaid.

In baseball, however, they've had their biggest chances to lay claim to a national title but failed to capitalize. The Gamecocks first shot came in 1975, their first appearance in the College World Series, where they lost in the championship game to the Texas Longhorns. South Carolina was coached by native son and former New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson, who turned the program around practically overnight from his first year coaching in 1970. After the 1976 season, Richardson left and June Raines took the reins to steer the Gamecocks into national prominence. They went back to the College World Series in 1977, where again they lost in the championship game, this time to the Arizona State Sun Devils. They made it back to Omaha, Nebraska – the site of the College World Series – thrice in the 1980s and nearly every year in that decade for the NCAA Tournament preceding the College World Series. In 1997, Ray Tanner became the new head coach, and the baseball program really took off from there. With the exception of two, the Gamecocks reached the NCAA Tournament every year Tanner has led the team. In their first trip back to the College World Series with Tanner in 2002, the Gamecocks once again played in the championship game, where again they lost to Texas. The following year, the final round became a best-of-three series that stands today. South Carolina was eliminated after three games in 2003 and fell one victory short of having a championship rematch with the Longhorns in 2004, and that was the last time they made it to the College World Series until last year.

Somehow, someway, in spite of all the bad luck Gamecock baseball suffered when the lights shone brightest, 2010 just felt different.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How To Tell If Someone Is Saved

Do you know what's gonna happen to you when you die? For three-quarters of Americans, Heaven is their destination because that many people identified themselves as Christians in a 2008 report by the American Religious Identification Survey. Despite a ten percent drop from nearly two decades ago at the time of the report (1990), 76% is still a healthy percentage of people who have admitted, believed, and confessed that the Christian God is the one true God and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

Then again, there's a difference between a professing Christian and a practicing Christian.

It's easy to call yourself one when you go to church regularly, donate a percentage of your income to the church or charity, and say all the right things to the right people in the right settings. But Christianity is different. It's not what you do, it's how you do it that speaks volumes about your character. Anybody can put up a front, but only a true, biblical Christian will tear down that façade and do the aforementioned activities at will without a hitch.

So, how can you spot fact from fiction? Well, shy of having the Man upstairs Himself explicitly tell you, the answer is not that black and white. The next best thing to do is to evaluate the person you think lives not by the Christian faith based on my top-five criteria below. Ask yourself...

1) Do They Have A Change Of Heart?
The Christian way of life is like metamorphosis. People start out – figuratively speaking – as fat, ugly catepillars. In time, they build a cocoon, and here is where Jesus makes His entrance into their hearts... if they let Him. But should they do so, they'll emerge a beautiful butterfly, soaring to new heights on the wings of faith.

What I hope you get from this cheesy analogy is that being a Christian changes you from the inside out. WWJD? doesn't become a cliché acronym, it becomes a practical way of living. No longer will life be focused on carnal pleasures nor monetary desires nor retribution. No, there are greater purposes worth pursuing.

All of a sudden, people who're truly saved will want to read their Bible, want to go to church, want to get involved in mission trips, and want to spread the Gospel to all the corners of the world. 'Coz in the end, that's the true calling in life for those who desire the Lord. One may have their limitations, but that should never stop them from wanting to do good.

2) Do They Love As They Live?
One of the central themes in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, is in God's love for humankind. People love because God loved us first. And it's more than just sexual love (eros), one of the four types of love. There's familial love (storge), friendly love (philia), and unconditional love (agape). In this day and age, most people who are non-Christians or Christians in name only will pick one type of love, usually eros, and use that to measure their successes (or failures) in life. True Christians will not champion one over the other, but rather, they will seek all four to play an active role in their lives.

This is not to say that people can't have their dislikes and disagreements between themselves and others. It just means that, in spite of each other's differences, there's a sense of respect that translates into one of four types of love because every human being is an equal, so to habitually rebuke anyone for no just cause shows an absence of true love. They simply have no empathy, no heart.

Perhaps the easiest way to test this out is to surround the individual in question with a domestic animal. As I mentioned earlier, people can act real well in front of each other. But put someone up against a pet, and their true colors will show. Sure, some people may have a dislike for certain animals due to allergies or repressed feelings, but it's impossible for one to genuinely loathe any pet without showing the baseness of their soul. If one can't treat a defenseless animal with dignity and respect, how can they truly love a fellow human being on any level? In short, they can't because it's not there and it will never be there without the love of God in their heart.

3) Do They Have Nothing To Hide?
Okay, technically, this is difficult to define, since everyone has their own skeletons in the closet. What I mean to say is that true Christians live with no overarching shame hanging over their heads.

This means they have no good reason to sacrifice time spent with friends, family, and other acquaintances. There would be no good reason to hesitate when asked about a particular topic out of curiosity. There would be no good reason to declare certain areas, both tangible and intangible, off-limits without a justifiable excuse. And for that matter, there would be no good reason to live life like they're the only ones on the planet that matter.

The controversy is in deciding what is one's personal business and what isn't. The way I see it, anything that involves personal contact is open access into one's life. For instance, if one has a colleague they've known for a long time and he or she becomes increasingly defensive when asked simple questions, then something must've happened recently to stroke their ego and withdraw from society, as if denial will be a sufficient cover up. It isn't and, like it's been said before, the cover up is always worse than the "crime" itself.

This can span many areas, from extramarital (or premarital) affairs, to actual white-collar crime, to mismanaged finances, among others. Since these are incidents that occur between the person in question and at least one other individual, ignoring these issues do nothing to advance one's faith. If anything, it reveals vanity in motion because it means one doesn't trust God enough to get them out of their own mess. God never promised an easy life, but He did promise to forgive us if we own up to our faults for perpetuating our own selfish agendas.

4) Do They Care About Humanity?
This is a vital condition to living the way as Christ did. Caring for humanity means more than the people who live in your neighborhood, or your town, or your state, or even your own country. It means treating and looking upon people of different nationalities, skin tones, and even creeds with dignity and respect. Racism, jingoism, bigotry, and other forms of prejudice are not becoming of a Christian.

Here in the United States, anyway, I see a lot of people who speak so highly of themselves just because they've got a big house, or a big car, or a big bank account. These are also the same people who, most likely, don't care about the rest of the world's problems because, in their mind, America is the world, and everyone else are sub-human. Even without the big house, big car, and big bank account, those who are struggling to survive in the U.S. are many times richer than a few billion people who happen to be elsewhere in the world (outside of America). So for any American to say they have it rough shows they don't care about people who spend their lives in poverty in far less ideal circumstances.

In this day and age of social media and technological gadgets that change with the seasons, everyone in the free world has the capability to promote themselves, but too often, the focus is on the self and not the realization that most others would never imagine gadgets like smart phones, tablets, and touch-screen MP3 players exist. It's not that I don't think people in advanced countries are ignorant to the plight of others the world over. Rather, people become too complacent when everything's handed to them, may it be paid for or free. When that happens, they lose track of world issues, which is just as bad as contributing to them in the first place. People who step up in the name of Christ will not sit back and merely reflect upon the situation. They'll take a stand and recognize their blessings. If that means living with minimal material possessions, so be it. 'Coz in the end, we're merely stewards of this Earth for a short time.

5) Do They Take Accountability?
Of all, this may be the most quintessential factor in evaluating one's stance as a Christian. There will come a time in everyone's life where a lie will (inevitably) do more damage than healing. It's not a matter of if, but when, the situation arises. At that point, one of two things can happen: fess up and assume full responsibility for all that has happened, or continue to ignore the situation and repress its existence like a bad dream.

Look, I know it's very easy to hide behind a cloak of denial, repeating that whatever problem will come to pass. And the sad part of it all is that virtually everyone accused of wrongdoing will declare their innocence. That's fine. But it doesn't have to be a lie in order to dodge impending punishment. It can be the little things, like not doing one's share of the chores when housing with roommates. Any situation where there's an out can lead to being "safe," no matter how big the pickle to ensue.

There's an old saying that goes, "You can't get out of debt by borrowing money." In the same way, you can't expect to defer a lie by telling more lies. It just won't work. I also know that it is human nature to stick around for the good times and run away from the bad. But again, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. For those who constantly look for ways to get cheap one-ups in life or see to it that their mistakes are taken by someone (or something) else, theirs is a lifestyle that is antithetical to the Christian way of life. A real, God-fearing individual will own up to their shortcomings, no matter how big or small, because we are imperfect by nature. To accept this reality is to receive God's grace. In so doing, those who are genuinely saved will carry out their lives with a greater purpose than ever before.

Ultimately, this list is not meant to condemn any one person or group of people to Hell. No one on this Earth has that power. This list is also not meant to suggest that every true Christian will act the same way. Who knows? There may be practicing Christians out there who are naturally introverted, pessimistic, skeptical, or chauvanistic, but they carry out their lives on their own accord with few people in the know. That's certainly a possibility.

I must also point out that I believe in eternal security, which means that once one is saved, then one is forever saved because for anyone to lose their salvation would be contradictory to God's character. Ergo, one can claim salvation and continue to live life as if nothing happened, and they'd still be assured a spot in Heaven.

But to that, I say this. Unlike most world religions, Christianity is a dynamic relationship between one and God. If you're truly a Christian, you can't be the same person now as you were before you received Christ nor even the person you're expected to become in time should you keep the faith. Granted, born-again Christians will have their doubts and insecurities about life as it progresses, both this one and the next, and that's fine. But in the end, actions speak louder than words. Not only will that be the standard by which the rest of the world will judge you now, it will be the standard God will use on your Judgment Day.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When Self-Pity Can Be Therapeutic

Today's just one of those days.

That's the sentiment many people feel when they're being persecuted to the fullest extent of Murphy's law. In those cases, the best advice can often be found on one's pillow in more ways than one. Not only can a good night's sleep help ease one's mind profoundly, but it's typically better than whatever lip service provided by those who think a "woe is me" attitude is a greater sin than a blasphemous tongue.

But is it really that bad? And are there more constructive measures that can be taken?

In short, no and yes. Now let's elaborate.

Friday, June 3, 2011

No Room for Error, Part I

Life is fragile. There's no guarantee you'll live to see tomorrow or even the rest of today, for that matter. If what you think, say, and do are reflections of your character, may they be upward focused.

For most people, this consists of going to school or work to better themselves and their community. Every day, week, month, and year is another step toward achieving their ultimate goals. Graduating from college, increasing their chances of getting a well-paying job, keeping (and moving up in) said job, retiring early with enough money to live comfortably, whatever.

Of course, few consistently leave nothing to chance when taking this path. Many of life's hassles are the result of give and take, and most everyone knows what forms they encompass. Mortgages, loans, credit cards, various forms of insurance. Just about anything that's intangible which can buy you tangible goods or protection, if only for the time being. That is not to say they're intrinsically evil, but far too many people bank their future on nothing more than empty promises.

I mentioned in an earlier post that more than three-quarters of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. When you think of it, that's a scary number in today's turbulent economy. As long as the cost of living goes up while wages remain stagnant (or get cut altogether), people will resort to using money that's not even there. Sure, they can drop a service here and save a little extra there, but life is not about downsizing. It's about growth and prosperity that blossoms in time. I can certainly sympathize with individuals, couples, and families who do all they can to keep their head above water without drowning in debt. Yet, part of me wonders if all their efforts are in vain.

Allow me to explain myself.