Wednesday, April 23, 2014

To Be Clear: Owl City Music Isn't "Christian Music" in the Usual Sense

This isn't a criticism of his music. But it's a pushback against the attempts by well-intended fans to promote exposure of Adam Young's faith and influence others through the knowledge that there's a deeper meaning to certain songs' lyrics.

The pushback is for two good reasons. It's to discourage the attempt to pigeon-hole everything as being of theological significance, and it's because once you want to call something "Christian Music," there's a legitimate reason to hold it to a higher standard of ... clarity.

Several songs in Adam's repertoire, on average one or two per album, present a fairly noticeable Christian theme, in part or full. But this is far from a complete Gospel, which I think it's fair to expect a song touted as a Christian Song ought to include. The closest his songs come to this is by mentioning the exclusivity of faith in Christ, which is good, but even a song about Allah (if Islam didn't forbid music) would contain emphases on exclusivity, so that isn't something that, on its own, makes a song uniquely Christian.

Adam has covered two very good hymns, In Christ Alone and How Deep the Father's Love for Us, and these are splendid for the fact that they project a crystal-clear Gospel. These are Christian songs, yes, but they are not original to Owl City. Adam has yet to produce a praise-and-worship song, and so it wouldn't be appropriate to call his music "Christian" as if that were their primary defining characteristic.

This is a very good thing, in fact. And why should I say that?

Because so much of CCM ("Christian Contemporary Music") is full of songs that sound pleasant to the ears, but don't always make a lot of Biblical sense -- worse, much goes against the Gospel and appeals to people's emotions, as I've written about before. Once your music is labeled "Christian," first and foremost, people will expect it to be representative of Christianity. It puts limits on how you can express yourself, because if what you share are just your personal feelings at a given time, or even just disjointed thoughts, you need to make that clear. If you don't, you'll sow confusion among listeners.

Owl City music is legendary for its whimsical and confusing lyrics. They leave themselves open to a wide variety of interpretations, or none at all. This is perfectly fine because Adam isn't trying to send a specific message. He is making music to make people feel good. This is fine and great. And I think that part of the reason he has avoided writing explicitly Christian music is because he has more freedom to be mysterious and melancholy, since there isn't the presence of a limiting expectation.

This gives him the freedom to make music and still include Christian elements, either in symbolism or inspiration for the lyrics, without having to go to the lengths necessary to make sure he doesn't confuse people who would, because of the descriptor "Christian music," come to his music expecting to be told things that they can then characterize as Christian.

I think this is for the best.

~ Rak Chazak

Dogmatically Held Preferences v. Preferentially Held Dogmas

I'm very unashamed of expressing what I'm confident is the truth. But, there are categories of truth--not regarding the epistemic value of a concept (in other words, there is not a gradient from falsehood to truth; they are binary poles that contrast with each other and don't overlap), but regarding the way in which the knowledge of the truth is applied.

Explaining Liberty

There's a concept of Christian liberty, which is demonstrated in Romans chapter 14. It's in the context of observing dietary restrictions, but has a wider application. The verse in Romans 14:14 does the best to give a succinct explanation of this concept:
14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
In other words, suppose that something is not a sin to do. If you realize this, and do that thing (suppose as an example the drinking of alcohol), then you are not sinning. But suppose that someone does think that imbibing alcohol is a sin; then if they were to do that act, even if drinking it were not a sin, the act of going against one's conscience and doing what one believes to be a sin against God makes it a sin. It's a matter of the heart, as Matthew 5:21-30 explains. Sin begins in the heart, and that's why it's possible that for two people doing the same thing, one is committing sin and one's conscience is clear. 

There are certain things that are unequivocal in Christian doctrine, and these doctrines are called essential doctrines. Then there are foundational doctrines, ones that have massive importance to the faith but which it is in theory possible for someone to be mistaken about and still be saved. Then there are areas of practical daily lived-out faith that fall under Christian liberty, where it's fine for one person to forbid something and fine for someone else to allow it. Paul explains it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:23
23 All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful; all things are permitted, but not all things edify.
This is the basis for allowing Christians to variously persuade themselves to take specific positions on subjects not explicitly condemned or required in Scripture. The idea is that by the proper application of Biblical exegesis, believers will reach the right conclusions. Allowing them liberty in what conclusion to draw ensures the greater positive benefit that they reach their personal conclusion for the right reasons, i.e. that their thought process is reasonable. It would be far worse if, as in Islamic tradition, every minor aspect of life is rigidly controlled, but those adhering to it benefit little because they generally don't understand what the overarching spiritual purpose of those restrictions are.

Liberty to Adhere to a thing Preferentially or Dogmatically

A dogma is an authoritative doctrine that sets forth truth and morality in absolute terms. 
A preference is a choice we make as to what we'd rather do based on personal feelings or opinions.

A preferential dogma is a religious rule that is held, not because it is true and ought to be followed, but because the person judges that it is relevant to his or her interests, essentially that it is useful for them. Dogma then becomes no longer absolute but is harnessed and subjugated by the absolutism of the person's vain preferences. Vast bulks of religion around the world is of this nature. Men who make God a mere tool to serve their ambition have a preferential approach to dogma. They hold to what they feel like because it suits them.

A dogmatic preference is a rule of conduct that is recognized as not-binding on others, but which the person who adopts it is convinced that it follows soundly from consistent application of spiritual truths that are unalterable and may not be dealt with preferentially. Therefore, in his opinion, it is not really a preference, only inasmuch as it is simply the best or better alternative--and if the premise is that we should do what is best, then it is no question but that this thing must be done. But it is recognized as a preference in the sense that others may not be convinced of its necessary association with fundamental doctrines, and that the adherent won't attempt to force his preference on others as an across-the-board rule for all to follow.

Preferential dogmas result in people being forced to follow the opinions of others.
Dogmatic preferences result in people being free to do what they think best and to learn from the experience.

Examples of dogmas held by preference (preferentially held dogmas):
  • KJV only true translation
  • Anyone who thinks you’re sinning by celebrating holidays or wearing pants of a certain length, etc.
  • Making a preference into an article of faith in a church, such as forbidding alcohol
  • Frowning upon "interracial" dating or marriage
  • The idea that a 10% tithe on income is required to be paid by the faithful to their church
In fact, I'd go farther and say that while you may have personal preferences for a given Bible translation, dress code or fashion, alcohol, beauty, etc, when you go and tell others that they are wrong for not being as strict as you, that may very well be a sin itself! It's not the preference that's wrong, it's when you start to forget that it is just that -- a preference, not the only hold on the truth, nor something that everyone needs to follow lest they be in error -- that you cross the line into religious (do this do this do this don't do this) fanaticism.

Examples of preferences held dogmatically (dogmatically held preferences):
  • Making a personal choice to not participate in a celebration because of its association with pagan ideals
  • Man asks woman on date, drives, and pays for dinner.
  • Individual churches' decisions on how frequently (every week, monthly, biannually) to hold Communion
  • Refusal to patronize stores that serve halal meat products
  • Lifelong celibacy v. marriage. 
  • Whether you are in favor of jewelry piercings
These lists could be enormous in length if I sat long enough and thought about examples I've come across in daily life. But suffice it to say, in general, dogmatically promoting a preference is not wrong, and it's even admirable (so long as your preference isn't totally made up but actually a reasonable induction from Scripture!!), but choosing to promote dogmas merely because you prefer them to others is a dangerous path where you place yourself as the highest authority on Scripture and morality. Since that is not your rightful place, you are bound to become a tyrant, sooner or later, and find yourself deposed from your throne.

Exercise liberty but do it with restraint. And respect the liberty of others.

~ Rak Chazak

Don't Say "I Don't Have A Problem With Gay People"

The people who say this are invariably those opposed to homosexual marriage, or homosexuality per se. Yet, since behavior and identity are closely intertwined among people in this part of society, it seems to them as if you really do have a problem with them, and are being a lying hypocrite.

                So, don’t say “I have no problem with gay people” because it makes you look like a hypocrite to them. They think that if you have no problem with them, you won’t have a problem with their homosexuality, because they personally identify with it, and don’t separate it like you do. So it’s unhelpful to allow them to conveniently write you off as a doublespeaking bigot. 

Let's put it the other way. There are some who will say that they have no problem with Christians, or that they value the First Amendment, but then turn and say that they don't think Christian faith and doctrine should influence government policy, and that "you can believe whatever you like, as long as you keep it to yourself." This is essentially the same experience that homosexuals have had with others telling them to "stay in the closet" and hide a part of who they are out of shame.

Why would we treat others the way we don't want to be treated? This is the opposite of the Golden Rule, which is that we should treat others the way we DO want to be treated, even if we are not treated that way. The fairness toward others is a witnessing tool. When people realize you're treating them kindly and that you're not obligated to (or even that they're not deserving of it), they are more apt to listen to you.

But saying that you don't have a problem with gay people is not a kindness. It is confusion. True kindness would be to say in unequivocal terms, "I believe homosexuality is a sin, but I do not hate you for who you are. Instead, I love you in spite of who you are, because that was what Jesus Christ did for me." Then go on to say that because you believe it's wrong, it would be unloving to encourage someone to do or be proud of what is wrong and harmful for them. True love shows itself in correction. When you demonstrate that you love them to the point of being hated and harassed for pleadingly showing them the way to be saved, you give the Holy Spirit an avenue to open their hearts to the Gospel. They'll see that you're not motivated by love of self but that you sincerely care. And some will still reject you. But at least they will not do so because you were an offense, but because the Gospel is what offended them.

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Owl City Allegory: Interpretation of Beautiful Times

My Take: A reflection on struggling with sin and the loss of assurance that comes right in the midst of, or after, stumbling.

First, here is how Adam introduced his new single on

Hi friends,
I am flying home to Minnesota and wanted to write to you. This summer is the five year anniversary of Ocean Eyes and I can't believe how fast time flies. Back home I sometimes drive past the UPS place, the Coke warehouse or the old construction sites I worked at prior to OC and I'm reminded how good I've got it. Six years ago I was bored and uninspired and now every time I drive by the old prisons I never thought I'd escape from, I feel that much more fortunate to get to do what I love. For that, I thank you for your support, and more than anything, I praise God with all I have.
Over the last half year I've been plotting my next moves and deciding how and when I want to imagine the next chapter of Owl City. I've decided to do something I've never done before and release a handful of standalone EPs throughout 2014. I've never released consecutive EPs à la snapshots in a photo album or short stories in a book or a series of paintings in a collection, but I'm excited to release a slow-and-steady stream of music this year.
Thus, it is with tremendous pleasure that I present to you a new Owl City song entitled, "Beautiful Times". Deeply subjective and personal, it has a dark beauty I find compelling and the essence of the track offers the idea that life is wonderful despite the burdens and afflictions that seek us out. It is an anthem for those who search for strength to rise above hardship. I was honored to work with yet another of my favorite artists, Lindsey Stirling, who was kind enough to grant me the honor of featuring her. I hope you enjoy this song as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Finally, I wish to thank you for being so patient as I finish the upcoming chapter in my story. I appreciate your loyalty more than I know how to say.
A verse for consideration. I think this may summarize the song pretty well.

 "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

Psalm 30:5

This is the post on Adam Young's tumblr that gave me the go-ahead, or green light, to proceed with a theological interpretation of the song:
In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
-Gospel of John 1:4-5
Basically this what I think the light that Adam Young was referring to in his song Beautiful Times. 

Adam "reblogged" that, which is the tumblr version of a facebook 'like' or a twitter 'retweet.' It represents your agreement with what was said.

Line By Line

Old News, but A Note on the Right to Home-School

Another excerpt from a January(?) 2013 Journal entry where I copied down some important legal information I came across, for my own benefit.

AiG on the Romeike case
"Now the U.S. government is threatening to send them back where they may face fines, imprisonment, and loss of child custody. All Americans should be concerned. Why? The U.S. Attorney General’s arguments, by implication, (1) deny the fundamental liberty of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children; (2) deny that a right is being violated so long as the right is denied to everyone; (3) deny that religious liberty is an individual’s right; and (4) deny that persecution for a belief is genuine persecution because the problem would be solved if the “persecuted” person just changed his mind."
 “The United States Supreme Court affirmed “the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control” way back in 1925 in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters. .. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court in Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) ruled that a parent has a fundamental right to “establish a home and bring up children” and the right to “worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience.”6 And in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972), the court supported the rights of parents to keep their children out of public schools for religious reasons.”
The footnote embedded will take you to the original article if you're interested. Last I heard, the Romeikes had been allowed to stay in the US, so that's an encouraging resolution.

~ Rak Chazak

Possible Explanations for Distant Starlight in Creationist Cosmology

 There are two relativistic problems in explaining why observations in the universe are the way they are. One is for the evolutionary model of cosmology, resting on the Big Bang hypothesis, which is called The Horizon Problem. The other is for the main opposing view, which, due to its affirmation of a young age to the entire cosmos needs to somehow explain why light from sources billions of light-years away can be seen on earth if only c. 6,000 years have passed since the beginning. This is called the Distant Starlight Problem. There are various solutions proposed for each problem, by the proponents of each view of the universe: the evolutionary model and the 'creationist' model. Below are short quotations from scientific articles in Creation literature to introduce you to the main proposed solutions and give enough of an explanation of each to give you the big idea of how they deal with the issue. Links to the articles themselves are included for your convenience and to give you the opportunity for further in-depth study.

*     *     *     *     *

"...the speed of light may have been much greater in the past (Norman and Setterfield 1987), that Einstein’s general relativity with appropriate boundary conditions (Humphreys 1994, 1998, 2007, 2008) or with appropriate extensions (Hartnett 2007) can accommodate a young Universe, and that the problem itself assumes an arbitrary choice of convention for synchronizing clocks (Lisle 2010; Newton 2001)."

"The idea that time may have run at different rates in different places in the universe (“time dilation”) is a central feature of some recent creationist cosmological models (Hartnett 2007; Humphreys 1994, 1998, 2007, 2008). This is used to solve the distant starlight problem, and further investigation into these models may conceivably lead to explanations for some of the phenomena described above. For example, many of the observations relating to galaxies and their stellar populations could be explained by a model that has billions of years passing within those galaxies before the light that we see was emitted."

Humphreys explaining his model:

"Again, let’s imagine that God sets the values of the three factors in eq. (24) to give a contraction speed of –c. As each galaxy emerges from the receding timeless zone, it resumes emitting light. Some of the emitted light will be going inward toward the centre. Because the timeless sphere is moving inward at the speed of light, the inbound light will follow right behind the sphere as it shrinks. When the sphere reaches zero radius and disappears, the Earth emerges, and immediately the light that has been following the sphere will reach earth, even light that started billions of light years away. The stretching of the fabric of space has been occurring continuously all along the light trajectory, thus red-shifting the light wavelengths according to eq. (21).

On Earth, it is still only the fourth day. An observer on the night side of the earth would see a black sky one instant, and a sky filled with stars the next instant. With a telescope he would be able to see distant galaxies having suitably red-shifted spectra."

"The new metric I derived in 2007 has yielded several interesting results. One is a straightforward explanation of the Pioneer anomaly. In this paper, it has revealed a new type of time dilation, achronicity. The fundamental cause of achronicity appears to be that gravitational potential becomes so negative that the total energy density of the fabric of space becomes negative. That stops the propagation of light, all physical processes, and all physical clocks, thus stopping time itself."

The Pioneer Anomaly:

"A broad class of creationist cosmologies offer an explanation for the ‘Pioneer effect’, an apparent small Sunward anomalous acceleration of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. If a large volume of empty space surrounds the matter of the cosmos, so that the cosmos can have a centre of mass, then the matter is in a deep gravitational potential ‘well’. If space is expanding and spreading the matter outward, then the depth of the well is decreasing. According to general relativity, especially a new solution of Einstein’s equations derived in the Appendix (which also deals with Birkhoff’s theorem), the decreasing depth continuously shortens ‘radar’ distances within the well, causing the observed apparent acceleration. The magnitude of the anomalous acceleration implies the bottom of the potential well has not yet risen very far above the critical depth for gravitational time dilation. Thus the Pioneer effect supports the essentials of several creationist cosmologies: a centre of mass, expansion of space and recent time dilation. Big bang theorists, whose cosmology does not have a centre of mass, cannot use this explanation. As yet, they have no alternative theory upon which they agree." 
[emphasis added]

Discussion of Light Speed. Excerpt is about measuring the speed experimentally.

"We try another experiment. This time we will have a clock at both ends of the hallway. We will send the light pulse when the clock at our end reads exactly 12:00. The clock at the end of the hallway is designed to stop when the light hits it. We then read the time. This experiment avoids a return trip altogether, and so should give us the oneway propagation speed. But there is a problem. Before we start this experiment, we must make certain the clocks are synchronized. But how do we do this? We can ‘see’ the time on the other clock, but that is because light has travelled from there to here. How long did it take to do that? There is no way to determine whether or not the clock at the end of the hallway is synchronized with the one at our end without assuming how light propagates. So this experiment must assume the answer to the question being asked and so is of no use to us."

Riemannian Space-Time implies light could take shortcuts through space.

"This is difficult to illustrate, but suffice it to say that there are two concepts of the "shape" of outer space. One is that it is straight-line (Euclidean), and the other is that it is curved (Riemannian). Based on observations of 27 binary star systems, it appears that light in deep space travels in curved paths on Riemannian surfaces. 2

The formula for converting straight-line to curved space is:

where r is the Euclidean or straight-line distance, and R is the radius of curvature of Riemannian space. Using this formula, and a radius of curvature of 5 light-years for Riemannian space, the time for light to reach us from points in our own solar system is practically the same for either Euclidean or Riemannian distances, and there is not much of a change even out to the nearest star (4 1/2 light-years). But if we insert an infinite Euclidean distance for the farthest conceivable star, it would take only 15.71 years for light to reach us from that distance!"

These are 3 fundamentally different categories of explanations for how distant light could get to earth within a short time-frame (as measured on earth). 

~ Rak Chazak

Statistical Vindication of the Superiority of Pre-Marital Sexual Abstinence

That sounds like a scientific paper title. If you ever write for a technical journal, basically your header will encapsulate the conclusion of your research. Goes to show I really was paying attention in my writing-intensive elective seminar.

As I scrolled through the latest argument about sex on my university forum, I saw that the resident third-wave feminist had levied a research study's conclusions against a guy commenting on the same "slut survey" I wrote about in this post. He had said that he couldn't see why anyone would take pride in 'owning' the word slut and expressed that there must be something wrong with them. Feminista Number One's response made use of data from a blogspot article by The Social Pathologist to claim that women who had several sexual partners were less likely to divorce than women who had had a few, or women who had had numerous partners. This was supposedly evidence of the superiority of having more than one sexual partner. 

Nevertheless, FN1 couldn't deny the results also showing that virginity prior to marriage was far superior to any number of sexual partners, in serving as a predictor for the success (non-divorce over an extended period) of their first/only marriage. Intrigued, I went on to click on the link and peruse the article.

Here are some quotes of interest from the article at the blog link:
"...divorce rates are the lowest for those with zero pre‐marital partners. That part is unambiguous. Virgin brides are the least likely to divorce, all else equal. But why do  divorce rates rise with one or two premarital partners only to reverse and drop after two or more sexual partners? And next, why do divorce rates reverse and climb back up after the pre‐marital partner count goes into the double digits?"
"My own hypothesis is that a higher partner count (up to 5‐9 or so partners) is correlated with age and maturity in dating experience....Specifically, I suspect it’s not the 5‐9 pre‐marital sex partner count per se that drives the relative drop in the divorce rates, but rather it’s the maturity and experience that women have acquired while they’ve dated more men."
From a table constructed by the analyst,
"One can see that the divorce rate is nearly 50% for women who had only one pre‐marital partner and if that partner did not develop into her husband. The divorce rate falls to half the above rate (25.6%) if a woman later marries her first and only pre‐marital sex partner. However, both these divorce rates are higher than the divorce rate for virgin brides. Pre‐marital sexual experience with one’s future spouse does not beat out having no pre‐marital sex at all."
Thanks, Feminista Number One!

I initially thought I was going to be led  to a pro-3WF site where I would have to read between the lines. As it turns out, that's what FN1 was doing, herself. Intriguingly, the study cited was called the National Survey of Family Growth and was published by the Heritage Foundation. So FN1 is reading research spearheaded by conservatives. One can only hope she doesn't fail to be persuasively influenced by her dabbling in the enemy's camp, over time.

It should be noted that it isn't the mere fact of virginity or sexual activity that has an effect on marital success, but what it implies, either in terms of the type of character or decision making that went into the choice to have or abstain from intercourse, or in terms of the type of effect that such a decision consequently has on that person. But if you're a foolish person, doing the right thing without knowing why is not morally wrong, it's just less beneficial to you; nevertheless, since it gives you time to figure out a coherent ethic justifying your choice, you will reap the reward for it over time, even if you do "the right thing for the wrong reasons." 

~ Rak Chazak

Monday, April 21, 2014

New to Diary of a Single Christian Guy: Post Series

                Today I'd like to introduce you to my very first one, “Owl City Allegory,” and note that while I’ve had themed posts turn up in sequence over time, I have yet to organize them together in a concerted “blog series.” This first one will draw on similar analytical methods as used in Poignant Music, for example, and that article may be interesting to readers who were unaware of it, buried as it is in the middle of a sequential, but unorganized logjam of 150+ posts.

Part I: Lyric Interpretation of Owl City Songs

                As we begin, I want to explain that these are going to be intentionally pigeon-holed at times, after enough lyrical evidence has convinced me of the possibility of an allegorical interpretation, in order to suggest a way for the whole song to cohere together into one thematic message. These are my own interpretation, and I don’t insist that each conclusion must be what Adam Young (the writer, singer and producer behind Owl City) had in mind when writing, but the point will be that, intentionally or unintentionally, he has crafted the lyrics so that they can indeed be validly interpreted as a subtle theological message, without going to interpretive extremes. I believe my analysis will be fair, and I will point out shortcomings where I consider them to be. It must also be noted that Owl City music, especially the early variety, is characterized by whimsicality, and in many cases they are impossible for a bystander to interpret in the sense that they can be at all sure what Adam was thinking when he inserted those lines. However, Adam is a sincere Christian and based on his public expressions of faith on his blog and elsewhere, I don’t believe he would object to people’s attempts to find hidden spiritual meaning in the texts of his songs, so long as the conclusions didn’t amount to doctrinal confusion, of course. And with that preface, this endeavor of mine is primed to begin. 

Side note:

One of the benefits of Adam’s meticulously preserved formlessness (he has said so comparably little about his personal life and views that one article about him online even called him “completely non-political”) is that his fans have the opportunity to see themselves in him, even though they are very different in terms of life experience. There have even been some who claim he's gay--not as an insult to his music, but in a desire to more deeply connect with him in a shared identity. As it turns out, melancholy musings on inexpressible yearnings by an eccentric mind is something many share. We’re all a little bit odd, and the oddities in Adam’s lyrics, combined with their optimism and hope, have in my view given a lot of young people something to connect to and lift them up. They have, in Adam’s music, an alternative to contemporary offers of sympathy for their weirdness and desire to know they’re not alone. Consider Lady Gaga’s fans, affectionately (?) called “Little Monsters” by the artist. There is also a community of the strange and the burdened in her fan base, but I have yet to hear of someone vomiting on Adam during a concert. There is a huge difference in how the base is encouraged: Owl City doesn’t shy from quirkiness but it never encourages listeners to fester in despondency and feed their discouragement. So much of pop culture encourages “acting out” as a way to deal with personal struggles. Adam never has. I’m incredibly grateful to Adam simply for what I know he’s done to the young adult culture. He’s shown that if you’re sad, you don’t have to express it through attention-seeking delinquency or self-abasement. It’s okay to be sad, lonely, afraid and a little bit different from “everybody else.” These are normal things, but they don’t mean that your life is over. Instead, his songs offer a thoughtfully different approach.

It’s almost too easy for me to draw similarities between me and Adam. We’re both tall, though he’s taller. We’re both chronically uninvolved in long-term relationships, though we’ve both had romantic experiences in the past, and clearly think about love a lot. Which may be due to the age factor. He’s roughly 3 years older, so a lot of the things we’re dealing with in life are bound to be similar. We're both introverts and spend a lot of time alone just thinking or working on various projects. Hopeful optimists, but cynical realists. Adam deals frankly with issues like shame, death, depression etc and ‘calls it like it is,’ but he doesn’t wallow in grief, he looks up and always has a positive angle to the calamity around him. Or is it me? I am so passionately a fan of what I call “cynical optimism” (for an example, read the whole book of Ecclesiastes in a straight shot). You can’t ignore the flawed and terrible things in the world, but you can’t submit to the idea that those things will have the last word. In Adam’s lyrics, I see the innocence and childlike glee that I know at times, in my clearer thinking moments. The public face of Adam, and his song persona, is like the very best of me—if I also could sing. In the vein of “meditating on what is good and excellent and pure (Philippians 4:8),” listening to his songs can elevate my mind to dwell more naturally on positive things over negative, and in a very direct yet subtle way, make me a better person. I enjoy the occasional metal-rock song, but I can’t listen to that stuff all the time. Part of the reason is that they nearly never contain any hope. But Adam’s songs contain hope. And there’s a very simple and subliminal reason for that. It’s what I intend to show in this blog series. So let’s get started. :)

~ Rak Chazak

Personal Life Update: There’s A Reason for Everything.

Stopping Power

I got in my car one fine 20-degree day in February and found that I had lost a big part of the "umphf" when pressing on the brake pedal, overnight. I drove slowly until I had the opportunity to visit Wal-Mart and get some brake fluid. When filled up, some of the pressure returned but it wasn't back to max. I tolerated it for a month. Then when I opened the hood the next time, I saw that the front of the brake fluid reservoir had been drained completely, but the back still had a fair amount of fluid. The back flows into the front somewhat, but they are kept separate, so that if you get a leak in one of your brake lines, you don't lose your brakes completely.

This is a drawing I made in Photoshop, once I figured out that I just had to hold "shift" and click with the brush tool to draw straight lines. I don't want to talk about how the "first draft" of this image turned out. 

I now have brakes! And it only cost $200 per brake line replacement (the front line was replaced as well, because "it's about to go, too, any moment"). Phew. Not exactly a minor expense, but if anything's worth fixing and not putting off, it's your brakes.


I did my taxes, and here's the simplified summary: you can either get itemized deductions, which is payback from the government based on how much you spent on certain special expenses, like education, childcare, etc. OR you can get the "standard deduction," if your itemized deductions don't amount to much, and this is about $2500, if I recall. I didn't have nearly that much money taken in taxes, so essentially at minimum wage I qualified for a full income tax refund (but sayonara to Medicare and SS taxes, those are gone forever), amounting to about $800, which wasn't too shabby. Too bad half of it's already gone because of the brake issue, heh heh.

Charitable Donations?

If anyone knows, feel free to leave a comment: from what I read on Turbotax as it walked me through, it seems as if you have to get a written acknowledgement from any charity that you actually did in fact donate money there, a check or bank statement isn't sufficient. This sounds weird, but I've never made such a donation before, although I intend to this year. Is this what I have to do/what everyone does? I send a letter with my check, asking for a reply letter affirming the receipt of my donation? Odd but if it's standard fare, I'm game to get the tax refund for the donation. Secondly, is it a 1-1 refund, or are you repaid cents on the dollar? And is it the case that refunded student loan interest is some factor of what you paid and not the whole sum, also?

Just Like That, They're Gone

Two of the best employees at work have gone. One was a recently-divorced single mother of three kids, and she took a $10/hour starting job at a gas station. Nearly a $3 jump, or 7 years' worth of raises, if you consider that at every 6-month evaluation at work, provided you're not given a positional promotion, you can get a max raise of 20 cents or so. Good for her. The other guy had a double major, one of which was in accounting, and he now works at the town newspaper, getting $12/hr and vacation benefits among other things. So with them gone, I'm feeling motivated to not stick around for the sake of unambition. The newspaper guy implied he'd gone to 30 interviews before getting this job offer, so he was busily going about looking for alternatives the whole time he was working at the store. What would be wrong with me if I remain content with a pittance for excelling at everything just like they did? If Corporate won't recognize valued employees, they won't have them for long. Mind, I'm not disgruntled. I'm just stating the reality. In my perception, I've waited enough to give them a chance to promote me, and the warmer weather is making me restless. Time to take some action on my end and quit waiting around.

Concerning That...

I've finally updated my resume to my satisfaction, with the helpful suggestions of a few close friends, who re-formatted it so it had a neater look and fit more information on one page. Now that that's not holding me back, it's time to find places to put it. And hopefully it won't take me 30 interviews, but if that's the model to follow, I'll use it as my mental guideline.

~ Rak Chazak

Quick Belated Thought on Easter Celebration

I'm not as critical of the springtime holiday we call Easter as I am of the more internally-flawed "Christmas" and "Valentine's Day." This is perhaps because Easter doesn't come with expectations of gift-giving as inherently wrapped up in its traditional practice.
Here's the problem with the expectation of getting a gift. If you don't do something, it causes resentment. This is wrong. It's not what generosity and gifts is about! A person getting a gift is grateful and pleased with the giver. But if they're expecting to be given something, then the gift is no longer a gift, it's a payment--a debt owed to the person getting the "gift." This is why a person would get angry if they don't get a gift--they're experiencing the same emotion as they would if the giver was in their debt, and defaulted on their loan--if they made a late payment....A person who gets material objects of desire on certain days each year develops an expectant desire for them, and experiences bitterness when they don't get them.[From February 11]
On the other hand, Easter has a number of traditional practices that aren't immediately apparent as an obvious symbolic reference to Christian doctrine. Perhaps in a spiritual-warfare sense, this is why Satanic attack has been more focused on the Christmas holiday, which at least comes associated with numerous Gospel-exultant charols and hymns, a clear threat to the powers and principalities of this world, which prefer that people not be confronted with such naked truth.

But it should be noted that while connections may be made, neither the date, name, or symbolism attached to Easter are inherently pagan or opposed to the Gospel message. The best reason for avoiding chocolate egg-laying bunnies is perhaps the same reason to avoid incorporating a 'Santa Claus' figure at "Christmas"-time: because it instills the wrong principle in children, that on such-and-such a special day each year, you'll get rewarded with treats or toys if you've behaved yourself. Rabbits and eggs, as symbols of prolific life, can be used as metaphors for the new, abundant life offered to believers because of Christ's atoning sacrifice and demonstrated true in His resurrection. But this connection is in my opinion more forced than the "be good, get candy" connection, and so I wouldn't attempt to encourage anyone to practice this tradition, although they could in theory do so with a clean conscience.

I agree with many that Resurrection Sunday is a preferable name because it emphasizes the undeniable connection the holiday has with the risen Savior, thereby making its observation more of a witnessing tool than it presently is. 

Because it is slightly less commercialized than the other main religious holiday in the West, I am less offended at it and haven't completely made up my mind to stubbornly refuse to participate in any recognition of it whatsoever. But it's up in the air at the moment. Indeed, seeing as its association in the Culture's mindset may vary greatly from now in a half decade or more hence, a wait-and-see attitude is the one I'll adopt in determining how I'll raise my future family as it concerns this particular holiday. 

Do you have very strong opinions on whether to or not to celebrate Easter? Feel free to share in a comment.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, April 17, 2014

By the Way

It's been one year to the day since I made my first post on this blog. Here's to a year's worth of passively contributing to shaping the culture through viewpoint analysis and information dissemination. And here's to another year--this blog, as indicated by the name, will remain active from now until my wedding day. And that's bound to be a while, knowing me ;) . I'm content with doing things slowly and thoroughly.


~ Rak Chazak

P.S. Actually one year and one month to the day! I shouldn't post so early in the morning! XD 

On the Word "Slut" and "Sexually Liberated" Third-Wave Feminism

A student at my university solicited the opinions of the general academic public in a study she was doing for a class paper. I was more than happy to oblige.

Q: "Why are women called 'sluts' for having multiple sexual partners but it seems men are respected for the same?"

Because of the sexist double standard perpetuated by third wave "feminism."

Personally, I don't respect promiscuous men, either, and even have less respect for them, because they're more apt to display an ignorant self-congratulatory attitude whereas most women I've interacted with seem to regret their past activities--whether they are presently sexually restrained or not--and are less likely to boast in the same way.

So if I don't respect males who are sexually immoral any more than females, why does it seem that most of society behaves in a different manner? I've wondered about this.

I sincerely believe it's because I reject the nonsense agenda of third wave feminism and most other people are influenced to think a certain way because of it, either consciously or unawares. Contrary to the claims of 3WF, it does not elevate women nor achieve any forward-steps of equality. It dehumanizes both men and women and that's why you see double standards remaining and perpetuated.


Simple. It doesn't matter what you say, if your actions demonstrate otherwise. The average woman would say she wants to be respected by men. But 3WF advocates for women to lay aside "antiquated" notions of sexual restraint and modesty, e.g. that it's acceptable to have multiple sexual partners, dress revealingly for explicitly sensual reasons, to engage in or view pornography, and to upend "traditional" roles--that she should pay for dates, that she should drive most of the time, that she should take the initiative in pursuing males in romantic endeavors, etc. I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with paying, driving, or showing interest. What I'm saying is that when you shift what is normative by actively striving to do the contrary to what is "antiquated/traditional" or as it is commonly called by 3WFs, "patriarchal," then you are bound to produce an effect.

And what is the effect?

If you show guys that they don't have to put in any effort into relationships, what do you teach them? They don't have to try. They become lazy. The result is women who are frustrated with boys who put little or nothing into the relationship. The women end up feeling used.

Further, combine the first part I mentioned: the loosening of sexual restraint. So now you've taught guys that they don't have to take any initiative in starting relationships, and you've taught women that they don't have to withhold (or even that there is no good reason to refrain from) sexual activity in a casual relationship. And so you have girls giving time, money, affection and their bodies to boys who won't --and have no incentive to-- exercise patience, thrift, respect etc. And the result is that the women are used, sexually, and they end up feeling upset and taking one or other course of action. They generally hate and blame themselves or they hate and blame men. They either refuse to believe that they could be happy in a submissive relationship with a man (and therefore now become domineering and emotionally unreasonable) or they desperately try to create what they wanted to have with that first failure, and go from bad relationship to bad relationship until they get jaded or worse.

Meanwhile, guys learn that there's no need to treat women as human beings, since by doing nothing they'll throw themselves at you and give you their bodies for your pleasure. These guys learn from their interactions with women that women may be people in theory, but functionally, in practice, they are not, and may as well be treated as objects, because that's all that the women treat themselves as, and that's what they're clearly tolerant of males treating them as.

So the notion that women are treated as objects isn't foreign to me. I think it's wrong, yes, but I can also see why with a level of clarity that the average male cannot, for the simple reason that the average male desires instant gratification of sexual desire, and I have decided to put off such gratification until I have found and created the commitment I desire, wherein which sexual activity can have the potential to be fully satisfying, in a way in which it cannot in casual, temporary relationships.

I don't think men are respected for having many sexual partners. Perhaps among some in society, but I doubt this is true among the "movers and shakers." Rather, in that class, I predict that the reason for any distinction is a judgment on the relative stupidity and naivety of the female who throws themselves desperately into hopelessly unfulfilling relationships versus the relative intelligence and scrupulousness of the male who utilizes such easy access to physical pleasure but never entertains in his mind the idea that it was anything more. I think that's where you may find the stratification; when your reasoning allows the judgment that women are stupid sexually, and men are not, then you can see respect for the male and disrespect of the female in the way we currently observe in society.

It's tragic. But that which explains the onesidedness of the observation is the fact that there is nothing like third wave feminism for men. There is nothing that promotes an act-first, think-later approach to sexual intercourse for men. There is for women. And the results are that the women that buy into it end up looking very stupid and very sexually promiscuous, whereas the males who take advantage of it look smart and oddly not as sexually driven. I think the illusion is because what really drives most women is not sexual desire but a stronger desire for emotional intimacy than most men have. But the women think that sexual intimacy with a man will achieve that emotional intimacy--blame third wave feminism's philosophy of sex. Consequently, when these women throw themselves at men in sexual pursuit, they appear to be the more sex-driven when that is not the actual case. It is the men who take advantage of these women who are the more sexually fixated, since they fail to in any way treat women as something more than objects of physical pleasure. But the person who takes advantage is in a position of control whereas the person who is taken advantage of is in a position of weakness. And control denotes strength and intelligence, whereas weakness ... denotes weakness. Of an intellectual and sexual-restraint sort. I think this explains why society at large has more respect for promiscuous men than women. Promiscuous men are seen as in-control and intelligent, whereas promiscuous women are seen as out-of-control and stupid.

These are not the private opinions I have. I know it goes much deeper than this. As I've indicated, I think the driving force is a mixture of deep-seated emotional yearning in women, harnessed by the tragically anti-productive social philosophy of third-wave feminism. All I've done is to the best of my ability explain how I think the thought process of the individual may play out and produce the disparate social stratification we see on a macro scale. And I think I've done so quite well.

Addendum: My response to the "Further thoughts?" question.

Or, How to Solve the Problem of the Sexual Double Standard

What makes me different?

Why am I not affected by 3WF in the way that I describe the 'average male?'

It's simple. The world is ruled by ideas. And if you don't subscribe to one worldview then you will subscribe to another. Instead of 3WF, I have a different philosophy that shapes my approach to love and sex.

But it's more than a philosophy. There is a level of thought involved in it but it's more than just an idea for approaching the world. It's unique in that it first changes how I see myself. The outward results in my thinking are the product of an internal revolution.

I'll be very straightforward. I don't think you can really solve the issue of social ills that operate in the realms of the hearts and minds of individual people without changing their hearts and minds. Money won't do it. Propaganda won't do it. Social programs won't do it, and teaching other people how to interact with them won't do it. 

The only thing that can actually change a person from an objectifying, misogynistic, sexually-unrestrained arrogant person into a person who respects men and women is the Gospel. I am well aware that you likely don't want to hear "religion is the answer." Well, religion isn't the answer. Religion is a set of rules that you tell people to follow, and then when they succeed, they become self-absorbed and prideful, which is bad, and when they fail, they become depressed and despair, which is also bad. Christianity has rules, but the success someone has with following the rules is not what determines if that person is a Christian.

Christianity is unique in that it isn't something that men do for God, it's something that God does in men. The individual's responsibility concerns solely how they respond to God's initiating action to save them.

Please detour to get a helpful, less-than-a-minute-in-length, explanation of what the Gospel is, here: .

To be saved, all a person needs to do is to acknowledge their sinfulness and ask God to take the punishment they deserve on their behalf. That way, the Crucifixion's effect gets 'credited to your account,' and your sin is legally dealt with, from God's perspective. You don't become sinless at that moment. But you become guiltless. And from that point, God's treatment of you begins to affect your treatment of others.

I now understand what love is. Contemporary wisdom says that "if it makes you happy, do it." That love is a feeling of happiness toward someone. But when that feeling subsides, people think "I don't love them anymore," and relationships are destroyed.

True love is not an emotion but an intent: to do that which is in the best interest of another person, and sacrifice (put aside, as a lower priority) your own self-directed desires in order to accomplish their best interest.

With an understanding of love like that, I could never take advantage of a young woman's desire toward me, no matter how much of a gentleman I would be to her. I know that the act of sex produces an emotional bond, one that in its intended context produces satisfaction in a committed relationship that draws you closer and keeps you inseparable. But if you were never going to commit, when you separate that relationship, all that bonding, when it tears, wreaks emotional and spiritual havoc on the people involved. Damage like that to another person is not loving. Love is not something you can have for someone for a little while and then not any more. That isn't sincere love. It's a farce. An act. And this misunderstanding is at the root of so much pain in our society today.

I see sex as an important part of a committed relationship. But the only truly committed relationship is the one that doesn't have the entertained possibility of it ever ending. That's marriage! So a direct conclusion of simply knowing what love is is that I would never want to have sex with someone before marriage, no matter how good it might feel, temporarily.

I've been living this changed life for a few years now and don't mistake me as thinking more highly of myself than others. I am not more special, but with what I have been given, what I have been blessed with in being saved and having my life transformed day by day by the Gospel, I am specially privileged. And I can see now, after having observed many examples far and wide, that you can't change the culture by trying to change people's minds, first. You have to change their hearts. Therefore,

I would be doing a disservice if I didn't tell you that I think any and all approaches to a problem like the way this society views sex would be ultimately unsatisfactory and ineffective if it does not include the Gospel. It is only God's power to save and transform that can change a person's eternal destiny and current state of being, from a wretched self-interested person to a person who is fully satisfied in God, and who desires to help other people to live a good life now, but more importantly to attain eternal life to come.

Sure, go ahead and think of me as a raving religious lunatic. But I couldn't be content with myself if I didn't take the chance to try to tell you the truth. What you do with it is your business. I only hope that God will open your mind to receive what it is I've had to say here, insofar as I am speaking what He would want me to say.

Thanks for reading.

~ Rak Chazak

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Text Treatise: Suicide's Real Victims

This post does not speak flippantly or use vulgar terms or graphic descriptions. It does, however, touch on an extremely sensitive subject and employs strong opinions while discussing it, although this is done with an attempt to be sensitive to people who have been hurt by, or are contemplating suicide. Choose whether to read based on how you know you will react. 

Someone I actually sort-of-knew recently died. They were a couple of years younger, and had moved away in the middle of high school, but I'd interacted with them enough that of all the people who have died in my age group from my county, this was the first time it was someone who I'd spent any length of time talking to.

Whereas it appears to have been a drug overdose of some kind, it is unclear whether it was suicide or accidental. When I initially heard about it, the rumors favored suicide, and that's what provoked me to think about the subject. What follows are my thoughts to a friend over text one evening, followed by some further thoughts in response to statements they made in reply.

This is probably going to be very different from anything you've ever read before on the subject, because I don't treat the person who commits suicide as a sympathetic victim. I advise you to think about that before you begin, and while I encourage you to consider my view, I also don't want to unnecessarily offend people who are by nature sensitive and have a hard time dealing with heavy issues in a very straightforward manner. So this is my best effort not to be ham-fisted in how I write. Thanks for reading this before beginning the post proper.

Alert: Read the above introduction before proceeding to digest the body of the post.