Our Culture Doesn’t Believe in Sin Anymore: It’s Too Politically Incorrect and Judgmental

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think they weren’t a “good person”. The default seems to be comparing oneself to another person who has committed worse offenses: “Well, at least I’m not an ax murderer…”

My observation is that people subconsciously continually convince themselves they are not “bad” by referring to another person who makes them look like a saint, in comparison.

Clearly, people recognize that good and evil exists in the world. So therefore, there must be good and bad people in the world, as well.

But as Michael Jackson profoundly asked back in his 1987 follow-up to Thriller, Who’s bad?

Christianity differs in ideology from the “I’m a good person” concept that our culture seems to accept as the norm.

Christianity teaches that we were all born with a sinful nature; or as Metallica put it in the title track from their 2016 album, we are “hardwired to self-destruct“.

In other words, none of us, not one, is a good person. Instead, we are all sinners.

Who’s bad? We all are.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

As individuals, we all have what I call our own “sin personalities”.

Some people struggle with certain issues that other people never do.

So it becomes easy to notice other people’s sins that are different from our own, as a way to make ourselves feel better about our own “lesser” sins.

And that simply brings us to one of the most obvious sins that the Bible warns against:

Pride.

But in today’s culture, to acknowledge sin is becoming perceived as politically incorrect and/or judgmental.

When we start recognizing what specifically constitutes as sin, it makes people feel uncomfortable.

Even adultery, which is included in the Ten Commandments, is now being excused by our culture:

“Well, they were really unhappy in their marriage so…”

To me, sin is sin. I don’t care which particular sin it is: I don’t believe in discriminating against another person or group of people because their sins are different than mine.

Instead, I recognize my own sins. To focus on other people’s sins instead of my own would be that sin I mentioned earlier: Pride.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

But to deny that sin exists… what does that do to our perception of God?

If sin doesn’t exist, because we’re all good people anyway, then we have no reason to be saved from our own destructive sinful nature; here in this life or what comes after it.

As for me, I’m not a good person. I’m a sinner.

I’m a sinner who is crazy enough to believe that Jesus was the only perfect person to live on this Earth and that by believing in Him, my soul can be saved from God’s judgment.

Yes, that might sound ridiculous. I’ll go ahead and call myself a fool for believing it.

But to believe that I am a good person, simply because my sins are different from other people’s, is more ridiculous to me.

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I Just Came Here To Read Comments

April 21, 2014 at 8:35 pm , by 

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

In several of my letters to you, I’ve made mention to you that simply by being a parent, I have become a more mature person.

It’s true. I’m now embarrassed by some of the things I’ve written to you over the years- and I wish I could say I’ll never say something stupid again.

But if I said that, I would be conceited, which would contradict the part about maturing as a parent.

One of the most relevant lessons I’ve been teaching myself  is “how not to say things that will end up making me sound judgmental of other parents or to be offensive to them.”

And I tell you- that’s a very tricky lesson to learn.

Ultimately, it’s dang near impossible not to step on someone’s toes.

I’ve discovered that even by talking about the possibility of you being an only child can offend other parents who are unable to have another child.

If I talk about our family’s plant-based lifestyle, it can be perceived that I am trying to convert other people to “unhealthy eating habits which keeps your family from getting the nutrients they need.”

If I speak neutrally about having guns in the house, or bronies, or why I believe spanking is not more effective than time-out, I’m going to either offend, upset, or at least get someone emotionally worked up.

You know what, though? I’m okay with that.

I do try to be as respectful as I can in my interactions with people in real life and social media; the latter of which is much more difficult.

In fact, trying to regularly participate in social media while talking about parenting topics especially can be harder than attempting to get through a Chips Ahoy cookie without eating a chocolate chip.

Therefore, there is now a very relevant Internet meme which features Michael Jackson eating popcorn, stating: “I Just Came Here To Read The Comments.”

It tends to show up in the comments section of controversial blog posts.

Actually, I just saw it featured this weekend on Facebook in the comments section of a Parents.com article, written by a parent who admits her family only goes to church on Easter.

Navigating the comments on social media has become almost ridiculous by now. I noticed last week at the bottom of a parenting article on MSN, they now have to offer up a list of “reportable” tags for comments:

There’s now a category for spam, exploitation, profanity/vulgarity/obscenity, copyright infringement, harassment or threat, and even threats of suicide.

Wow.

With that being said, I try not to offend those in the world of parenting… but these days, it’s not always easy to know who the actual Internet trolls really are.

I just have to tiptoe and tap-dance while being ready to duck and dodge potential tomatoes being hurled my way.

 

Love,

Daddy

Jack-Man: A Baby Celebrity in His Own Mind

October 23, 2011 at 10:32 pm , by 

Eleven months.

Jack has a universal nickname, by default. Both my side of the family, my wife’s side of the family, his instructors at KinderCare, and basically anyone who meets him for the 2nd time, proclaims, “It’s Jack-Man!”. This isn’t a name I go around saying; everyone seems to come up with it on their own. Why?

Maybe because Jack-Man rhymes with Pac-Man. Or because they subconsciously think the actor Hugh Jackman’s name. Maybe it’s because Jack really is like a little man with a super hero alter-ego, in the likeness of another similar name: Batman.

Naturally, “Jack-Man” just simply fits him. He has always had this confident, yet illegitimate, sense that everyone he sees already knows who he is- like’s he’s a baby celebrity from a reality show on TLC. Especially here lately, if I’m walking around holding him, he will put his arms out to be held by whoever is standing across from him.

The best way I can describe it is with this picture from the 1980′s of Michael Jackson holding Emmanuel Lewis, star of the sitcom, Webster.

Needless to say, Jack has always had a very outgoing personality and loves meeting new people. I didn’t realize that a baby less than a year old could be this much fun to be around. The party doesn’t start until Jack enters the room.

I was actually a decently shy kid back in my early years; not able to enjoy my surroundings unless a family member or close friend of the family was there. Not Jack.

He’s kind of like that friend you have, whenever you’re out in public with them, they just seem to know everyone; having to take a minute to walk over and say hey to someone who is totally excited to see them- and with this friend, this happens like every five minutes.

Well, with Jack, it’s kind of that way. Even if the complete stranger doesn’t know who he is, A) he thinks they do and B) they soon will, because he will introduce himself.

Passing the Mic:

What is your baby’s nickname?

 

Every Breath You Take of the Air Tonight

What were Phil Collins and Sting really singing about?

It happened just a few weeks after I was born, then again exactly two years later in May of 1983. A man living out the final months of a dying marriage releases a song that goes on to become one of the biggest hits of the ‘80’s and most replayed songs on syndicated radio stations like Jack FM. Both of these men’s songs were destined to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Songs that were sad realizations from a man watching the love of his life slip away from him, though she shared his bed every night. I’m referring to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Sting of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”.

Known for its memorable drum introduction over two minutes into the recording, its ghostly atmosphere, and its refrain of “oh Lord” that allows the song to exist not only has a premonition of his soon divorce and confrontation with his then-wife, but also as a desperate acknowledgement that God is overwatching the nightmare unfold, “In the Air Tonight” remains the perfect song for a drive on the interstate on an overcast day in October.

However, to many fans of the song (who wouldn’t be?), the meaning has always been vague and abstract.  Obviously some mysterious big event is about to happen and the accusing tone reveals anger, distrust, and sadness. So it only makes sense that a believable urban legend was born: A man watched Phil Collins’ brother drown and didn’t try to save him. Phil Collins years later invited the man to his concert and gave him a front row seat and sang the song to the man to drench him in guilt. The man later died of a heart attack. I believed this story for three years, until I did some research myself (on Wikipedia) to find out the truth. The Drowning Man Theory makes sense and it’s easy to want to believe it. But once I found out it’s a song about Phil Collins’ fading first marriage, the depth and weight of the song became so much clearer to me.

In a strange parallel, Sting woke up in the middle of the night and wrote “Every Breath You Take” as he watched his first marriage disintegrate. It went on to become the #1 single of 1983, surprisingly beating out all of Michael Jackson’s mega-hits that year (Thriller, Billy Jean, Beat It, P.Y.T., Human Nature, The Girl is Mine, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’). While the song comes across as a vow of undying love to many, with its promise to keep watch over his object of affection, it’s actually the opposite. It actually described Sting’s feeling of deep loss, knowing he would never fully get over losing his first wife. He didn’t want to let her go, but the marriage was ended regardless. Therefore, the “stalkerish” feel of the song is completely intentional.

Two British men who fronted successful pop rock bands in the 1980’s both wrote a song at the end of their marriage that went on to be a classic and unforgettable hit. And many people will never know the truth about the background of the writing other than what is written here. That’s often the case though: Some of the biggest legendary things in life are surrounded by mystery, only adding to the intrigue.

The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

At what point does life reach its peak?

Last August I bought Third Eye Blind’s new album, Ursa Minor, on the day it came out. And while I love it tremendously, I realized several years ago that nothing they ever do will top their 1997 debut album with “How’s It Gonna Be”, “Semi-Charmed Life”, “Jumper”, “Graduate”, “Motorcycle Drive By” and “I Want You”. They keep making good music, even if I’m the only one still listening. But they peaked 11 years ago.

Michael Jackson experienced his peak in 1983 with the success of Thriller, personally haunted by the fact that he was never able to commercially or critically top it. And as much as I love Dave Matthews Band, I find it scientifically impossible for them to top their 1996 7x platinum album Crash, featuring the flawless “Crash into Me”.

Not that it’s an awful thing to peak early in a career. Not everyone can go out with a bang like George Burns, or remain relevant after several decades. It happens to plenty of good actors and comedians too: they continue to make movies after people stop really caring. Steve Martin. Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell. Robin Williams. Tim Allen.

A sign of a once-relevant comedian officially being past his peak is when he appears in a family movie in which he gets thrown high into the air, then lands abruptly but suffers no major injuries, then looks up at the camera with this expression that says, “Ugh, that’ll leave a mark…” (I have a visual right now of Steve Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen when he gets catapulted out of the Gymboree.)

Gone are the days of Steve Martin’s classics like The Jerk, Father of the Bride, Roxanne, Parenthood, and the legendary Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (which I refer to in about 23% of my writings). Now we’re stuck with The Pink Panther. I’m sure it makes him millions of dollars, but it doesn’t make anybody laugh.

Steve Martin: surprisingly, not Jewish.

While I don’t have a career in acting or music where I have to keep reinventing myself to please fans in the business of entertainment, I do live a life in which I am sometimes tempted to keep looking to the future for my vindication, contentment, or perfect stage of life. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to remind myself of some corny forward that someone e-mailed me a few months ago that said: These are the good old days.

Whether or not I am living in the peak happiness of my life now or in 30 years, it doesn’t matter. Because I’ve learned it’s not the bad, boring, or annoying memories I keep going back to. It’s the good ones. Those are what I keep close to heart: These are the good old days.

Robin Williams: Also, surprisingly not Jewish either.

“I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.” -John Mayer (“No Such Thing”)

“And I’ve never been so alive.” -Third Eye Blind (“Motorcycle Drive By”)

John Mayer’s Battle Studies: The Newest Installment from the Half-Jewish, Tattoo-Sleeved Guitar God

There are certain male musicians who while they seemingly have a unisex audience, it’s mainly women who are openly proud fans. Key examples: Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

Then there are those male musicians who seemingly have a feminine audience, yet they also earn the genuine respect of men who recognize their talent despite their charm. Key examples: Michael Buble and Jason Mraz. But the epitome of this category is none other than the 6’ 3”, tattoo-sleeved, half-Jewish, Connecticut native, John Mayer.

His most romantic songs are typically my least favorite- “Your Body is a Wonderland” and “Come Back to Bed”. What draws me most to his music is a quality found in his lesser hits like “83” and “Something’s Missing”. Half nostalgic, half philosophical.

In reviewing any genre of entertainment, I can’t say any one thing is the best. I can only say what is my personal favorite. Because my favorite is simply an opinion; I am not qualified to declare what is best- that would go beyond a matter of opinion.

That being said, my favorite John Mayer album is his 2003 Heavier Things. It features the hits “Bigger than My Body”, “Daughters”, and “Clarity” (“ah whoo-ew… ah whoo-ew”). Along with its less featured songs “New Deep”, “Home Life”, “Split Screen Sadness” and “Wheel”.

The cover of this album itself perfectly captures the style and direction of the music. It represents a simple sense of timelessness, yet at the same time somehow reminds of me of Eric Clapton and/or Sting between 1988 and 1993.

I say that to say this. John Mayer’s newest album, Battle Studies, is a hybrid of two of my favorite things of his: 1) The album Heavier Things and 2) his very much underappreciated song “I Don’t Trust Myself with Loving You” from his 2006 album Continuum.

Very bluesy: “Fell down on my knees, asked the Lord for mercy, said ‘help me if you please’” (“Crossroads”).

Very jazzy: “Who says I can’t get stoned?” (“Who Says”)

Very soft rock: “I’ve got a hammer and a heart of glass- I gotta know right now which walls to smash” (War of My Life).

I decided half-way through this decade that John Mayer is incapable of releasing an album that isn’t good. I stand by that. Battle Studies is completely up to par with all his other recordings. But just like how Dave Matthews Band will never be able to top their Crash album, in my mind John Mayer will never be able to top Heavier Things.

Actually I see Battle Studies as a direct sequel (yet not necessarily a continuation) of Heavier Things. So in other words, I love it.

A year ago I posted a review of my favorite albums of 2008, and in a prophetic moment, I praised the then unknown song “People are Crazy” by Billy Currington. A few months later it was released as a single and went to #1.

Therefore, I will predict the soon-to-be hits from Battle Studies. The most obvious is the industrial-infused groovy tune “Assassins”. John has never sounded more like an African-American lead singer of an alternative rock band than he does in this song. Maybe it’s because this song has so many Michael Jackson qualities about it.

Like it was written with “Smooth Criminal”, “Dirty Diana” and “Give in to Me” in mind: “I work in the dead of night when the roads are quiet and no one is around… I’m an assassin and I had a job to do… Little did I know that girl was an assassin too.”

Another song destined to be a radio favorite is “Half of My Heart”. Perfect catchy melody. Perfect opening line: “I was born in the arms of imaginary friends.” Perfect choice of a female vocalist to do a song with: Taylor Swift.

The only downfall is that there’s not enough Taylor Swift in this song. She just does background vocals towards the end. Every time I hear it, I keep hoping the song has magically changed since the last time I heard it and that the song has become a true duet like the immaculately crafted “Lucky I’m in Love” by Jason Mraz with Colbie Caillat. Great song though: “Half of my heart is a shotgun wedding to a bride with a paper ring.”

Often when a musician or actor becomes a superstar, showing up in the tabloid magazines, the authenticity of their art suffers. Despite dating Jennifer Anniston and Jessica Simpson (to name a few) , his art hasn’t suffered (just his personal reputation). He’s still got the talent. Just as much as ever. Going beyond the rut of “the same three chords” compositions and “I miss you baby” lyrics.

And not that this takes away from his music at all, but this lifestyle definitely shows up in his song content. Like in “Perfectly Lonely”- “Had a little love but I spread it thin. Falling in her arms and out again. Made a bad name for my game ‘round town.” It’s also evident in the future hit which will inevitably be featured on several romantic comedy soundtracks, “Heartbreak Warfare”.

Gone is the charming, mysterious John Mayer from the beginning of the decade. Gone is the gentleman. Apathy and aimlessness are starting to show up in his attitude and lyrics. I don’t like his music any less because of it. But I do recognize the change.

Though this may actually be hurting him with his current single, “Who Says”, which is his lowest charting single, breaking his string of 5 consecutive Top 10 singles. This song much departs from his former classy charm, containing lyrics like this: “Call up a girl I used to know, fake love for an hour or so” and “I don’t remember you looking any better. Then again I don’t remember you”.

Not to mention the song’s constant references to marijuana use.

John Mayer is suffering from what I call “King Solomon Syndrome”. King Solomon had it all: Extreme wealth, fame, and wisdom. And 700 wives. And 300 concubines. But by the end of his life when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, he said it was all meaningless. None of it made him happy.

At least at an early age, John Mayer recognizes something’s missing.

Related Post by the Same Author:

John Mayer’s Stupid Mouth  http://wp.me/pxqBU-wz

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on John Mayer, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

The Edge of “Me Too” Culture: What Makes People Famous

My sister is my editor. She is the first to read what I write, typically two days before it’s published. If I am working on a piece that I feel may be pushing the envelope/over the top/too forceful, I let her proofread it for me. And most of the time, she tells me to keep it the way it is.

Just last week she labeled one of my drafts as “edgy”. Then later that day as I read a chapter in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Magazine Articles on my lunch break, it stressed the importance of each article I write needing to be short, informative, and edgy. There that word is again. Edgy.

Thanks to WordPress I am finally able to track the number of daily readers along with knowing which things I write are the most popular posts. So far, it has consistenty been those “edgy” ones that I ran by my sister before posting. People like edgy stuff. It has now been statistically proven.

We live in a world of “me too” culture. “Anything you can do, I can do better” has become “anything you can do, I can do, but it will probably be a crappier version, but still, I can do it too.” Anyone can sing, dance, record music, make a computer app, do a video series on YouTube, and write blogs. The more crowded a venue, the more mediocre and blandized the general talent becomes. That’s why people are drawn to the edge. The edge of what’s normal. The edge of what’s familiar. The salt of the earth.

People tend to talk about how crazy life is. (Instantly the intro to Jon and Kate Plus 8 comes to mind, along with Michael Buble’s song “Everything”). Yes, life is crazy. And it’s also pretty mundane. So when people look for entertainment and/or enlightenment, they tend to venture off the main trail to find it.

Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty would most likely not have won American Idol in their days. But their uniqueness and off-beat perspective found a way to draw people in through their odd lyrics and quirky personas.

It’s pretty obvious in any episode of Howie Mandel’s “Deal or No Deal”. The contestants always have some sort of stupid gimmick. An annoying catch phrase or weird favorite color. It becomes the theme of that episode.

From Seinfeld to Super Mario Bros.  Things that are both weird and common attract people.

For me it all goes back to Junior High when I realized the irony of the phrase “everyone is special and unique”. Yes. Yes, they are. But if everyone is special and unique, then they’re all the same. Standing in the in-between of what’s familiar and what is off-beat is often where audiences form.  Nothin’ draws a crowd like a crowd.