What is proper online behaviour?

3 youth in my community have been charged with distribution of pornography, because they allegedly propagated content of an inappropriate nature through electronic media. Believe me, I’m not condoning this behaviour and this post will not be about mitigating or further diluting our cultural or social standards… it’s going to identify the lack of them and how we’ve become desensitized in the process! Fait accompli!

The reaction to the above, presented in the local news media, is to create an awareness program in our schools which will teach what the consequences for this kind of behaviour will be instead of getting to the root truth of the situation… teaching WHY this behaviour is not only inappropriate and wrong, but that it’s damaging and carries with it consequences that reach far beyond the legal ones they create! I’m not saying education in this area isn’t important, but it needs to get to the root of the matter instead of being a reaction to a byproduct.

Folks… we tell our kids that it’s NOT okay to take nude pictures and then share those using cell phones and yet, we tolerate TV or take them to Miley Cyrus concerts. I’m not condemning Miley Cyrus, but some of her behaviour is simply unacceptable! Teaching awareness of socially acceptable behaviour should not begin in our schools, it should begin in our homes and within our families! It’s about awareness, understanding and then choice! Just because “Sex Sells” doesn’t mean we have to buy into it! Teaching (not preaching) and leading by example about what reasonable social conduct (including the use of technology) looks like is where this should begin. We need to think about the kinds of emails we share and the kind of TV we watch, because it says something about us! Most importantly, it says it to our kids!

Our society’s cultural standards have eroded and we seem oblivious! We’re becoming a sad group of technologically dependent introverts who are losing our grasp on reality and our concept of morality! Television and Internet media is teaching or creating a new social paradigm and the future doesn’t look good. Our societal values are coming through mass media and we’re slowly becoming desensitized to good old values. “Good old fashioned values”… they’re not old fashioned… they’re just good values! You don’t look up Sally’s skirt! You don’t disrespect your elders! You don’t disrespect your parents! You don’t disrespect yourself, your neighbours or your friends!

I’m far from being a prude and consider myself to be very progressive and open minded, but things are getting way too far out of hand. We cry for social justice, equality, choice and freedom of expression. We rally and fight for the voice of media to remain free but where has that gotten us? Media is a business and that business is to sell us more of what we tell them we want! I get it… that’s OK to a degree, but I’m here to tell you, what they’re also doing is to sell this stuff to us in a way that is eroding our social values! They have an incredible responsibility but clearly they’re not being responsible! Who is holding them accountable? At the end of the day, does it matter if there is a body to impose proper conduct for the media? We have a very powerful filter in our grasp… it’s called our finger and it can be used to turn off the TV, or not consume some of the garbage we do.

Our minds are like our bodies… if we eat too much junk food and don’t exercise, we get out of shape and lethargic. The same is true for our minds! If we pollute our minds with so much of the banal drivel we see in the form of “entertainment media”, we’ll become a product of what we consume. It’s time to make a choice for ourselves and then, to let our kids see us do that and then explain to them why we’ve made the choices we have. Telling someone that something is wrong is incorrect is a fraction as effective as actually showing them and then being an example of it!

I was a child of the 60 & 70s (call it 4-10 years old). I watched Bugs Bunny & the Road Runner constantly and I’m doing just fine! I’ve noticed that the same cartoons of today have been edited for content (violence) and yet… what about the rest of television? Have you seen Ren & Stimpy or South Park?

What’s with our society’s current fascination with vampires and werewolves? I like a good vampire movie as much as the next guy, but it’s come to a point where if it doesn’t include soft core porn, it’s not a movie! The same is true and more so for television and if you don’t believe me, just watch an episode of “True Blood”. What are we consuming? Why do we seem to need more and more of this sort of stimulation? Are our lives that unfulfilled or without reward? Where will it end or what will be enough?

I’m not at all saying that people can’t figure out that vampires aren’t real (It’s not about the vampires), but it’s the values we’re ingesting through watching that sort of programming that serve to change our views on morality or what is socially acceptable from a moral perspective.

This then trickles down to our kids. It does so because it changes what we’re willing to tolerate, what we will allow them to see and what we won’t. What’s worse though is what’s available to them when they’re not in our home and the choices they’ll make in our absence. It’s also about how we treat one another in front of them! Our kids are mimics. They learn their values from us! I for one do not want to teach kids that disrespecting women is cool. I do not want to teach them that uninhibited sexual conduct is OK.

I want to help them learn and make them aware what this “stuff” is and why it’s all around them. Think about that statement for a minute. Imagine yourself explaining what is available on TV to your child and how difficult that would be. I’m not talking sports, but reality TV, game shows, soap operas, prime time television and the content within many commercials. While we’re at it, why not explain what we see in the news. Do any of us take the time to have these kinds of discussions with our kids?

I want children to understand for themselves (not because I TOLD them) the difference between healthy and unhealthy behaviour because because those are the kinds of adults I hope to interact with in society!  I also want to teach them how to interact with a person directly instead of through a keyboard, mouse and monitor!

This is not up to our teachers, nor should it ever be! It should start in our own homes, within our own families! We should be identifying this and talking about it openly instead of just consuming it…. I was going to say “consuming it together”, but that’s not necessarily true either considering most kids have their own computers, cell phones and access to a television in an isolated area of the home.

I personally don’t want a teacher having the responsibility for educating my child on what is right and wrong! That’s asinine and it’s not their responsibility! It’s completely unfair to expect a teacher to show my child the difference between what is right and wrong. Of course, they need to offer supervision while I’m not around, but my child’s value set should come from within my home and family. It should not be learned in school! PERIOD!

What I’m saying isn’t intended to impede social growth or progress. It’s not at all intended to rail against individual freedom of expression or choice. It’s intended to encourage us to identify what is healthy vs. unhealthy and then to teach and encourage that value set in our families so that our kids will be equipped to deal with stuff when they encounter it. They’ll know the difference and then, they’ll have the ability to make an informed decision based on a solid foundation of understanding and awareness.

This is not about promoting blind innocence or an over simplified perspective like that which was portrayed in “Leaver it to Beaver”. I’m not suggesting that a “Cleaver” society is what we need, but the family values presented in that show were very valid! We’re not simpletons and we have the ability and intelligence to choose to understand and recognize the difference.

I’ve been watching the erosion of society since I was a teen. I was very aware of it and I’ve always been. I knew the difference because my parents took the time to teach me!

By the way… ask yourself if you’ve been affected by it. If you’re old enough, please consider your life today vs. when you were a teen… call it 20 years ago… or 30, or 40 if you’re that old. Do you think your value set is different today than it was back then? I know mine is. Let’s ignore the context of sex for a minute and look instead at economics. How do you buy and value stuff today compared to 20 or 30 years ago? We’ve been helped and encouraged to become mass consumers who quickly become dissatisfied with what we have today because of what will be made available tomorrow. It’s created a society of “entitlement” and expectation instead of one of gratefulness and contentment. I’m not saying that having stuff or even nice stuff is bad… but what version of Go Pro are we on now? iPhone 5 with iPhone 6 in the wings? Think about it!

Back to the kids who are being charged, someone said to me about them, “they were probably not aware of what they were doing anyway”. “They probably didn’t know the consequences or even that it was harmful or wrong and were just being kids”. That’s the point of what I’ve written here today. They were just being kids and they need to know the difference because they acquired he behaviour somewhere or from someone.

We have a choice with regard to moral foundation and reasonable acceptability in our future of our society. We can continue to lick the lollipop of mediocrity and continue to be spoon fed what comes our way, or we can make a personal choice to become aware of what is happening all around us. If we choose to embrace the latter, we can then choose to effect change within our homes and families.

The choice is yours!

By the way… While I’d like to hear your opinion in form of a comment, I’d rather you instead offered those thoughts for discussion within your family. That’s the point behind this post.

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Division and unity… where does it leave us?

Like many people, I watched the 2014 Grammys a couple of weeks ago… I liked the music, not all of it, but much of it. There were theatrical parts I didn’t care for, some lyrics I didn’t care for and some music that I couldn’t relate to at all, but that’s just my taste. Overall, it was a sensationalized and dramatized event in which I saw what I figured I would… lots of flash, sparkle, twinkle and music. It was the Grammys.

I did notice that a few artists took time to give praise and thanks to God, but that was about as much as there was with regard to Christian music or Christ for that matter. That said, I didn’t watch the show because I was expecting to see God praised, represented or because I was looking for a spiritual message. The Grammys aren’t about Christ or Christianity!

Fast forward a few days… I happened to come across an article posted on someone’s Facebook wall:

http://theblacksphere.net/2014/01/christian-grammy-nominee-natalie-grant-walks-grammys/.

This post is not going to talk about the 34 couples who were married during the Grammy event, it’s going to talk about the polarized debate that has ensued in the above article as a result. I will offer though that I believe Natalie Grant may have missed an opportunity to walk out her Christianity instead of walking out on the people who also attended the Grammys. There are many ways of taking a stand in your beliefs. Walking away from an uncomfortable situation or from one you disagree with only serves to separate you from those who might otherwise have an opportunity to share your witness. Of course, that is a decision we must all make for ourselves and while I may not agree with Natalie’s choice, I definitely respect it!

While reading the article about Natalie Grant though, my heart sank! What struck me was the language that was used by the author to describe many of the people at the Grammys. Why the need to label? The euphemistic references used in the article were rude, hurtful and unnecessary! What was the point? Why the need to Judge? Why the need to identify and denigrate people by referring to them in a derogatory or disparaging way? Why the divide? Why must there be such judgment in our words and in our actions? Why must we make such a point of polarizing ourselves from one another? While this behaviour is not limited to “Christianity”, I wonder why so many “Christians” feel the need to separate themselves from the people that Jesus himself directly called us to embrace? Why do they act in a manner opposite to that which was taught by Jesus himself? In the Great Commission, didn’t Christ call us to engage with ALL of mankind? Did Christ not come to engage with us? Does He not meet us in our walk, in our trial, in struggle or in our weakness? Does Christ not want to connect with us in our journey? I’ve come to learn that He did and He does. That’s how I’ve come to know Him and His character. Why then do so many choose to view it so differently?

I’ve been wrestling with a question for the past few years, but it’s been in the last year especially that I felt an inner unrest and deep sadness because of it! I’m sickened to my core by it! I’m a Christian and sadly, I’m discouraged by much of what I see in the actions of “mainstream Christianity” and many of the Christians who claim to be followers of Christ. I would even go so far as to say that I’m heartbroken by it! Here is the question:

I wonder why many “Christians” need to act in this way?

I wonder why, when Christ came to walk with us, encourage us, love us toward a different path and sacrifice His life for our salvation when we were incapable of living a fully holy and righteous life, why many still feel the need to judge and reject? Christ didn’t and doesn’t reject us and yet, we are all too willing to reject one another! Even worse, we expect those who don’t yet know Christ to abide by his teaching as if they know him… and then we chastise them for it! What kind of example is that? How is that Love? Where is the Grace in that sort of behaviour?

Why do many Christians feel the need to label, compare, or judge? Is it because they themselves feel that they don’t measure up? Here’s a dirty little secret for you, your kids, your spouse, or whomever you choose to share it with…. none of us measure up! We’re all afflicted with a sickness called sin and yet, we’re ALL eternally loved, desired and wanted! All of us! We’re all sinners and Christ came and died for ALL of us! Redemption is available to everyone!

Why is it so incredibly hard for some people to accept that we’re all incapable of leading sinless and completely righteous lives? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I know I can’t. Thanks to Jesus though, I can “live” with it because God has shown me that He loves me beyond my sin! He relentlessly pursues my heart, but doesn’t get in the way of my life in the process! It’s strange to me how we feel the need to judge, correct, berate or otherwise manipulate each other when God just lets us and wants us to live our lives. He calls us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. He’s more respecting of our free will than we are for one another! Why is that I wonder?

As a Christian, the first and foremost thing that I believe is that I am in constant need of God’s Grace and Forgiveness, but right alongside that is my faith that God will give me more than I can ever ask for! What surprises me is that many “Christians” say those words, but I truly wonder if they actually believe them or know what that kind of love truly looks like. Faith is the belief in hope or promise unseen! What are God’s promises??? “I know the plans I have for you, plans for a hope and a future”. Is it the future I want or the future I should and will have? God is there to guide me, but I have my hand on the rudder of my life and it’s up to me to choose the direction and path that I will walk in, or if I will try to create my own. The truly great part about God is that even if I choose to create my own path… He’s right there with me every step of the way because He loves me and accepts me for who I am and who he created me to be. I may not always listen to him, but he continues to love me in spite of that. That’s it and that’s all! My life is not about how many people I can correct, admonish or teach “the Law” to or even lead to him for that matter!. It’s about showing the Love that He Himself feels for us and sent His Son to affirm!

God’s Word in the Bible is not about fire and brimstone, it’s about love, His Perfect Love, from beginning to end! Why is that so easy say and yet, so hard for some to show or believe? Why are some so focused on the “fire and brimstone” part?

Getting back to the article, while I was saddened by the article itself, I was heartbroken while reading so many of the comments at the bottom of the article. Probably though, some of the most distressing dialogue in the commentary are quoted below (I’ve quoted only two lines from the context of the debate, but trust me, it was a common thread):

“Savedbygrace: It’s obvious you’re not a Christian”

“Lonnie: Good!”

I think that pretty well summarizes the divide and it breaks my heart! Is division what Christ came here to teach? I think many are so focused on and busy trying to live up to the Law we see in the Bible that we miss the point of the law! It’s not there for us to live up to but rather, it’s a guide for us to know what is healthy and what is not. It’s up to us though, to figure that out for ourselves and to ask God for help in the process. Sure… helping each other to understand what that looks like can be a good thing. Before you do that however, I hope you’ve challenged yourself first by asking why YOU see a breech in the Law and what it means to you in your life. I hope you have taken the time to answer where in your life you’ve lived that breech and how you’ve reconciled it before you admonish someone else for breaking it. I also hope you’ll consider that it’s how you offer that testimony and what is in your heart at the time that matters to God!

In the quoted dialogue above, I have to wonder why “Savedbygrace” would have chosen that name when what he/she has chosen to show is the opposite of Grace. They’ve shown hypocrisy and judgment! I wonder how Christ would have engaged with “Lonnie” or with the people in attendance the Grammys? I’d be willing to bet that he would not have walked out of the Grammys. I think he would have talked with anyone who would have wanted to talk with him. I don’t care if they were shaking their “booty” or had just gotten married in the context of the Grammys. The Love of Christ is available to ALL OF MANKIND! Jesus will turn no one away! Think about that… NO ONE! Why then are we so quick to do otherwise?

God doesn’t shove Christianity down our throats, so why must we do that to one another or to those who don’t yet know Christ?

If you have a judging spirit, ask yourself why. Are you so challenged by your own feelings, desires or actions that it makes it easier for you to cope by pointing out those same actions in others? People… being a Christian is not about telling others how to live their lives… it’s about not being trapped by our own transgressions. It’s about being transformed in the knowledge and light of our mistakes and no longer living in shame! It’s about loving while living our lives! Doing so honours God! I personally don’t get it right all of the time, but I do put all of my heart into it. God doesn’t care about my actions, but he does care about where my heart is in every one of them.

If by now, you’ve felt challenged or even angry because of my commentary, please ask yourself why you feel as you do. I ask myself these questions very often and I hope you will too! You don’t need to answer them to satisfy me, but I hope you’ll answer them for yourself. Your life depends on it!

Are you a follower or a fan? Is this fashion or faith?

Do we even think about what these words mean? If you think you’re a Christian because you can follow or live up to the laws proclaimed and written in the Bible… I personally think you’ve missed the point behind what the law is really there for. I think you may have missed the point of Christ’s message and the purpose for his Life and Sacrifice! Yep… those are some pretty bold statements and I hope you’ll consider them. If they anger you, challenge you or otherwise bother you, I hope you’ll not just ask why I wrote them, but you’ll ask yourself why you feel as you do. I truly hope they challenge you to take action in your life. I hope you’ll sit quietly by yourself and consider why you feel what you feel. I hope you’ll truly challenge yourself. I then hope you’ll invite God in to help you find or formulate these questions than to help you find the answers to the questions you came up with.

Telling someone they’re wrong about what they believe or how they feel is not only divisive… it’s arrogant! Christ came to meet people in life and to love them to a better place… to an eternal life! Why can’t we do the same for one another? Why must there be so much anger and hate when we’re called to love and respect?

What I’ve written about is just my commentary on what I’ve witnessed in my journey of learning. These thoughts are about someone whose life has been impacted by Love and Grace. They may not get very far in terms of the number of people they reach, but I truly hope they reach deep within YOU and challenge you to ask yourself some very honest questions. I realize what I’ve written in itself might be considered as judgmental, but I’ll hope you’ll consider it more as a commentary than as a judgment. It’s an expression of hurt and disillusionment.

I’m not normally one to quote scripture, but often, God has already said it better than I ever could! I walk daily in the light of these words:

“Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.” – 1 Peter 3:15