Is there anybody out there?

Is there anybody out there?

“Is there anybody out there?”

The band, Pink Floyd made this question famous on their 1979 album, “The Wall”. Under the haunting drones of synth chords and samples from the TV series, Gunsmoke, the listener is confronted with the question, “Is there anybody out there?” The question is repeated as the melancholy of the soundscape rises and finally breaks into a ethereal acoustic guitar melody accompanied by lonely violin. It provides some relief but not quite enough. The question still lingers about the mind, “Is there anybody out there?” It’s truly a genius two and a half minutes of music.

In the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” this song plays at the point where the bitter and alienated Pink (the main character) is attempting to reach anybody outside of his self-built wall. The repeated question “Is there anybody out there?” suggests that no response is heard (1).

I remember back to my music and DJ days when I would be in the DJ booth playing records to a packed club of hundreds of people, yet there was an underlying sense of alienation. I could see people around me – but why does the question still gnaw at my soul? “Is there anybody out there?”  Does anyone even care?

There have been seasons in my life when I’ve felt alone. Even when I had family and friends around, I suffered from disconnectedness. At points, this lead to depression and anxiety. Its hard recognize from the outside. By God’s grace and the love of family and friends, I don’t suffer like I did so many years ago. However, there are shadows of how I felt in those seasons that remain as a remembrance. I think it is important that I remember rather than forget what it’s like to feel alone. There can be no deep ministry to others without memories of our own misery.

Today, many people feel alienated and lonely in our technology-driven, pseudo-connected, over-stimulated, hyper-autonomous and instant gratification-focused cultural moment. We’ve relegated our relationships and existence to online platforms, how can we not be driven to alienation?

I think a dangerous new religion is emerging in the West. It’s called Alienation.

It has its own doctrines of disconnect and loneliness. We carry our slick, shiny, flat-screened idols in our hands all day. It’s sacraments are dopamine drips through a communion of ‘likes’ and screen scrolling. It’s worship is seen on the altar where authentic human relationships go to be sacrificed. Alienation has its own cathedrals built for one. It has its own hymns and liturgy and even ideology and emerging politics. The enlightened state of the religion of alienation is loneliness and ultimately, despair. This despair brings some to their own end at their own hands – the ultimate sacrifice.

“Contemporary man is alienated. He is alienated from the past because he has no cultural roots anymore. He’s been taught to despise the past. He is alienated from a real vibrant society – his social ties are thin and few. That shows up in his sexual habits which seem to have no meaning beyond that of the pleasure or the despair of the moment. He has very little connection with the natural world – the outside world.

 

A lot of people out there are intensely lonely.”

Anthony Esolen

Is there anybody out there?

If I could jump into Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece, I would add one three letter word at the end… “Yes!”

Yes, there is someone out there, just like you. In fact millions, just like you. Human beings all over our world just wanting to connect in an authentic and meaningful way. But how do we overcome alienation that has become so pervasive?

It starts with a light switch. We begin by turning on the lights in the dark room for those who are lonely so they can see that there are others in the room.

We must recognize alienation and loneliness and label them as enemies of what is good, true and beautiful about the human experience. Humans are hardwired to connect with others. When humans don’t have connections, they can’t live meaningful lives of vibrance. We need relationships – we need each other. Our creator designed us to be in relationship.

We must restore what has been lost in this current lonely age.

If we do nothing, I fear that history will see this chapter as the loneliest  in western culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. But it starts with you and me. Whether its the kitchen, the campfire or the nursing home on the holidays, we must be intentional about bringing life back to life. We bring hope and connection to the lonely lives of others and ourselves.

Restoration overcomes alienation. We must work to rescue one another from the cold grip of loneliness and despair.  We restore lives through relationships.

To the haunting voice that asks, “Is there anybody out there?” We must break through self-built walls and shout, “Yes, we are here!” and “You are not alone!”  and “God loves you and so do we!”

Now, go and do. The cure for alienation is real-life personal connection. That connection needs to be restored.

“And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’…” (Acts 17:26-28a)

The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
“It is the law of the cross, it is a sacrificial law. Christ gives rest to the heart by giving burdens to the shoulders. And, as a matter of fact, it is in being burdened that we usually find rest… Heavy luggage is a cure for weary hearts.” So, we must bear each other’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
– F.W. Boreham

(1) quote taken from Wikipedia 

Resources:
[Podcast] Restoring a Christian Culture – An Interview with Anthony Esolen


Read previous post: Worldview: What does it mean to be a man?
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Worldview: What does it mean to be a man?

Worldview: What does it mean to be a man?

What does it mean to be a man in this cultural moment?

This all boils down to answering the question, “what does it mean to be human?”
This is a worldview question and depending on one’s worldview, will render different answers.

Worldview answers these questions:

  • Metaphysical – what is real?
  • Epistemology – what is true?
  • Origin – where did I come from?
  • Meaning – does life have meaning?
  • Morality – what is right or wrong (good / evil)?
  • Destiny – what happens when I die?
  • Identity – who am I and does my life have purpose?

Every worldview must answer those questions in ways that correspond to reality and have coherence.

A secularist-atheist, Muslim, pantheist, Christian, etc will all answer these questions differently. Worldview drives behavior and how we see ourselves in our place in the world. What I believe about being a man in this cultural moment is shaped by my worldview. In the west, The contours of our body ethic are rooted in a worldview and philosophies emerging from Rome and Greece – that were both reshaped and reformed by Christian worldview.

As the Christian ethic is jettisoned for a more naturalistic / materialistic worldview, we don’t actually move toward something new, we move back to something old – Rome.

Therefore, this shift will change how we define our place and purpose in the world, man and woman.

I believe the definition of a man is rooted in biology, theology and character.

What does it mean to be a man?

He does not give in to passivity
He takes responsibility
He leads sacrificially
He defends the weak
He is a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless.
He is faithful
He loves mercy and does justice
He loves well and leads well.
(Notice none of these attributes have anything to do with a man’s physical strength, violence or abilities).

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

Note: The content above was taken from a reply I wrote to a friend’s post on Facebook. This is an extension of my recent work in the Colson Fellows residency has helped me crystalize and communicate the contours of what shapes our worldview particularly in America today and our definition of man.

Resources:


Read previous post: Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.

The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer.  This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell.  It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.

Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview.  It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior.  This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions.  His challenge to the church echoes today.  Dr. King knew what he was about.  Do you know what you are about?

We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).

But a better question is;

What is our salvation for?

[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]

Read: Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’


Read previous post: Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

What is Good, True and Beautiful

What is Good, True and Beautiful

In times of cynicism, banality, negativity and outrage there are two kinds of people. There are those who race to the bottom and make things worse. Then, there are those who elevate the cultural conversation and take action.

A few bad actors don’t make an entire group of people bad.

Don’t judge a philosophy by its misuse.

What is meant for good can be used for evil and vice versa.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

Worldview matters. A vital key to understanding reality is to know what is good, what is true and what is beautiful. Only when we know those core essentials can we create a vision of restoration and act on it.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Engage reality – create solutions, combat evil, restore people and relationships.

Ask these four questions

1. What is good you can celebrate?

2. What is missing you can contribute or create?

3. What is evil you can stop?

4. What is broken you can restore?

Develop these three life skills

  • Wisdom (the art of living well in light of objective truth – in community, in our cultural moment)
  • Discernment (identifying the nature of things – good or evil)
  • Moral Courage (the will to stand for what is good, true and beautiful)

Goodness, truth and beauty find their source in God. When you look at a world in crisis, ask yourself; What is Good, True and Beautiful?  When you experience brokenness,  understand that it’s not supposed to be this way.  Ask the four questions before racing to the bottom.

Elevate the conversation and respond with your heart set on restoration.

Practice – Training 

Next time you sit with your family for dinner, ask each person to share something good, true and beautiful they’ve experienced today.  Challenge them to focus on these things over the next week – to see their reality differently.  When we know what is good, true and beautiful – we can frame solutions to all the bad stuff and negativity in our world. Our ministry is based on a good, true and beautiful God.  Its from that foundation that we deal with sin, brokenness, evil and pain.  Our mission is reconciliation and restoration.

*Note: The ideas in this post flow from Colson Fellows course study and talks given by John Stonestreet (Colson Center).  I am thankful for those who stir the hearts and minds of men to think carefully in our culture.


Read previous post: PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

PSA: How Deep Fake (AI) could turn your child’s photos into virtual porn

Can I have your undivided attention for 8 minutes?

Can you really believe in what you see?  Did you ever think you could be the star in every Leonardo DiCaprio film?  Now you can!  It’s called ‘Deepfake‘ AI technology. Rather than trying to explain the technology, just click play on the video below. Posted by Allen Xia on Twitter, he uses an AI app called Zao to superimpose his face on Leo’s body in various movie scenes. Generated in under 8 seconds, this video uses a thumbnail photo of Allan.

 

The Situation

Having viewed the video above, imagine the face of your child superimposed on to someone else’s body using AI technology.  The scenes are made against their will and beyond your knowledge for the benefit of those who exploit and harm children.  DeepFake AI technology can be used to create images and videos by those who wish to bully, blackmail, exploit, entrap, or groom our children.  This is the worst kind of identity theft.

The Reality

Artificial Intelligence commonly referred to as ‘AI’ is quickly transforming from a sci-fi fantasy into a current reality.  It will impact every human-being on the planet.  AI is a powerful technological tool. Will it be for good or evil, for benefit or detriment?  We don’t know yet.  However, law enforcement is concerned, the Federal Government is concerned, nonprofits and NGOs are concerned.  Should parents be concerned?  The answer is ‘yes!’

Proper Concern

As many of you know, I advocate for internet safety and vigilance when dealing with these new forms of technology. In particular, understanding how our children (minors) interface with smartphones, internet capable devices and social media is vital.  In addition, we must understand and address their vulnerabilities and our responsibilities on an ongoing basis.  We must understand threats and risks of offering this powerful communication portal into their lives to early for the wrong reasons.  These technologies are changing us as humans.  But, that discussion is for another time.

My family practices internet safety by limiting where my wife and I post photos of our children on Social Media. We ask the same of the rest of our family.  In doing so, we raise awareness of the risks in our community.

Addressing Risks

Having served for 3 years on the leadership team of the 5 Stones Anti-Trafficking Taskforce under the Ft. Worth Police Department, I am well versed in the child exploitation and trafficking space. Smartphones, unlimited internet access and Social Media platforms can be a risky if not deadly for our children. If this frightens you, it should. I’ve seen dozens of cases where children are being exploited online by bullies and pimps. The children come from every demographic, ethnicity, socioeconomic sphere, all ages and every neighborhood.  Exploitation is not limited by borders or wealth (see Jeffery Epstein or visit your local law enforcement officer).  We know the risks of sharing data and photos online.  We know the risks of devices in the hands of children.  Heck, I have a hard time putting down my smartphone.

We need a paradigm shift in our thinking.  Parents must lock arms and unite against technology’s ability to allure our children (and us).

Accurate Perspective

Imagine posting a public photo of your child the same way you see an advertisement on a public billboard. You are putting your prize possession on display for the world to see. With the current advances in AI technology (DeepFake), someone you don’t even know can transform an innocent image of YOUR child into a degrading and disgusting pornographic film by superimposing your child’s face onto a video image. By the time you discover the exploitation, its too late. Thousands of perverts, traffickers, sex-buyers and criminals will have viewed the video. Videos spread on the dark web and in private chat rooms where they are bought and sold. There is nothing you can do except prepare to deal with your child’s lifelong trauma.

Imagine your child on an auction block to be sold.  In short, this is happening on the dark web and social media sites.  But, you can mitigate the risks.  You are the solution.  You can be a hero for your child.  It will require GRIT and discipline on your part as you talk with your children and partner with them as they grow older and demonstrate responsibility. Encourage them to lead in the family and school.

Solutions: Be Vigilant not afraid

  • Be aware of what you post online.
  • Be careful to post using proper privacy settings when using Social Media.
  • Use internet filters and monitors on your child’s devices for school and home use
  • Consider delaying giving your child a personal smartphone  until 16-17yrs old (depending on their maturity and responsibility).
  • Here are other devices that can be used for safety until they reach age of responsibility
  • Older Kids: The child pays for the phone (responsibility), the parents control the data plan (accountability).
  • Never allow a minor child to be on the internet alone, at night in their rooms.
  • Know the access code to your child’s devices and perform random searches with their full knowledge. Talk about it.
  • Talk to them about the dangers of exploitations.
  • I-Empathize curriculum for 12 and over: www.iempathize.org
  • Model healthy interactions and teach them the warning signs of online grooming and exploitation
  • Gather like-minded community to get trained in online safety: Local Law Enforcement and DHS often have trainings
  • This is what our community did to start the conversation: www.traffickingstartshere.com
  • Learn how pornography affects the brain, the heart and world: www.fightthenewdrug.org
  • Need further help – feel free to contact me or comment below

 


Additional Resources:

TECHNOLOGY AND CHILDREN
TECHNOLOGY AND CHRISTIANITY

TECHNOLOGY AND AI NEWS:


Read previous post: Swimming into your Future
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


Read previous post: “Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care”
If you wish to subscribe to this blog, please sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.