The Gender Blur

A headline in the University of Tennessee’s daily newspaper, The Daily Beacon, caught my attention earlier this week.  It read, “Slam poet, activist to host workshop on gender theory.”  The article, written by Justin Joo, can be found here.  As a Christian who currently works at this liberal arts institution I have ample opportunity to keep current with what the “other side” is into so to speak.  Without going into detail, the article basically previewed a “gender theory workshop” event hosted by the university’s Lambda Student Union (an LGBT organization).

None of the comments in this blog are intended to be an attack on the author of the article or the paper itself.  I think it is made clear in Scripture that we, as Christians, should love – to the degree we are capable – all of God’s children; however, in this day of post-modernism and political correctness, where it is (sometimes literally) a criminal offense to offend anyone or any group (except, ironically enough, for certain specific groups of people, including Christians), we are often afraid to stand up for Truth.

There were two excerpts from the article that caught my attention:

  1. “A major concept in gender theory is that gender is not divided into two simple subsets of male and female.”
  2. “The ultimate goal of the event is for students to have a better understanding of how gender norms play into people’s lives and how gender is not necessarily tied to a person’s sex.”

OK, so regarding #1, you can dress that statement up in all the modern, pseudo-enlightened language you want to, but it will not change the fact that it is completely ridiculous.  As Christians, we absolutely cannot fall for things like this, no matter how much we will be criticized for being closed-minded or intolerant.  Gender absolutely is related to your sex, and there are only two options…male or female.  Genesis 5:2 settles this issue for us, “Male and female He created them…”

Regarding #2, I am by no means denying the existence of and the need for the differences in gender roles and traits, etc.  There are legitimate reasons why so much time and so many resources are devoted to these topics.  In fact, if we seek to be Christ-like, if we seek personal growth and maturity, then we should purposefully try to develop and balance masculine and feminine aspects of our personalities.

I feel like the Trinity models this for us.  In the Old Testament you see God both patiently and lovingly delivering His nation Israel through one travail after another.  But this same God balances His loving kindness with His righteous anger.  When the nation of Israel builds the golden calf in Exodus 32, we read in verse 10, “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them.”  And in the New Testament we have Christ overturning the tables in the temple, but we also have that beautiful passage from Matthew 23, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…”

In my mind, this is quite often what we should be focusing on as Christians when we discuss gender – learning to be more Christlike so that we can maturely apply masculine and feminine traits to circumstances that we come across in our lives; however, we should reject notions such as “gender is not necessarily tied to a person’s sex.”  It is so easy in these times to let seditious notions such as these to sneak into our thought patterns, but we must not be “conformed to this world.”

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth

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Ode to Friendship

So, this is maybe a bit of a different post than what I would expect to publish, but I was going through a notebook I found in my room the other day when I noticed a stack of papers.  The stack consisted of miscellaneous scribblings on this and that, but among the stack was a poem that I had written.  I’m sure at certain points in time I have (and still do) fancy myself a poet, but it had been a LONG time.  Still, I thought this one was not so bad…at least not so bad for someone who majored in accounting in college!  I edited it a bit, but it’s pretty close to the original.  Maybe I’ll try to dig up (or write) some more of these.  I hope you enjoy.

“Ode to Friendship”

This could be a valiant epic
Enshrined in time,
Of our heroic adventures
And conquests fine.

This could be a discourse
on all that is relevant,
As we transcend boundaries
To chart the magnificent.

It could be a romance, Dear Friend,
An attending love for another’s soul.
Where the whirling of time and space
Serves only to strengthen our hold.

This could be a comedy
That redefines the standard,
And puts laughter and joy
On a level much grander.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth

I Won a Gold Medal in Frustration

I admit it, I love watching the olympics!  I love the winter and summer games both, and I really love those events that most people probably consider the step-children of the games.  I honestly think I could watch every curling match during the winter olympics, and if I were at the summer games you can bet I’d spend a good deal of my time in the table tennis and badminton arenas; however, I also love many of the more high-profile events too.  So, like many of you, I found myself glued to the TV on Sunday night watching NBC’s tape-delayed coverage of the women’s gymnastics qualifying round.

If you were watching Sunday night, then you probably saw reigning all-around world champion American gymnast Jordyn Wieber get her heart broken when she realized she did not qualify for the individual all-around competition.  That has to be so tough…to show up at an event you have practically been training your whole life for, that only comes around once every four years, and not come through in the clutch.  Bless her heart!  What a tough time to not have your “A” game.

Except you know, that really doesn’t tell the whole story, does it?  In fact, it turns out she DID bring her “A” game.  She finished 4th – FOURTH – out of 60 competitors!  Don’t believe me?  Check the results HERE.  So, what happened?  In their infinite wisdom, the governing body decided to put a rule in place in 2004 that allows only 2 representatives from each competing country to qualify for the individual all-around competition.**  I assume those of you who, like me, do not believe that diversity is an inherently noble end in and of itself can clearly see the problem here.  This is a once-every-four-years event that claims to crown the greatest in the world, but by definition, its own rules potentially (likely, in fact) keep the best in the world from competing against each other!

AGH!  This world is maddening!

It is here that I would like to insert a quote from Ayn Rand’s magnificent (and perhaps prophetic…if you’ve read it then you’ll know what I mean) novel, Atlas Shrugged – “Nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter, nor in spirit; and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.”

That may sound like a heavy-handed quote for a gymnastics competition, but here is the larger point I am trying to make: in our politically correct, post-modern world, we focus so much on trying to be diverse and tolerant that we toss common sense out the window if it gets in the way.  Why is it inherantly better that America not be allowed to have 3 women competing, even though we had 3 women that qualified based on the raw score alone?

And lest you think I am being nationalistic, you should know that I also think the two-person-per-country limit that was added for these games to the sport of table tennis is just as ridiculous.  The Chinese dominate that sport – they have the top 4 ranked men and the top 4 ranked women in the world, but still only 2 each can compete in the individual competition.

See, the problem is, unfair is unfair.  Whether we apply that to the olympic games or whether we apply it on a more generic, moral level.  As Ayn Rand so eloquently wrote, nothing goes unpaid for.  If the guilty do not pay, then the innocent will.  You know who is paying for this unfair rule?  Jordyn Wieber, Chinese table tennis players, and anyone else this applies to.  Think how much these athletes have trained for these moments.  How many hours in a gym, how many things they said, “No” to so they could train harder and longer.  Do you want to look Jordyn in the face and explain to her that it isn’t fair to limit (insert country here) to only one competitor, even though Jordyn qualified in the top 24?  The medals are awarded on points, right?  See, we always think that it’s good to include others, to give others a shot, and generally it probably is, but someone has to pay the balance in a situation such as this.

So this whole thing naturally made me think of affirmative action practices for some reason.  We should make hiring choices based on who is most qualified.  It is just as wrong to hire a black person for a job that they are unqualified for so you can meet a quota as it is to only hire white people because you are a bigot.  They are both wrong.  It shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman…if you’re white, black, red, purple or blue.  If you have earned it, you deserve it.  To tie it back to Jordyn, if she finished 4th out of 60, she earned it.

Anyway, that affirmative action topic deserves much more space to be devoted to it, but I wanted to throw it in.  Thanks for reading the rant.

**Many thanks to Slate for a great article that I lifted some information from for this post.  Get their take on it HERE.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth

The Problem of Repetitive Sin

It is comforting to know that two men who lived a long time ago – and who are wiser than I will be in 10 lifetimes – struggled with an issue that I wrestle with today as a Christian…repeating sins of the past.

Socrates once said, “I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again.” If you’re a Christian and that sounds familiar to you, it should. Paul said something very similar in the 7th chapter of his epistle to the Romans:

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (NKJV)

As my dad is fond of saying, when sin entered the world, Adam and Eve literally “ate us out of house and home.” I always chuckle when he says that, but it’s true. Sin changed everything forever (including Adam and Eve’s literal eviction from the Garden of Eden), and it changed all of us who are now “born” into it…born into an antagonistic relationship with God. While we live and breathe, we will be fighting a constant battle within ourselves to conquer the devilish nature in all of us.

One of the great tricks of the devil in my opinion is alluded to in the quote from Socrates and the excerpt from Romans – he somehow gets us to commit sinful acts that we, in fact, very often get no pleasure from. In fact, the displeasure comes in many forms. My dad has asked me before, “How many times have you sinned where you really didn’t know you were doing something wrong?” My answer is basically, “Never.” So, as a born-again Christian with the Holy Spirit residing within me, the premeditation of my sin wars against God in my spirit, mind and body. Then, any feeling of “joy” that may be present during the act of sinning itself is at best a perversion of the word and in fact would probably be better described in a different way entirely (e.g. the adrenaline of rebellion). And we all know that as soon as we have committed the act, post we feel – almost immediately, and very palpably – the break of the bond of fellowship we are privileged to have with God our Father.

Speaking personally, patterns of repetative sin in my life are often the sins I hate the most. I have a hard time reconciling the whole thing in my head because, looking at the situation objectively, I agree with Socrates much of the time. That is, I know what it’s going to feel like; I know I don’t like that feeling; I know I don’t really enjoy it; and, though I fight and swear “This is the last time!” I know, as a fallen human being, that it’s coming again.

It is at this point we must – while striving for that true repentance that leads to behavioral change – give ourselves grace. We are blessed beyond measure that our Savior extends this grace to us. Paul understood that in his flesh dwelt “no good thing,” and Scripture tells us, “For He knows our frame; He remembers we are dust (Psalm 103:14).” And knowing this, He sent His son to redeem us.

Copyright © 2012 Jonathan Ruth

Set Forth Your Case – Paper #1

In July of this year I am attending (Lord willing!) the RZIM Oxford Summer School for Christian Apologetics.  You should check out what these folks are all about HERE (Summer school), HERE (the OCCA) and HERE (RZIM).  As you might be able to infer from this website, I am pretty stoked about this!  However, at this point in the game I am not exactly an expert in the discipline of Christian Apologetics.  In order to get in “game shape” so to speak, I have been working on some assignments from my dad (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s).  The first assignment was to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters.  It might be a little hard to follow what’s going on without reading the chapters for yourself, but I wanted to share the work I did on these anyway.  So, that being said, here is paper #1… Continue reading