Attacked By Broad Brushes

It’s not even 8:30 and I’m already wondering.

Seth Godin talks in a recent podcast (Akimbo) about the placebo effect. He claims that 95% of your brain does not understand English. The brain functions on chemistry and feelings. What your spirit “knows” informs the brain. If you know that you are “greatly blessed and highly favored” your brain will tell you ways to show that to be true and will open your eyes to solutions and opportunities.

I am a white evangelical male. According to those who are left of center, I am not only deplorable I am responsible for everything bad that has ever happened in our Republic since Colonial Days. Not only the secularists and radical, but I’m reading Christian media people (whom I rather like) talking about the WEM tribe in grossly dismissive and contemptuous words. I listen attentively to their indictments and I don’t see many of my male friends or mentors there. I am fairly introspective. I may be self-deluding, but they aren’t describing me. I am as concerned about environment stewardship, human rights as any of my peers. I am also often without a clue how to solve societal and racial problems, but it has nothing to do with my faith, or anatomy. You could surely find me self-justifying and ignorant, but it is not because there is a WEM gene that can never be redeemed or corrected.

A left of center, white, kinda evangelical (she doesn’t like the word. She is in a serious journey with Jesus.) media woman posted a study that says Christians are more than twice as likely to blame a person’s poverty on lack of effort rather than circumstances. I do not equate poverty with skin color. When I fail or find myself into any kind of need I ask if I’m blocked because of lack of effort. I have several ways of doing that. I apply my self-directed inquisition to others. Some are blatantly not trying—more don’t know what to try. An even larger number tried and what they tried didn’t work. Disappointment leads to cynicism and iron-clad self-doubt until there is no reason in their soul, mind and spirit to try at all. It is not either or. It is not about color.

There has been an all-out war on the white male since the 60s. Now the designated scape-goat is the white American, evangelical male.
If I understood the evangelical movement as media represents it I wouldn’t like it either. The left of center has co-opted and stolen “evangelical” for a variety of reasons. The term has been redefined and made it what it has never been intended. The WME critics tend to raise a placard of Pat Robertson as the ultimate example of ignorance and stupid comments. I also cringe when he says some things. He is grouped with robber barons of another century. Have these critics researched how much Robertson’s ministries give each year to help the poor or natural disasters? I think of World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed The Children and many mega-churches who give millions a year. White, American, Evangelical men.

An evangelical by definition is not political. It is a group of people who tend to interpret the Bible a certain way and understand that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth to die for our sin and fix what was broken in the Fall. An evangelical tends to interpret what happened on the cross and how we are to share that message with the world. Among other things. Our understanding and beliefs influence our politics because of what we know about God and what His self-revelation teaches us about inter-personal relationships and relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Ghost. The core values of an evangelical does not include our political party. We are not a lock-knee voting block.

Being an evangelical is to be “mission-minded” about the lost, the orphan, widow, poor, oppressed, hungry, uneducated and the sick—just to begin.

There is power in the pen. There is confusion and inaccurate claims in the broad brush.

Beware of the broad brush!
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Solid answers, reasons & strategies

I want to avoid extreme hyperbole, but I think 12 Rules for Life: An antidote to chaos (Jordan Peterson, Random House Canada, 2018) is the most important book of this young century.

It is not yet in paperback. Hardcover runs $15-$17—Amazon. An alternative plan is to get in line at your library or take a day trip to the nearest large bookstore and spot read it. There will be coffee and plush chairs.

If you have children at home, at least read the 3 page summary of Rule 5—“Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
Summary of Principles:
1. Limit the rules
2. Use minimum necessary force
3. Parents should come in pairs
4. Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry, deceitful.
5. It is the primary duty of parents to make their children socially desirable (page 142-3)

When Carole hears that I went to the riverfront, she will ask, “Was He there?” I will exclaim semi-hyperbolic, “OH! MAN! OH MAN! OH MAN!”

After reading this chapter, I wonder why I’ve never seen a church advertise that they specialize in ministry to the single parent. The Kingdom is missing something here! (North Point Community Church has a Sunday evening gathering for parents and kids for Q&A.)

If you want a clear view of why there are school shootings, chaos, and troubled white, emotionally ill, distressed boys, read Rule 6—“Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World.”

Dr. Peterson speaks to the causes. One of Columbine shooters wrote enough clues. Peterson says about Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Colorado:

“The murderous individuals had a problem with reality that existed at a religious depth.”

I think the ideas in this book provide pro-active tactics. The writer, prof at Harvard and University of Toronto is described as “secular.” The more I hear him talk and read his articles (Newsweek) and books, the more I hear a biblical prophet.

Thank you
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Who’s Your Daddy?

“Compassion fatigue.”

The matriarch of the animal group in our family went to the vet last week for dental work. She did fine. The vets and workers vocalized how glad they were for her. One of the younger members of our animal kingdom made a trip to the vet today. Except for reptiles, we pretty much have the small animal kingdom covered with at least one rep from each segment. The vets in several communities know the names of our pets and understand that they are the 4-legged members of the family—except for the chicken, and bird. We are, therefore, troubled by the news that there is an epidemic of suicides among veterinarians specializing in small animals. The crisis is attributed to compassion fatigue.

A psychologist said this morning that you and I are subject to compassion fatigue. The feeling is of being overwhelmed by the constant news of nations, orphans, tragedies, absent justice and a thousand other assaults to the point we shut down and block out news because our compassion reservoir is extremely low, if not empty. Overwhelmed, overloaded, fatigued, self-defense cynicism.

The psychologist tossed another word into the story. Chaos. Compassion and chaos are connected. I don’t know which comes first.

I am obsessing over Abram & his tribe. It seems to me: God told Abram to get away from Ur of the Chaldeans before He told him there would be a Promised Land. Ur was in Mesopotamia. Jordan Peterson says,

“…the ancient Mesopotamians believed…that mankind itself was made from the blood of Kingu, the single most terrible monster that the great Goddess of Chaos could produce, in her most vengeful and destructive moments.” (12 Rules for Life, ©2018 Random House Canada, page 55)

There is, I believe, a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. In that eon of millions of years is when dinosaurs and all their companions roamed the earth. Nothing God ever created could be evaluated as “without form and void”—chaos. I also believe that satan was removed from heaven and landed on this planet during that eon. Where Lucifer is, chaos is or will be.

It interests me that the “Russia, Russia, Russia” period can be called chaotic and the reason Russia interfered in the 2016 election was to produce crippling chaos. When we (individually or culture) are overwhelmed we experience it as chaos—too many contradictory elements to easily think about or resolve into a sensible cause or result.

Chaos can lead to spiritual, emotional and physical death.

God wanted Abram to get out of that chaotic atmosphere of Mesopotamia. He wanted Abram to know the “blood that flowed in humans” was not from an evil source, but from a loving God.

Behind all that’s going on in our culture there is a war between the kingdoms. The kingdom of life and the kingdom of death.

Well, that’s how all of this connects for me. One of first results of a chaotic-overwhelming time is compassion fatigue.

Who’s your daddy? Who’s blood flows in your veins?
“Oh yes! I’m a child of the King. His royal blood now flows in my veins.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRsm12Fd0qY
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Legacy leading to Your Destiny

Several years ago, I was watching a TV discussion that landed on the ministry of Billy Graham. Two men talked about what would happen when Mr. Graham died. This became known as “The prophecy.” I respect those men who “sensed” in the Spirit a wide-spread calling forth a new group of empowered evangelists for the new day. The heavy underlining was that something would break open that Billy Graham’s death would ignite. Others I respect have said the new group would be a generation. We heard Anne Graham Lotz speak prophetically of that at the funeral. It sounded to me like a ratification of the earlier seeing.

Ed Stetzer moved from Lifeway—an arm of Southern Baptist Convention—to Wheaton College. I followed his blogs and publications then and still do. Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group
I want to share a portion of Mr. Stetzer’s Exchange blog from Christianity Today that fits into the “prophecy.”

My colleagues at the Billy Graham Center, Paul Erickson and Bob Schuster, shared with me one example of a hero maker by the name of Elner Edman.

Elner was the brother of V. Raymond Edman, a past president of Wheaton College. Elner and Herman Fischer, who was on the Wheaton Board of Trustees at the time, were on vacation golfing in Florida. There, they met Graham, who was then a student at the Florida Bible Institute, a then-unaccredited Bible college (today, it is Trinity College in the Tampa Area).

They listened to Billy preach, but they also went golfing and Billy served as their caddy,
carrying their golf bags. They found themselves impressed with him and encouraged him to consider attending Wheaton College after finishing a degree at Florida Bible Institute. Graham had said that his mother had always wanted him to attend Wheaton, but that it was out of their financial reach.

So, having been impressed with him, both Edman and Fischer came back a couple days and Elner offered to pay the first year of his tuition at Wheaton. They both also agreed to work to get him a scholarship. Graham did end up attending Wheaton College, which became a key transition point to his global ministry.

When I shared this in front of the 6,000 attendees at the Exponential Conference, I did not tell people who Elner Edman was. I simply put his picture on the screen and explained that for the last year and a half, I’ve carried a responsibility of something called the Washington Project.

In the Washington Project, my job was that upon Billy Graham’s death, I was to cancel my plans, to call and set into motion certain events related to the funeral, and more. I have actually carried a card with me that I held up to the attendees at the Exponential Conference and explained that I would get this call and then I would call certain people.

So, I explained to those at Exponential that by putting a picture of Elner Edman up, I wanted to encourage all of us that there are all kinds of hero makers. In this case, Elner met his caddy, thought he had potential, encouraged him to go to Wheaton College, and helped pay his way to go to Wheaton College.

After explaining a bit about the card and the Washington Project, I explained that Elner Edman’s caddy died recently, and I put a picture of Billy Graham on the screen.
©Christianity Today, 2018

The vision that came from several (and sometimes differing) parts of the Body of Christ seems to be coming forth.

Another “investor” in Billy Graham was Christian Educator Henrietta Mears who invited him to her summer conference. It was there that Billy Graham worked through the credibility of the Bible and then the role it would have in his life and ministry. He developed a biblical worldview.

Two major Christian research groups studied Generation Z or iGens, which follows The Millennials. Their research says that 4% of iGens (including Christians) have a biblical worldview. This percentage has been eroding beginning with Boomers. A Biblical worldview is almost impossible as long as a person is Biblically illiterate. I take this one step further by quoting:

“The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western Civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil.)” (©2018 Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, Random House Canada.)

My lengthy blog “After thoughts & Prayers” (https://bentonquesthouse.com/) outlines how I see a possible way the vision above—calling forth heroes and building a generation of leaders—could work. With the dismissal of God and the Bible from our culture, the younger generations have no basis for thought about or words to conceptualize America’s faith systems, our form of government or a solid understanding of the virtues. Or a capacity to understand or internalize The Constitution, let alone live as a Follower of Jesus.
To whom will you become a hero? How?

Thanks for thinking about this.
©2018 D. Dean Benton
Writer, Wonderer

Thank You, Mr. Graham

The most influential instrument in my boyhood was the radio on top of my grandmother’s refrigerator. It must have been uniquely wired. All it ever broadcast was the farm news, preachers and singers. I’m still not sure what a pork belly is, but I got it straight when it came to preachers and singers.

I don’t know the first time I heard Billy Graham preach. It just seems like the whole Graham team was always part of our family. We listened to The Hour of Decision beginning before I could reach the radio dial. We knew the Wilson brothers, George Beverly Shea. I was impacted by Cliff and Billie Barrows. Later, we met the wife and family of the crusade pianist and many men who worked with Mr. Graham. A man attended one of our meetings who told me he had spent the week with “Billy.” I couldn’t figure out who he was talking about until he said, “Ruth.” He had been a Graham team member during the Youth for Christ days.

During the days when my family of origin was fragmenting, we lived at Grandma’s on several occasions. We were at radio side during the Los Angeles crusade and heard the stories of gangsters, entertainers, athletes and educators coming to faith in Jesus. Those names and stories became part of my youth.

By the fifth grade, Mr. Graham family and team were extended family. It was not long after the L.A. Crusade that Graham came to Des Moines. We were about the last ones getting into the building. Mom and sister found two seats together in the third balcony and I found one open seat on the last row at the top of the auditorium. When the altar call was given, I found Mom and told her I was going to the altar. It seems to be my first confession of faith—“Mom, I’m going forward….” It felt a long trip down the back stairs to the main floor and then walk to the stage where I met a counselor.
Even when I wasn’t living for the Lord, I knew one day I would be a preacher-evangelist.
Radio, television and music gripped me. I made many altar call walks during the long journey of healing. The Graham ministry was important in that process. I learned about ministry integrity. It was Mr. Graham who first announced he would not be with another woman than his wife for dinner or in a car. He had a team around him, friends he had known most of his life, who entered every hotel room to make sure there would never be a morality question. His office team lived with strict guidance handling the money. And the Graham generosity became the standard. The important things I saw in the lives of the major evangelists I studied or worked with were financial integrity and open handed generosity. Carole and I benefitted from several convocations, conferences and gatherings paid for by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn. The same can be said about Oral Roberts whose desire to do all things top drawer and generous sowing into pastors impacted me.

Several years ago, we visited the Chapel on the Graham Asheville, N.C. campus. Our friends Gary and Marilyn Hansen lived in Asheville and were tour guides on that trip. If you’ve watched the Gaither Homecoming series, you have seen the singers in that chapel. Any description of my experience in that prayer loft and visit to that chapel would be inadequate. I was very aware of what Jesus had done in me, and his present active work. I felt recommissioned. And so appreciative for the people who had influenced me and been agents of change and healing. I regret we didn’t stay longer—days longer—to wander over the many acres to encounter Christ and further celebrate the company of witnesses whose presence permeated the landscape.

Thank you, Mr. Graham for your faithfulness and example.

©2018 D. Dean Benton
dean@deanbenton.org

After “Thoughts & Prayers”

“In the last days World view will rise against world view” Jesus—Matthew 24

Has our culture become an infectious place to catch mental illness?
This is too serious to offer simplistic solutions except where simplistic is the obvious solution. Dr. Jordan Peterson a prof at Harvard and U of Toronto, whose book was selected for the Oprah Book Club, was asked why we are in the chaos we are. His answer—dismissing God. When God is voted off the island, the source and foundation of civility, laws and infrastructure of social interaction goes too.

I’ve been researching how we got to “bat shit crazy” to quote a Younger’s description of where we are. To enter a schools intending to kill with an attack rifle by definition is an act of insanity driven by frustration not necessarily hate. We must understand the paths that brought us here.

The Foreword to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life—An Antidote to Chaos (©2018 Random House Canada) is written by Dr. Norman Doidge, MD, teacher at Harvard & U of Toronto, author of The Brain that Changes Itself. He and Peterson have a handle on how we arrived at and in this chaos. I quote here my underlinings and thoughts from Doidge’s Foreword:

(When our culture erased all “absolutes,” rules became unwelcome and “unnecessary.”)

“…without rules we quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.”

“…alongside our wish to be free of rules, we all search for structure.”
“The hunger among many younger people for rules, or at least guidelines, is greater today for good reason. In the West at least, millennials are living through a unique historical situation. They are, I believe, the first generation to have been so thoroughly taught two seemingly contradictory ideas about morality, simultaneously—at their schools, colleges and universities…. This contradiction has left them at times disoriented and uncertain, without guidance and, more tragically, deprived of riches they don’t even know exist.”

“The first idea or teaching is that morality is relative, at best a personal ‘value judgment.’ Relative means that there is no absolute right or wrong in anything; instead, morality and the rules associated with it are just a matter of personal opinion or happenstance, ‘relative to’ or ‘related to’ a particular framework, such as one’s ethnicity, one’s upbringing, or the culture or historical moment one is born into. It’s nothing but an accident of birth. According to this argument (now a creed) history teaches that religions, tribes, nations and ethnic groups tend to disagree about fundamental matters, and always have. Today the postmodern left makes the additional claim that one’s group’s morality is nothing but its attempt to exercise power another group. So, the decent thing to do—once it becomes apparent how arbitrary your and your society’s ‘moral values’ are—is to show tolerance for people who think differently, and who come from different (diverse) backgrounds. The emphasis on tolerance is so paramount that for many people one of the worst character flaws a person can have is to be ‘judgmental.’ And since we don’t know right from wrong, or what is good, just about the most inappropriate thing an adult can do is give a young person advice how to live.

“And so a generation has been raised untutored in what was once called, aptly, ‘practical wisdom.’

“Aristotle defined the virtues simply as the ways of behaving that are most conducive to happiness in life. Vice—least conducive….”
“By contrast, our modern relativism begins by asserting that making judgments about how to live is impossible, because there is no real good and no true virtue (as these too are relative). Thus relativism’s closed approximation to ‘virtue’ is tolerance.”

Want to see what a society looks like when morality is nothing but relative? Watch the evening news—network of your choice. Check out the video games, watch movies, listen to conversations—if all profane words of the “F-bomb” type were taken out, we would have semi-silent movies. I wonder if we have so many school shootings because the shooters do not know right from wrong. Mental illness becomes close to inevitable for some because there is a portion of the brain that demands virtue, a sense of wrong and awareness of inevitable consequence to live sane and whole. Life as we want it cannot be sustained under nihilistic rubric.

I have several friends who work in maximum security prisons and others working in less secure facilities. They concur that family has influenced lawless behavior—a generational pattern. I come away from those conversations feeling sad and borderline hopeless. Families with bad actors, or non-involved parents or parents whose energy is depleted by their personal attempt to survive, homes broken and unsafe. This healing vision would be about healing the culture of broken families—empowering single-parents.

All of this is bouncing around my soul at the same time I’m trying to make sense of God’s promise to Abram that he and his family (even into 2018 and beyond) would bless all nations. (Genesis12:3c)

I don’t think the public schools should accommodate Christian education, so I’m thinking some churches could become builders of change-agents and leaders. What would that look like? Revamp Education approach. Sunday school was started by Robert Raikes to feed and teach kids to read. He paid the students to attend. We need to build something with Raikes objective, but with a different name—something inviting and inspiring credibility. Such institutes (you will choose a better name.) would be about building a more civil and stronger cultural infrastructure. I’m thinking franchise with different churches specializing in different age groups. Each “franchisee” would hire or assign age-grade specialists with training and calling for their designated age-group.

Specialists: counselors/therapists, teachers, mentors and healthy family. Also, a tribe of men who will become companions like Native American Elders who teach boys to become men.

Driving Core Values—of a culture that develops whole persons:

Biblical worldview (in contrast to relativism), Family, Healing of memories, Training for thriving, Discovery of gifts, purpose, destiny, self-appreciation, God’s love.

The curriculum would include Emotional Intelligence. (This is a bare bones outline):

I think of Ishmael as the poster child for millions of people in our country who are touched by the potentially corrosive damage of instable families. Not every kid of divorce is marred or scarred, but their life-trajectory is shifted or refocused—sometimes out of focus.

On the mythical conference grounds—Southwood—we have built an octagon shaped building. Rooms open out onto a porch and open inward onto a balcony overlooking a performance auditorium. Each room is constructed and furnished to focus on one topic.

We have opportunity to disciple the wounded or the incomplete for a couple of years or five, maybe ten. What skills, knowledge, experiences, will they need to thrive? What do we want to produce during their tenure with us?
The biggest barrier to being a whole person is self-hatred, dislike or diminishment, therefore room one would have to be healing and deliverance leading to self-acceptance. Room two would contain education about Emotional Intelligence. E.Q. is more predictive of success and life fulfillment than I.Q., and it can be learned. To be specific, I call your attention to brain trust of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman who outlines The Emotional Competence Framework.
Personal Competence

1. Self-Awareness—Emotional awareness, Accurate self-awareness, Self-confidence
2. Self-Regulation—Self-Control, Trustworthiness, Conscientiousness, Adaptability, Innovation
3. Self-Motivation—Achievement drive, Commitment, Initiative, Optimism
4. Self-Soothing—Stress management, Managing self-talk, Body relaxation
2. Social Competence
5. Empathy—Understanding others, Developing others, Service orientation, Reading a room.
6. Social Skills—Influence, Communication, Conflict management, Leadership, Change Catalyst, Building bonds, Cooperation, Team Cooperation (p 26-27 Working with E.Q. 1998, Bantam Books)

Financial education: how to give, save, spend wisely. I would want intergenerational groups to help build a healthy family mindset and available mentors, coaches, teachers. In our work with addicts, we notice how many would be helped to learn to make wise decisions. How about discovering personal strengths through Briggs-Meyers surveys and Spiritual gifts? A place to determine purpose, callings, life-missions.

In that performance center, we worship, we hear peers and models describe how God is working in their lives to show us how God can do so in us. We are taught Scriptural Principles through teaching, preaching and interaction.

The curriculum would include Ten Commandments using the principles behind the “rules.”
1. Truth—Basis, discernment, living decision-making
2. Reality—how to recognize
3. Power of words
4. Boundaries
5. Family
6. Value life
7. Sex—morality, intimacy, honoring
8. Empathy
9. Integrity—acquiring knowledge and wisdom, living honestly
10. Community—respect for racial, ethnic, religious differences without compromising your own.

Given the present feelings toward church, the place these gatherings, classes, seminars meet may have to be in neutral settings. Age-range: k-12.

Malcom Gladwell writes in Outliers about three groups of geniuses. There are lines in the description of the low achieving C group that grip me:

“What did the Cs lack? Not something expensive or impossible to find; not something encoded in DNA or hardwired into the circuits of their brains. They lacked something that could have been given to them if we’d only known they needed it: a community around them that prepared them properly for the world. The Cs were squandered talent. But they didn’t need to be.” Outliers, Malcom Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, 2008. Page 111

That is how Abraham’s family can bless the nations.

This is a proposal. What am I missing? What grabs you? What is the next step? I would like to talk about this.

©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

Invite Well-Being

For more than a year I’ve been studying and writing about The Blessing God spoke into Abram and then empowering Abram to bless others. (Genesis 12:1-4). How would Abram know he had been blessed? In what ways would life be different because of The Blessing?

The last thing that Jesus did before ascending into heaven… “he lifted His hands and blessed them” (Luke 24:50). It was/is more than a benediction preceding “See you at the buffet.” The prayer of blessing He spoke is…

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face shine upon you
And be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you
And give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26.)

Aaron and his sons were instructed to pray this prayer over Israel—“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (6:27).

This is the blessing:

“The Lord bless you”—give something of value to you.

“Keep you”—While the image of blessing is a camel kneeling, keeping is a corral of thorns to keep predators away. Think: “And deliver us from evil.”

“Make His face to shine upon you”—acceptance and favor—empowered to achieve, succeed.

“Turn His face toward you.” A rabbi connects this to God bending over Adam to look into his face and breathe the breath of life—a portable breath of abundant life in you.

“And give you peace.” This word means something larger than the absence of war or attack. It means “a positive state of rightness and well-being.” Not about religious righteousness, but a state of mental and emotional sense that things are “right” and you are in a state of well-being. It also means restoration of deficiency–peace restored where emptiness, lack, void has been caused by someone else.

The teacher said, say this prayer over yourself. Look in the mirror and say, “The Lord bless you…” habitually.

A Hebraic interpretation of the Aaronic Blessing
With the Hebraic understanding of each of these Hebrew words, we can better understand the true meaning of the Aaronic blessing as it was understood by the Ancient Hebrews.

YHWH will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection.

YHWH will illuminate the wholeness of his being toward you bringing order and he will give you comfort and sustenance.

YHWH will lift up his wholeness of being and look upon you and he will set in place all you need to be whole and complete. ( Source: http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/language_aaronic.html

The purpose is to move from abstract words to the experience of being blessed as a normal benefit of the Believer. Pray it over yourself while looking into your own eyes.

©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org

No tear in the eagle’s eye

You may have seen on network news a video of an eagle floating past our town on a Mississippi River ice floe. Something inviting about the drift toward Memphis and New Orleans. Some days I just go that spot to read and pray. Other days I sense God saying, “Let’s go to the riverfront.”

On the day the network caught the eagle, I was invited to the river. I came away instructed, visited and enriched. I read thirty pages from Peggy Noonan’s book Patriotic Grace. (HarperCollins, 2008). The startling punch came from the date. 2008! Not much positive has changed in the ten years since; the issues have expanded. In 2008, she offered… “some rough thoughts on what I think we need.” Sound good for 2018.

“We need the best possible national defense, couple with an attitude of wisdom, forbearance, and peacefulness toward the world. A civil defense system worthy of the name. An America that is stronger at home—with a stronger physical and cultural infrastructure.”

The phrase was new to me and struck me like a blunt object: “Stronger cultural infrastructure.” What would that look like? Ms. Noonan says,

“…what we need right now in our national political life is a kind of patriotic grace, a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we’re in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative.” (page 147)

Last night part of the entertainment industry held their own State of the Union event. They called my wife, me, and some friends “the dark underbelly of America.” They pledged not to stop until they have swept America clear of about half of the population.

What would blossom into a “stronger cultural infrastructure?”

“…those things that ease the stresses we feel as a nation, the tears and divisions we feel, should be encouraged. We drive each other crazy. We fight as if we’ll never need each other. We fight like a drunken family hurling charges against each other in the living room while there’s a fire in the attic and it’s traveling down the stairs.” (p. 147-8)

Ten years ago, Ms. Noonan spoke of immigration:

“Why not be humane, be American, and recognize the moment we’re in. Take a pause, close the border to illegal passage now, for reasons of national security. Continue legal immigration, with an eye to one thing: admitting as new citizens those who bring particular skills our nation particularly needs.
“As for those who’ve come here over the past twenty years or so illegally…easy does it. There, that’s a platform for the moment: Easy does it. Those who break our laws, indulging in violent behavior? Send them back. Goodbye!”

“We must tend to the ties that hold us together as citizens of America.”

And what are those ties? Our history. A line repeatedly used in the third section of the book: “Let us recognize the moment we’re in.” Peggy Noonan quotes a 2002 speech by Bruce Cole who was then head of the National Endowment for the Humanities who observed the “American amnesia” or ignorance of the history that should hold us together. He said in that speech:

“Citizens kept ignorant of their history are robbed of the richness of their heritage…. A nation that does not know why it exists, or what it stands for, cannot be expected to long endure…. We cannot expect that a nation which has lost its memory will keep its vision.”

One of the “ties” that binds a civilized society is a modicum of respect. I feel protective of Melania Trump. I am angered by the attempt to trash her. I may hire the Andrew Jackson militia to drop by the potty-mouthed people’s platform to tap them on the shoulder and demand an apology to our First Lady. Among others!

The thirty plus pages I read stimulated me. It really is a fine piece of thinking and writing expressed with appreciation for both legitimate sides of the aisle. I invite you to read at least pages 133-160 of Patriotic Grace.

Thanks for reading this Benton Blog. dean@deanbenton.org

D. Dean Benton–writer, wonderer

Why? When? How?

I have a friend from junior high whose name is Marvel. I talk to her occasionally. At one of our early high school reunions, she saw me and exclaimed, “Dean Benton. I thought you were dead!” I am delighted she is one of my classmates with whom I’ve reconnected. Since that greeting, I’ve felt obligated to keep her informed of my state of health. She is interesting. However, I don’t know her well enough as an adult to know if she has lived up to her name. She did Facebook me one morning to tell me she was about to board a ship on the sea near Rome. But she didn’t tell me if she marveled at the sights, felt awe of being in Rome and if she liked the food and/or wine.

Marvel and marveling came to mind as I began to read the bio of Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. My appreciation for painting is thin. Most of the paintings I’ve seen have been screwed to motel walls.

By page three of the bio, I was marveling at Leonardo who was the original Renaissance man. He saw himself as an engineer, a designer of bridges, waterways, cannons, armored vehicles and public buildings. His preliminary drafts of the human body are astonishing. He autopsied bodies to learn about muscles that made movement possible. Before he drew the Mona Lisa, he studied muscles that enabled a smile. Then he painted The Smile.

Isaacson says, “…(Leonardo’s) driving passion which was nothing less than knowing everything there was to know about the world, including how we fit in into it.”

The artist’s notebooks are as important as his paintings. They contain drawings, journaling, ideas and to do lists. One of the things he reminded himself to do: “Describe the tongue of the woodpecker.” Art historian Kenneth Clark called him, “The most relentlessly curious man in history.”

If we could filter him to one behavior, it would be curiosity. “His curiosity was pure, personal, and delightfully obsessive.”
Why would he care what a woodpecker’s tongue was like? “…because he was Leonardo: curious, passionate, and always filled with wonder.”
Marvelous!

All of that is interesting to me because I’ve noticed the absence of or minimum amount of curiosity, passion, wonder and marveling. Raw worship is captured by those four words.

John Eldredge and his adult sons were talking about masculinity and how men are wired and what keeps them involved in a spiritual journey. Two things that a man’s heart hungers for: adventure and battle. Most of the things we do at church are kinda the opposite. We sit in church and sing (some are clearly feminine songs), then we go to Sunday school to talk and sit around a table to share, most of which I enjoy. But, where are men challenged to adventure? To what battle?

Some of my friends would ditch church to go hunting for Elk. And in the hunting they engage the presence of God. Increasingly, I think the most important thing we teach youth is how to adventure—stir into a raging fire the asset of curiosity. What is beyond the hill crest and how do we battle appropriately.

What if the sexual harassment and sexual pursuit now rocking our world is the normal and empowering adventure and the hunt “gene” captured by evil to distort and destroy a man?

The step to healing for otherwise healthy men is not to drain him of testosterone and castrate him, but direct his curiosity and instinct to hunt. For example, where is the drive to battle against neighborhoods of poverty and drugs and hopeless? Who are the Leonardo men?

Curiosity, passion, wonder, obsession.

That calls for pastoral messages that evoke questions: “How do we do that? Where do we start? What specialist do we hire to instruct us? Where is the curiosity to stimulate the questions?

Marvel, I’m praying your day will be adventurous and marvelous.

©2018 D. Dean Benton continue the conversation: dean@deanbenton.org

Eleven Nations or One World

There are eleven nations in North America each with its own culture, language, foods, economy and preferences–Pepsi or Coke. We studied the nine nations of North America during college. Colin Woodard’s thinking was on my Internet home page this morning. (http://www.colinwoodard.com/americannations).

We became very aware of this when we were on the road. Material that was viewed as powerful in Madison, Wisconsin was critiqued as boring in Colorado and Montana. Country act Alabama sing, “If you play in Texas, you’d better bring a fiddle and a bow.” That is a large statement. If you hope to influence or sell in one of the eleven, you better understand the culture.

Also this morning I listened to Art of Manliness Podcast (https://www.artofmanliness.com) which is one of my favorites. The guest was Franklin Foer author of the book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. He posits that the most insidious threat to our nation is homogeneity and the primary actors are Facebook, Google and Amazon. Those three companies are becoming monopolies that could raise trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt from the grave. We assume that Facebook, Google and Amazon are businesses intending to make money. They also desire to “stitch” countries and cultures together into one thought, and one source of provisions. They have a political and cultural agenda which contradicts American individualism.

Since I was a boy in Bible Prophecy conferences, I’ve heard phrases like “One World Government.” I am wondering if this is the means by which that can happen—Mark of the Beast kind of stuff—ability to buy and sell, one mind.

I am not attributing motivation to the 3 High Tech companies. They may desire great things. I am concerned about the cost. It seems to me that we are in a battle of individualism against collectivism. I don’t want to suggest conspiracy. I am thinking about power concentrated in three entities and the consequences.

My purpose here is to call your attention to these two resources. I also want to suggest we duct tape to our mind Teddy Roosevelt’s concept of being first and foremost American. Developing the uniqueness of each “nation” and celebrating what they bring to the “United States” rather than tearing down their statues and diminishing the values they bring to us. We are, after all, The United States of America, not The One State of America.

There is no value in going to a pre-Internet, pre-iPhone world, even if we could. I invite you to listen to the Art of Manliness show and check the main points of the Eleven Nation thinking. Thanks.
©2018 D. Dean Benton dean@deanbenton.org