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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Morality and Culture

Hey, its been a little while since I've posted anything on here so i thought I would just post my most recent paper I wrote for my philosophy class. It is a reflection on Ruth Benedict's article about Morality...

Ruth Benedict addresses the issue of morality and argues that morality is culturally defined. She uses tribes or groups of people completely isolated from any culture other than their own as examples to support her claim that morality is culturally defined. She decides to use these specific examples because, “only among these simpler peoples has there been sufficient isolation to give opportunity for the development of localized social forms.” These peoples include Dyaks, Hopis, Fijians, and Yakuts. The first part of her article discusses abnormality in respect to various cultures and their particular customs. She claims that the most “notorious” of these abnormalities is trance and catalepsy. Although a mild mystic is unusual and abnormal in our culture today, most people have looked at them not only as normal but “characteristic of highly valued and gifted individuals.” There was even a time in our culture when that was the case. Benedict uses Catholicism and the mark of sainthood as an example of this. Another major example she uses is homosexuality. She tells how our culture poses conflicts to this we identify the consequences of these conflicts with homosexuality. “But these consequences are obviously local and cultural.” She then explains how many Indian tribes in the Americas practice something called berdache. Berdache are men-women who were “men at puberty or thereafter took the dress and occupations of women.” She explains how they would even marry other men. “They were not left exposed to the conflicts that visit the deviant who is excluded from participation in the recognized patterns of his society.” Benedict also uses various other examples of people who would be looked at as deviants and abnormal in our society but socially accepted in other cultures to strengthen her argument that morality is culturally defined. She claims that normality is essentially just a term for the customs in which a particular culture practice, and abnormality is simply the segment that they do not use. Although morality differs in all societies and that it is just a easy term to us for practices that are accepted in a particular society. “Mankind has always preferred to say, “It is morally good,” rather than “It is habitual,”… But historically the two phrases are synonymous.” Her claim that morality is culturally defined is essentially backed up by the idea that if for example homosexuality is accepted and practiced openly, people will be homosexual. She concludes by saying how mankind will happily and readily take on any shape, any culturally accepted lifestyles that they are presented with.
After reading this article carefully and critically thinking about the examples presented in it I can see her point of view and why she argues that morality is culturally defined. I do believe that the culture in which a person grows up in affects everything about them, from their thought process to their system of beliefs. If someone were to grow up in a culture where homosexuality was normal and socially accepted there would be more people who identify themselves as such. The reason I do say that there would be more that identify themselves as homosexuals and not that there would be more is because I do believe that there are many people in our culture, where homosexuality is often looked down upon and as abnormal, who are homosexual but because of the social stigma on homosexuality they do not engage in it or admit to it if they have. It is hard to make an accurate assessment on this because we do not have solid statistics that prove that there are more homosexuals in cultures where it is accepted compared to our own culture. We do not have these statistics and likely never will because of the reason I gave earlier. It is all speculation and strictly observation and opinion.
So I do believe that morality is culturally defined but to an extent. There will always be the “deviants” who go against the cultural norms of their particular society but really they are just the only ones willing to admit it and openly go against it. There will always be an unheard voice of deviants who will never admit to being such a thing. They are the ones who could help take the minority of deviants into the public eye as a strong force who could possibly change the norms of their culture.
Realizing what my culture deems normal and abnormal is very important for me to know and anyone else to know who is trying to minister to people. If I do not know what is culturally accepted and what is not how can I give an accurate theological argument about a specific topic that comes up? Knowing what makes a “deviant” in today’s culture helps me identify who may be struggling with certain aspects of their life because they are afraid of the consequences of that aspect. As a follower of Christ and someone looking to show God’s love it is important for me to know who may be struggling and in need of help. And hopefully I can help them from a Christian point of view and not necessarily a culturally driven point of view. The Bible tells us to not be of this world, and that means to extract ourselves from all the cultural differences of what is morally accepted and what is not. Instead of dwelling on whether something is culturally accepted we are called to focus on whether is accepted in God’s eyes. Every culture differs on what they consider morally good, but God does not differ in the slightest. He gave us his word in the form of Christ and The Bible and we need to strive to live how Christ lived and how he taught us. Christ was considered a “deviant” in his time; he went against many cultural norms. This is why we need to extract ourselves from the world and its many different cultures. We have to be in the world but we certainly do not have to be of it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dear God

Dear God,
I’m just sitting here thinking about my life, what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished and what I want to do with my life in general. I feel like my life is filled with those moments where you say to yourself, “if only I would have done this...”. I have this terrible feeling inside me when I think about all the times throughout my life where I have said this to myself. The majority of those times are because, what I did got me in trouble, or even just a stupid mistake in my life that I didn’t even get in trouble for.
Tonight I had one of those times, I got into a car accident. It all happened so fast. I was lost going to a friends house and I had just gotten off work. I came to a blinking light and not paying attention I thought it was clear and I looked at the street sign to see where I am and then I saw a car to my left coming at me. It just came over a hill to the blinking yellow light and tried to slow down but smashed into me in the rear quarter panel of my car. My car spun and I had this absolutely terrible feeling inside me, like kind of feeling you get when you are so sad, and you know that your parents will be mad and the last thing that you want to do is disappoint them again because you have so many times in the past and you have said to yourself so many times, “if only I would have done this...”. Well I said it again, and when my car finally stopped spinning all I could do was just sit there overcome with this emotion and feeling inside me. It is the worst feeling I have ever experienced. All I want to do is make my parents proud, so I wasn’t drinking or doing anything that I wasn’t supposed to do and yet this still happens. What is going on here! What is the devil trying to do to me and why? He knows that I am becoming closer to You everyday and so he does this. He said, “your not gonna drink? Alright well this is gonna happen anyway.” I guess I am still in shock. If I would have been 3 feet back that other car would have hit me in my drivers door and I could have been seriously hurt, I don’t even want to think about that. The devil tried to get me and You said, “NO, he’s mine.” You protected me and wanted me to know that the devil is out there and he knows what I am doing for Your kingdom.
So God, thank you for having my back and I am now aware of what the devil is up to and I will not take it. I love you so much and thank you so much for protecting me tonight! Everything is for you!

With Love,
Your son Zac

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

4 am and its my final night at AQ...

It’s my final night here at AQ. It is 4 in the morning and I am laying in bed finding it extremely difficult to sleep. I just can’t seem to shut my brain off. I guess you compare it to the night before you leave on vacation. Your really excited to go so you can’t sleep. It’s like that, except I don’t know if I am really excited to go. I am excited for certain things that being home for the summer brings but there are certainly things I am going to miss.
Of all the friends and all the memories that I made. It just doesn’t seem like it’s over. Summer is almost here. It’s not like Christmas break or spring break where we all know we’ll be back in a week or so. We are going to be leaving for the summer, a few months. Some of us won’t even be returning to AQ next year. It’s almost time to move back home and I guess in a way lose the freedom that I had here. Im going to miss going to Friends at 2 in the morning and getting some coffee and just hanging out, enjoying each others company. Im going to miss being able to go to the lounge whenever and just chill, do some homework or get in a quick game of ping pong. It is going to be hard to say goodbye to St. Joe’s, I don’t mean the building but the atmosphere that surrounds it. Although it will be hard to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the year, I am looking forward to the future. I don’t know what that holds, but I know that I will be ready for it with everything that I learned this year and how much I have grown. I learned a lot about myself this year. Being able to move out basically on my own has allowed me to really start thinking for myself, to be able to start developing my own opinions instead of relying on my parents ideas as my own. And it’s only the end of freshman year, I still have a lot to learn and a lot more to grow. I really do like it here. I have learned to take a step back and just appreciate all the little things, like when your just hanging out with friends just talking about nothing important but enjoying the fellowship.
It seems like we just got here and we are already leaving with our first year of college under our belts. So many memories have been made and I will never forget all of the good times that I have had here. It’s funny looking back at the begining of the year when everyone was just meeting each other and still kinda shy around one another and then looking at how now everyone is so close. I am certainly going to miss all of the friendships that I have developed here. And even though it is the end of the year I am still making new friends everyday and expanding on those that I already have. What a year it has been. Thank you to everyone who has made this year unforgettable.
With Love-

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Belief "IN" God

Have you ever wondered who the first person to not believe in God was? Who was the first person to actually say, “No, I don’t believe in God?” What if believing in God was thought of differently then today? Maybe that person still believed that God existed, but they didn’t believe “in” him. And over the years that meaning was kind of just lost in time. Now people do not even believe that God exists. Could it be that, that one person just didn’t believe that God was with him and every one else? So they created other Gods, or idols. We see in the Bible that when Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai the people at the foot of the mountain have made a golden calf to worship. Moses is furious with them, so mad in fact that he smashes the tablets given to him by God. Now these people believed in God, they believed that he existed. I mean he had just rescued them from Egypt! Yet they didn’t believe “in” God anymore. How on earth could they lose faith in him that fast? They didn’t believe that he was with them so they made the golden calf to worship so that it could be present with them. That was in a short period of time that they lost faith, now multiply that by a few thousand years. Wow how faith has changed. Back then they knew that God existed but they did not believe “in” him. Now I believe “in” him even tho I do not know that he exists. Its like say I had a friend who’s life goal was to become a professional basketball player. I know that he exists, but I do not believe that he will accomplish that goal, I do not believe in him. That in a sense is how the people in the time of Moses felt about God, they didn’t believe that he was always with them so they made something that was. They know that God exists yet they still don’t believe in him. After he rescues them from Egypt they make another god. I bet God just thought to himself, “are you kidding me?” Looking back to then, how could they not believe “in” him? If they didn’t believe in him then how do we still do it today? They knew that he existed yet our faith “in” him is stronger than theirs. You would think that they would believe “in” him way more than us but that is not the case. Its like when you have something for awhile you tend to eventually take it for granted and are used to it, and eventually don’t even think about it anymore. If we knew for sure 100% that God was real would we be the same way that they were? We might take it for granted and not even think twice about it. Without knowing 100% that God exists we begin to wonder about Him. We ask questions and talk and discuss God. We read his word, the Bible, so that we can feel him. We long and desire for a relationship with him. Would it be the same way if we always saw him? He wants us to want a relationship with him and to know Him. To truly know him, not just to acknowledge that he exists. When we find and establish our belief in him we do get to know him. He wants us to find him. I know a lot of you who read this are saying, “but I do know 100% that he exists!” And yeah, I do to but that is because I have my foundation in him, I believe “in” him. Not everyone does. If he was fully present and visible to everyone would we want to have this kind of relationship with him? Would we believe that he was with us or would we end up like the people at the foot of the mountain? When we believe “in” him we discover Gods true existence. Not someone who is just at the top of the mountain but who is down at the base with all of us.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Church Type"

A funny thing happened to me today. I went up to Saginaw Valley to hangout with one of my friends who goes to school there. His girlfriend was also there, which is fine with me. But when we were at dinner he told me that she was worried about me. Which was weird and naturally I asked why? He said that he had told her that I was the “church type” and thats why she was worried. I don’t understand why she would be worried. It’s not like I am gonna start ripping into her by preaching the fire and brimstone of hell! What is it about Christians that make people so uncomfortable at times? I am not going to be judgmental, which is a common stereotype of Christians. It would be very hypocritical for me to judge others because I am certainly not perfect, not even close. I guess that just kinda struck me funny when he said that. I don’t want that, because while I do go to church, I am not the “church type” that she is thinking about. I hope that while I was here and around her I showed Christ but in a different way then she thought of. Not in the judgmental, your going to hell if you don’t believe in God kind of way but rather in showing love through the way the I acted. I hope that I showed God’s love in my actions and that she could see Christ in me. I hope that she saw that Christians are not a group of judgmental hypocrites but people who have shortcomings just like everyone else does but who just have something more to there lives, how our lives are completed with God. Although we sin and have failures and shortcomings we are perfected in Christ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Follower of Christ

Yesterday I went and talked to one of my professors after class and we were just casually talking about a book that I had mentioned and he asked me a question that really made me think. He knew that I wasn’t Catholic and that I was a theology major and he asked me if it bothered me studying theology at a Catholic college. I said, no I haven’t really come across any problems yet. He said well I was just wondering because I have been teaching Catholic Theology in this class. (The class is theology of christian marriage.) That took me off guard, I said, “Really?...oh.” I guess it hit me right then and there that I didn’t really know what the difference was. I mean we believe in the same God and yet there are all these differences between our “religions.” I was raised as christian reformed and thats what I had always identified myself as. Whenever some asked me if I was religious I would say yeah, Im christian. Then they would say back, ok what kind? People would usually say some variation of that and so then I would say, “Im christian reformed.” That always struck me as weird that people needed to ask that second question and that moment with my professor put it into perspective for me. Why is there this separation within the church? The more I thought about it I realized that I don’t really identify myself as christian reformed either. I’m simply a christian, a follower of the one true God and of Jesus Christ. I mean we all have the same Bible yet why are we so different? Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion or separate us, he came to unify us in God. I don’t necessarily identify myself as a christian in the traditional sense. I AM a follower of Jesus Christ. I follow the Bible and try to live my life the way Jesus showed us and try to live it in a way that honors God. I just don’t know if I like the thoughts and stereotypes that the term “christian” provokes. When people hear that term they think judgmental, hypocritical, condemnation and so on. I don’t like that, thats not what Jesus intended, yet people act this way and don’t truly live the way Jesus shows us. People say all the time how christians are hypocritical. And yeah, thats true. Everyone is hypocritical in their own right. Everyone is hypocritical because we are all flawed, we all have sin in us. The realization of this allows us to live our lives in the best way that we can in regards to what Jesus taught. The whole time knowing that we will make mistakes, we will seem hypocritical at times but thats just because of sin. If we really make an effort to live like Christ we will, we WILL to best that is possible for us, despite sin. That is why Jesus died on the cross for us, to forgive us of our sins, even when we are hypocritical. So I don’t know if I am a “christian” in the way that people always think of it. Instead of saying I am a christian I say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. That takes away all of the different denominations within the church and gets to the root of what its really all about.
In the book of Matthew Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) We as “christians” get so caught up in the traditions of the church and we sometimes miss the bigger picture. We even forget or maybe we never even knew where these traditions originated. We need to stop getting so caught up in these traditions and so caught up in the differences between church denominations and just follow Christ. Sometimes people say they are believers and they participate in all of the traditions of their particular church denomination but they are not truly christians. They don’t know what it means to be that. They are just going through the motions and not living the way that Jesus taught. They are still going down the broad road instead of getting to the root and meaning of their beliefs and taking the exit onto the narrow road. This is why so few people find it. They are distracted by all the traditions, glamour and even flaws of the “christian church.” Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that we need to get rid of these traditions or anything, I am just saying that as followers of Christ we need to redefine what it truly means to be a christian. We need to get to the root of the religion and live it how it was meant to be. Jesus did not intend for us to be like this, separated from other believers by petty differences but for us to come together and follow him. Now I don’t really know what all the different denominations believe, or what the differences are, and I don’t care. Because I am simply a follower of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 30, 2009


A friend of mine recently passed away. His name was Ronny, I worked with him last summer laying blacktop. He worked the paver and since I was usually either shoveling asphalt or spreading tact I was always around the paver. I was with him for nearly 10 hours a day during the week. We talked a lot and I probably talked to him more than anyone else that I worked with. I am sad that he is gone, it is weird to think about. He worked for my grandpa who owns the company for many years, since I was little. I knew of him for most of my life, I would hear his name because I was with my grandpa a lot growing up. Always going to see the guys work, to watch the trucks and ride the roller. I felt like I have known him for years even though I only worked with him for a summer.
He died of cancer only weeks after he was diagnosed. It happened so suddenly, it took me completely off guard. The last time that I had seen him was a only a couple of months ago when we had a late Christmas dinner for work. He was fine, just as normal as he was the summer before. At least thats what it seemed like. Ronny was a very kind person, he had a gentle soul. I don’t ever remember him getting angry or losing his temper while we were working, that stood out to me. That is one reason why we talked a lot, cause he was never in a bad mood. And the fact that we talked so much kinda bothers me because we talked about nearly everything, except the most important thing of all, God. I honestly don’t know if Ronny is in heaven and that tears me apart. I’ll never know what his last moments were like but even the fact that I have to wonder kills me inside. All those opportunities that I had to witness and even just casually talk about Christ, I could have made an impact on his life. I could have avoided feeling this way, could have avoided having to wonder where he is now. It’s a horrible feeling. Everyday we talked, and every day went by without talking about God. What could we have possibly been talking about that is more important than that? I am struggling with this right now. Even if I would have casually mentioned God here and there could have sparked an incredible conversation that could have changed his life. I wish thats how it had gone. I know that I can’t live in the past, I have to move on and think about the future. I guess the only thing that I can hope from this situation is that I showed God to Ronny through my actions, even if we didn’t talk about it. I hope that he saw God working through me and maybe if he didn’t talk to me about it he talked to someone. That I can take hope in. I have to live my life as best as I can for the LORD and hope that he shines through me. I pray Ronny saw that and found truth in Jesus before he died, because I hate this feeling of uncertainty. I know now that I have to take these opportunities that God puts in front of me to witness and talk about Christ, even just casually. And to live in a way that honors him and hope that people see that and find Christ themselves. My grandma always talked about how none of the guys that worked for my grandpa knew Christ and when I started working for him she told me to be a light for God. I hope I was, for Ronny’s sake I hope I was. I never really thought about it that much when she said that but know I think about it everyday. Hopefully Ronny saw it and if I get the chance to work for my grandpa again this summer I’m going to make sure that they see Christ in me! I will make sure of it and will talk about God, in hopes of sparking a greater discussion that could lead to someone finding Christ. Even if just one of them finds God it is so completely worth getting up at 6 am every day in the summer and working hard all day. Even if I am exhausted everyday after work, it WILL be worth it all!

Rest In Peace Ronny
Some Favorite Quotes...
"If you study science deep enough and long enough it will force you to believe in God."
"God has spoken, and everything else is commentary."
-Rob Bell
"Black holes are where God divided by zero."
-Albert Einstein
"I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?'"
-Mother Teresa
"The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God."
-Rob Bell
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
-John Lennon
"For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR, but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death."
-Shane Claiborne