The Portrayal of Men and Women in Comic Books, Cartoons, Movies, and the Whole Superhero Genre

Before we really get started in this blog, a question must be posed. What group of people is the target audience for superheroes? The answer…everyone. It is not just children, it is not just teenage boys, it is not just girls who choose to hang out with skaters, it is not just men in their 20s and 30s, it is not just the LGBT community, and it is not just single people living at home with mom and dad after they should have been on their own for about two decades. Superhero stories are written for people of every age, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.
Some people may not realize this, but most comics are not super-hero based. That being said, it seems that everyone who really wants to write or draw comics wants to do superhero comics. And why wouldn’t they? Those are the ones that are turned into movies, have cartoon series, and have their own toy lines.
There are tons of movies based on comic books: 30 Days of Night, 300, Alien Vs. Predator, American Splendor, Art School Confidential, Blade, Bulletproof Monk, Constantine, The Crow, Cowboys & Aliens, Hellboy, A History of Violence, Howard the Duck, Josie and the Pussycats, Judge Dredd, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Losers, The Mask, Men in Black, Painkiller Jane, Red, Richie Rich, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, The Rocketeer, Road to Perdition, Sin City, Spawn, Spy Smasher, Steel, Surrogates, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Tank Girl, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Timecop, Unbreakable, V for Vendetta, Wanted, Watchmen, Whiteout, Witchblade. (Wow…and I didn’t even mention Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron-Man or any other real heavy hitters from Marvel or DC).
There are numerous superhero cartoons. Mostly targeting boys, but also targeting girls. One’s that target girls include: Totally Spies, Sabrina’s Secret Life, Power-Puff Girls, and The Last Airbender.
There are numerous superhero toys. Some for ages 2-5, others 6-10, and some meant for adult collectors.
While American comic sales have declined in recent years, Manga sales have gone up. But even with declining sales in numbers, taken collectively (books, toys, movies, etc.), profits have risen.
So what does this all mean? First, it means that the graphic genre on the whole is clearly here to stay for the foreseeable future. Second, it means that you can count on continuing to see summer blockbusters with superheroes, and attempts at making these shows work on television. (Smallville got it right when they focused more on the characters and less on the powers. That gave the live action show enough drama to keep it moving.) Third, it means that the superhero and graphic novel genre is a genre worth looking at and critiquing. In fact, a lot of critiquing goes on.
Perhaps the biggest criticism I see is in reference to the sexualizing of women in how they are drawn in comic books. The next criticism is for the unequal treatment of women and minorities in the genre.  The final one I see is based on the violence prevalent in the genre. So I thought it would be a good idea to tackle these issues, but from a broader perspective. I am interested in hitting all mediums and not just the comic books.
So let us begin.
Portrayal of Men and Women in Comics, Graphic Novels, TV, and in Films
In each venue, character development is important and there are all kinds of characters. There are strong characters, weak characters, sane characters, insane characters, confident characters, and incompetent characters. There are also characters of all races, both genders, and of different sexual orientations. When I talk about the portrayal of men and women in comics, I am not talking about what is on the inside. I am not talking about the character of heroes and villains; I am discussing the physical portrayal of characters as we see them.
Both men and women are portrayed in comics in an idealized manner. This is less so in television and in film, because real people can’t have muscles where muscles don’t exist. So here is the skinny. Men are drawn to appeal to men who wish they could “look like that.” They are also drawn to be physically attractive to female readers. Likewise, women are drawn to appeal to women who wish they could “look like that.” They are also drawn to be physically attractive to male readers. This is perhaps less so in cartoons as cartoons are intended for younger viewers. But this is not always the case, especially not in the New DC direct-to-video film releases or in any anime cartoons intended for older viewers.
In toys we also see character molds with extra muscles, etc.
The appeal of the drawings is also enhanced by colors. Many characters wear brightly colored outfits that would look utterly stupid in real life, but that really help art come to life in drawings. Because they look bad on real people (except sometimes in cosplay), most live action films and TV shows have to change the costumes.
I am not opposed to drawing characters as idealized images of what we would look like if we could.
However, I am sometimes uncomfortable with how sexualized some characters are in their drawings. Not just the females, but more so them than the males. I think in some respects the over-sexualizing degrades women, but more on that below. Sometimes this comes from men who apparently can’t have any real relationships, or who are trying to appeal to 14-year-old boys, but sometimes it also comes from female writers and artists.
I think outfits should symbolize who characters are, but the outfit should be both idealized and appropriate.
So what is appropriate?
Well, basically I would say that an appropriate outfit is anything that does not blatantly cause someone to be treated or seen as less than human. Appropriate does not degrade the character from who he or she is.
I know, I know, that is incredibly broad. Sometimes skimpier things are necessary, sometimes we need to see Batman without a shirt on, but we don’t need to see characters looking out of character or as less than their character’s persona warrants.
So to conclude this small section, let me summarize with a few points:
  1. It is acceptable to portray characters as idealized versions of humanity.
  2. Sometimes showing skin is acceptable.
  3. Sometimes it is not.
  4. Having 5,000 muscles is cool.
  5. Having bright colors and tights works on paper, not in real life (yes cosplayers, not in real life…unless you can prove me wrong…I think some of you can J).
  6. Outfits and looks should match character personality. Wide ranges of personalities are needed for characters and their development.
  7. Sexualizing goes beyond costume, and that is where it becomes easier to define what an appropriate look is and is not.
The Sexualizing of Men and Women in Comics, Graphic Novels, TV, Film, and in Toys
In comics, sexualizing comes in several forms. As noted above, there is an element of it in drawing. More importantly, it comes in actions. When women are treated as nothing more than sex objects, that is bad (unless someone is treating someone that way and about to get his teeth kicked in for it). 
But relationships are a big part of life, and sexuality and relationships certainly have a place in any story (age appropriate of course).
Gail Simone is a good writer. She has done much in the world of comics to educate people about ethnic stereotyping and violence towards women. She has written some great Superman, Wonder Woman, Secret Six, Birds of Prey, and other comics. But I don’t understand why she defends the sexualizing of characters so much. I am not talking about sexual preference, but rather how things are drawn. Sometimes she does speak out against it, but she seems to defend it just as often.
Regardless, Gail created a website called Women in Refrigerators. This site chronicles violence against women in the superhero genre. Since creating that site, she has done much to raise awareness as to what kinds of characters are needed (effectively making Barbara Gordon the most loved handicapped character in comic history), and she has raised awareness regarding instances of racism, sexism, and other such misogynistic and/or bigoted ideas that have been portrayed in the genre.
It is not just comics where characters are sexualized. It was through this type of advertisement that Smallville was promoted on the WB for years. What about the Transformers movies? The leading actresses in all three films were objectified continually.
So here is the thing.
  1. Male and female heroes in comics need to be positive role models.
  2. They need to be liberating.
  3. They need to exemplify their unique natures, attributes, and assets.
  4. They need to be relatable.
  5. Women do not need to be written in a way that is degrading to all women, and men do not need to be written in a way that is degrading to all men (though there are some characters who are just bad seeds).
  6. When men and women read comics, watch movies, watch cartoons or TV shows, or look for cool toys to purchase, they need to feel accepted as consumers into the genre. Part of this is finding characters to which they can relate and feeling like the characters are portrayed in a way that does not degrade the reader’s gender, ethnicity, or any emotional or physical characteristics he or she may have.
  7. Costumes can enhance, but should not degradingly objectify. Tightfitting costumes that show musculature can be good, so let’s draw them in a good way.
Equalization in Comics, Graphic Novels, TV, and Film: The Characters
We are seeing more and more female lead characters in movies, television shows, cartoons, comics, and in graphic novels. We are also seeing more minority characters.  So the genre is not perfect (and probably never will be), but a lot of work is being done to make it come as close as it can.
Equalization in Comics, Graphic Novels, TV, and Film: The Writers
There are certainly a lot of well-known male comic book writers, but also a lot of well-known female writers. It seems that more men write superhero stories, but there are many female writers in the industry. They write films, TV shows, cartoon, and graphic novels.
Violence in Comics, Graphic Novels, TV, and Films
In general, comics, cartoons, TV shows and films can be extremely violent. I think that is part of the genre. But there is good violence and bad violence. I do not really support reading comics or watching movies that are grotesquely violent just for the sake of having violence. Violence should be used to prove a point, raise awareness, or resolve an issue, but not just to be violent. Violence is to be portrayed, but not promoted in most cases.
Violence Against Women
With the onslaught of more and more female characters, it seems acceptable to say that when the woman is throwing the punches, she may also receive some. But when violence against women is portrayed in such a way that the “woman is victimized and unable to control the situation.” I am less inclined to find it appropriate. When a female is being beaten and unable to escape it does not generally come across as appropriate. This is also true when violence is portrayed against children, and even sometimes against men. Again, I am not talking here about the superheroes; I am talking about the casualties around them. Domestic abuse should not be promoted in any superhero media.
In the movie, The Expendables, there is domestic abuse. It is written in such a way that the viewer is meant to hate the domestic abuse and I would hope that it would cause anyone who is guilty of delving out this kind of abuse to think twice.
Violence Against Men
There is nearly as much violence against men in comics as there is against women. But most male 
superheroes tend to have wives and children that have been victimized. I am against that kind of portrayal in most instances.
A note on the permanence of violence: No one is dead, anything that is broken can be mended, anything mentally damaging can be erased. Though it is clear that in super hero stories women tend to stay dead longer than men; in this genre, no one is really dead forever, and everyone can survive or recover from things that no actual living person could.
That being said, let no one assume that it is acceptable to portray violence that no one in reality can live through, just because it is a fictional story.
In the film, Red, one character fires a revolver at a missile and stops it. That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the gross amounts of physical and mental torment that characters are subjected to that can be viewed as nearly satanic. The kind of stuff that would have been common in say…the Holocaust. That is the kind of violence that should be avoided or never looked upon favorably, especially when the story is geared towards teenagers or younger children.
Conclusion:  A Few Suggestions
Below are a few suggestions I have for writers, artists, and producers going forward for the superhero genre in comics, films TV, cartoons, toys, and books. 
  1. We need to see more women as lead characters and not just as sidekicks or accessories to the main male characters.
  2. We need to make sure that violence is redemptive and not just present for the sake of having violence.
  3. Characters need to be drawn in a way that does not degrade who they are.
  4. Writers need to be careful about ostracizing fans with how they portray certain lifestyles, genders, and ethnicities. Not everyone of any race or gender is good, but not everyone of any race or gender should be treated as less than human.
  5. We need less objectification of female characters.
  6. We need heroes with values.
  7. Be willing to raise ethical, political, philosophical, and spiritual issues in your stories. Make your audience think!!
  8. Tell good stories, and share good messages.
On a side note, props to Laura Hudson and her work in these areas.

Education

Education is an interesting thing. The process begins when we are young, and as we grow up, we are told that we need to go to college to get a good job. When we are told to do this, what people really mean is that we need to go to college to make more money. But do we?

The purpose of education has never been about money. Those who think it is, have no real appreciation for the value of knowledge.

The purpose of education is to become a more well-rounded person. An educated person is someone who can think critically, research and learn about new things, and who can find answers to whatever questions about which he or she is faced.

While college may be for some, it is not for everyone. I actually think that too many people attend college. Odd as it may sound, I think fewer people need bachelor’s degrees. I think even fewer need Master’s degrees, and fewer still need doctoral degrees.

The higher one climbs in knowledge, the more specific the field of study becomes. Unless the degree is needed for what one wants to become, then the degree may not be necessary.

Parents like to push their children to go to college, and they mean well when doing so, but if the child does not know what he or she wants to do, they may be wasting money. Not always, but sometimes.

The thing is, at least in Texas, our primary schools (K-12) are failing us. They are continually dropping standards due to budget constraints and other reasons. As a result, the primary schools are no longer teaching the critical thinking skills necessary for most people to function well in a vocational environment. As a result, more people need to attend college, if for no other reason, to learn what they should have been taught in high-school.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we have many wonderful teachers in public school and in private schools, I don’t think the teachers are primarily to blame for the lack of education. I think it is the educational agencies and the government stipulations that stifle good quality teaching. Perhaps that is one reason many teachers are leaving their jobs in Texas.

But back to my original point, education is intended to make someone a more well-rounded person. It is intended to make the person more complete. Education teaches people about a wide range of subjects, and gives them the tools they need to continue learning about those subjects on their own for the duration of their lifetime. True education produces lifelong learners. Learners who desire to know. Learners who seek the truth. Learners who love wisdom and seek it.

Education, when done well, may not expand one’s bank account, but it will expand one’s mind. I hope and pray that in our country, we can open people’s minds to this kind of love for knowledge and understanding. God’s world is vast and I believe he expects us to learn as much about it and as much about life as we can.

If you are an educator, regardless of stipulations and constraints, I hope you will not lose sight of the vision of shaping people’s minds and helping them to love life more deeply and seek wisdom more fervently.

The task of the educator is daunting on every level, but the fruit of the labor is well worth joining the fight.

If you are an educator, I urge you to carry your students along, mentor and guide them on the journey, and instill in them a love for the truth, a love for knowledge, and a love for wisdom.

Child Abuse

On January 6, 2012, ABC news published a story on child abuse.
The story was based on a study of child abuse cases from 2006.
It states that 4,569 children in America were hospitalized that year due to
child abuse. 300 of those children died from their injuries.
The highest rate of abuse was to children under a year old, finding that 58
of every 100,000 babies needed serious care for abuse related injuries.
For most child related hospital stays, the length of time in the hospital was
double that of non-abuse related injuries.
The article also discussed the financial cost of child abuse warranting
hospital stays, stating: “The average hospital stay cost $16,058, compared with
$9,550 for non-abuse-related injuries and $7,964 for other illnesses, bringing
the national cost of abuse-related hospitalizations to $73.8 million — a
fraction of the estimated $124 billion spent on justice, education, health care
and social support for children who survive abuse and neglect, according to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Really, $124 Billion a year spent on child abuse related things???
The costs above do not include anything but the cost of hospital stay and do
not include counseling, therapy, continued care after the child leaves the
hospital, legal costs, or the costs of moving the child to foster care.
The article mentions that helping parents learn to parent in the early stages
of pregnancy might help save countless families.
So I have been mulling this article over now for just over a month. The final
thing the article shares is that hospitalization only represents about 2% of the
children that face some form of child abuse. That means they are estimating that
228,450 children are being abused in their homes.
So what can we do to make sure more parents know how to properly discipline
and parent their children? How can we help drop the number of abuses? What kinds
of programs would be necessary to reach parents in the early stages of
pregnancy?
My guess is that many times, abuse comes from families with less income and
frequently from younger parents (meaning teenaged parents who are still maturing
themselves). Though the study found that low income was a big cause, there are
abuse situations from every level socio-economic status.
It seems to me that this is something that churches could really focus on in
doing community service and reaching out with the love of Christ to their
communities. If churches offered free parenting classes, perhaps these abuses
would decrease drastically. The Bible certainly has a great deal to say about
parenting, and Christians are supposedly quite interested in the family
structure and how healthy family structure affects the state of the nation.
I think that offering free classes would allow the church to recognize and
properly care for some great needs in every community across the nation. It
would also allow the church to positively effect the community. Churches are
often generally inviting enough, that people in all socio-economic levels
generally feel comfortable there. The church is not a place for the rich or the
poor; it is a place for hurting humans in need of help, regardless of what the
struggles may be. So my challenge is this, see what your church can do to help
take this burden from the state and to help alleviate this problem in your
community.
Click here to read the full ABC News story.

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists


The article was quite interesting as it attempted to define an evangelical and explain the difference between Evangelicals and Mormons (it was written for a paper in Salt Lake City).

As I read the article, something stood out. One interviewee stated: “Fundamentalists generally believe that culture is evil and corrosive. Their views usually result in isolation from the culture and/or bigotry. Evangelicals believe the culture is redeemable and can and should be impacted by Christians.”

I thought that it might be wise, for me to explain my position and to explain what I believe the marks of an Evangelical are in relation to the marks of a fundamentalist.

Evangelicals Fundamentalists
1. Sole Sufficiency of Scripture 1. The verbal inspiration of the Bible (as “originally” given)
2. Death of Christ being once for all (His death is not repetitious as some forms of Catholicism teach) 2. The Deity of Christ
3. Justification by Faith Alone 3. The Vicarious Death of Christ
4. The Authority for believers is the Bible, not the Catholic Church 4. The Personality of the Holy Spirit
5. Belief in the Priesthood of All Believers, not Just those ordained by the Catholic Church 5. The necessity of a personal infilling of the Spirit for victorious Christian living
6. A Deep interest in Revival and a Constant Longing for Revival. 6. Belief in the personal return of Christ
7. The urgency of speedy evangelization of the world
8. Interest in Second Coming of Jesus Christ
9. Interest in Revival
10. Biblical Literalism
**I used 3 books to help define each group. First, I used The Roots of Fundamentalism by Sandeen, second, The Rise of Evangelicalism by Noll, and third, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelicalism by Marsden.

As you can see, Fundamentalists and Evangelicals do share some major beliefs. Further, many people are both Fundamentalists and Evangelicals.

Evangelicalism

Here is part of a review I wrote on Noll’s book about Evangelicalism.
The Evangelical movement has always been a splintered movement that has a difficult history to discuss succinctly. But all branches of the movement have some similar characteristics. They each believe in the sole sufficiency of Scripture, the death of Christ as being once for all, the Bible is the authority for the believer not the Catholic Church, that a person is justified by faith alone, and that the body is a priesthood of all-believers not just those who are ordained by the church (p. 17). By 1740, Evangelical literature was beginning to be produced in the form of periodicals and magazines (p 118). Soon revival had begun to dwindle, and the longing for revival became a cornerstone characteristic of Evangelicalism (p. 137). In England, the Methodist church eventually split from the Anglicans (Lady Huntington’s group had been split for some time already). In the United States, African American Evangelical slave groups arose, and mission work began for Baptists in England with William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and others.

It is said that the beginning of the movement in revival began with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. He was the first Evangelical intellectual, and to date the greatest intellectual of Evangelicals (p. 256). Noll points out that by and large, the Evangelical denomination has always been weak in the formation of worldviews (p. 261). Evangelicalism has always focused on the heart and religious experience. It also attracted more women than men (p. 263). The movement has always focused on the potential of ordinary people, this may be one reason that scholarship is often neglected in Evangelical circles (p. 264). The biggest debate in the history of Evangelicalism is that of the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. This debate continues today (p. 279). Another important feature of Evangelical history is that of hymn writing. Hymns are a great part of the Evangelical tradition and they were a major part of the tradition on both sides of the Atlantic (p. 279). Hymn singing was even a way that women could easily express their faith in public (p. 279). Women also wrote hymns, such as Ann Steele (p. 279). In early days, Evangelicals also ordained women to preach (p. 264).


Over the years, emphasis on spiritual experience has helped Evangelicalism to spread and to survive (pp. 282-3). “At its worst, …evangelicalism neglected, caricatured and distorted the inherited traditions of Reformation Protestantism…and could foster a self-centered, egotistic and narcissistic spirituality and also create new arenas for destructive spiritual competition…But at its best evangelicalism provided needed revitalization to English-speaking Protestant Christianity. It breathed vibrant religious life into stagnant or confused religious institutions. It created dynamic communities of self-giving love and international networks of supporting fellowship” (pp. 292-3). One thing is certain, Evangelicalism is never a static movement.


Fundamentalism

Here is part of a book review I wrote on Marsden’s work about Fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism was a religious movement in a culture that was turning away from God on many fronts. The Evangelical Christians were concerned for social reforms in this time of turning away, because concepts of social reform flowed from the enthusiasm for revival found in Evangelical life. American Evangelicals looked positively upon the capitalist idea of free trade, and they believed that a Christian society would exist so long as Christian morals were taught in Christian Schools. The philosophy of common sense was the basis for belief in the basic truths of the Bible, and patriotism was on the rise. Darwinism was the first big challenge towards Christianity in America, but skepticism and rationalism were a looming threat. When European ideas such as these finally broke through, it was evident that the wall of these challenges towards traditional Christian beliefs in the United States was one that had been in the process of being built for quite some time.

To combat many of these challenges, preachers like D. L. Moody focused on evangelism and repentance. Worship/singing leaders soon became part of the common revival program and soon found their way into the churches on a regular basis. Evangelicalism had always found a balance between intellectualism and anti-intellectualism (or personal experience), and the music was a way to incorporate personal experience. After the Civil War, postmillennialism was the primary view, but the dispensational view of premillennialism was on the rise, especially as people began to think less and less that the world was getting better. Oddly, while the dispensationalist had little regard for politics (seeing that the world was becoming worse), patriotism grew rapidly among fundamentalist. The dispensationalists who were primarily Calvinists were concerned with taking the Bible literally whenever possible, but their belief system was rather convoluted. Their ideas also lead to the dualism that continues to be rampant in Christian culture today. The dualism is that of separation between secular and sacred which causes Christians to often times forsake what they perceive to be secular in God’s creation. As the 1900s approached, the Holiness Movement began to grow as well, with its focus on the Holy Spirit and the gifts he bestows upon believers.

By the 1920s it appeared that fundamentalism was in decline, several groups had split apart over various doctrinal and cultural issues. By the 1970s, fundamentalist groups were very small, but during that decade leading up to the 1980s, there was resurgence bigger than had ever been seen before.
Fundamentalist ideas have been impacted by culture, politics, traditions, and doctrinal issues. These ideas make it difficult to easily follow the path of the fundamentalist movement, but it is characterized by evangelism and trust in Scripture. The multi-ethnic, multi-denominational aspects of it have helped it to spread as have conservative values in the country. 
Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism Today
So, if the two movements are so incredibly similar, why did the article I read distinguish the two as being different?


And here we return to the quote from the article.


“Fundamentalists generally believe that culture is evil and corrosive. Their views usually result in isolation from the culture and/or bigotry. Evangelicals believe the culture is redeemable and can and should be impacted by Christians.”


Here I stop to ask, “Is this distinction true?” Maybe it is the square/rectangle thing, “I square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.” Fundamentalists are Evangelicals, but all Evangelicals are not Fundamentalists. I do think that in some respects the quote is true.


While Fundamentalists and Evangelicals believe many of the same things, they approach the world very differently. 


The Fundamentalists want to separate from the world, while the Evangelicals want to impact it. The Fundamentalists often go to extremes to prove a point, while the Evangelicals often sit in the middle and confuse people about how they really feel in reference to any given issue. Fundamentalist want to change the world through evangelism, but Evangelicals want to evangelize people and renew culture.


In The Bible Belt, many Christians want to impact the world and remain separate from it, but they do not really know how to both. The result is that some things are condemned, some are embraced, and some are condemned and then imitated from a “Christian” perspective.


It is difficult to know as a Christian how to truly be in the world and not of it, when so much of the world is sinful.


In the World Not Of It


The idea that Christians are to be in the world and not of the world comes from Romans 12:2.


“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)


The pattern here, refers to the sinful practices of the world. Christians are to live in the world, but they are not to be involved in the sinful practices of the world.


But what exactly does this mean?


Simply stated, it means that Christians are not to act selfishly out of greed, or pride. They are not to lie, steal, cheat, dishonor authority, etc. They are not to do things to make a name for themselves. They are not to be characterized by qualities that are not considered virtuous by the Scriptures.


More practically, then, we ask, “so what does that mean?” If Christians are not to be characterized by the sinful practices of this world, what do they do about watching TV? About going to the movies? About reading books? About listening to music? About playing sports? About being involved in extra curricular activities? About serving in the armed forces? About working in politics? Etc.


Here the fundamentalist is prone to say condemn what is evil in its entirety, or to use actual examples, “boycott Disney!” or “Oppose planned parenthood!” or “no marriage for gays!”


The Evangelical might say “do not support abortion, but love those who have had abortions.” or “I don’t agree with all Disney’s decisions, but some of their work is very good, and I choose to support that” or “I believe that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman, but I recognize that some faiths practice polygamy and that some people choose life partners of the same sexual orientation.”


How do Christians limit what they support in the world, and how should what they support be limited.


I believe they do it based on conscience and through conversation. The Holy Spirit convicts believers of right and wrong. If they are convicted that something is wrong, they should not support it. If they are not, then it is likely ok, so long as it is not blatantly condemned in Scripture. To know what is condemned in Scripture, one needs to first–know Scripture. So reading the Bible is a good practice to get into if you claim to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Reading it will also help you make some decisions. By having conversations about political, social, philosophical, and doctrinal topics with other believers, you can share your convictions and learn from different perspectives. Through conversation, your convictions might be strengthened, become more clearly defined, or they might even change.


Summary


So I am an Evangelical Christian. I hold to the ideas presented in the table above with a few exceptions. On the Evangelical side, I am not as concerned with Revival. Instead, I am more concerned with a continued commitment. If we always need revival, I wonder how deep the impact of revival is. If it was real, would we need another one every year? I am not saying I don’t support revival, I just think Christians need to consistently live out their faith. On the Fundamental side, we have the revival thing again, and the biblical literalism idea. I believe that we are to read the Bible literarily, not just literally. We do not take any statement as a stand alone truth apart from the rest of the Bible. We must read things in context and search out the meaning of the text. I also do not want to be too literal in reading the Bible as it confines meaning and, I believe, puts God in a box.


I am an Evangelical who desires to live a life glorifying to God and that exemplifies true Christian belief. I don’t have time to get bogged down in boycotts or arguments that don’t seem to matter. I think that it is my responsibility to bring God’s kingdom to the world in all I do and in all that I am a part of. As I go through life, I also am to share the Gospel. It is my hope that by seeing how I live, others will see the truth in what I believe.


Thoughts?


For further reading on “in the world not of it,” check out this article: http://www.bible-knowledge.com/in-world-not-of-it/.

Death

“It should be a while before I see Dr. Death, but it would sure be nice if I could get my breath.” – Johnny Cash (Like the 309)

When I think about resting, rejuvenating, and restoring, I cannot help but think about the issue of death.

I have a friend who worked really hard and ended up having a heart attack in his 50s due to exhaustion and over-exerting himself.

Many of you may know, that I too, am like a work horse. It is difficult for me to sit still, to rest, and to do nothing.

But I know I need to do “more” nothing as I also tend to run myself ragged.

So over the coming months, I am going to be trying to relax more and just enjoy life (living it, not just doing it).

But today, as I was thinking about relaxing and resting, and as it often does, my mind started thinking about friends and family I have lost. I wanted to share some of my thoughts and feelings along these lines.

My grandpa on my fathers side, who I called “Pa” passed away when I was 5 years old. This was my first “real” encounter with death, and I remember some aspects of the funeral to this day.

A few years later, my friend Richard lost his grandfather, “Pa-pa.” I remember that funeral as well, and listing to “Long Tall Sally” by the Beatles on the radio as we drove away from the church. It was really hard for Richard over the next few weeks, but over time his wound began to heal. “Pa-pa” was a good man, and honorable just as my “Pa” had been.

My Great, Great Aunt, “Auntie” passed away shortly after. She was just shy of turning 101 years old. I recently re-watched her 100th birthday celebration. She had many stories to tell, my dad knows them, but I was just getting to be old enough to listen when her time came. She lived through the invention of the automobile, both world wars, the Great Depression, the desegregation movement of the 1960s, the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have lived through so many events and to see the world change so much.

My next several encounters with death were more difficult. In 4th grade I met a friend named Stephen. He was viewed by most of the teachers as a trouble maker, but he was a really nice guy. I think most of his trouble making was more of a reflection of his home life than anything else. His parents were not very supportive or encouraging to him. I don’t even remember them ever coming to watch him out our gymnastic meets. In 7th grade, he was the first person I knew to commit suicide. I actually remember talking to him two days before it happened and had no clue that he was feeling so down about life.

That summer, I knew a girl who was killed in a drunk driving incident. I knew her because we showed horses together. In this incident, she was drinking underage and driving. She rolled her vehicle. The other people in the jeep with her were also killed, but no other vehicles were involved.

In 8th grade, I knew a girl at church who’s mother committed suicide. It was pretty hard on a lot of us, but especially on her. Her parents were members of our church. As it turned out, her mother had been struggling with some serious issues for quite a few years. But it was really sad seeing what my friend and her family went through in dealing with the loss of her mom.

In 10th grade, my grandmother on my mother’s side, “Granny Hobbs,” was hospitalized and she passed away after several weeks in Lubbock. She smoked for many years, and I am not sure she ever gave it up completely, but eventually her smoking caused lung and other problems. She was placed on dialysis for a time, and her health rapidly decreased leading to her hospitalization. I did not get to see her too much while she was in the hospital, but the drive from Lubbock to Hobbs where she and my grandfather lived was about two hours in length. I drove my grandpa, “Pepa” back and forth several times. While the whole situation was sad, I did enjoy spending the extra time with “Pepa” and listening to his stories.

In 1999, I lost my great uncle, the brother of “Granny Hobbs.” His was the first funeral service I ever lead. It was difficult, but it was also an honor. He had also been a smoker and that lead to his failing health too.

So, yeah, I don’t smoke.

In the Spring of 2000, came perhaps the hardest loss I have ever gone through. It was right as school was finishing up. My friends and I in Odessa were ending our second semester of college, and we were looking forward to the return of several of our friends who had gone off to school. Our friends Stephanie and Raynie had gone to Texas Tech. They were supposed to be coming in on Friday evening, but on Thursday at lunch I received a call from Sandi Rowe (she was the mother of one of my best friends–Alan). I had just gotten home for lunch when the phone rang. Sandi told me to sit down and then she informed me that Stephanie had been found in her apartment. The night before someone had followed her home from work and beat her to death using a baseball bat. I just went numb. I did not really know how to react. She was such a nice person, she was sweet and friendly, and I could not comprehend how anyone could do that to her. That night, I went over to my friend Luke’s house, we just sat there for like two hours without really even saying much. Alan came over that night as well, as did a few other friends. It was difficult for all of us. I rode to the funeral with Luke, and though it was several days later, we still did not really have much to say. I am not sure if they ever caught the person, but even if they had it would not have brought her back. To this day, I still probably think about Stephanie and her murder at least 3 or 4 times a month. I don’t talk about it, but I do ponder it. Not much else in life has affected me that significantly. The only other things I can really think of that have had such an impact are getting married and becoming a father.

The next loss came when a co-worker of mine, Amy, suddenly passed away at the age of 29. While it was also hard, her death was related to asthma and having seizures. I think death is always harder for me to deal with when the person has not lived a full-life. Their is a quote from The Two Towers, that reads: “No father should have to bury his son.” Parents were not meant to bury their children. Death is demonic and it is a result of sin. Amy went before her time, but I also trust that she went according to God’s time. I trust the same for Stephanie. When Amy passed away, Lindsy and I were not yet dating, but when we married, we dedicated the flowers at our ceremony to Amy since she had been wanting us to “get together.” I spoke at Amy’s funeral and felt it to be an appropriate way to truly honor her life and friendship.

Not too long after our first daughter was born, “Pepa” passed away. He had been living in an assisted living facility for a while, but he still had plenty of stories to tell. He was 89 when he died. Last year, Sue, my father-in-laws sister, passed away from cancer.

I know I have known many others who have passed away, and I have many friends who have lost loved ones.

I know this posting was rather dark, but I do believe in life after death. I believe that Christ is putting an end to death and that when he makes all things new, death will no longer destroy or plague the living.

Experiencing loss is filled with sadness, but through the pain and suffering, we are shaped to become who we are. Good can come from death if we allow our losses to become experiences we can use for God’s glory. Suffering loss can make us stronger, and as we think on loss, we can become wiser.

Scott

Guilty

Feeling Guilty? Chances are good that you are, at least about one thing.

Many of us feel guilty. Especially Christians.

Sometimes we should feel guilty. For example, if you treat someone wrongly or take advantage of a person, you should feel guilty about it.

But there are many things we feel guilty for, based on society its pressures.

This is especially true when we feel guilty for not doing something, something that our peers tell us we need to be doing.

In the Christian culture, people are often made to feel guilty if they are not doing a certain ministry, if they are not
contributing financially to a certain project, if they are not at church every Sunday, if they have any ideas, thoughts, or opinions that do not match the status-quot.

Well, I am here to say: “Stop Feeling Guilty When
 
You Don’t Have To!!!”

God desires and expects our obedience. He also convicts us of the ways in which we need to serve him.

When we are to participate in a specific ministry, God will convict us of our need to do so.

When we need to contribute to a project, God will convict us to do so.

We do need to be at church when we can be, but if we miss once-in-awhile, for various reasons, it is OKAY.

I like to go to church because I believe that the Bible teaches that it is important for Christians to worship God with other believers. It is good for the soul. (Believers are to meet together – Acts 2:42-47).

But that does not mean that we need to be made to feel guilty when we cannot be there, and it does not mean we
need to be there every time the doors are open. We also need time to be at home, to relax, and recuperate.

We need to read the Bible, but we do not need to feel guilty if we do not read for 2 hours a day, or as
much as so and so.

We need to pray, but we do not need to feel guilty if our spiritual gift is not to be a prayer warrior.
When God convicts us that we need to pray more, or read our Bible’s more, we should do it, in obedience to
God.

But we do not need to base our spiritual health on what others are doing, or what they expect of us.

We please God, not other people.

And when we believe we are pleasing God, because we are following the convictions he has placed on our
hearts, we have no reason to feel guilty.

Of course, if we are not following those convictions…

Thoughts?

New Blog

Well, this is it!!!

This blog site will be a place where I post thoughts on Christianity, religion, faith, philosophy, theology, politics, ethics, news, academics, family, events, and anything else about which I feel like writing.

Stay tuned for more!!!

In Christ,

Scott Shiffer

Being Christian in Today's Culture