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Archive for the ‘Social / Political’ Category

This weekend (January 1st, 2017) I heard many a person bid good riddance to the year that just passed (2016).  No doubt, it was one of the most contentious 12 month periods I’ve experienced in my fifty plus years.  But if we want 2017 to be markedly different, we’ll need to handle some things differently.  Here are some suggestions:

 

  • Spend more time and energy engaging the people in our community, and less time protesting the things we don’t like.
  • Recognize that hating on people that we consider to be “Haters” or “Hateful”, only promotes more hatred.
  • Look for things to be inspired by instead of focusing on things to be offended by.
  • Find new and better ways to express love and hope, and give less voice to fears and opinions.
  • Make a conscious effort to leave things better than we find them.
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The Greeks had a god for everything, and temples were erected all over their cities to facilitate the worship of them.  As time goes by, America is becoming much the same.  Here is a list of a few of the most popular gods within our culture.

 

  • Self– Certainly self absorption is nothing new for mankind, but previous generations didn’t have the amazing technology that we have to assist them.  American’s are completely consumed with making sure everyone knows their status (Facebook, Instagram), hears their opinions (Twitter, the Blogosphere), see’s their images (selfies, YouTube, Snapchat) and is appraised of their likes and/or dislikes (all social media).  The cumulative effect is that it keeps most people focused on themselves, and on what everyone else is thinking & saying about them.

 

  • Technology– Americans pay billions of dollars a year to be a part of the newest technological craze.  Whether it be the latest i-Phone, or a hover-board, or a GoPro, or self-driving cars… we can’t stand the idea that there is something newer, and possibly more advanced, than what we have already.  Sadly, the emerging generation has so much faith in the power of technology that they’ve become largely disconnected from the lessons of the past.

 

  • Humanism– We’ve become a society that willingly disparages the character of God in order to substantiate the inherent virtue of mankind.  We shun the “Holy Spirit” and celebrate the “human spirit”.  Collectively, we’ve decided that if God has a problem with us, He must not be as loving as we’ve been told, and thus we have every right to ignore Him.

 

  • Convenience– Our culture is absolutely obsessed with making everything fast, easy, and achievable with the touch of a button.  We have an “app” for just about anything you can think of, and a huge amount of an average person’s life is channeled through their electronic devices.  But with every advance in this direction, we become less tolerant of things that require any sort of sustained effort on our part, or things that take time.  We also become more dependent on the technology for even the most basic of functions.  Given the fact that life is a long journey, which requires genuine determination, perseverance and patience, this trend doesn’t bode well for our future.

 

  • Sensuality– Without a doubt, sex is meant to be one of life’s great pleasures, but just as doubtless, there is a context within which it was meant to fit in our lives.  In the decades since the “Sexual Revolution” began, our culture has found ways to inject sex into all sorts of settings, circumstances, and contexts where it doesn’t belong.  This has not only resulted in confusion and dysfunction, for many it has reduced sex to little more than a bodily function.  That’s sad, because it was intended to be so much more.

 

  • Voyeurism– My kids have no idea what a “Peeping Tom” is, and I would submit that this is due to the fact that (figuratively speaking) peeking into people’s windows has become a national pastime.  While it may have started with a litany of “Reality TV” shows, there are now surveillance cameras everywhere, a host of scammers combing the web for personal information, and millions of would-be photographers/reporters carrying portable electronic devices, and looking for that next viral sensation.  Indeed, there is little within our present culture that could accurately be characterized as “private”.

 

  • Celebrity– The insatiable craving for notoriety within our culture continues to fill our screens (both large and small) with images of people willing to eat bugs, wife swap, gender swap, submit themselves to dangerous circumstances, fix bad tattoos, torment their kids, wrestle alligators/snapping turtles/wolverines, bully their wedding planner, search for Bigfoot…  And all of this has created a new breed of celebrity that includes people like the “Reality TV Star”, and the “You-Tube Star”.  Many of these folks are not known for a specific talent, or some meaningful contribution to society, they’re simply famous for being famous (e.g. the Kardashians); which somehow manages to take the superficiality of “fame and fortune” to a whole new level.

 

  • Autonomy– In our culture, we don’t generally admire people who follow the rules.  More typically, we revere those who make up their own.  Increasingly, people don’t feel as though they should have to abide by a rule that they think is stupid, or unwarranted, or that they simply disagree with.  This trait is commonly reflected in the people our society raises to the level of “hero”, and in the characters popular entertainment presents as “super-heroes”.  While a life with “no boundaries” may sound appealing, it is by definition a state of lawlessness.

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Last night, our daughter spent hours trying to convince one of her classmates not to end their life.  I wish I could say that this is a first, but all of our kids have been pulled into this sort of thing before.  It was late, and the situation was far from settled when I finally forced her off the phone.  This morning, she woke up troubled and exhausted.  As I sensed her emotional state, I was impressed to write it down.  Please pray for our young people, these are difficult times and their struggles are real.

 

Are You Still Here?

*

As my eyes reluctantly crack open, I can see that it’s still dark

And I wonder whether you’re still here

*

It was another night of tears and prayers

And words that seemed to fall to the ground

*

I tried everything I could think of

But eventually, I ran out of things to say

*

You seemed to have a counterpoint for every encouragement

And ultimately I could not carry you to a place you refused to go

*

When we hung up the phone, I cried out to God

But I knew that He wouldn’t force Himself on you

*

I know that you’re looking for someone who will take away the pain

But you’ve grown immune to the love that’s already around you

*

No one has the strength to pry the hurt from your clinched fists

No one else can provide you with the desire to go on

*

Hope can be an elusive thing

But it’s not because it’s complicated

*

You don’t necessarily need to believe that things will get better

But you have to be open to the possibility that they could

*

For whatever it’s worth, I really do love you

And it’s hard not to feel as though I’ve let you down

*

I keep searching for a remedy

But the shelves of the medicine chest look empty

*

So I lay here in the pre-dawn hours of the morning

And I wonder whether you’re still here

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Close loving relationships quite naturally gravitate toward sex, while casual sexual relationships rarely gravitate toward love.

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The United States is a country that was arguably birthed in protest; as English settlers in the colonies challenged the King’s right to tax them without proper representation.  As such, the founding fathers ensured that our right to protest was guaranteed by the constitution, and throughout our history there have been many notable periods of protest; some of which have ultimately spurred on social change.  But I believe that there are limits to what a protest can achieve.  While it can provide a voice to a group who isn’t being heard, or shed light on a situation that people aren’t aware of, or change the tone of the dialogue around an issue; in and of itself, it doesn’t solve problems.  At best, it creates an impetus to address an issue.  But simply pointing out problems is a lot easier than fixing them, and at some point we need to transition from the simplicity of protesting to the complexity of problem solving.

*

As I’ve listened to the uproar surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Collin Kaepernick’s decision to sit out the national anthem, in protest of the “country’s” treatment of people of color, I’ve found it hard to relate to much of the dialogue.  While I wholeheartedly agree that he is within his rights as an American to make such a stand, I’m utterly baffled by the notion that he’s “shedding light on an important topic”.  The issues of race relations, the use of force by police, the “Black Lives Matter” movement… were already at the forefront of our national consciousness.  His protest hasn’t shed light on some new aspect of this issue, and it certainly has no potential for bringing us closer to a resolution.  Truthfully, it has simply inflamed and re-polarized the factions involved.  Haven’t we already resolved the fact that gunning down cops in retaliation for illegal police shootings isn’t the answer.  If so, then how is the disrespect that Kaepernick feels the “country” shows toward black people going to be changed by disrespecting the symbol of our country’s freedom.  As my parents always said, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Some rationalize that at least he’s got people talking, but I would submit that instead of talking about the issue he purportedly cares so deeply about, they’re talking about him, and the appropriate bounds of protest.  If anything, it has detracted from the dialogue surrounding race relations.

*

Another problem with his stand lies in the target of his protest.  He says he’s protesting this “country’s” treatment of African Americans, but who is he really referring to.  When he says “country” is he talking about the government of this country, the police in this country, the white police in this country, the white people in this country, the white racist people in this country…  If the aim of a protest is to affect change, then who are we actually talking about, and what has to happen for the protest to result in some sort of worthwhile action?

*

I agree with Collin Kaepernick that black lives do matter, and that there is a very real problem that needs to be addressed.  I believe that there are a multitude of people who are genuinely trying to move from the protest phase to the problem solving phase; which is a longer and more difficult process.  From my perspective, re-stoking the flames of rhetoric only sets us back.  The time for antagonistic gestures is past, it’s time to work on viable alternatives.

*

As for Kaepernick, if he doesn’t start playing better, he may have to move to Canada or Europe to continue his football career.  Unfortunately, he’ll find that they have racism there too, but at least he won’t have to worry about them playing our national anthem.

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Many parents teach their children that, “fighting never solves anything”; but that always seemed a bit narrow to me.  A child could easily, and understandably interpret that to mean that there was never a time to fight, and from my perspective, that is not true.  Though I’ve taught my kids that fighting is almost never the answer, I’ve balanced that with the understanding that there are times when it is absolutely necessary to take a stand.  As my son now stands at the threshold of military service, I offer this context for the battle that lies ahead.

 

Our battle is not with flesh and blood

But with the spiritual forces of darkness

We do not fight to show ourselves strong

We fight in order to defend the weak

We do not fight to enslave our adversaries

We fight so that all men can be free

We do not fight to obtain what does not belong to us

We fight to preserve our God given rights

We do not fight because we hate our enemies

We fight to protect the one’s we love

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Our son Patrick made what promises to be a life-changing commitment yesterday, as he signed a contract with the United States Marine Corps. Under the terms of this agreement, he pledged to become a member of the active duty service upon the completion of high school, and within the next 12 months. As such, he was sworn into the Inactive Reserve component of the Marines and will work with the Recruiting Command for the interim period, in preparation for his service. If the schedule holds, he will be leaving for Parris Island within a few weeks of graduation. It was a serious step and one that I believe he was ready to make.

There are some who would question the wisdom of allowing our 17 year old son to make such a commitment, and to be sure, it wasn’t something we came to suddenly or lightly. In fact, this was really the culmination of a journey that began the moment he was born. On that day, I wrote him a letter, which I’ve linked to this article (go tohttps://bryancorbin.com/2010/02/15/letter-to-my-newborn/ ). Within it, I acknowledge that the season of our influence would be relatively short, and I express my desire for him to become the person he was created to be. Ever since then I’ve been looking for clues as to who that might be. From day one, he was a high energy action figure. Climbing, jumping, talking, singing, dancing, laughing… he was always ready to charge up the hill, even when no one was willing to follow. He started in soccer at age 5, and through the years he’s continued with basketball, football, baseball, and wrestling. And for him, it has never been about winning games, it has always been about going into battle alongside his brothers.

The military tradition is strong on both sides of our family. My wife’s grandfather was in the Army during World War II, her brother enlisted in the Air Force, and my kids were old enough to remember when her cousin was in Iraq. My father and his brother were both career military men and Vietnam vets. My dad did 26 years in the Air Force, and my Uncle did 29 years in the Marines. My brother and I joined the Navy together, and I eventually did 12 years of service. From a young age, Patrick loved Veteran’s Day, and beamed when I’d come to the school programs. Years ago, as we visited some old mothballed ships in Charleston, he bought a US Marine flag that hangs over his bed to this day.

As he grew, many other gifts emerged, and we pondered whether these other things (e.g. acting, singing, dancing, drawing) might be a pathway to a different future. For the last couple of years we’ve talked a lot about potential careers and colleges, but it all seemed to have an unsettling effect on him. The further we went down those avenues, the more confused he seemed to become. At times, he even wondered aloud at who he was supposed to be. Eventually, I realized that he was simply afraid of disappointing us and that these things weren’t really what he was after. As we revisited the idea of the military, he seemed to come alive. As I prayed about how best to guide him, God seemed to remind me of who Patrick is at his core, and I began to feel the momentum building toward this end. Even though he’s grown up in a time when these things are not especially valued, he passionately believes in the concepts of duty, faithfulness, honor, accountability, courage, and valor. The fact that things are hard or dangerous doesn’t seem to hinder him. And in the end, I concluded that what we wanted for Patrick wasn’t nearly as important as helping him discover who he was made to be, and encouraging him down that path.

Again, there are those who might question the idea of embracing what could be a dangerous road for our son to go down, but I would submit that there is no pathway forward that is without risk. Indeed, one need only watch the news to see that peril can appear anywhere and without warning. Our world needs brave men (like Pat), who are willing to step into the unknown, and to make a stand for the things that truly matter. Though we clearly recognize what is at stake, how can we justify trying to inhibit him from answering that call. No parent wants to ponder the possibilities, and Lord knows that we will be praying fervently, but if this is who he was created to be, we’ll have to fight the Creator in order to make him something else.

We did require him to look at all four branches of the service, and he did like them all to some degree. But everything about the Marines seemed to fit; heck, even his recruiter is named Staff-Sgt. Corbin. None of us knows the future. This could simply be a necessary step in Pat’s preparation for something else, or maybe this will be the place that Pat shines his light for years to come. I firmly believe that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by God, and that He works all things to the good of those who love Him and who are trying to fulfill His purposes in their lives. I believe that Patrick is that kind of man.

As a parent, our strong impulse is to protect our kids; but just as important is the need to prepare them to make a life of their own. Though we will always love them, they were never meant to remain our children (i.e. be dependent on us). I’m proud of Patrick’s decision to jump into adulthood with both feet. It is typical of the way he’s always done things. He is full of passion and low on fear. I’m proud that in an age of entitlement, he embraces the values of service, and sacrifice. I’m proud that he’s not tempted by the path of least resistance, which I’ve come to view as the road to hell.

Just like the night he was born, I’ll struggle to let him go. But I will. I always knew that the day would come when I’d have to put him back in the hands of the One who handed him to me.

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