Sometimes, I feel I don’t fit into this world and yet much of the time I feel I belong. Do you know what I mean?
I am an Alien, in that I belong to a different Kingdom with different values with an emphasis on loving relationships, family life, honesty, diligence, reliability, consumer resistance, good stewardship, quiet reflection, a growing knowledge of the Bible… But I have no real interest in the lives of celebrities. I am often shocked at the callousness of people. I am sick and tired of scams and frankly disillusioned with just about everything to do with politics. (But I still vote!) I am concerned about the absence of clear ethics as science and technology change our world at an unprecedented and ever-increasing pace. The love of money seems to drive everyone and everything and yet it is so shallow…
I am a Resident, in that the whole world still belongs to the One I follow: I am at home in His creation with all its variety and magnificence; His ways still work even in this corrupt society; marriage and family are wonderful gifts that I enjoy to the full; smiles and kind greetings, even to strangers, are often returned with the same. I am constantly surprised at the creativity and explosion of knowledge that enrich my world. Most of all I live with the expectation that this world will be renewed and I will be renewed with it!
I am one of the relatively few, in the history of life on this earth, who had the privilege to live in a social and physical environment that was virtually crime-free, economically prosperous and stable, with families that stayed together and a vast majority of people who agreed on what good character looked like. Everyone accepted that our sexuality was created for expression within a committed marriage and outside of that it was wrong. No one I knew took drugs and my friends and I grew up knowing nothing about that. Undoubtedly some people drank too much, but that was behind closed doors and we were largely unaware of that too. Pornography was simply unavailable and no one thought about locking the doors to their houses or cars.
Such was life in small-town, USA. Of course, I was just a boy living an ordinary life like so many around me, unaware of my privilege. That privilege undoubtedly sharpens my awareness of alienation today. I know how good life can be, even in this imperfect age. However, it does not just sharpen alienation, it also keeps alive in me a realistic hope that life can be better in this world.
The Apostle Peter was the one who coined the title phrase for these thoughts. He wrote to the “resident aliens” of the Roman Empire, first century Christians. The dominant society of Rome had many similarities to today and it is my persistent hope that followers of Jesus can and will think and behave much like believers of the first century. He wrote to them to strengthen them in spirit and in mind. Perhaps a thought or a report here and there in this weblog might have the same effect.
I have had another advantage: for more than 45 years I have had roots in the United Kingdom, but have travelled the world living with, teaching and encouraging young believers in scores of nations. I have driven overland to Afghanistan twice, have organised and led a walk from Germany to Jerusalem, preached to large churches and outdoor crowds of up to 100,000, slept on church floors and in parking lots, led teams of as many as 150 through nations in the Middle East, hunted with a small remote tribe in the Amazon—quite a list, now that I think about it. All those experiences and many more have shaped a perspective that might be different than most others.
My hopeful expectation for the thoughts, ideas and reports that follow is that they will encourage faith, provoke Christian thinking about important current events and issues and make discipleship possible and practical in our fast-paced and increasingly complex world. With these lofty aspirations in mind, I hope website will also be enjoyable!
There are many blinding contradictions in our current moral relativism and I have been wanting to write on one of the more tragic and stupid (sorry, there is no better word) examples. Then Jeff Fountain sent me his Weekly Word for this week. He gave me permission to reproduce the wisdom of Sofia:
November 20, 2017
On a trip to the Arctic Circle in Finland last week, where I was invited to speak at the northernmost university in the European Union, the University of Lapland, I came across a candid response to the #metoocampaign by a young Finnish woman named Sofia.
Thanks to social media, the campaign has become a global phenomenon proving that sexual harassment is also a global phenomenon.
‘Sofia’ of course means ‘Wisdom’. And as Proverbs 2:2 tells us, Wisdom deserves to be listened to. Judge for yourself.
Sofia: Like pretty much every woman and many men, I also have been sexually harassed, so it’s #metoo. Not abused, thank God, but harassed in those kind of ways that almost every woman is.
It has been some boys in my class calling me and the other girls whose breasts hadn’t yet started to grow “board” (“lauta” in Finnish); and when our bodies started to get more womanly, slapping and squeezing our bodies. It has been a random adult man contacting me and sudden sending me a picture of his penis. It has been an old man trying to buy my body when I tried to help him when he was lost. It has been some men trying to hit me relentlessly, not stopping before I’ve walked away. And it has been many, many other things. Sadly, all very common things for us girls and women.
It bothers me when some people are reacting to this campaign saying that we need to teach our boys “not to rape/assault/harass”. Really? I honestly don’t believe there’s many men in our culture who don’t know that raping is wrong and illegal.
Yes, this is an important campaign. But there’s a major contradiction. At the same time our culture openly and shamelessly consumes pornography, which shows abuse, rape – and even worse – and calls that ‘entertainment’. Many ‘experts’ even say porn is a good way to ‘educate’ young people about sex or ‘spice up’ sex life in marriage. Girls are taught they shouldn’t be offended if their boyfriend watches porn, because ‘every guy does that’. Recently the western world celebrated the life of Hugh Hefner, an old pervert who made an empire out seeing women as sex objects. Our culture says that selling sex is a job like any other; it’s totally fine for men to buy women. Our culture, entertainment world and media encourage people to have loose sex affairs and ridicule those who believe sex is sacred and belongs to marriage.
Our culture teaches what is right and wrong in the law, but in attitudes our culture teaches everything else. The people we celebrate, the porn we consume, the things we believe speak much louder to the young generation than our words. Our attitudes speak that women are objects for the satisfaction of men and that men who can make an empire out of that are heroes. They speak that sex is a normal part of every romantic relationship – at the latest from ‘the third date’. They speak that sex is a basic need and without that we can’t flourish. And porn is actually teaching our boys that women always want sex, should be ready for anything a man wants – and enjoy to be dominated, abused and raped.
As an answer to seeing how many women and men have been sexually assaulted, we don’t need to teach our boys “not to rape”. We need to teach our boys and girls that porn is wrong, unhealthy and dangerous. We need show by law that buying women is illegal. We need to stop celebrating people who have objectified women. We need to stop the forces that are filling young people’s minds to believe that it isn’t normal to be a virgin and that people who see sex as sacred and are saving it for marriage are idiots.
And, most of all: We need to encourage men to be real men – courageous and brave, strong by heart, learning to share their feelings, ready to fight and win the battle of porn addiction, willing to speak up and willing to serve, protect and love others, especially the weaker. And we need those men to show our boys what it is to be a real man. Our boys need healthy and brave examples of good men to teach them by their words and actions aligned with how a real man respects girls and women – in homes, in schools and in media.
So rise up, men of courage and honour! Our boys and girls – and we, women – need you, so that boys would grow up to be men of courage and honour. That’s the only way that the girls growing up today won’t also be harassed some day. We need you – and we believe in you!
Thank you for speaking up, Sofia!