Category Archives: Family

Tidying Up After Marie Kondo

I’m going to admit it right from the start: I’ve watched a few of the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” episodes on Netflix, and I like it. I like the idea of decluttering and even “sparking joy.” I even fold my clothes her way now, and wow! I can fit so many clothes in my drawer now!! Here’s the thing though, I find it troublesome how many people on the show so readily bow to thank their houses or thank their clothes or pots and pans. Like Paul wrote so long ago: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things,” (Romans 1:21-23). One may say, “Chris, they aren’t worshiping man and birds and animals and creeping things. They are thanking their clothes and homes and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

JAPAN-KONDO
taken from thestar.com

The big deal is what lies behind the thanksgiving. Marie Kondo is Shinto as are 83% of Japanese.* Most tend to think that the Japanese are Buddhists, and they are, but more are Shinto. Only 72% of those in Japan are Buddhists.*  Being Shinto means by its definition that one is an animist. Animism comes from the Latin word for breath or life or soul. Thus the Shinto believe that everything has a soul or a spirit, and those spirits, known as Kami, are interconnected. “Kami are associated with various supernatural and sacred forms of life, including human ancestors, spirit figures, and the natural forces of mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks,”* and apparently houses and household objects. Thus to “thank” a house is not necessarily to thank an object in life, but to thank an object that is living.  It is easy to dismiss this and say that it is nothing, but I would not be so fast. I believe that Paul’s message to the Corinthians can be applied here. The Corinthians didn’t think that a syncretistic life harmed anyone. They thought that could believe in Jesus and still enjoy the food offered to idols. Paul told them to rethink, to think about the people of Israel. They ate the peace offering after part of it was offered to the Lord. In other words, they were, as Paul wrote, “participants in the altar,” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Such were the Corinthians, participants in the altar with the pagans if they sought to synchronize their religion with them. While Shinto allows for that sort of thing, Christianity is exclusive. We cannot synchronize our beliefs. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols (or thanksgiving offered to a house) is anything, or that an idol (or clothing) is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice (offer thanks to) they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

While the Shinto do not have sacred scriptures, no known founder, and no doctrine, the Shinto are devout in their beliefs and practices. There are about 80,000 shrines that serve as community centers as well as purification sites and religious activities. In fact, the Shinto are typically nationalistic and often militaristic.* As stated, they are fine with synchronizing their religion with others, but not so much with those that have fixed doctrines, like Christianity, which is only about 2% of the Japanese population* (and much of that from outsiders).  Even the Shinto understand that Christianity is exclusive and that Christianity, as a religion does, not fit with Shinto ideology. It is something we Christians should consider.

That being said. . .what do we do with Marie Kondo and her thoughts on “tidying up” with things that “spark joy”? I think we can accept the principles without the pagan Shinto influences. However, we need to be careful with the idea of sparking joy. What may spark joy for one moment may not spark joy for long. We are after all materialistic beings. We want more and more, always looking for the next thing that will spark joy. “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven,” (Proverbs 23:5). At the same time, everything that does not spark joy at the moment of cleaning is not guaranteed to never again spark joy. Christians do not simply live in the moment, but live for eternity. Thus we need to meter out our joy-sparkers with eternity in mind.

If there is an article of clothing that you no longer like, get rid of it. I don’t mind. But rather than thanking that piece of cloth, thank God for the grace of letting it clothe you and keep you warm. If you have 5 too man spatulas and they don’t spark joy, toss them. But don’t thank them. Thank God for the tools and the food that they flipped. After all, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, italics mine).

As always, I would love your input.  Thoughts, questions, and comments are welcome here. If this blessed you, I am grateful for the opportunity. If not, I’m grateful you gave me a shot. If you think this would bless others, feel free to share it.

*All info about Shintoism came from:
Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott, eds., Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), pp. 269-272.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.

The War on Sex

I’m not sure if you have noticed or not, but the issue of sex and all that goes with it has been making the news lately. In fact, it has been making news now for a few decades and it continue to grow, taking up more and more space and is becoming more and more heated. Some of the more recent news comes as the Vice President’s wife Karen Pence has taken a job at a Christian school teaching art part-time. Being a genuine Christian school, they take a firm stance on sex and sexuality. While the headlines make it all about homosexuality, the school actually takes a stance against all forms of sexual activity outside the bounds of one man to one woman marriage. Thus no pre-marital sex, no extra-marital sex, no pornography usage, no homosexuality, and the list goes on.

I’m not sure if those who are outraged are outraged that Karen Pence who claims to be a born-again Christian is living by her convictions or if they are outraged that anyone would dare have such convictions in the first place. That’s what this article seeks to address, how someone could have such convictions and why someone in this day and age would actually seek to publicly live by those convictions. To understand this reasoning, one must begin with the theology of sex. While I won’t have time to go through every biblical reference to sex, my hope is to at least give a framework toward a biblical theology of sex and sexuality.

  1. Sex is divinely given and enjoyable. It was God who created male and female, and his first command to them was, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,” (Genesis 1:28). Three major points: 1) God created man and woman. He gave them each their respective body parts that not only made sexual union possible, but enjoyable. He is the one who put sensitive nerve-endings on those body parts. He is the one who put the testosterone and estrogen and dopamine chemicals into our systems. It was not by accident, but by design. 2) God expected man and woman–commanded man and woman–to have lots of babies, of course the only way to make that happen is to have lots of sex. Sex is commanded (at least in the confines of one man and one woman in marriage). 3) While not a popular concept today, sex and children are linked. Until recent history (about 100 years) sex and children were linked together. Today, with contraception and nearly on-demand abortion, such is not the case. But from a biblical perspective they are.
  2. Sex was designed to be without shame. When God brought Eve to Adam, we are told, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not shamed,” (Genesis 2:25). Sin changed all of that. Once Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s commands, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths,” (Genesis 3:7). Notice, only loincloths. They didn’t cover their upper bodies, but only their sexual organs. There was now a separation, a distrust, a shame between husband and wife. From this point forward, sex was altered. Sex, in some way, had fallen when Adam and Eve fell.
  3. When sex fell, it began to be used wrongly. This would include forced sex. “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw the daughters of man were attractive and took as their wives any they chose,” (Genesis 6:1). Many would say that the sons of God here are fallen angels, thus taking by force the daughters of man as wives. It would include homosexuality and rape. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lord, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them,'” (Genesis 19:4-5). Lot going out to convince them not to commit such an act, offered the alternative: “Let me bring [my virgin daughters] out to you, and do to them as you please,” (Genesis 19:8). There was incest. “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father,” (Genesis 19:32). There is all the fun without any responsibility. Without going to much detail, Onan was taking his dead brother’s wife as his own so she could have a son by him. “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother,” (Genesis 38:9). This is often used by some to speak against masturbation, but in reality, it is having the perks of sex without the responsibility of children. That could include masturbation, but not limited to it. It could simply be having “friends with benefits,” one-night stands, etc.  It includes prostitution and weaponizing sex. Tamar wrapped herself in garments to look like a prostitute, “When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, ‘Come, let me come in to you,’ for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law,” (Genesis 38:15-16). Later, he found out that she was pregnant and angry because it would seem that she had extra-marital sex. When he sent word, she used his own staff and signet cord to frame him. Adultery would be included. “And after a time [Joseph’s] master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me,'” (Genesis 39:7). Joseph refused.  All of this is found in the first book of the Bible!!
  4. Laws were made to protect against the fallen-nature of sex. By the time the Israelites got out of Egypt, they had probably seen or heard about all the various sexual practices. Canaan was known for its licentiousness. God intended Israel to be a standard-bearer. They were to be distinct, different than the cultures around them. Thus he set up laws. Without going into every one of these laws, suffice it to say that they dealt with all the practices we see in Genesis and also included bestiality (see Leviticus 18).
  5. Sex is exciting. By the time one gets to the Proverbs one has a pretty good understanding about all the wrongs of sex, but not all the rights and excitement of it. Enter the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). Here is a poetic expression of what sex is really to be like in marriage. It is fun, exciting, complicated, and enjoyable. There’s honeymoon sex, steamy sex, and even make-up sex right there in one book of the Bible. Christians don’t have a bad view of sex (at least they ought not to); we simply have an elevated view of sex. We want all that it was meant to be, not just what we can eek out.
  6. There is an emphasis on the wrongness of homosexuality, but there is a reason for it. 1) It goes against creation. God created man and woman, one man and one woman. Anything (divorce, extra-marital sex, polygamy, or homosexuality) goes against the created order. 2) Homosexuality actually goes completely in the opposite direction of the created order. While the other sexual sins deviate from the created order and are wrong, homosexuality does a complete U-turn from it (or transgenderism, lesbianism, etc.). This was Paul’s point in Romans: “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men,” (Romans 1:26-27). For years the homosexual movement has been crying with all its might that this is not their choice; they were born this way. Lately, the transgender and fluid-gender movement has cried that they can be whomever they want to be; thus a choice. This has caused great consternation to their counterparts. Here Paul is speaking of not the choice of feelings, but the choice of actions.
  7. All Christians are called to self-restraint. Part of the teachings of the Bible are that we are to have self-control. It is, in fact, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Paul wrote to Timothy that God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. The pastor is to be a man of self-control. Older men are to be self-controlled. Women are to be self-controlled. This self-control is not only in the area of sex, but in all areas of life, yet it does include sex. Hence, there is the prohibition on pre-marital sex, adultery, bestiality, etc. We are to restrain our inclinations, not give in to them. Just as we see a piece of jewelry that we like, but refrain from taking it, so we are to refrain from taking the man or woman simply because we want them.

That being said. . .God has called Christians to a higher standard. As we’ve seen, Christians are the outsiders when it comes to sex. We are in the minority. The fact that this war is recent for us is an anomaly. We are feeling invaded by the sexual revolution, when in reality, Christians are aliens in a world that has been in a sexual revolution since the fall. This was the society with which Corinth, Laodicea, Ephesus, Rome, and just about every other church within Scripture dealt. Christians are meant to be the kooks; we are supposed to look strange to people. We are supposed to believe weird things (let’s not forget that Christians were called atheists until the 3rd century; and that they accused us of cannibalism as well).  But let us also remember that while we may feel like society is crumbling around us (and maybe it is), the society is simply being themselves. This is nothing new (everything we see today, happened in Genesis). We are to love the people. We are to pray for them, but we are not to cast them away.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-12).

Why purge the evil person from among us? Because 1) his sin will catch on like yeast to dough or like fire in California, 2) the church is to be an example of holiness, separation and purity (all types of purity). This is what Karen Pence is seeking to do. She believes the Bible’s doctrine on sexuality, and seeks to live by it (as all Christians are called to do). It ought not shock anyone that she is sticking to her convictions, but in case those people misunderstood the convictions she had, I hopefully have given at least a foundation to them.

I’d love to hear your feedback. Whether you agree or not. This is a hot-button issue, so I simply ask for civility and decency. If I find your comments to be the opposite (even if they’re in agreement with me), I will delete them. If they are civil and decent, even if they oppose my argument, they will remain up.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV published by Crossway Books.