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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “A Health of Information”

Once again, I’ll be going in a slightly different direction with this one.

This episode introduced me and the brony community who hadn’t been keeping up with the comic officially to Mage Meadowbrook. The thing that I fixated on very quickly in this episode was the style that inspired her look. Between her hair, dress, accessories, Southern accent, and the appearance of her descendant, it soon became very clear to me that she was inspired by Louisianans…particularly Louisiana voodoo.

As silly as this will probably sound to most of you, especially since I tend to fixate on things and blow them out of proportion, this actually made me feel uncomfortable for a few days. Most religions in the world I dismiss as philosophy, mythology, or harmless, but there are a fistful out there that I feel drive people to do very evil things and are genuinely bad. I didn’t like the idea of this character, even if only in style, “endorsing” that religion. Again, I’ll say I tend to blow things out of proportion and read too much into them. After all, it was very clear from that episode that Meadowbrook didn’t practice voodoo, any more than Somnambula worshiped Ra or Rockhoof went raiding and pillaging. She was an apothecary and didn’t even have any magic of her own in spite of the title “mage”. Nevertheless, I did focus on it, even obsess over it, for a few days and debated writing to DHX Media or even quitting the show all together for a time. Eventually, I reasoned it was nothing but appearance and a misguided selection to add more variety to the Pillars of Equestria.

Yet remembering my reaction to that makes me think of a greater topic. As Christians, just how much of society should we “ignore”?

Our kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), but nevertheless most of us also identify ourselves as citizens of one “earthly” nation or another. And whether or not we can say that nation was built on Christian values, if we get any sort of say at all in the government we usually act in accordance with our faith. And in that sense, all Christians attempt to influence society to be in line with our values–the same as most everyone else. We all know the big name items that Christians talk about and debate: homosexual marriage, abortion, care of political refugees, the death penalty, etc. Each of those is an attempt to make the country operate in line with what we believe or, at minimum, to prevent a mandate that would force us to violate our own beliefs. Often, we also not only endorse our standpoint but many of us consider it a moral imperative to speak out about such big topics. Silence on them is considered tantamount to acquiescence and even, in some cases, an act of evil itself.

And true enough, in a situation in which we find an innocent person dying, all Christians believe we have a moral responsibility to do something and that to not do something is a grievous sin of omission. (“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” [Proverbs 24:11-12]; “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.” [Proverbs 14:21]); “This is what the Lord says to you, house of David: ‘Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.'” [Jeremiah 21:12])

However, aside from the major issues, there are also many smaller ones. Prayer and display of religious objects in schools, what is taught in textbooks and history books both in biology as well as natural history, what constitutes “art” versus indecency or anti-Christian sentiment, characters or subject matter in popular media for children, or simply the sheer amount of genuine filth present in the media nowadays are just a few. (As I’ve said before, I believe part of the reason adults are watching more children’s cartoons nowadays is they’re sick of feeling “dirty” after watching adult programming.) These things tend to get Christians outraged as well. And many times, they’ll devote considerable time and effort to protesting them. They might even consider banning certain books or eliminating certain TV shows to be as much a moral imperative as the matters of life and death, and, just as in those cases, a sin to be silent to it. To not protest, the argument is, is to not only allow it to be permissible through a sin of omission, but to also give way to a generally more “morally lax” position of Christians in general by gradually protesting things less. Simply “shrugging” and letting everything continue on a progressively slippery slope. To be honest, the argument can be made that (at least in America) Christians have become so watered down they’re effectively not even Christians anymore except on Christmas and Easter, and then only for an hour or two. The rest of the time many of us embrace everything else in culture, both wholesome as well as despicable, without much thought about any messages that sends or impact it has on us personally and/or spiritually.

Should Christians be more concerned about trying to reshape society toward more Christian values than it currently reflects today? Should they be fighting all of these “little battles” so vigorously as a form of line-drawing? Do they matter just as much as the big issues?

Rest assured, I do entirely believe there are a lot of things out there that are pure filth and serve no one any useful purpose. And it’s been demonstrated both unofficially and psychologically that, depending on your mental state, being constantly subjected to certain things eventually erodes away at one inwardly to the point where lasting damage is done to the human psyche. (Look no further than those suffering from PTSD or those addicted to pornography.) Furthermore, I believe we have freedom of religion in this country…not freedom from religion like more and more people are trying to insist. And there are a number of these “smaller causes” that I think are worth fighting for when they represent a greater issue at heart, such as how we are allowed to practice our faith or what we are allowed to speak about and display in public.

Yet in many cases I’m wondering, at least in America, if the energy is misdirected or even substituted.

I’ve gotten old enough to realize something: whether you’re a Christian or a member of any other religion, the easiest way to endorse a cause with the lowest amount of effort is to simply “get angry”. It takes almost no energy at all to say something is bad and condemn it. It takes very little more to write a nasty post or comment about it. It’s far harder to propose a solution just as attractive or work about to bring a constructive change or improvement that leaves an impact.

I think most Christians in America do realize they aren’t being terribly active for Christ. Very few of us tithe. Even less of us witness. And we’re usually too busy with our own lives to have any time for doing anything in terms of lay work, ministry, or volunteering. We realize not much of our lives is too terribly different from that of a secular person, and as a result we tend to focus on doing “one big act” every now and then to make up for that rather than trying to maintain a Christian lifestyle.

So…what is the quickest and easiest way to do “one big act” to make yourself stand out as a Christian and earn a “brownie point” for living a Christian life? Denounce something Christians in particular dislike, which is extremely easy thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

I recall the parable of Lord Jesus in Mathew 7:3-5. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of  your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I believe He made another point in that story besides just a warning against hypocrisy; namely at how much easier it is to fixate on the problems others have while ignoring our own much greater ones. From personal experience, I can attest that when I am doing something wrong it’s far easier to find someone doing either a different sin or a “lesser version” of it…or maybe even just something my mind twists to look wrong…and condemn them far more vigorously, as it helps me feel more self-righteous and ignore my own issues. Of course, in the end, all I’m really doing is committing two sins instead of one: my original one plus my self-deception.

My encouragement for this devotional is to go ahead and remain active (that’s important both as a good citizen as well as a good Christian), but just make sure that no matter what you are defending or condemning your motives remain pure as a result of being honest with yourself. That way, we’ll focus more on fighting the “right battles” rather than thinking we’re somehow effecting great moral change by doing something as minor as, say, penning a letter about the way a character in a cartoon is dressed. Also, we’ll focus more on the one person we can always change (ourselves) and less on those we can’t.

There will always be good causes to fight because this world is indeed not our own; but let us not forget that it was never going to be. Our true test is to endure living here and persevere in faith rather than think we ourselves are somehow righteous and powerful enough to change it to be the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, it’s the Message we preach and the lifestyle we live that will be far more important than the other messages and lifestyles we rally against.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I know that there are many things in this world opposed to you. Some of them I should endure in a Christ-like manner, and others I should take a stand against. Please grant that I will be motivated and stirred enough out of my comfort zone to confront the things I need to stand against, and the humility and honesty to stand down from the things I’m using as an excuse or compensation for my own poor behavior. And I thank you for bearing with me and being patient with me–both in times in which I failed to stand for what I should have and failed to sit for what I should have. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”