It Is Scientifically Proven that Media Affects You

Word Hid In psalm-119-11

I’ve been writing about the Christian approach to pop culture and entertainment for close to two years now.During that time, I have several times had people claim, either in comments on my writing or in personal discussions, that certain kinds of trash in media, whether it be nudity, profanity, or worldview issues “don’t affect” them.  I find it interesting that people claim that.  Because scientific studies – secular scientific studies, no less – prove that they do.  Allow me to explain.

Social scientists have been studying media affects for several years.  Studies like this became popular as early as the 1920s, when many people, especially parents, were worried about the effects that gangster movies might be having on their children.  There were some errors in the assumptions of some of these early studies, but they paved the way for some truly remarkable studies carried out by a social scientist by the name of Dr. Gerbner.  Dr. Gerbner was originally focused on finding out if violent depictions in television had any impact on people’s behavior (it does, by the way, although not to the radical degree that some claim).  Later, however, he developed a theory that shows unequivocally that entertainment shapes our worldview—media cultivation theory.

A lot of Dr. Gerbner’s research involved children.  These studies did not.  Instead, when studying media cultivation, he studied adults.  What he found was that heavy viewers of television described reality is being very close to the world that is depicted on television.  Light viewers, on the other hand, did not.  This is exactly why Dr. Gerbner said that media “bends, blurs, and blends” our perception of reality, especially because television is not real life.  People aren’t dying for sex three times a day.  Not everyone sleeps around with strangers.  Everyone doesn’t swear one hundred times in two hours.   But because this is what we’re seeing on television, and because it shapes our worldview, then all of a sudden those activities, and especially ones that we might say “aren’t so bad” seem completely acceptable and even good.  This is why Dr. Gerbner said that whoever controls the stories of a culture, controls that culture.

And this isn’t the only study done on media effects that reveals worldview-shaping properties.  Dr. Susan Sarapin, who was once a professor at Purdue University, did a study that revealed that people who watch violent cop dramas such as CSI and Cold Case believed in greater amounts of crime in the real world, especially when compared with people who did not watch those programs.

Even more troubling is the fact that media doesn’t only affect worldview; it affects behavior.  Think I’m wrong?  Then how do you explain the study done in 2008, when researchers found a correlation between time spent viewing sex on TV and pregnancy before age 20?  Or the fact found in NurtureShock (one of the most influential books about parenting ever written, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for six months) that more television watching among kids led to more insults and bullying?  What about Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, who found that violent media makes individuals more likely to respond to frustrating situations in an aggressive manner?

I’ve been saying this for a long time, and yet nobody seems to listen or pay attention.  You cannot keep on saying that media doesn’t affect you because, to be frank, it’s a lie.  The opposite claim, however, that media affects us so deeply that we ought to be very cautious with what we set before our eyes, is not only Biblically sound, but scientifically defensible.

 

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Why What You Do In The Bedroom Doesn’t Ever Stay There

Social science and cultural analysis reveal that sex affects everything and everybody, from the community park to the foundations of democracy itself.

Why What You Do In The Bedroom Doesn’t Ever Stay There

Oct 4, 2019

Our laws require that when people enjoy sex, they do so in private. Our social mores, for the most part, desire that it be talked about in private. We generally believe we are all the better for keeping explicit images and sex industry businesses away from the view and awareness of our children and the larger community. This is one of the hallmarks of a good, safe, and desirable community: Sex is private.

But it is not wholly private. Human sexuality is every bit a public affair as it is a private act. Perhaps more so, actually. Is this a radical and provocative statement, a push for a more open, bohemian sexual ethic and practice? Just the opposite. Valuing sex as an essential public act is actually a very conservative and traditional ideal.

The social sciences and cultural anthropology have demonstrated this empirically. Let’s see just how strong this case is.

Cruise Through the Social Science

By its inherent power and mysterious nature, a sexual relationship is never entirely walled off from the larger community. To believe it can be is to profoundly misunderstand what sex is and does. What people do in their intimate lives indeed affects their neighbors, whether they are those next door, co-workers, or extended family.

The effects of sexual relationships also reveal themselves in our community institutions — in schools, hospitals, police stations, social service offices, and nearly all levels of government — in various ways. Each of these must deal with the positive and negative consequences, often daily, of who had sex with whom and under what circumstances.

As the sexual revolution has spread, a vast range of university-based social science findings, published in premier academic journals and books over the last few decades, consistently demonstrates just how undoubtedly true this is. Just two summaries of the depth and diversity of this research are here and here. Let’s examine just a few of the major affected domains here.

Community Health

Sex within marriage cultivates responsible men who are more likely to be employed, hold jobs longer, go to school to improve their futures, and be more involved in the lives of their children, making those young people less likely to cause trouble in their neighborhoods. Responsible men are essential to creating healthy communities.

Sexual behavior directly affects the academic achievement of offspring. As much as any other factor, the sexual and relational circumstances of a student’s parents, both now and at the time the child was born, drive school performance, in terms of grades, behavior, and prospects of college attendance.

Consider it this way. Choose one of the following schools for your child: In one school, 90 percent of the children come from married homes, raised by their own mothers and fathers. In the other school, 90 percent of children come from single-parent or cohabiting homes. Both schools have facilities and faculty of equal quality. Which school do you think would give your child a better, safer experience?

The relational status of people having sex within a given community also drives the level of crime and safety there. Take the neighborhood park as a microcosm. Can any community park and its local law enforcement have the problem of too many married mothers and fathers spending time with their children there? It’s actually a very strong social benefit. The more the better.

But can it have too many amorous teen couples regularly hanging out there? Too many adults using its bathrooms for sex-and-go encounters arranged online? How about single men coming to watch the children play? All but the first require great care and authority figures to step in without kindness or apology.

The “four P’s” of your community—police, pediatricians, principals, and public-welfare professionals—will readily confirm all these findings and more. Ask each of these professionals if the sexual decisions and actions of their community’s adults and young people make a difference in the success or difficulty of their work. It’s not a difficult question. Sex influences nearly every sector of society, not the least of which is physical health.

Disease Transmission

So-called sexual freedom has given us 37 million global neighbors who are presently infected with HIV. The World Health Organization just announced that more than 1 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur every day. More than 1 million. Every day.

Child and Female Well-being

It is certainly no coincidence that the phrase “feminization of poverty” emerged shortly after the sexual revolution initiated the great divorce of sex, babies, and marriage. Feminist scholar Diane Pearce introduced the phrase in an important essay, explaining that, at the very time educational and employment opportunities were opening for women due to greater equality, “Poverty is rapidly becoming a female problem” because “the economic status of women has declined over the past several decades.” Very ironic, isn’t it?

Pearce, as well as George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize-winning University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University professor, lay the cause at the feet of men walking away from the responsibility to care for their own children, and their partners allowing them to do so. This is largely due to the emergence of chemical birth control and ready access to abortion. Women were supposedly “empowered,” in control of their own fertility. Consequently, men no longer felt responsible for pregnancies they helped generate.

This cultural shift ushered in severe consequences. Despite women’s increased fertility control, out-of-wedlock births have skyrocketed. They now account for 40 percent of all births, with many of these children being raised by single parents, resulting in not only poverty, but sometimes abuse. A live-in boyfriend is substantially more likely to be physically and sexually abusive to his single-parent girlfriend and her children than if they were married and raising their own biological children. Thus, women, children, and the larger community suffer from what people have done in the bedroom.

Bottom line: No architect or facilitator of the sexual revolution could have ever imaged the deep and vast human suffering their project has wrought. But there it is.

Cultural Universality

Cultural anthropologists know sex is a public act across diverse cultures because human sexuality always has the same public consequences. Every culture, in order to remain free, safe, and productive, must find a forceful and reliable way to regulate sexuality, ideally through the social expectation of long-term, monogamous marriage.

Professor Suzanne Frayser, in her magisterial anthropology of sexuality, explains that across diverse cultures, we find: “The person with whom an individual decides to have a sexual relationship with is as relevant to the group as the occasion for sexual encounters. Groups provide guidelines to channel a person’s choice of a sexual partner.” She contends, “Social restrictions limit a potentially wide and diverse pool of sexual partners to a definable range of acceptable companions.”

Yale University’s George Peter Murdock, a founding father in the discipline of cultural anthropology, explains from his team’s examination of 150 diverse cultures, “As a powerful impulse, often pressing individuals to behavior disruptive of the cooperative relationship upon which human social life rests, sex cannot be safely left without restraints.” Every known society has found it necessary to impose restrictions upon sexual expression to control its effects, he says.

Monogamy and Democracy

Nearly all societies have brought sex under control and regulated it through marriage. Polyamorous cultures do this less effectively, as we shall see. Oxford-trained anthropologist Fernando Henriques explains:

Unrestricted sexual license cannot be tolerated by society. Its existence would lead to perpetual dissension. On this ground alone, it is necessary for sexual relations to be ordered. … Thus no society exists – or has existed – where general promiscuity is the norm. To achieve order and regulation in sexual behavior, some form of marriage is necessary. … Marriage is necessary for the regulation of sexual life and stability of society.

Sexual guardrails are essential “for the simple reason that sex is really dangerous,” says Bronisław Malinowski. His is not a negative estimation. It’s a respectful one, recognizing the immense power and life- and community-altering consequence of human sexuality. Malinowski continues, “Sex is a great and wonderful power for evil and for good, and we must deal with it as we deal with other forces of nature: understand, respect, and control it in the light of truth.”

A fascinating 2012 article entitled “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” in the prestigious journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, examined how the “normative monogamy” of marriage has arisen and continues to arise across human cultures. It concluded the rise of this marital norm was not a result of its being “moral,” “wholesome,” or “traditional,” but for sheer pragmatism.

Monogamy as a community’s sexual norm simply makes for a much better society.

Monogamy as a community’s sexual norm simply makes for a much better society. Citizens are more likely to thrive, particularly women and children. In fact, the article attributes “democratic rights and civil liberties” to “the strength of normative monogamy,” concluding, “The peculiar institution of monogamous marriage may help explain why democratic ideals and notions of equality first emerged in the West.”

Monogamy, as a one-to-one negotiation, democratizes sexuality, making women more powerful agents in domestic and sexual relationships. This allows for and facilitates the democratization of the people at large.

Single and polygamous men collect women as sexual and domestic objects, which requires competition among men and the subjugation of women. As more women are collected by richer, more powerful men, the poorer, less attractive men must resort to trickery and violence to gain access to a smaller and more competitive market. This has egregious consequences for the community. Unexpectedly, these scholars found that normative monogamy reduced a community’s rates of overall violence by half.

Male and Female Impulses

Thus, society must bridle and corral particularly male sexuality. George Gilder explains this better than anyone, and his Men and Marriage is a must-read for anyone interested in this subject. He opens his book with this meaty first line: “The crucial process of civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality. … It is male behavior that must be changed to create a civilized order.”

He adds, “The prime fact of life is the sexual superiority of women.” Female sexuality is largely pro-social. Its energy and end are toward the purposes and power of the home, the primary and uncontested factory of humanity and civility. Male sexuality, in the state of nature, is fundamentally anti-social. Without externally imposed boundaries, it brings chaos and destruction. The unchecked college fraternity proves the point.

The incredible power and consequence of human sexuality, for incalculable good and devastating harm, judge it an undeniable public act. Societies that deny this fact can do so only by artificially constructing and continually maintaining a vast illusion. They do so to their own detriment.

No community in history, anywhere in the world, has found a way outside monogamous marriage to unleash sexuality’s profound goodness and limit its desolating harm. Irrefutable evidence demonstrates ours is no exception.

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.
Photo Katie Salerno / Pexels.com

https://thefederalist.com/2019/10/04/why-what-you-do-in-the-bedroom-doesnt-ever-stay-there/

VIDEO Your Life Has A Purpose

by Greg Laurie  Sept 29, 2019

In this webcast, Pastor Greg Laurie shares a message from Hebrews 11 titled “Your Life Has a Purpose!” in our “Sunday Morning” series at Harvest Christian Fellowship.

Sermon Notes

Whatever hardship you are going through, it will not last forever, and you can even grow stronger from it. Whatever you are facing right now will pass, and it will get better.

God can take all of the hurt and pain you have experienced in life, use it to touch other people, and make us into the men and women He wants us to be. The devil wants us all to abandon hope; God wants to abandon hopelessness. Satan wants to bring death; Jesus wants to bring life. Life is worth living! It is a precious gift to us from God Himself. Did you know your family loves you! We love you in this family, the church! No matter what you are going through in life, it is going to get much better.

Application

Did you know that your Father in Heaven knew exactly when your existence would begin? God chose you before you were even conceived. In this day of “instafame,” and so much focus on the way we look, know that God sees things much differently than people do. God is far more interested in character than charisma.

  • When you choose to walk away from temptation, you will be glad that you did.
  • Moses chose what God had for him.
  • God has a purpose for you!
  • Whatever you give up to, follow Jesus will be more than made up for.

Scriptures

  • Hebrews 11
  • Hebrews 11:23–26
  • Jeremiah 1:5
  • Psalm 139:16–17
  • Acts 7:20–22
  • James 1:12

 

https://harvest.org/resources/webcast/your-life-has-a-purpose/

A Man Crying

Hello my beloved readers! I’m grateful to God finally I could spend my time to write my own post again. This post inspired by a conversation between my husband and his friend some time ago. I hope and pray this post could be a blessing to all of us. Thank you very much to the all loyal readers who always visit and read my blog posts.

“As the only man and the eldest brother in family, I shouldn’t show my grief and shouldn’t cry. A mam must be strong!! This word came out from a best friend of my husband who some time ago just lost his beloved mother. Then my husband said, “But actually you are very sad and want to cry, right?”  My husband’s friend replied, “I cannot lie to myself. Yes, actually I am very sad and want to cry to express my sorrow. But you know, since childhood my parents have taught that men should be strong and should not be whiny.”

My dear friends, I kept quiet during the conversation. Those conversations made me thinking and ponder. There was something I didn’t agree of my husband’s friend’s statement. I didn’t agree that a man shouldn’t show his sorrow and shouldn’t cry. I just feel that a man as if made from iron and wire like a robot that didn’t have feeling at all. In fact, the same as women, men could face a similar situation. Death, pain, loss, and various other things that can make a man feel sad. And all of them need a way to express their feeling.

Talk about crying, I remembered one of David saying when he got deep distress. Let’s see what David said at the time. “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) At the time, the Israelites were using a bottle as a container for water or milk. Other than that, there was a unique culture that comes from Egyptians where they contain their tears into the bottle and then put it on the grave of their family or brethren as an expression of their grief. Well, I will not talk about the culture but I want to talk about David’s word.

We all know very well who David was. Though David was a man who was brave facing the lion, a man who was very brave against Goliath and successfully defeated him, and finally become a king, it turns out, he didn’t ashamed to cry. Why David crying? At that time David was under great pressure because besides being on the run to be chased by King Saul who was jealous with him, he faced another danger of entering the enemy territory of the Philistines in Gath and he was arrested. In the stressful situation, David didn’t look that crying is something shameful to do. He cried just because his mind was depressed but not because he weak. David cried not because he was afraid. Let’s take a look to the following verse,

When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid….” (Psalm 56: 9-11)

These verses are proof that even though David cried it doesn’t mean he became weak and afraid and his faith remained strong. Although he was crying, David remained steadfastly surrendering his life to God, and still fully believed that God remained with him.

So, whether a man shouldn’t cry? Is crying a symbol of Men’s weakness? My dear readers, allow me to take all of you to reflect on these three things.

First, in my whole life I have never found a rule of life or laws that forbids a man to cry or crying for a man is a disgrace! There’s no single verse in the Bible stated that a man shouldn’t cry. Even Jesus was crying (Luke 19:41) My husband said that, “Crying is how your heart speaks the pain you feel when your lips can’t” So I say firmly, there’s nothing wrong if a man cries and a man doesn’t need be ashamed and feel weak when he cries. The important thing is, when a man cries, his faith doesn’t weaken. David was crying because he was totally under pressure but didn’t mean his faith weakening. At that time David still believed God was by his side. The wrong one is, when a man crying then it makes his faith weaken, weaken his mental, and made he didn’t dare to face all the problems of life.

The second, Actually God doesn’t require us to pretend to be strong even though inside of us are broken. He knows suffering is painful, and for that He is ready to be with us through those painful time. God doesn’t forbid us to have sad feeling. God doesn’t scold us when we crying. My husband’s friend just lost his beloved father. God Himself also definitely understands very well what it feels like to lose. God knows it feels hurt because He also experienced hurt when He let His only begotten Son died to redeem our sins in the cruel ways.

The third, crying because our suffering and sadness isn’t a waste thing. Why? Because actually God know every single teardrop that flows from our eyes. God really understands the tears language which expresses unbearable suffering and bitterness of life. Not only understand, God also collect and record every single of our tears as David said. “… Put my tears into Your bottleAre they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8) This verse shows us one important thing that God actually never leaves us alone. Even when we feel like “abandoned by God”, indeed, God doesn’t leave us. God is on collecting and taking note every tears of our crying and as if He said, “My child, I will never leave you alone…Please be patient… Just a little more time will be fulfilled and I will declare my glory”

My beloved readers, through this post allow me once again to express my opinion that there’s nothing wrong at all if a man crying. Crying isn’t a taboo thing for a man. Crying isn’t a symbol of weakness of a man. Beside mind, character, intelligence, and feeling, God also give man tears. As long as a man has feeling, same as a woman, when the lips isn’t able to speaks, crying is a good way to express our sorrow. Crying is the way our heart speaks. But… We must remember that behind our weeping there’s still strength in us. Behind every single teardrop there’s still a firm faith, there’s still strong trust that God will never leave us alone. We have to always remember God’s promises,

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh(Luke 6:21)

At the end of this post, I long to encourage all of men that there’s nothing wrong at all if one day you have to crying and there are compelling reasons why you cry. Not just for women, crying is something normal and humane. Don’t ever feel ashamed to express your feeling through crying. Crying doesn’t mean weak. Cry if it can make you relieved and the burden on you is lighter. But let me remind you one thing, don’t be a whiny man. Like David, keep strong, still have firm faith, and keep trusting God that He will wipe every of our tears as He promises, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Amen.

 

Karina Lam – Living by Faith

Image source: themanmodern.com

 

https://karinasussanto.wordpress.com/2019/09/12/a-man-crying/

Grace for Villains: Learning From Nathan’s Parable

Bible Crown of Thorns

By Alex Aili -July 22, 2019

 

When David coerced Bathsheba into adultery, impregnated her, and then concealed it by murdering her husband (2 Sam. 11), it’s not a stretch to conclude that his heart was not in the right place.

But for God to convict him of this crime, he didn’t storm in with a proclamation of wrath. Instead, through the prophet Nathan, he used the covertness of Story.

Nathan’s parable is well-known, but it’s worth quoting at length:

“THERE WERE TWO MEN IN A CERTAIN CITY, THE ONE RICH AND THE OTHER POOR. THE RICH MAN HAD VERY MANY FLOCKS AND HERDS, BUT THE POOR MAN HAD NOTHING BUT ONE LITTLE EWE LAMB, WHICH HE HAD BOUGHT. AND HE BROUGHT IT UP, AND IT GREW UP WITH HIM AND WITH HIS CHILDREN. IT USED TO EAT OF HIS MORSEL AND DRINK FROM HIS CUP AND LIE IN HIS ARMS, AND IT WAS LIKE A DAUGHTER TO HIM. NOW THERE CAME A TRAVELER TO THE RICH MAN, AND HE WAS UNWILLING TO TAKE ONE OF HIS OWN FLOCK OR HERD TO PREPARE FOR THE GUEST WHO HAD COME TO HIM, BUT HE TOOK THE POOR MAN’S LAMB AND PREPARED IT FOR THE MAN WHO HAD COME TO HIM”

2 Sam. 12:1b-4

If Nathan were to confront the sin directly, it would have only added to the problem of David’s self-preservation, which had been his chief priority since the sin’s committal (11:6-24). In other words, the story couldn’t have been “on the nose,” with a plot involving murder or sexual sin, for that would have broken the spell. God simply used a different angle to get at the same type of sin: the abuse of power.

The fictional tale was catered specifically to David, who, being a king, was responsible for judicial verdicts. He would have understandably taken it as just another exercise of justice.

Still, despite its specificity, we can still glean the relevant technique Nathan used. The key is empathy, for when David identified with the victim of the story (David himself being a former shepherd; 2 Sam. 7:8), he felt the brunt of greed and lust–little did he know that it was his own greed and lust!

“THEN DAVID’S ANGER WAS GREATLY KINDLED AGAINST THE MAN, AND HE SAID TO NATHAN, “AS THE LORD LIVES, THE MAN WHO HAS DONE THIS DESERVES TO DIE.”

2 Samuel 12:5

David’s emotional response to injustice allowed Nathan to turn the tables (“You are the man!”) because David walked into a trap of his own making. David could not retreat to disinterested judgment once he placed his own moral cards on the table. To put it differently, when David felt the impact of greed and lust via empathizing with the poor man, he was then vulnerable enough to see his own villainy.

Becoming the Villain

The contemporary trend of antiheroes and villains, fictional or not, gives an opportunity for the negative side of the gospel (Rom. 3:23) to speak. For we are all the “villains” in God’s story (Rom. 5:8, 10; Eph. 2:1-3), and we must see our own sin in light of God’s goodness (note how David admitted that his sin was against God; 2 Sam. 12:13; Psa. 51:4) before we can move from ignorance to contrition. We cease to be passive spectators when we’re forced to confront the villainy within ourselves, and once we do, we see the “Good News” as it really is.

That’s why stories with negative character arcs are necessary; they compel us to see how easy it is to become the villain. Specifically, well-written stories invite us to follow an apparently good character pursuing an apparently good goal until he inevitably reaches villainy by overemphasizing one good over others. David, for example, overemphasized personal sexual fulfillment, perhaps by overindulging his God-given lordship, at the expense of God’s laws of fidelity.

While engaging with negative-arc stories, our mirror neurons allow us to affix ourselves to the villainous characters. We are affected without consciously knowing why. While we may identify with fallen characters, it will take intentionality to break through to the Truth lurking within.

Yes, it’s easy to scoff at the prospect of self-reflection. “Entertainment” analyzed ceases to be entertaining for many of us. But choosing ignorance doesn’t change the fact that stories affect us. If we deny this, we become no different than David, who allowed ignorance to blind him to his own villainy.

We may not have our own personal “Prophet Nathan” to tell us customized stories to convict us of sin, but we do have the Holy Spirit (John 16:8; Rom. 8:26), whose ministry reaches to the deepest ignorance. With that in mind, it’s wise to be intentional about the narratives we enjoy. As the Reel World Theology slogan aptly puts it: “Entertainment is not mindless.”

It all starts with some simple questions, such as the following:

“What would I do in this character’s situation?”

“What am I prone to value too much?”

Could I become the villain?”

“Am I already a villain?”

And especially, “What does Grace mean for the villain?”

Original here

Make a Joyful Silence Unto the Lord

Why quiet is essential to corporate worship.

Make a Joyful Silence Unto the Lord
W. DAVID O. TAYLOR

In a 2017 study, researchers identified the cities with the most noise pollution. At the top of the list were Delhi, Cairo, and Beijing, and not far behind were Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The study concluded that people who lived in these cities were more likely to experience depression, heart disease, cognitive impairment, anxiety, and stress, among other health risks.

At a domestic level, our cars, phones, and smart speakers perpetually generate a racket of sound, and even washing machines can now play noise-making music. “A cacophony seems inevitable,” writes Laura Bliss in The Atlantic. In the future, “the smartest machines might turn out to be the ones that know when to hold their peace.”

Today’s noise pollution, which includes both sonic noise and visual noise, is a hazard to our entire health, according to the World Health Organization. As such, we find ourselves in desperate need of quiet spaces both in our personal lives and also in our corporate life together as the church. The inclusion of silence in worship, then, is not just a matter of our physical well-being, it is also a matter of well-being before God.

Yet as many pastors will attest firsthand, silence is one of the most difficult things for churches to make space for in their corporate worship. Invariably, it is poorly understood, treated perfunctorily, or seen as an interruption to fulsome praise and proclamation.

But while silence in our prayer and praise of God may feel for many like anxiety-inducing dead air, it is central to faithful worship.

The Fullness of Dead Air

Silence is fundamental to faithful prayer because prayer begins with the act of listening, not talking. God gets the first word—not the pastor, not the musician, not any of us.

Silence is also fundamental to faithful singing because in silence, we attune our ears to “the chief Conductor of our hymns,” as John Calvin once put it, in order to be reminded that we were not the first to arrive on the liturgical scene. In humility, we listen first—then we sing.

Silence is likewise fundamental to faithful preaching because the preacher must make time for the people of God to inwardly digest the word of God so that it has a fighting chance to take root in our hearts and bear good fruit in our lives.

Silence, of course, is not merely negative—the absence of speech, the omission of sound, the refusal to act. It is also a positive thing. Much like Mary’s “let it be,” uttered in response to the divine word in Luke 1:38, silence is an “active passivity” which creates space for God to transform us. In other words, the absence of noise is not an emptiness; it is always a generative fullness, and in some cases, a terrifying fullness.

In silence, we are confronted with God’s voice, a voice that we often drown out for fear of being found out or found wanting. In silence, we are judged for our desperate need to fill up our lives with frenzied activity. In silence, we discover that we are not ultimately in control; we are weak and vulnerable and awfully in need of God’s grace.

What insight might Holy Scripture offer us in order to think carefully about the matter?

The Silence of Praise

In the Bible, silence in worship is commanded, modeled, and inferred.

First, it is commanded.

In Psalm 46:10, the psalmist, speaking in God’s name, issues a general directive: “Be still and know that I am” (Psalm 46:10). In the word that comes to the prophet Zephaniah, we find a similar injunction to “be silent before the Lord” (Zeph. 1:7). In Proverbs 30:32, the matter is put more bluntly: “Put your hand on your mouth.” In Isaiah 41:1, we hear a word that the Lord speak to one and all: “Listen to me in silence.” Is there any other way to listen to God? For both the prophet and the psalmist, the answer is decidedly no.

Silence is also modeled for us. In Psalm 62:5, we find the psalmist describing what presumably represents his usual disposition before God: “My soul waits in silence for God.” In Deuteronomy 27:9, we see Moses speaking to Israel this word: “Keep silence and hear.”

First Kings 19 is perhaps the most famous passage on this topic. The angel of the Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, for the Lord is about to pass by. First a great wind appears, but the Lord is not in this tempestuous wind. After that, an earthquake occurs, but the Lord does not reveal himself there, either. After the earthquake, a fire, and after the fire, silence. It is in this “sound of sheer silence” (19:12, NRSV) that the Lord appears.

Certain things, the text suggests, can only be known about God in the absence of sound.

Lastly, silence in worship is inferred throughout Scripture. The Psalter, for example, aims to train us not only in faithful speech but also in faithful silence. That’s part of the idea behind the term selah. Appearing 71 times in 39 of the psalms, the term functions as a pause—both a pause in the text and, as plenty of scholars believe, an invitation to the reader to pause.

In Psalm 3:4, for instance, the psalmist prays, “I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah.” In Psalm 24:6, the setting is plural: “Such is the company of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.

Neither the “answer” of Psalm 3 nor the “seeking” of Psalm 24 can be fully perceived, I suggest, apart from a pause. Where a selah appears, then, we are offered the opportunity to actually stop—not pretend to stop—in order to reckon honestly with the word of the Lord to us.

30 Minutes of Silence in Heaven

But how exactly should pastors and worship leaders incorporate silence into worship without alienating their congregants? And how might we do it well—and for how long?

The Book of Revelation offers us a possible starting point, albeit a daunting one.

In Revelation 7:9-10, John the Seer beholds a mass of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language all standing before the Lamb. Holding palm branches in their hands, they acclaim a hymn to God: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Eventually, the angels, the elders, and the four creatures join in, adding their own roaring doxological words.

Immediately after this scene, in chapter 8 verse 1, the Lamb opens the seventh seal and the Seer informs the reader that “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This is one of the more curious details in all of Scripture, one that has baffled commentators for centuries. Yet however the text is interpreted, few doubt that Saint John meant anything but a straightforward understanding of the time increment: a half hour of silence. A half an hour.

After a fullness of words and prior to a fullness of activity, there is a sizable, noise-stopping, word-ceasing, activity-halting time of silence.

Realistically speaking, of course, most churches will not be able to incorporate 30 minutes of noise-free time into a typical worship service. But there are a few ways, perhaps, that we might attend silently to the word and work of God in our midst.

When you call your people to worship, for example, consider taking 20 seconds for silence. Invite them to offer up to God all the parts of their lives, trusting that he wishes to take all their helter-skelter thoughts, all their fragmentary feelings, and their all-over-the-place bodily appetites and make their lives whole again through worship.

If your worship includes a confession of sin, be generous with the amount of time you give people before they confess their sins commonly. Don’t shortchange the silence. Give worshippers an honest amount of time to reckon not only with their specific sins but also with the comprehensive mercy of God for them.

If singing occupies a great deal of your worship, think of ways for it to become not more noise in the world but also a vehicle for hearing the voice of God. Consider adding brief moments of silence between songs or instrumental bridges between verses to create space for contemplation.

For preachers, I commend the practice of my former pastor in Houston. After giving the sermon, he would sit and wait for a solid minute before continuing with the liturgy. On the screen were written the words: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” After hearing the sermon, each of us was given the gift of silence in order to hear Christ’s word to us personally. I cherished that gift every time.

If you include communal prayer in your worship, take the practice of the psalmists to heart: Include an honest-to-God selah. Resist the temptation to truck through the prayers or fill the air with many words. Invite people to wait and listen. Resist the worry that worshippers will become uncomfortable with extended silence, and instead offer them an opportunity to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, however your worship ends, consider allowing a moment of stillness before people return to the noise of their busy lives. Give them a minute to attend to the one thing that God might have spoken to them during worship in light of the many things that will demand their attention throughout the week. Help them to hear God’s word to them individually—to which they might say yes with all their strength.

In your benediction, too, offer your people a moment of peace, not just words of peace. Consider how such a moment might become a balm to people who feel assaulted by a thousand thoughts and desires.

Acclimating to silence in worship can feel overwhelming for both pastors and congregants. It takes time, incremental change, and plenty of care-filled, ongoing education. As you take on the challenge, trust that God will meet your people in that space.

Silence on Earth, as it is in Heaven

In The Screwtape LettersCS Lewis suggests that to resist the clamor of noise is to resist a demonic temptation to drown out the voice of God. In the words of Lewis’ demon protagonist:

[Hell] has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end…. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.

As Lewis imagines it, silence is intrinsic to heavenly worship and thus also to worship on earth, while noise carries with it a dehumanizing, perhaps even diabolical power.

If God is at work, then, before we say or do anything in worship, and if both Christ and the Spirit are continuously at work during our worship, the proper response is first to be silent. We listen before we speak. We wait before we act. We lean in to hear the whispering voice of the Lord. And we do so in the belief that silence is fundamentally a corporate act of worship rather than merely an individual one.

In the end, we welcome silence in worship not just because we wish to be faithful to God but because our lives depend on it, and because we hunger for the still, small voice of God in the midst of our noisy, seething, modern world. As The Message renders Habakkuk 2:20, “God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!”

W. David O. Taylor teaches theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts (Eerdmans, 2019). He tweets @wdavidotaylor.

Parts of this essay were adapted from Glimpses of the New Creation, copyright 2019 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) Reprinted by permission of the publisher; all rights reserved.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2019/october-web-exclusives/church-worship-make-joyful-silence-unto-lord.html

Isn’t the Bible Regressive?

One of the objections modern Western people have to Christianity and the Bible, is that its teachings seem to be regressive. In the past 100 years we’ve made a lot of progress in freeing people from oppressive views on women, racism and sexuality, but Christianity and the Bible are often seen to be in the way of our march towards progress, especially if you read Stephen Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now.

The problem with this view is that it has to re-write history in order to sustain it. The Enlightenment and the scientific revolution came on the heels of the Protestant Reformation, one of the most significant revolutions of thought in European history. No qualified historian chalks that up to coincidence, but atheists like Stephen Pinker have to, in order to force a false dichotomy between Christianity and the progress of humanitarian values.

Far from standing in the way of the emancipation of women, Biblical Christianity was one of the major forces behind it. While some have claimed that the patriarchal narratives in Genesis are oppressive and condone polygamy, biblical scholar Robert Alter points out that the force of the narratives is actually to undermine oppressive views like polygamy: all of the characters in the narrative are having a terrible time precisely because they have more than one wife. (Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary, xlvi)

Some have also claimed that Paul was a misogynist, but this doesn’t fit the evidence. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins an argument by stating the common view of the time: “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:4a). But then, Paul uses that view to suggest something radical and unheard of in that time and culture: “In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4b). In all extant historical records, this was radically unique. (Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 281)

On the issue of racism, biblical Christianity has been the single most powerful force for racial equality. The idea that all people are created equal was first introduced into human history on page one of the Bible (Genesis 1:27). The Bible’s vision for heaven is a picture of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). And the gospel itself, that we’re saved by the sheer grace of God, uniquely levels the playing field between racial groups more than any other worldview. As secular philosopher Luc Ferry points out:

By resting its case upon a definition of the human person and an unprecedented idea of love, Christianity was to have an incalculable effect upon the history of ideas. To give one example, it is quite clear that, in this Christian re-evaluation of the human person, of the individual as such, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself. It is essential therefore that we have a more or less accurate idea of the chain of reasoning which led Christianity to break so radically with the Stoic past. (Luc Ferry, Learning to Live: A User’s Manual, 60)

The strongest argument for the view that the Bible is regressive, is on the issue of human sexuality. However, this requires that ‘progressive’ be defined as maximising all expressions of sexuality, while ‘regressive’ is defined as encouraging sexual restraint. On these definitions, Christianity and the Bible are certainly not ‘progressive’, but this ‘progressive’ view on sexuality is harmful for men, for women, and for children.

For men, a polyamorous (sexually progressive) culture leads to a small percentage of men having lots of sexual partners, and ironically, becoming depressed; and a large percentage of men staying single and becoming lonely. Unfortunately, this loneliness often leads to resentment and then to violence. By contrast, ‘enforced monogamy’, meaning socially encouraged monogamy, leads to more couples, more families, and more civilised men.

A polyamorous culture is also bad for women, because it encourages sex without love, commitment, romance or relationship. While men tend to be more interested in sex without any strings attached than women, women tend to be more interested in romance and relationships than men, and this is precisely what is eroded by a polyamorous culture.

Most obviously, polyamorous cultures harm children, because the sexual promiscuity that they encourage increases the numbers of children who are raised without both of their biological parents. Having both biological parents isn’t everything (having loving parents is more important), but by all agreed upon metrics, children who are raised by both of their biological parents have a better chance of good life outcomes.

The Bible encourages husbands to lay down their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28), to see all races and ethnicities as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and to promote a view of sex that doesn’t lead to loneliness – viewing sex as self-donation, not merely for one’s gratification. For some, this is regressive, and its secular opposite is progressive. But by what standard do we measure what’s progressive and what’s regressive?

While a number of people in the West find what the Bible says about sexuality repulsive, they’re often attracted to what it says about grace and forgiveness. However, when you take the Bible to the Middle East, people there are attracted to what the Bible says about sexuality (if anything it’s not strong enough), but they’re repulsed by what it says about grace and forgiveness. If the Bible really was the word of God, then you would expect it to challenge all cultures (including ours), challenging different cultures at different points.

Moreover, if you have a Bible from which you can pick and choose which parts are progressive and which parts are regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of a real relationship with God. In The Stepford Wives the men of Stepford put computer chips in the wives’ heads so that they only ever agree with them, at which point they no longer have a wife with whom they have a relationship, but a robot that they can programme however they like.

Similarly, if you have a Bible from which you can decide that certain parts regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of relationship with God. You merely have a Stepford god (or a Mr. Potato Head god) who only ever affirms you and/or your culture. As Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

http://www.faithbasedonevidence.com/regressive.html