The Culture

This past weekend I was sitting down with a friend talking about church. He made a comment that it was important to go to a church that told the truth, and I asked him about some of the stances his church takes on today’s more controversial issues. He sat silent.

Look, being a Christian was never supposed to be easy.

I hear a lot, and have experienced, a sort of “wait-and-see” style of Christianity that either ignores the immorality of society or chooses to not engage it. Halcyon’s response, put plainly, is that the world is not going to change itself. If we want a society built on the foundations of faith and family, then we have to build it. Christianity, by its nature and call, requires us to move ourselves and others towards a more moral world.

But why, if our Christianity calls us to take action, do we find our faith being pushed further and further towards irrelevancy in our culture? Here, in no particular order, are 3 reasons Christians are not impacting culture:

1. Charity is no longer our cornerstone.

If the church seeks to change the world, charity will be the vehicle through which it will do so. Charity has always been the medium the church has used to shape the world. And charity is not only a matter of generosity, but a core behavior that defines how we interact with the world.

During Emperor Julian’s reign in Rome, the early Christian church openly stood against Emperor Julian’s attempts at creating a pagan state. Julian levied substantial fines on Christians and removed their religious freedom. The early church did not waver on preaching truth, and the charitable actions of the Christian community changed the hearts of the people. Emperor Julian is often quoted as saying, “The impious Galileans support not only their own poor but ours as well.” He was never able to slow down the growth of the Christian faith that would eventually triumph. The faithful did not have to give up compassion and love, expressed through charity, in order to tell the truth.

2. We aren’t changing the world; the world is changing us.

Oftentimes, we take an individualistic view of Christianity that is centered upon “a personal relationship with Christ.” But Christ also requires our faith to be lived out (James 4:17). Our faith is a both a personal relationship with Christ AND the public expression of that relationship.

We are called to tell the truth, and live it out in love. All too often we find the church silent on really important issues that are affecting our culture. This is not a point of negotiation: the church must stand up for the truth, even when it is not popular; you and I must stand up as well.

And as we make our stand we must act with compassion.

Compassion is a key component of Christian behavior. The word compassion is rooted in the Latin word compati, which means “to suffer with.” It does not mean to simply help those who suffer, or point out their suffering. Compassion means we suffer with those who are suffering. This perspective changes how we act towards others, specifically the weak. And the weak is not a small term. It is not only those who are sick or dying, or those who are poor; it is much bigger. While the Bible references physical weakness, it also puts a significant focus on human weakness; mankind’s internal failure in relation to our sin. In this sense, we are all “weak,” therefore, how you protect the weak — and how others protect you — is deeply connected to Christ’s words in Luke:

. . . Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

(read Luke 6:27-36). For the Christian, protecting the weak means we care for the dying, care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, fight tirelessly to stop abortion, but also follow Christ’s instruction to love our enemies.

But how we communicate that love is important. The representation of the Christian person in the media does not, in my mind, represent the church. The truth is that Christians are a diverse group of believers spanning hundreds of cultures, nationalities, affiliations, and traditions. As such, we need to change how Christians are depicted by speaking up and speaking out in a way that puts our diversity front and center. Moreover, the way we “speak out” matters. The angry, socio-political rhetoric and biased communication doesn’t fit within a Christian’s dedication to compassion and truth.

3. We are misapplying grace.

Look, I know there will be some of you out there who read this post and see it as “soft” because it uses words like “diversity” and focuses on compassion and love. There will also be those who read this post and see only compassion and love, but forego the call to tell the truth — even when it is uncomfortable. Christian behavior should exist somewhere in between, and this isn’t merely a populous opinion.

Christianity, applied without grace, turns the Christian into something else entirely. As does the application of grace without truth.

Grace isn’t an attempt to get along at all costs, nor does grace ignore the situation. Grace properly applied is unmerited (love your enemy), but it does not mean that it is applied without the truth. Grace, love, and compassion exist because of, and within, the truth, and refusing to tell the truth in an effort to extend comfortability is a misapplication of grace.

In the end, if we want to influence and change the world we have to start with ourselves. The changing as to how the Christian church engages with the world is a job that we must all take up. And contrary to what some might believe this is not a matter of PR. There seems to be an idea that if we properly “market” and message our faith we can “infiltrate” the culture. Ultimately, however, our job is not to convince the world of Christ’s love; rather to show the world Christ’s love and live out his call on our life.


I just finished watching the Netflix original series Stranger Things, and yes, it is as good as everyone says it is. Stranger Things is incredibly binge worthy. It is thrilling, fun, scary, and dark. And it is that last adjective, dark, that made me think about the shows I watch; a lot of the shows are dark. I thought through all of the programs I love to watch: Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead (and Fear The Walking Dead), Ray Donovan, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil. It occurred to me that all of these shows are pretty dark and violent. This brought me to a very important (and admittedly unoriginal) question: How does violent media affect our society?

Well, thankfully I did not have to wonder too long, since there are answers to that question, but I’ll get to that a little later.

Growing up, we constantly heard from parents that society was going to be more and more violent, and it was TV’s fault, or it was the fault of violent video games. As TVs got into more homes the programs got more violent and realistic. The popularity of video games grew rapidly, and the games got more violent and realistic. The truth is, however, as media violence grew violent crimes decreased.

Were our parents wrong about violent media?

A 2015 study by Christopher J. Ferguson reviewed the field of research and concluded that there is not a consensus by researchers that violence in media creates a more violent society. Ferguson’s research then establishes that there is not a direct correlation between media violence and violent behavior. In fact, in some instances, the consumption of media violence (specifically movies and video games) actually decreased violent actions from the respondents. Ferguson states that, “despite an explosion in the availability of mass media and liberalization of violent content in the same, we are living in what is likely the most peaceful epoch in human history.” This agrees with the FBI’s statistics on violent crime, which shows that violent crimes have decreased for 12 straight years.

Ferguson’s study says nothing about morality, and so one can argue that, from a moral standpoint, violent media is not good for the soul. This might be true, but it doesn’t negate the fact there is no evidence that media violence is encouraging violent behavior. So, while violent media may not be the cause of violence, another interesting fact might lead us to the cure.

The cause of violence is more complex than the simple algorithm of violent movie + child = violent behavior. In reviewing a myriad of studies on violent behavior, the causes of violence were often found to be a complex web of events and environments, but there was a wide consensus on one thing: parental involvement decreased the chance of violent behavior. I started looking to see if the consensus on the parenting solution held true in real world events, specifically in the recent string of violent events in America, and it certainly looks like it. According to W. Bradford Wilcox,

one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father. From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.

Moreover, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency reported that “the most reliable indicator of violent crime in a community is the proportion of fatherless families.” It would seem that there are many contributing factors to violent behavior, but there is substantial evidence that an engaged mother AND father is our best defense against violence.

So, were our parents wrong about violent media?

The answer is yes, they were wrong, but the fact that they cared might just be the right answer.


I got a message on Slack Saturday morning from Nathan, Halcyon’s Executive Director, and it reads, “Dude, look up the Pornhub Christmas gift card commercial.” It takes me a little while to Google it, since I am thinking this is obviously a joke . . . except, it’s not. Sure enough, after a quick Google search, I find an article with the video below. It is titled “SFW,” so I push play and watch the video. Is it funny? Meh. Is it disgusting? Not in the way you might think. The video doesn’t show anything inappropriate, in fact, this is its biggest offense. The Pornhub video shows family members hugging, and then the final gift exchanged is a Pornhub gift card given from a grandson to his grandfather. The grandfather is apparently very appreciative. The offense is that Pornhub is using the joy of family and Christmas to advertise their product; a product that is one of the greatest threats to family and completely offensive to the reason for Christmas — Christ’s birth.

A couple of months ago I wrote an article titled Millennials & Pornography: Are we preventing or perpetuating sexual violence? (hint: pornography perpetuates sexual violence), specifically citing Pornhub’s statistics on hours of pornography watched and the percentage of Millennials that watch pornography (second hint: it’s a lot). Here is an excerpt:

9 out of 10 rapists admit to using pornography on a regular basis. . . . One study asserts 28% of respondents who had been sexually abused reported their abuser used pornography during the act of violence, and 12% reported that they were forced to imitate pornography during their abuse. Another study shows that adolescents who view pornography are more likely to bully via physical and verbal sexual aggression, and participate in sexually violent acts. The study also found that pornography use was a good predictor of sexual violence. Moreover, about half of the most-purchased porn contains verbal aggression, and 88% contains physical aggression toward women.

Now, these stats don’t feel very Christmas-y. Pornhub, however, seems to think of their “product” as harmless, and their advertising clever and funny. But sexual violence and abuse don’t come across as very funny to me. The fact that 1 person every 107 seconds is sexually abused, and pornography plays a role in furthering that abuse, makes me think Pornhub’s ad is completely irresponsible as it is selling sexual violence, broken families, and abuse . . . by way of gift card.

Although it is an offensive product, the video is safe to watch. Warning: If you click the “Pornhub” logo in bottom right corner it will take you to Pornhub’s YouTube site.

Science and Morality

So, this story is admittedly weird.

I went back and forth on if this is something that might fit the type of narrative The Halcyon Movement covers and discusses, but since we talk about morals I think this story certainly brings up some important moral questions.

On August 4th, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revoked a ban on Chimeras. What are Chimeras, you ask? It is the creation of a human-animal hybrid. Sort of like the Snapchat animal face filters, but, you know, in real life.

In order to have a fair conversation on the subject, let’s start with the benefits of lifting the ban. According to Sean Wu, a scientist at Stanford University, using Chimera’s will help him understand how to repair human heart tissue. In fact, certain technologies are being developed that will allow scientists who use chimeras to grow any kind of human tissue. Moreover, the NIH is also requiring scientists to submit their studies in order to protect against questionable ethics. The NIH also requires that all created chimeras must be sterile.

OK, that sounds good and trustworthy; a government institute protecting us from the unethical use of really weird science (*sarcasm*), but even if the science is going to deliver results don’t we have to ask one very important question:

“Is it right to do this at all?”

There are troubling outcomes involved with the science of building animal-human hybrids. For instance, can scientists build an animal that has human understanding or consciousness? Does human consciousness create a soul? Is it unethical to give animals human qualities, like human hands or feet? While Wired believes that NIH’s short ban on chimeras proves that “modern medicine thinks before it acts,” I think modern science needs to think a bit more.

The NIH is trying to build “guidelines” to limit the creation of chimeras, and tread carefully forward. How does one tread carefully forward when creating an animal-human hybrid? There are so many moral questions here that the only answer is an about-face. Even science fiction has long warned us that treading these weird, unholy waters is dangerous and ethically questionable.

In The Island of Doctor Moreau, a story about chimeras, H.G. Wells states, “To this day I have never troubled about the ethics of the matter. The study of Nature makes a man at last as remorseless as Nature.” Nature, in the mind of the character, is free from a moral standard and so is the science that studies it. This is why the NIH is failing to properly handle this unnecessary step towards a moral void; NIH is asking how slowly they should move when the real question is should they do it at all. One is a question of process, and the other a question of morality. As such, it would seem that the NIH takes the dangerous approach put forth by Wells in his novel.

I know, this is really weird stuff — and even weirder that this story is absolutely true — but it is an example of why we must value morality as it is instrumental in guiding society on all things . . . including science.

Culture of Life

I was flipping through some news articles on my phone, and I ran across a video of Chris Christie talking about drug addiction on the The Huffington Post. For some odd reason I decided to watch the video; I say odd because I am not necessarily a fan of Chris Christie or The Huffington Post, but I pushed that little sideways triangle and turned my phone on its side. Christie starts talking about his grandmother’s addiction to cigarettes, but then he says something captivating:

I'm pro-life, and I think that if you're pro-life that means you gotta be pro-life for the whole life — not just for the nine months they are in the womb. It's easy, it's easy to be pro-life for the nine months they are in the womb; they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there, but when they get out that's when it gets tough. The 16-year old teenage girl on the floor of the county lockup addicted to heroin — I’m pro-life for her too. Her life is just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb, and we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people . . . .

Christie is absolutely right.

The pro-life movement has long focused on abortion as its platform, and it is easy to understand why. Abortion is emotional, it involves an innocent victim, and the grave injustice moves us to act. But, as Christie points out, we must also focus on those already born. Our faith requires our action in regards to their lives as well.

If the pro-life movement is serious about building a culture of life, then it must expand its platform.

We must work just as hard to stop euthanasia, help those contemplating suicide, protect the disabled, help the addicted, end discrimination, feed the poor, and house the immigrant. These are all elements of human dignity, and all calls innate to the Christian person — a call recognizing the value of all life — no matter the stage or state.

I know, this might seem too lofty a goal, and if we just focused on abortion we might be able to save lives. I would never discourage anyone from working to end abortion, but if the born do not understand the real value of life, then do you really think we have a chance at building a culture that values the unborn? It is important that we, as a pro-life movement, do not parse out stages of life, and rather see the holistic plan that God put before us all. It is understanding that the connection between our charity, our worship, our faithfulness, our hope, and the outward expression of our love is what will ultimately build a culture of life, which is why the people that make up the pro-life movement must reform their understanding of what being pro-life means. It is more than ending abortion.

Being pro-life is proclaiming that all life — born and unborn — has dignity, and then living out that proclamation.