Exploring the Social Imagination

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

God's Social Program

God's Social Program
God the creator of heaven and earth of all that is seen and unseen put a social program in us. He said "love thy neighbor as thyself." Lev 19:18 and Mt 19:19

What does it mean to love thy neighbor as yourself if you can't even talk to your neighbor in English, or about the same things/ideas/traditions? As a sociologist and social psychologist I can tell you that is not likely...Why? Because, people naturally gravitate to those things/people/places that they were taught to 'like' or appreciate or believe in. Does this mean that Christians cannot love non Christians? No, it means that you can love them for who they are which is loving them for being different. That is all. It does not mean you have to share your life with them; unless you choose to. We don't have to take the relationship any further than that unless we want to. It is easier to love other Christians and as Christians we absolutely should do that. As for others, we should just witness to them, so that they will turn to Christ.
I was at church on Sunday and there were people of all races/ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds as revealed by their obvious physical differences. Yet, on the inside... I knew that they were Christians and when we smiled at each other or shook hands, I was shaking the hand or smiling at another Christian. The color of skin was gone, we could have been blue or green or pink it would not matter. This is the point. Differences disappear when people are on the same page mentally-spiritually! Social problems too disappear basing on the same reasoning. Even economic differences disappear when we know we are and or have been made the same through Jesus Christ. Those having more will give more to those Christians having less. They give it freely as they should to their Christian brother/sister. Can Christians give to others outside of Christianity, yes and they should if they feel the need to do that but in doing so, impress on those non Christians recipients that their gift is coming from God our Lord and true Savior Jesus Christ. Loving your neighbor is not a burden. It should not be and does not have to be... God wants you to rest in Him. If your neighbor is different from you, pray for his/her to be delivered, to be saved through the recognition and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Then and only then we will be able to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is no greater glory for/to God than bringing someone to Christ.
So many discussions have come and gone and still go on as to how this is either impossible or possible... to love thy neighbor as thyself. Imagining as a person might outside of believing in  God/Jesus Christ, the same scenario / social situation exists. No one cares to or even thinks about another person unless that other person is like him/herself; unless that other person exhibits something that the other person appears to have/know or desire and including aspire to. People with money draw people with money. People with similar backgrounds, similar preferences physical and spiritual draw like people. Simple as that. So if you think a top down government can make everyone the same, like each other... they can and it will be orchestrated that way and not of free choice. Christ came to remind us that we have free will in all situations, all social situations. And to make wise choices for ourselves, He knows too that programs have to be compatible. Read Acts 17:24 Why? Because, it asks each and every one of us to reach out to God, to be in a relationship with Him. Because, the number one important reason for loving your neighbor as yourself is to glorify God. The reason is to understand yourself as a social entity and social problem solver... however, the way forward to understanding yourself and being a social problem solver is to first be in a relationship with the Creator... and then the way forward is much easier personally and socially and social problems that do appear are less conflictual and less detrimental individually and socially. Your neighbor appears as a brother/sister and not your enemy. Romans 15:5 "May God who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. The all of you can join together with one voice giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Christian Social Imagination of Resurrection

In relating this topic, I am using the metaphor of computer programing and program creater.

The social imagination of resurrection came to Abraham as he was about to kill his son- Isaac. This idea of resurrection of the body/program came to Abraham in a single moment. He realized that life here in this corrupt world was not the 'true' life that God promised. The program was corrupted long ago by Adam. Now as part of the final program update improved version as created by the Creator, a certain patch/upload was necessary.  Essentially, this upload (idea) came to Abraham through His surrender to God, through an overwhelming sense of confidence 'trusting' in the Creator/Programmer ....God and that He knew what He was doing and Abraham had only to obey.  It was an example of information input... put into the mind of Abraham in that one moment. There would have been no other way for that upload/input to be possible unless Abraham obeyed God's command... that the Creator ultimately has control over the program. Free will is part of that programming. In that, without free will, the upload would not be possible. Why? Because, the original program though corrupt could be saved and improved through free will. The program had to be receptive to new information; not made to be receptive but to choose it.  New inforamtion would not be available without obedience to the Creator. And that obedience had to first move through the program in order to stablize it in prepartion for new information...
God saw that the information of resurrection was embraced by Abraham (faith in the Creator) and in that 'cognitive' moment of Abraham's, the upload was accepted and thus the program 'Abraham and all his descendants' could run on a higher level. God provided a lamb  and Isaac lived, he lived in a new world, in a new program with Abraham - faith is salvation and eternal. Give the command Lord, as Abraham declared and save me from killing my son, save my son.We can imagine that the program 'Abraham' having free will recognized the corruption in the 'his' program (that death in the current program was a lie). In that revelation, and upon hearing God's voice, the upload was finished - what uploaded...? The idea of resurrection/eternal life. Abraham was born into a new version and so was his son. You see, that incident was a foreshadowing of Christ's coming. By faith and by deeds (Abraham's example- the deed of giving up to the Lord even by death of one's own son 'idol') you shall be saved!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

For the Love of Money ... A Futuristic view of What the Future Holds

For the love of money we do more harm than good. Statistics show that most marriages fall apart because of money 'financial' troubles like debt and disputes related how to make more and spend money. Divorce among couples with children is included in those stats which means that children will be exposed to the love of money and its wicked corruption. Statistics show that children of divorced parents are more likely to be engaged in criminal activities and even violent crime.
What is the answer since money makes the world go around, and most Americans find it impossible to not go into debt 'mortgage' in order to have a home of their own.
Americans are not comfortable with the old way of working hard, saving money and buying a home. And, how long would that take given the rate of inflation. We can no longer work hard at any job these days and think we can save money today to buy something tomorrow... down the road from now because of inflation unless wages keep up with inflation and as we see they don't.

What will the future hold and largely that depends on the future of money. There is an emerging global market that most people have no clue about. BRICS is a good example. This acronym stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. They are a new financial entity with their own agenda, one that is largely anti-Western controlled money. These nations are looking out for their future. Money as they know it, we know it will disappear because money will no longer circulate through people's pockets, it will circulate through certain accounts based on criteria set up by account creators. The United States is also part of the global market and hence we see its effects on the American family. Most of America still thinks that government is bound to them as if being an American means something.We think that borders mean something today... only to the people who actually live in them. Most global financial moguls live outside of 'borders' as they live in the global market place. This is where the action really is.
How will it affect people on the ground. It already is as just related above. This effect will be global. It will likely have a deep impact on Americans as we have been led to believe that money can buy happiness and it can if you can afford it. Most families in America will become broken because they will not be able to buy happiness (already in the making) and this will cause major havoc in many households. This will lead people to buy happiness only for themselves, living as single people which by the way are more easily controllable in terms of allotments of comfort.  The future of the family's comfort level is losing ground... Thus, the government needs to set an example of how it can provide a future for individuals and there is one in the making. The future holds little for the family. The future is about wider society of individuals, all on the same page and all working for the same goal- the state and its ventures with space exploration as the lure for individuals to buy into thinking that this will be the new happiness.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Pastoral Life and Mending Wall (s)

For years, one of my goals has been to achieve a “pastoral lifestyle”. This amuses some people especially in this face paced money grabbing world; but it’s true. I mean seriously, this is my dream. By “pastoral lifestyle” I mean that I want to create for myself a life that flows at a slower pace, a life removed from the concerns of the day-to-day world. A life of having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to life in rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life. A life portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds of the countryside who in their past time enjoy literature, art, or music: pastoral poetry or a pastoral symphony of bleating lambs. Wouldn't that be nice...
There is a problem. Our 'free society' has made so many restrictions, rules, regulations, ordinances, and requirements topped off by permits, fees and licenses; burden even more by boundaries and borders that demarcate private property, property rights which come with property taxes and fences that such a pastoral life is nearly impossible.  Are we so afraid and selfish that we have to have fences. Robert Frost wrote a poem many years ago called Mending Walls. Robert Frost - Mending Wall (s)
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give ofence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Was Frost right about this, good fences make good neighbors? Was he criticizing this idea of walling up ourselves?  There is always two sides the every issue and even the issue of borders/fences. Frost wrote that while living the pastoral life on the family farm. He observed that even the pastoral life puts up fences... why? Is it to say don't bother me in my pastoral harmony? Probably. Is it that we don't trust our neighbors view of pastoral life ... 'good society'? Probably. Is it that we don't want to be held responsible for others... just ourselves? Probably. Is that we know at the end of the day, we will be held accountable for ourselves (no one will stand with us before God) and so we don't want to add to that situation 'our own judgement' any more than we have to or can avoid? Probably...

Monday, July 7, 2014

American Local Society through the lens of Mayberry Episodes

Probably not too many folks these days in America know the television series 'Mayberry'. This was a series that started in 1960 and lasted 8 seasons; yeah! Why? Because, it illustrated what America wanted to be, saw itself as in the best possible light as a Christian society where people counted on each other living their life at the grass roots level. Sure, criticism can be that this show was racist as not having many African Americans, Arabs, or Asians, or Poles, or Italians, or Native Americans included in the series. That is true. But, in those times you have to ask what did the majority of America look like. In the meaning, the majority rules in a democracy because the majority rules and should be served. What about others? They are only ignored as long as they remain on the outside, if they do not integrate. Knocking on the door of the host race/ethnicity/country/community, means that as the outsider knocking, you have to be the one who is deciding to and making the effort to integrate. Of course, it can be the other way around but if/when that happens it is because the majority or those with authority are the majority in that they rule and thus see it in their best interest to reach out to bring in newbies. Is that fair? Depends on who you ask, the insider or outsider, the establishment or the newbie. The best advice to those knocking is to study the group or those that you wish to become part of, those whom you wish to be accepted by and to be like. Slowly,  you then make your way in, make your voice known, get your foot in the door and integrate.

Integration and racism is not the focus of today's blog... Mayberry and small town America is and they did have their moments of dealing with integration.
What I noticed about this television series over all, speaking as a sociologist, is that the town of Mayberry was largely self sufficient, people to people, people about people, people for people. This is a principle that as a sociologist, I support.
Having said that, communities, even those like or wanna be like Mayberry, can become stagnate, lack diversity and become closed minded... whose job is it to see that that does not happen... only the people of Mayberry so to speak. Now, there were episodes addressing that situation; for instance, the episode that comes to mind is when an English butler comes to visit.  Sure, he was English, white and spoke English but not the English Mayberry knew. For the people of Mayberry this Englishman was an alien, no different an alien if he were blue and spoke Inuit.
Again, today's entry is not about integration... well maybe a little. Given that, I want to point out two episodes which put attention to one idea about integration, an idea I call localness. The two episodes were: The Merchant of Mayberry and Lawman Barney. They both dealt with a similar topic- local business and localness. In the first show, we learn of a local man who peddles his wares door to door. He is tired of that and sits a spell in front of the local established grocery. Andy and Barney (two main characters) find him there and suggest he stops peddling and sets up business right there on the streets (which is against the towns ordinances reiterated by the local establishment) So, Andy and Barney provide a store on an empty lot and the story goes... the local establishment does not like the little competition and makes a fuss and Andy and Barney do all they can to help the peddler friend and anger the local 'old meany' establishment. In the end, the local establishment becomes more innovative as a merchant and starts to have an impact on the little shop on the lot. Soon, the little shop is nearly put out of business. Andy intervenes again and the story ends well with the peddler friend getting hired by the local establishment.
In the second episode, the peddlers are not local and this is brought to the viewers attention immediately. In fact, the peddlers (operating a farm stand off a flat bed of a truck) appear as villains/crooks even. Barney is at first to cowardly to run them off and Andy intervenes. To the outsider peddlers, Andy appears more of an authority to pay attention to and do as he says... move on. No where in this episode do we meet the local establishment that the ordinance is to protect but we are made aware of it by Andy.
The title of this "Lawman Barney" though Andy was the 'real' lawman that was respected at first, is because Andy learns of Barney's first cowardly attempt and helps his friend out with some advice and then intervention which Barney does not realize until much later. By the end of the show, Barney becomes the Lawman he should be and the outsider peddlers move on.

Now, what can we take from this? That a free market does not exist really because local establishments call the shots and control the law??? Or that local people trust locals... people they can feel sympathetic to because they are after all 'local' as it was with the known Mayberry peddler/friend in the first mentioned episode??? Or, can we also take from these shows a sense of localness, solidarity and civil society where people protect their own and shun outsiders.
Probably a little of all of the above. If only we had local authority like Andy Griffth to make things come out right at least for local people.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What does it mean to be Divergent

What does it mean to be Divergent? To answer this, let's look at the recent Hollywood movie "Divergent".  Before answering the question posed and providing my own opinion of the film, I firstly have to say that I was shocked or to say the least very disappointed to see so many parents of various ages and racial/ethnic backgrounds attending this movie with very young children and even a few had babies in tow. As a sociologist, violence is harmful information for young social minds. As a Christian, my view is that by parents introducing/offering violence to their children (when parents introduce information to their children they are saying that this information is 'good'= it is safe and can be trusted... 'good' information is what a child looks for and needs from a parent), so again as a Christian, the problem with parents doing this, introducing violent information to their young children, is that they have now let Satan have a window or door of opportunity into their child). The non Christian/secular humanist argument is that it is their right to decide what their child sees. And, even some Christians will say this and worse make the argument that they 'those parents' did not have babysitters (either unaffordable or unavailable that evening). However, as a parent myself and person of higher education, that is not a good argument... to subject young children to violence. Oh, but they will say like the manager of the cinema 'theater' told me the film was rated PG-13 as if that should be a reasonable excuse that should make me think better about those parents. FYI... PG- 13 means that children under 13 must be accompanied by a parent because most of the material is unsuitable for young viewers. If we as parents understand what that means and we should, young children should not be in tow with parents. Why, because the adjective 'most' is used in the definition of PG-13.
As I sat there next to my spouse, I saw an older toddler on the lap of a parent and she was shaking her head back and forth during the shootouts and violence toward people as if to show her boredom or horror, rather the later. The little boy behind me was in diapers and sucking his thumb. An infant cried in the left section of seats and another toddler a few rows up yelled from shear terror, at least that is how it sounded.
Perhaps, as a mother I was overreacting; however as a sociologist and Christian, violence (statistically) begets violence and our country is becoming visibly more and more violent. What about the rating, isn't someone higher up with some sense making this decision? I would hope so, but apparently not. Given the rating, we would have to suppose that they think parents know their child's cognitive development (not- most parents have no clue) and those rating people must think that such parents who bring young children to a PG=13 film talk during and after the film to their young children about this film (parental guidance)... I can't imagine having an ethical or philosophical discussion with an infant/toddler or young child. Why? because most children under 7 cannot reason and many are late bloomers and reason does not come into their life til much later and then it goes out again when they hit puberty. What is true for most young children is that they know and trust just one thing to be true and that is that mommy and daddy care about them and take care of them, protect and love them and because of that mommy and daddy would not take me to something bad... they show me only those things they like. Get the picture!

I would say that this film should be rated 17 for the amount of violence.  As for older children attending including teenagers, I would certainly hope that they with their parents can have an intelligent conversation about the film's attempt to illustrate a future utopia gone bad or at least an attempt by the film to illustrate current and future social relationships between classes; especially, the elite in relation to all other groups/classes.

Nevertheless, Divergent, the film, was attempting to understand class conflict and propose a solution. The solution being the design of factions as a means to orchestrate social hierarchy (basing on the one thing that people have an aptitude for) that will allow for peaceful existence. As a sociologist, I can tell you that social hierarchy is an essential aspect of society, without it there is no society. And, socialization process is lifelong it is ongoing and social actors change as their socialization process brings new social 'information'. Just read something you wrote or thought last year and find yourself thinking 'who wrote that/who was that'...?
The problem for social scientists when it comes to finding solutions for social problems for society to exist, is the acceptance of a naturally and or legitimately arrived at social hierarchy.  Max Weber recognized this in his work. Many people today and in Weber's time think/thought that it is not fair when someone has charge over someone else and or that those who get to the top or are at the top through unfair practice. But I can tell you that not all people want to be at the top, as not everyone has the will / desire to lead, to be charismatic and to take charge. I saw this in my own classrooms when I asked for volunteers. It was more interesting to observe the proposal of one or two by by others who nominated those that they thought of as leaders or just different from them. Being different is normal and not always fair... because whose measure do we use?
The down side of this movie was the non existence of workers to maintain the functioning (nuts and bolts) of the system... like garbage crews, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, nurses, teachers, maids, hairdressers, etc. The film had designated groups which I suppose is how the current intelligentsia imagine what a legitimate society should be composed of... lawyer philosophers, leftist righteous, happy servants, and dauntless military.
I did like the film only because it had divergent people, the rebels, the different from the mold, the standouts who want to free people from their enslaved mindset.  Those who think it is best to live and let live... which includes those that don't think like you! Now, given 'live and let' motto suggests that I should not have a problem with parents bringing young children to a violent film or let's just say highly intellectual film after all, live and let live.
However, living and let live is a problem for the common good in this way. Boundaries 'physical and psychological' are necessary for cohesive society to enjoy as much comfort/safety and well being as possible; and thus given obvious cognitive development aspect of a child, we should question if such material is appropriate. As a Christian sociologist, good parents wait til their child is ready for such material ... in that they are clearly able to have an intellectual discussion afterwards about the film's topic and presentation to the audience.