Two Types of Rebellion, Part One: Unwitting Servants

Reading Kester Brewin’s Mutiny and reflecting on rebels I have known in my life,  I’ve come to believe that there are two types of rebels, at least in recent American society: 

  • Those whose rebellion supports the social structure
  • Those whose rebellion actually threatens the established order 

We’ll talk about the first group,  the rebels whose actions prop up the culture they’re rebelling against, today.  The second group will have to wait. 

The first group of rebels skips class, drinks,  has lots of sex in high school, drives too fast, plays a little dirty in business deals, keeps a “woman on the side, ” etc.

They may be reckless, selfish, irreverent, even criminal,  but they do it in normal, understandable ways. 

They uphold the power structure, even as they outwardly flout it. 

Occasionally one of them has to be punished to keep up the illusion that their rebellion is unacceptable, but it’s usually a woman (Martha Stewart or the girl who gets pregnant in high school), or the punishment is usually nominal (most white collar criminals,  Brock Turner). 

They typically “sow their wild oats” and then “grow out of it,” or else “bend the rules” or “play the system.”

They’re a necessary part of the system, though few of them would admit it.

Their rebellions serve as a pressure valve in the social system, just as their occasional scapegoating punishment serves to pacify and sanctify the self-righteous anger of the common people who live by the rules and are upset to see the cheaters prosper. 

Their rebellious acts are safely within the respectable, heteronormative, generally white male dominated traditional culture. 

Some of these acts are so common they’re not even rebellious any more, but almost expected. An “out and proud virgin” is more transgressive than the typical “having sex and hiding the fact from their parents” high schooler. 

Of course,  neither is nearly as transgressive (or likely to receive abuse) as an out LGBT+ teen, but we’ll talk about actual challenges to the social order later. 

I think Rush sum up the frustrations of a nerdy, studious kid watching the almost Huxleyan acceptable deviations of high school perfectly in one music video:

Deserve Part Three: A Warning Against Premature Worthiness

​In my last post, I talked about how I never stepped up and earned any writing skill and success,  never really took chances or dedicated myself back when I was younger and it was easier. 

Ironically, this may be for the best, because everything I wrote before about 2012 I find embarrassing, even negative. And I don’t mean in the open “oh well, I wasn’t writing very good prose back then was I?” way. I mean in the “wow, I’m I’m a different person and I disagree with most of the presuppositions and general underlying themes of those pieces of writing” way.

I was still caught up in the myth of redemptive violence, like most Americans. I operated under assumptions that seem harmful and unChristlike to me now. 

I still wrote without any real diversity of casts,  and worse, without any real understanding. 

So, I’m rather glad  in a twisted way that I never really pulled the trigger before, because my past works (especially if they were successful) would feel like enemies to me. 

Now since they just live on the corners of my hard drive, they’re little more than remembrances of where I was. But if they were out there on Amazon and in bookstores, I would be at war written the works of my own hands.

So that’s where I stand and it’s not so bad as I thought. But it’s not a good place to end up. I have to write more and I have to write more things that I’m proud of and that I think are good – not just “well done” but good in the greater sense.

On TaskBar, But Off-Task (PC Distraction)


I just noticed a bad habit I have: whenever I’m working on something and I get to a tedious, annoying, or difficult part, my eyes glance away, looking toward the taskbar, seeking out something easier or more interesting. 

I physically felt it happen today, but I know it’s been going on for a long time. 

I know now more than ever that I really need to keep “up” (active)  only those things I am currently working on. 

If I need a break, I can take a break. I’m valued where I work, and my supervisors know that a lot of the work I do takes a lot of skill, focus, and mental energy. 

But I won’t be at my best if I’m constantly flitting from task to task, from analysis to email to course shell. 

I’m sure I’m much worse about it at home on my laptop,  when I’m on my own admission have video games, Facebook, Netflix, and other such entertainments to distract me. 

Maybe this is why George R. R. Martin and Dean Wesley Smith write on computers with no internet access. 

So here it’s my new role,  for work sends at home:  only keep those Windows up that are needed for the current task.  Finish it,  then move on. 

We’ll see how it goes. Maybe this trick.will help on my home laptop:

https://youtu.be/s-rPXMIiPjE

Kicking Darkness, Bleeding Light  


I have been feeling a little depressed lately,  for a number of reasons. 

It’s nothing clinical or health –  threatening,  but is unpleasant,  and it makes me just not want to talk to anyone.

As a part of getting my stuff together (In case you haven’t heard, 2016 is The Year Tim Gets His Stuff Together), I’ve been going through the houses in our storage room, or at least my boxes. 

And tonight, I found a scrap of paper, probably a decade old or more, a scrawled note from a novel that never really came to fruition.

And it was just what I needed to hear. 

“Sorrow lasts for the night,  but the dawn will break.  You can choose to live under the night,  become a part of it, turn your back on the hope the sunrise brings.  And then when the dawn comes, where are you?”

“I’m sure you’ll tell me,” Ashe said, glancing over his shoulder at Jack. 

“If you don’t fight the darkness,  don’t allow yourself to suffer,  you can lose your love for the light.  And then dawn finds you crawling deeper into the shadows,  huddled I’m fear of the joy you once longed for.”

Okay,  so it’s a bit unsubtle,  but I think i needed to hear it. 

This has been a rough summer,  all around. I need to admit that,  and not start resenting a job I genuinely like 90% of the time. 

Time has been right, but mostly, I just haven’t felt up to calling and starting better touch with my friends.  This is a vicious circle,  because it is a symptom of feeling down and a major cause of it.

I have gotten hurt and sick a couple of times this summer, and that has put me off of exercise,  which is always a struggle for me. It is so much easier to just let it slide.

And with the later hours and earlier mornings, of course I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

But as I said yesterday, I am drawing the line on that.  

The only way out of anything like this is through.

As Bruce Cockburn sang, you’ve “got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.”

Toxic Worship (The Imposters of God, Chapter 1: The Mystery of Idolatry, Part 2)

Sculpture of a Family

Photo by J. Lord, Creative Commons

This is part three of my series on William Stringfellow’s The Imposters of God. You can read my first post on Chapter One and my introduction to the series.

As you recall, Stringfellow pointed out that an idol is anything we use to define ourselves, to give significance to our lives, other than God (of course). All such things – money, family, church, reputation, country – are doomed to fail us, of course.

But did you know that so long as we put them in the place of worship, that we are doomed to fail them?

As Stringfellow put it, “Where idolatrous patriotism is practiced, the vocation of the nation so idolized is destroyed.”

How far from the lofty ideals of civil rights and democracy have the super-patriots (with their super PATRIOT Acts) taken us?

I’m old enough to remember when torture and indefinite detention were things the bad guys did, not things two successive openly Christian Presidents would undertake, to the applause of their mostly openly Christian supporters.

“When the family is idolized, the members of the family are enslaved.” (Stringfellow). How many times have we seen parents living vicariously through their children? Whether Tiger Moms pushing their kids into depression  or washed-up high school quarterbacks and homecoming queens reliving their youth, it never ends well.

I’m reminded of the controlling mother from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, who’d rather have her son with her in hell than leave him in heaven.

Even within our churches, the extreme focus on the family has left the unmarried feeling unwanted. It’s made us political animals, white-flighting our way into the “best” schools.

It’s led us to forget that the Apostles who spread the Gospel to the known world were themselves single, and that they focused not on their families, but on the Gospel.

“Every idol, therefore, represents a thing or being existing in a state of profound disorientation” (Stringfellow).

Idolatry ultimately brings death.

Sometimes literally, as in our persistent worship of war.

Sometimes figuratively, in the dehumanization of a culture that views everything and everyone as a commodity.

And sometimes both, as in the dysfunctional relationships and vicious social structures that drive the young to depression and sometimes suicide.

Perhaps Idolatry is at the heart of the decline of America’s churches. We’ve grown so entangled with the idols of respectability, growth, and politics that we find ourselves reduced to merely a social function. A social function that offers precious little to the constantly-connected Facebook generation.

What is the answer? I’m not certain. But I know this. We fail, again and again, to keep the very first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3).

And to even detect our idols means turning the rusty knife of self-examination on the things we hold dearest. The pain may be akin to amputating a gangrenous limb without anesthetic, but it must be done if we are serious about serving Christ.