You cannot "speak things that are not as though they are"

There are scads of beliefs I hear among Christians that just make me itch. I hear “verses” “quoted” with authority, but they are either taken wholly out of context, or simply not found in the bible at all! I have sat and percolated long enough, and can no longer just let them fly by. As Christians, we believe in an absolute truth, and as such we should have a higher standard. If not, we are worse than crazy people forwarding urban legends to everyone in our contact list.

I figured tonight I’d start with one that has bothered me for years, but I’ve heard it in passing a few times this past weekend. It is THE POWER OF THE TONGUE. Oooooooooooh. (Cue dramatic music.) This concept is most commonly found in the horribly disturbing (and heretical, btw) Word of Faith movement. It is also referred to as “positive confession”, “speaking life (or death)”, and other odd phrases. Besides being churchy jargon that sounds impressive in a testimony, it is also wholly baseless and unbiblical. There are no verses that state that we can bring literal life into existence. We are never instructed to “speak life into” a situation. There are also no examples of the disciples doing so. And perhaps most importantly, Jesus never told us to do so!

This doctrine is a very loose patchwork of verses that does not hold water. The phrase that I’m sure you have heard repeated on more than one occasion is that we should “call things that are not as though they were”. This sounds like faith, right? Actually – no. This appears one place in the bible. It is in Romans 4:17 when Paul is identifying God to a Roman audience. He wants to differentiate God from the other gods. Not Zeus. Not Apollo. Not any of the other gods Paul encountered on Mars Hill. The God of creation as recounted in the Jews’ books of Genesis. The God who spoke “let there be”, and there was. This is Paul being very clear with his listeners who knew LOTS of gods. He was making a point. “I’m talking about the God of Abraham. Heard of him? I am referring to the God who calls things which are not as though they were. Know the guy? Yeah – him.” Paul made his point. But the Word of Faith movement has cut the tail end of this verse and has pasted it into lots of other verses that mention the tongue. The trouble is – God didn’t do that. Jesus never made such a connection either. The only biblical references to speaking things into existence make it clear that this is God’s domain – not ours.

One of the cut-and-paste verses popularly associated with the Romans phrase is Psalms 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not God instructing us how to get what we want. This is God instructing us how to want what we get. If we truly delight in the Lord, will we really desire anything selfish? No – if truly find our delight in the Lord, that means we are becoming more like him. And if we become like him, what grieves him grieves us. What brings him joy brings us joy. His desires become our desires. Then we will see the desires of our heart because we have a new heart. Jesus expanded on this same principle in Luke 12. In short – don’t worry about food, clothes, or even your very life, because God knows what you need. Seek God’s kingdom, and these things will be given to you. For wherever your treasure is, your heart will follow. Doesn’t that sound kind of like “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”? No speaking. No claiming. No positive confessions. Just good old Micah 6:8: “…act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

So does the bible say anything about the tongue having power? Absolutely! Not that kind of power though. Solomon was a wise man, so he wrote with a lot of metaphors. He described things with flowery language to make an impact. So rather than saying “what you say can make people feel good or bad”, he said “your tongue has the power of life and death!”. Sounds cooler, doesn’t it? And it gets the message across quite plainly. Too many people trying to build a doctrine around Romans 4:17 use tons of Proverbs (and other scriptures) in their cut-and-paste theology.

In case you still have doubts, look at another commonly used verse – Proverbs 18:21 … “The tongue has the power of life and death” Wow! Sounds powerful! Wait – read the rest of it too: “…and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Do you have fruit growing out of your tongue? If you have bananas and limes springing from your mouth, call me! Because to claim that this verse is to be taken literally, you had better be making fruit salad right out of your mouth.

The true meaning is better expressed in Prov 15:1-4:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly… The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? How good do you feel after someone encourages you? Doesn’t that bring you life, in a sense? It is invigorating! It affirms us and motivates us to press on! Similarly, how deeply is our heart cut when we are criticized or shamed? Don’t you just feel like dying? It kills our hopes and dreams, and demoralizes us completely.

Yes, the tongue is incredibly powerful. Yes, it brings life or death, but to our souls and to our relationships. We are to make disciples of all nations. We are to encourage one another and care for one another. Doesn’t this require that we speak to one another? How important then is it that we think before we speak? Our prayer should be like David’s “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Ps 141:3)

The power of the tongue lies in its ability to affirm and love in order to initiate and build relationships. The negative potential does not bring physical death to a person, but the end of relationship and the wounding of a heart. This reinforces the entire NT message of the importance of community.

If you think I’m just picking verses that reinforce my interpretation of the tongue’s power, try the following – or search for yourself. The bible is quite clear on the topic. I just didn’t want to take any more space than I already have! Pr. 10:31, Pr. 12:18, Ps. 34:13, Is. 50:4, Col. 4:6, Pr. 10:11, Pr. 18:4, Pr. 12:25, Pr. 13:3, Pr. 21:23.

This concept and teaching is yet another example of what Paul warned us to watch out for in 2 Timothy 4:3-4

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

*** Addition ***

It occurred to me this morning that I missed another popular aspect of this teaching. Since I was a kid, I have encountered people who seemingly live in terror over getting sick. Oddly, they express this as faith. Here’s what I mean:

They take those same scriptures about the tongue having power of life and death, but read it as health and sickness. They use the phrases I mentioned before. They will say “I will not confess with my tongue that I am sick – that is agreeing with the enemy.” Or, “I do not have the flu. I merely have all the symptoms of the flu. I will not claim that.” Actually, you do have the flu. Also, you are silly. Sickness exists in a fallen world. It is not the evidence of having “let something into your life” or the result of a “negative confession”. It is the result of being in a place where viruses, bacteria, fungi and other nasties hang out – namely, earth.

Twilight Sucks

Per request, I thought I’d end the weekend by putting down some of my thoughts about Twilight. I’ve seen the hype and hysteria in the several years since the release of the first book, and have been bewildered by it. The fervor surrounding the movies is even more astonishing.

In both 2008 and 2009, the top four slots on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list were occupied by the four volume Twilight series.

The movie “New Moon”, based on the second book in the series, sold more tickets on its first day than any other American movie in history. According to MarketWatch.com, New Moon accounted for well over 50% of all movie sales during its opening weekend, and became the third-largest weekend gross in history.

Fandango reported that New Moon broke the record for number of sold-out theaters before it was even released.

According to a Fandango survey of more than 5,000 moviegoers, 85% claimed they planned on seeing the movie in theater more than once, and 95% of the respondents were female.

When the Twilight DVD was released, it sold over 3 million copies the first day.

Anyone who knows a teenage girl (or a woman who could be the parent of one), is by now well familiar with Twilight, as well as the accompanying dreamy vacant looks, the obsession over the merchandise, the swooning over Edward (actor Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (actor Taylor Lautner), and the rabid vengeance issued toward Twilight detractors. I have seen people stand in line for passing fads like Cabbage Patch, Beanie Babies, and Elmo – but these people do not wear t-shirts declaring they are on “Team Elmo”. There are countless Star Wars nerds who are well familiar with the movies after watching them countless times, yet they do not yearn for ‘The Force’ as something they can attain. Even more puzzling is the “Twilight Mom” movement. Attending movies in numbers that would rival many tea parties, women in their thirties and forties gather repeatedly to watch those hunky 17 year olds one more time. I have joked that I have considered forming a group of men to go see the Hannah Montana movie with me. We’ll wear t-shirts that say “Hannah Dads”, swoon over her beautiful body, and remark how amazing she is – all from a shared cell.

I understand fads happen. There are best-selling books and blockbuster movies all year long. This is nothing new. I wanted to get a better idea of what Twilight is all about, so I did some research and watched the first movie. Wow. If you are going to attempt either, let me first warn you of Stephenie Meyer’s vapid writing. This is not great literature. And if you want to see a movie with a great script, you would do better with Armageddon or The Santa Clause. Or Speed 2. But if you get beyond that, there are some really troubling messages in the Twilight saga.

Here is the basic plot of the first movie: Girl moves from mom’s house to live with dad. Girl meets guy who stares at her lecherously. Guy stalks girl. Girl falls in love with guy. Guy tries to break it off because he’s no good for her. Girl is even more attracted. Guy has a hard time controlling his bloodlust for girl. Girl becomes pursued by rival vampires. Guy saves girl.

That sums up the part that all the women are in love with. I’ll outline the parts I had a problem with.

There are two major themes in Twilight. One is wish fulfillment, and the other is the pursuit of the forbidden. They become evident in the movie’s messages.

Message 1: Girls need guys to define them

Bella is a very needy girl. She needs a boy in order to feel valued. There is no indication of self-worth. No validation of identity. No encouragement to explore your interests. She needs a boyfriend. More accurately, she needs to be needed by a boy.

This poor girl hasn’t a clue what love is. Once they are together, it is all about the passion and tension. There is no communication, no mutual respect, no common interests or sacrifice. She loses her identity and abandons her friends and family. In a healthy relationship, each brings the other into their life. In Twilight, Edward becomes Bella’s life.

When Bella first meets Edward he acts very creepy. The normal response would be to avoid the creepy guy. But Bella’s reaction is to become all the more intrigued. This is very disturbing! Rather than avoid the leering pale guy with mascara and lipstick, she is drawn to him. Neediness is not a quality we want to encourage in our daughters! What is troubling is that Bella is not alone in her infatuation. Legions of 13 year olds and their mothers swoon at this predator! It makes me wonder what is missing in their lives that they feel can only be fulfilled by a pale, lonely predator.

Message 2: Guys get girls by stalking them

Edward Cullen is a predator. There is no other way to say it. He is over six times Bella’s age. At school, in the parking lot, and elsewhere he is always lurking in the background. For months he breaks into her house to watch her sleep at night. And this wins her over! Then he begins sleeping with her, in her bed, while dad snores away down the hall. He isolates her from her family and friends who have warned her that he seems creepy.

Which part of this is appealing? Yikes! Isn’t this the same stuff that’s in every women’s magazine to help them identify a controlling and abusive man? Obviously, this appeals to a needy girl. I can’t imagine any girl or woman with any self-esteem giving this lowlife a second look. C’mon ladies! Set a higher standard! Show the younger girls that it’s ok to be too good for just any old guy. Make guys prove themselves. What happened to courting?! Show them that not only do you have standards, but you also require that guys meet a minimum set of criteria as well. Otherwise, you might as well thumb through the state’s sexual predators list to fill your date book.

Message 3: Temptation

“Your scent, it’s like a drug to me. You’re like my own personal brand of heroin.” – Edward Cullen

Edward has a huge problem. He’s a vampire. He’s immortal. He thirsts for human blood. He nourishes himself on animal blood, but this does not satisfy him. So, where does he live? Off in the remote wilderness where he can prey on animals? Of course not! He lives in Oregon, and attends high school, where there are thousands of human necks in easy reach! This is not your traditional method of avoiding temptation.

He has a bigger problem. He wants Bella more than anything he has ever wanted. The first time he sees her, he becomes obviously quite aroused. Because it is so difficult to be around her, he not only leaves the classroom, but he requests to be transferred to different class. When that is denied, he takes a few days off school, then returns. He later says he has a very difficult time controlling himself around her. In Twilight, the vampiric desire for blood is interchangeable with the desire for sex. They always go together. At one point he is sucking blood from Bella to save her from another vampire and has difficulty stopping. At another, while making out with her in bed, he says very seriously that they must be careful. “I can never lose control with you. Ever.” This is great news. His urges are becoming stronger, so he has escalated his tone. That will fix things.

Good grief! Is this for real? Multiple cues show that he wants her badly, but knows this desire is wrong and should not be acted upon. He wants to drain her blood and ravage her. Yet, rather than avoid this temptation, he claims that he can control it and pursues her all the more.

Would you want your daughter with a guy that has to devote all of his energy in order to not rape her or eat her?

Should we flee other temptations, alcohol and pornography for instance or should we flirt with them?

Is our will really this strong? How about that of your teenage daughter? Or the MUCH older guy that she is enamored with? Thank you, Twilight.

Message 4: Anything you do with a guy is ok, as long as you don’t have sex

Author and Mormon Stephenie Meyers is very clear that premarital sex is bad. It’s right up there with alcohol, coffee, and carbonated beverages. Mormons have always been known for their great standards – take polygamy for instance.

Yet Bella’s mom, who has no window into her life other than the occasional phone call, offers this priceless nugget in one of their brief conversations: “Come on, we gotta talk boys! Are you being safe?” There’s a role model all of our daughters should have.

Night after night, Edward enters Bella’s bedroom through the window. In one scene they are shown making out quite passionately – on her bed. When he fears he will “lose control”, he literally flies backwards off of her, thus revealing the fact that she is wearing only a t-shirt and panties to bed.

107 year old guy, in her room, in her bed, dad is asleep down the hall, she is wearing almost nothing… This is the version of sexual purity that Mormons and even Christians are applauding? Yikes. But, as Stephenie Meyers would like me to point out, there is no smoking, drinking, or profanity in the series. She reminds us in every interview. Thank you Stephenie.

Message 5: Physical attraction is what determines compatibility

Physical attraction is #1 in the movie. There is no #2. Bella makes countless comments regarding Edward’s attractiveness. There is no mention of his character, sense of humor, intelligence, skills, or responsibility. She never says “he gets me”. He sacrifices nothing for her – unless you count setting aside his desire to ravage her body then turn her into a soulless killer like himself.

Interestingly, Edward does not make similar comments about Bella’s beauty – or anything else about her. He is interested in her because he can’t have her. He wants to consume her.

Message 6: Girls want the bad boy

Bella is completely taken with this horrible man. As if this weren’t bad enough, he actually warns her about this repeatedly, and she doesn’t care! If you’re not convinced by the above, here are a few quotes from the movie:

==========================

Isabella Swan: About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him, and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be, that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

==========================

Edward Cullen: Bella… I’m a killer.
Isabella Swan: I don’t believe that.
Edward Cullen: That’s because you believe only the lies… the camouflage. I’m the world’s most dangerous predator, Bella. Every thing about me invites you in. My voice, my face, even my smell. As if I would need any of that… as if you could out run me… as if you could fight me off. I’m designed to kill.
Isabella Swan: I don’t care.
Edward Cullen: I’ve killed people before.
Isabella Swan: It does not matter.
Edward Cullen: I wanted to kill you at first. I’ve never wanted a human’s blood so much, before.
Isabella Swan: I trust you.
Edward Cullen: Don’t.

==========================

Isabella Swan: Will you tell me the truth?
Edward Cullen: No, probably not.

==========================

Edward Cullen: But what if I’m not the hero? What if I am the bad guy?
Isabella Swan: You’re not.

==========================

Edward Cullen: It means if you’re smart… you’ll stay away from me.
Isabella Swan: Okay, let’s say for argument’s sake that I’m not smart.

==========================

Edward Cullen: I don’t have the strength to stay away from you anymore.
Isabella Swan: Then don’t.

==========================

Odds & Ends:

Bella’s parents are completely absent from her life. They are oblivious to all of this. Maybe dad should have spent less time cleaning his gun and more time brandishing it.

Edward’s “family” consists of a number of other apparently high-school aged kids. They are paired in obvious romantic relationships, yet live in the same house and call each other brothers and sisters. Her friends remark: “Dr. Cullen’s like this foster dad slash match maker.” And “Maybe he’ll adopt me!” Is this creepy to anyone else?

The first time that the Cullens are introduced in the movie, it interrupts a discussion among Bella and her friends about male endowment. Classy.

So, the 4-volume Twilight saga in a snapshot is this:

Book 1 – “Twilight” recap:
Bella moves from mom’s house to live with dad. Bella meets Edward who stares at her lecherously. Edward stalks Bella. Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Bella falls in love with Edward. Edward tries to break it off because he’s no good for her. Bella is even more attracted. Edward has a hard time controlling his bloodlust for Bella. Bella becomes pursued by rival vampires. Edward saves Bella.

Book 2 – “New Moon”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Edward’s brother Jasper tries to kill Bella. Edward decides to end the relationship and the Cullens move away. Bella is heartbroken and depressed for months. Bella pursues thrillseeking activities because they remind her of Edward. Bella renews friendship with Jacob (a werewolf). Edward tried to kill himself. Bella and Edward are reunited and Bella agrees to marry him, with the promise that he will change her to a vampire after the honeymoon.

Book 3 – “Eclipse”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Lots of fighting with a new rival vampire clan. Bella realizes that she is in love with both Jacob and Edward. She ultimately chooses Edward, and Jacob turns into a wolf and runs away.

Book 4 – “Breaking Dawn”:
Edward loves Bella, but knows that having sex with her will likely kill her. Edward and Bella are married. Every time they have sex, Bella wakes up bloodied and battered because of Edward’s supernatural strength. But Bella keeps going back for more because she really loves him. Bella discovers she is pregnant. Knowing that the child will be half vampire / half human, Edward urges an abortion. Bella refuses. Jacob’s werewolf family decide to kill Bella and the child. Jacob refuses. Bella has a horrific pregnancy and is nearly killed in childbirth. Apparently, the gruesome details include her spine and ribs being cracked. In order to calm the child, Bella drinks human blood to calm it down. Edward turns Bella into a vampire to save her from dying.

This is the romantic story that has enthralled the females of our nation. God help us.

Is Haiti to Blame for It’s Current Predicament?

I’ve seen and heard a lot of talk about Haiti’s history, and what developments in its past could account for their poverty, crime, and maybe even the earthquake. This example http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/fischer/100119) is one of hundreds that present this position in one way or another.

Much of it is copied from a tale about a “pact” that circulates the web widely. The tough part is, there is little to no basis in fact. I have done a fair amount of research and have not found *any* of these websites to have any reference to the source of their information. Further, I can find nothing in Haitian national history to substantiate this.

I have only found *one* reference to any sort of ceremony with any historical basis (Antoine Dalmas, around 1793). It mentions that a man named Boukman Dutty made an inspiring speech to his fellow slaves:

“The god who created the sun which gives us light, who rouses the waves and rules the storm, though hidden in the clouds, he watches us. He sees all that the white man does. The god of the white man inspires him with crime, but our god calls upon us to do good works. Our god who is good to us orders us to revenge our wrongs. He will direct our arms and aid us. Throw away the symbol of the god of the whites who has so often caused us to weep, and listen to the voice of liberty, which speaks in the hearts of us all.”

From our perspective, in 2010 America, it may have certain connotations. But think of a slave’s position in 1791. They see the “white man” as bringing evil and oppression. Would you want to have anything to do with their god? So, to me, it is understandable that they would prefer the god that they understand. And despite the internet claims, this is not the prince of darkness. Actually, he sounds a lot like my God: creator, ruler, one who sees all, inspirer of good works, etc…

Over the years, some have read this and saw only “the opposite of the white man’s god” and assume the Haitians are talking about Satan, since all white men follow the true God of the bible. (LOTS of sarcasm intended!) I’m not willing to make that leap. That said, neither am I suggesting that they were talking about the God I know. My opinion is that they were speaking of the most benevolent god that they were familiar with. Who can blame them?!

The words offered by Boukman were a speech *to* the slaves, not a prayer to any god. While he did invoke god in his speech, he did it as part of a rallying cry – exactly the same way that our founders did in the Declaration of Independence and similar documents! Our revolution was not seen as primarily faith-based, so why is theirs?

There is also the reported issue of Boukman drinking pig’s blood. While I don’t know anything of voodoo, I would suspect that the drinking of pig blood has its roots there. But in my opinion, it is beside the point. The Reagans consulted with astrologers during Ron’s presidency, but we don’t refer to his administration as a pact with the devil. This is not a practice I would suggest or condone, of course! It is certainly dabbling with things that are potentially dangerous, and those participating will ultimately have to answer for *their* actions. But I do not believe that God would punish the nation of Haiti for one man drinking blood, any more than that God would punish America for Nancy Reagan’s actions.

Now I’ll go a little farther out on my limb. I’d like to make some observations. Although these are my personal convictions, I believe they are Biblical.

  1. I do not believe that a nation is capable of making a pact with the devil. Whether we are devoting our lives to God or Satan, they are ultimately our decisions and we will answer for them. (Ro 14:12) Further, God will hold us to account for *our* actions, not those of others. (Ez 18, esp. vs 20)
  2. I do not believe the devil has sufficient power to maintain such a pact. (1 Peter 5:8-10, James 4:7) We have more power than he does. It takes two participants to honor an agreement. If one party dies or breaks the deal, the other (Satan) cannot hold it. Additionally, whenever a curse or promise was made in the bible, regardless who made the pronouncement, it was always upheld by God’s power. To agree with this Haitian legend would be to say that either God is holding this curse or that Satan now has the power to do so. The former ended with Jesus death – there is no longer cursing in the sense that it existed in the Old Testament. If you believe the latter, then it is a new thing, because it did not happen in the bible.
  3. One man’s allegiance with the devil is not greater than one man’s allegiance with God. (Ro 8:31) To believe the way Pat Robertson is believing, you would have to have one of the following positions: Either completely discount God’s power altogether, or say that there is not, nor has been a single righteous man in Haiti since 1791.

I’m sure I could go on, but there are things to be done today! 😛

Here are some references I found on the topic, if you are interested in more:
http://thelouvertureproject.org/index.php?title=The_Boukman_Rebellion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Revolution
http://thelouvertureproject.org/index.php?title=Boukman
http://www.blackandchristian.com/articles/academy/gelin-10-05.shtml

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