Ask Uncle Brad is a weekly column in which pastor, farmer, and father, and Christ and Pop Culture writer Brad Williams answers your questions about how to navigate difficult and complex cultural issues in everyday life.
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Whenever I return home for the holidays, it is inevitable that my father and I will end up arguing about religion, namely the role of a Christian in the cultural skirmishes of the day.
Dad is old school, not that there’s anything wrong with that. While I wouldn’t say I’m one of Brian McLaren’s “new kind” of Christians, to the old man I’m probably the closest one could get without being a full-blown heretic. The funny thing is, we believe the same way about most things. He’ll tell anyone who asks, we’ve got to stand up for what’s right. I agree with that, but isn’t there something to be said for picking our battles?
I can’t help but feel that some aspect of the culture wars has a tendency to bring out the neurotic in people. What’s the best way to talk to my dad about this? Or should I ignore the subject altogether? Should I come alongside him in his various culture battles?
-Another Kind of Christian
Dear Another Kind,
This question reminds me of a time I went to a men’s fellowship where the speaker was convinced that most of the problems in the church sprang from the fact that men weren’t intimate enough with one another. He never felt loved as a kid because his daddy didn’t hug him enough. His solution for men’s ministry, therefore, was that we should all hug more, and to that end, he beckoned us all to stand up and start hugging. Awkwardly for him, and to my great relief, we all just sat there and stared at him.
“Culture warriors” often remind me of that guy. In their certainty that they know what is wrong with culture, they also happen to know exactly how to solve it. While I may agree with him that something bad happened (his dad didn’t hug him enough), and that in general we may have a problem in an area (men’s ministries are sometimes lame), I cannot always get on board with the solution they propose (everyone ought to hug everyone else more). This guy was adamant that hugging would save the day. When no one responded, he ran over and gave me an awkward side-hug and told me “It will get better with time.” Creepy.
It probably feels to you like when your dad goes into full-on culture warrior mode, he signs you up for the draft. If you don’t participate in his boycott or simple righteous indignation, he thinks you have joined CNN and the rest of the godless liberal media. Take heart! I have a plan of action for you that might help.
You say that you and your dad “believe the same way” about most things. You probably agree with him foundationally on the things he is upset about. What you are really getting hassled over is how you respond. My advice to you is to first, try and agree with your dad on a principle you hold in common about the subject. This will have the affect of helping him see you are at least close to his camp. Second, listen as he explains the problem as he sees it. Being respectful through patient listening goes a long way towards fostering a sensible discussion. Third, if you can agree on a principle, but believe that principle has been breached, or if you disagree on his proposed solution (that he may have gotten from FOX News), you should say so, and you ought to offer your own idea of how we should think about helping the culture towards truth.
I assume that you and your dad are Christians. Try and remember that our foremost duty is not to save the culture from legalized marijuana or gay marriage or even abortion. Our end goal is to present Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins. If you have a better idea of how to do that than your dad does, then you ought to humbly present that to him. Your dad loves you, I’m sure. I believe that he will respect your opinions if he perceives that you are ‘all in’ for the sake of the gospel, even if your fight looks different than his does.
You usually don’t get to pick your battles. I am sorry that life is that way. However, with a bit of planning, you can choose how to engage your battles, and how many resources you allocate to them.
In Daniel 1:15, Daniel and his homies are described as being “fatter in flesh” than the Babylonian boys. I thought that actually meant they were fatter in flesh. Even while eating only vegetables and water. Which would have been a miracle.
Do you have any Hebrew-y insight into this? My husband holds to my view as well, which is why he’s gone on strike against broccoli.
-Healthy but Not Hungry Christian
After much research I have concluded that the word translated “fat” or “fatter” in the flesh does indeed mean “fat.” However, the particular phrase translated “fatter in the flesh”, as Stephen R. Miller notes in the New American Commentary, “does not necessarily mean that the youths became fat but is an idiom for healthy, the idea being that a well-fed person would not appear gaunt.”
Considering the fact that we Southerners consider the potato chip to be a vegetable, I myself am convinced that they could have become “literally” fat eating only vegetables for ten days, so long as they ate them all fried as God intended.
Hello Uncle Brad!
Did you know that some people on the internet are actually wrong?
As much as I would love to correct them all, there aren’t enough hours in the day. When it is okay to just let people be wrong on the internet? When do I speak up and when do I just let it go? Where should I draw the line?
-Christian With a Tendency to Correct
Dear Christian With a Tendency,
Yes, I did know that some people on the internet are actually wrong! And to that end, sadly, I am persuaded that it is never right to allow them to go un-rebuked. All internet wrongness should be publicly shamed, and I have dedicated my life to seeing that this happens.
But alas, you are correct that there are not enough hours in the day to correct all the dumb that floats about on the internet. It’s during times like this that I ask myself, “How does Superman do it?” In 2012 alone, 34,080 people died in car wrecks. Even the Man of Steel can’t stop that many collisions without losing his job at the Daily Planet.
Here is what I do. First, I thank God that our managing editor, Alan Noble is alive to catch the wrongness that is on the internet. Seriously, if it is an egregious error, I check to see if someone else is saving the day and I just link to their heroics.
Secondly, I prioritize. Sometimes, you need to sleep instead of staying up to set fire to trolls. If something is directly affecting your ministry and is personal to you, you might want to correct that misconception as gently as you can.
Just don’t get sucked into the never-ending spiral of comment hurling. Trust your original response and let it be.