J.S. Park


Posts tagged with "culture"

"One Wrong Word and It’s Over" — Or Why We Leave Too Fast




I think at times we tend to hold people in a constantly precarious position, so that if they fall even slightly in any direction, we crush them with a label and rush for the exit and burn every bridge and ramp and highway.  It’s like we deliberately keep everyone off-balance so that they’re never really in and good with us, unless they do exactly as I want.  

It’s sort of a desperate anxiety in relationships, where if the guy or girl says one stupid thing: it’s over. 

It’s the fear of trying to say all the right things or you’ll die.

It’s waiting for someone to fail so you can confirm your preconceived presumption.

It’s instantly dividing over a single disagreement, even over a simple sentence or opinion.


It happens everywhere, especially in the “church community.”  We tend to analyze the particulars of everyone’s faith.  Any wrong theology will get you killed.  Secondary doctrines become primary battlefronts.  The preacher is graded by his rightness of speech instead of his character (when both are needed).  Even “not being gracious” is sort of a new legalism, where if you don’t tolerate everything, you’re a bigot.  And if you’re neither a cool hipster liberally progressive Jesus-follower or a conservative button-up soapbox picketer, then you’re apparently not a Christian either

I would think that knowing Jesus would make us more gracious, and not less.  But even “faith” has a way of making us jerks, because we so anxiously cling to any dividing line and stab our flags into each others’ sides.

This sort of thin ice will

1) rotate a new set of friends every season,

2) make everyone nervous and uncertain and neurotic,

3) shoot a convulsive ripple of self-righteousness in your bowels all the time, and

4) enslave others with a never-ending internal exam, which we all eventually fail.


The truth is that not everyone thinks the way I think, so my conflict with someone’s thinking is my conflict, and not theirs.  It’s downright tyrannical to bend everyone else to my will.  A world full of my mentally implanted opinions would be a horrible, diminished, dehumanized world.  And we do this to people everyday.  We cut them off at a singular point of difference and pretend it’s a “stand,” when really it’s an ivory tower. 

When we scrutinize every person’s word to wait for a mistake, we are then idolizing our ego into an impossible chokehold that will strangle others under the weight of our narcissism.  

You know what I mean.  We just wait for failure and we kick the wounded.  I think we like to join in backlash because it looks smart.  It’s like we’re hunting for an angle to attack because we like to be on the right side of things.  There is no shortage of theology-watchdogs and church-gatekeepers and political pundits and picketing fundamentalists that are simply looking to pick a fight — and their blogs get the most views.  And I include me in this bickering.  I’m no better than “them,” and them is all of us, who are all just as guilty of imprisoning others with unfair expectations that were already set up to lose. 

Jesus wrecked all these expectations by calling us all equally guilty and all equally in need of grace. It means that we don’t get it right most of the time, or even half the time.  We get it wrong like all the time.  And when we do get it right, it’s purely by grace: and that’s worth celebrating.  Instead of waiting for us to fail, Jesus cheered us on to succeed.  Not a success by human standards, but a success that embraces humility and understanding and the ability to laugh at ourselves.  Jesus saw how we are: but he gave us grace for who we could be.  It’s a reversal of expectations. 

I think maybe we could show this kind of vision-casting grace for others when they say something really dumb.  Because we all say dumb things that we look back on later with a stomach full of regret.  And still, Jesus keeps showing grace when our lips move, and we’re called to do the same. 

— J

The Pressure of Do’s and Don’ts: The Secret Language of Policing Behavior




Whenever I see a post titled “7 Ways to Know How” or “What You Should Obviously Know” or “Don’t Do This or You’re A D-Bag” — I get a little knot in my guts and I’m compelled to tattoo all the info in my brainfolds.  It’s an overwhelming shock of adrenaline and endorphins.  I feel both a mini-panic-attack and a bursting well of satisfaction that I suddenly know more than the helpless masses, because I got the secret sauce from Cracked and Relevant and Christianity Today, so I’m ready to flex my newfound skills to impress my witless friends.

Many of these practical tips are useful, and maybe even life-saving.  There are experts who have done it better than us, and we need to hear from them.

But all this anxiety-driven pragmatism either 1) paralyzes me into a deep fear of failure, or 2) gets me in an uppity self-righteous superiority over others who don’t know nothing.

I also get the sneaking suspicion that I’m just copying some programmatic method to earn the approval of my culture-bubble, and if I don’t know the 20 Facts on What To Do When I’m 20, then I’m totally losing at life.

I can see the slithery snake of a needle underlying all these “Do’s and Don’ts.”  We have suspected a secret insider-language suffocating every must-know list —

You should.  You’re supposed to.  You have to.  You better — or else.  If you miss this — you’re out.  Get on my program, or you’re dead.

I’m not sure this is any better than religion.  It sounds like we’re adding burdens rather than setting people free.  And a list of “How To Set People Free” is still dripping with the poison of arrogance.

It’s just adding rules about how to follow rules.  This is legalism, and it’s not okay. 


Bloody Puppets in Control of Control

If a preacher gives three points every Sunday, he’s smacking down over 150 points per year.  Throw in Fridays and that’s 300.  Throw in Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday evening service, and that’s over 600 things to remember.

Who else added over 600 need-to-know things on their list?

Oh, right.  These guys.  The original schoolyard bullies.

I understand why we do this.  I understand the need for it. Three-point-sermons can bring the fire, and a self-help bestseller can clean you up for a while.  But inside every book, blog post, sermon, TV host, and street-corner therapist is a desperate manic need for control.  We want to wrestle every scenario into an ideal shrinkwrapped cube of carbonite. 

So we pile on a perfectionist manifesto, and end up with a twitchy, neurotic, hardly functional clone regurgitating the 19 Steps to Keeping It Real In Ministry, and he doesn’t even know why.

We find eventually: this doesn’t work.  People are not designed to live under fear or the threat of conformity.  We are not created for slightly sarcastic non-formula formulas written by a bitter blogger in his basement.  But many of us fall into it — and we’re drowning in marginally better technique.

Most of us are marionettes hung by a thousand bloody strings attached to pragmatic fragments, without a script or direction or destination, dancing madly at the latest loudest cue. 

This is an untenable burden that will steal the God-given pneuma out of your veins.


Bricks, Dirt, Gut, Sun

Perhaps more importantly —

You might know all the how-to, but you’ll never know what for.  You’ll never know the why.  

Something has to compel us into an internally motivated, lifetime sustainable, inside-out life.  Otherwise, all these “do’s and don’ts” are just parole officers waiting for you to fail.  They are bricks, all shape and no soul.  We are plants, waiting for light and water to break in.

Life starts from the roots, from the pit, from the gut.  It starts from a seed of unconditional acceptance, pushing through the dirt into the sun.  Seeds have a law, but they are nourished by love.

You’ve met people who have truly been rocked by inside-out motivation.  That person who is passionate about his work, but not attached to results.  The one who loves everyone, but she really needs no one.  The guy who isn’t so hard on you when you make a mistake, and guides you into a better version of yourself without you even knowing it.  She is not moved by self-promotion, image maintenance, or Darwin-esque survival.  She appears to have a reason of No-Reason without expecting anything back.

Some of us say this comes from having children, from a social cause, from discipline, from a lover.  But all these are in danger of enslaving me once they make demands, and none of them can save me.  They cannot set me free. 


A Rest for Peace, a Resolve to Fight

As a follower of Christ, I take this up all the way to the highest place.  However you might be struggling with God or the Bible or the church: I believe even in my darkest doubt that we are compelled by a love who loves us before we did a single thing to prove our worth, and I’m free to walk into that love, with my gritty imperfections and messed up motives and my rough raw edges.

Where everyone else and every other system demands I prove my smarts, my resume, my sexual prowess, my outgoing-ness, my ability to follow the three-points — there is a sacred space where I can quit selling myself.  I am pre-approved here, qualified before I walk in the door.  There is even acceptance here for legalists, for Pharisees, for those who burdened others with the rules they failed to keep themselves.

In this place, the rules are helpful, but they are not the ultimate measuring stick for my worth.  They are not the be-all, end-all.  They cannot tell me if I’m good enough or not enough.  They help my behavior, but not who I am becoming.  They only remind me that I fail, and they point to the one who doesn’t.

If the story of Jesus is true, that means:

I can rest.  I can relax.  My motivation is NOT in gaining acceptance: but it starts in the acceptance He has already given.  I can find resolve by knowing He resolved to find me first.  I can fight, because He fought for me.

We can quit getting antsy over do’s and don’ts.  We have room to fail, and in this we can succeed.

I pray we move into this rest.  I pray we drink of His grace.


“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

— C.S. Lewis

— J.S.

I knew how to help him be a Christian on weekends and evenings. I knew how to teach him how to run a Bible Study, how to evangelize, how to share his faith, but I had no idea how to help integrate his faith with his work. Since 98% of Christians are spending 80% of their time working, we’re giving them almost no help as a church. The church has got to learn how to develop tracks for both church leadership and cultural leadership. In the church, I was only trained how to get more and more laypeople into my church and out of their field. So they’re more active in church and leading Bible Studies and serving on the elder board, but I did not know anything on how to flesh out their faith at their jobs. Yet that’s what will really change the culture.

- Timothy Keller

About Michael Brown, Rioting, Racial Outrage, and The Right Response

bluelikejazzminds asked:

I have a huge concern for this nation. I am outraged, frustrated and hopeless. I don’t know if you are aware but last week, a young man, Mike Brown, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He was 17 years old and was about to start college this week. They accused him of stealing candy, but both witnesses and store clerks say he didn’t. Brown actually surrendered but the police shot him 8 times anyway. Unfortunately, there are also riots going on due to the outrage, hurt and sorrow. Police brutality is at all time high and it seems as if hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. This is not the first time a young black man was gunned down unlawfully and it definitely won’t be the last. Justice for these young men (and women) have not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation.

So I ask you, have any of you thought about this? Do you know what is going on? As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. Around the time Trayvon Martin was killed, I went to church and nothing was said about it. Not verse, not a word.

As a leader, I ask what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters who were/are affected by these issues? What do you say to a young black man who fears for his life whenever he sees a cop? What do you say to a young black woman whose brother was killed unlawfully by the hands police brutality?


Hey my dear friend: I must say this first of all.

A young man is dead.  Not just dead, but shot until he was lifeless.

Before I’m just another ignorant blogger who goes into semantics and politics and the “spiritual lesson” for all this: let’s recognize that another member of our human race, a real living breathing person with hopes and dreams and insecurities like the rest of us, just as real as your brother or sister or parents or math teacher or pastor or coach or best friend, is permanently gone from the world.

I want to grieve about this.  I don’t want to turn yet another real person into ammo for my platform or agenda, and God forgive me, I have failed at this so many times.

I want to hurt with Michael Brown’s family.  I don’t need to suspect what he was “allegedly” doing, because the fact remains: a young man’s life was cut short, and for every turn of events that led up to his death, it’s still no less than a tragedy. 

I know that we will not all see eye-to-eye on the external issues: but can we lay down our verbal weapons and meet each other in our grief over a deceased young man?  Can we recognize we’ve lost a member of our human family? And that this keeps happening over and over?


I also agree that the rioting is sad.  Some of the physical outrage is perhaps extreme.  The whole thing is downright horrible.  None of it can be generalized or simplified, and it’s all a bitter ugly mess.

I’m well aware that I’m just one more limited voice in a sea of angry voices, and anything said here could barely uncover the heartache at every level.

What’s more saddening is the racially charged maelstrom on social media from every side. No one speaks rationally about these things.  I understand that race and violence and politics are all sensitive issues to discuss, and someone will always be offended.  I’ve probably offended you already with something said here.  But I’m still waiting to have a thoughtful conversation about it, that maybe there is a sane nuanced voice out there who wants to weep with me, and that maybe we could be part of the solution and not the problem.  We don’t have to agree: but maybe this is less about agreement and more about our desire for peace.

Yet everyone is turning this into some kind of philosophical circus, like lives are meant to be debated. I recently posted a picture of a protesting black man in Missouri with guns pointed at him from police with riot gear, and the caption read “Don’t let anyone tell you that racism is not dead.  Pray for justice.”  When I say justice, I mean to set right all the ways in which we’re not meant to be. I lost quite a few followers on all my social media, including some nasty feedback, and I understand that.  It’s okay if you’d like to unfollow me too.  But my intention was simply to show: the fact that this picture even exists is tragic.   Every part of this hurts my heart, and I’m not trying to “win” some side.

Again: A young man is dead.  No one is the winner here.

The fact that a young dead black man would draw so many racist online comments in the year 2014 makes me sick to my stomach.  The fact that a group of people feel the need to riot in order to express a deep inconsolable outrage is equally heartbreaking. 


No, I do not endorse rioting, as it can be destructive and immature.  It also ends too quickly.  But the fact that it’s happening is exposing an exhausted fracture in our humanity, beyond our simple categories of “us” versus “them,” to wanting the God-given dignity of living without fear. Simply do some research on the atrocities occurring daily on the streets and in the media, and you would be just as tempted as me to make a forceful stand. It’s absolutely enraging.

A friend recently shared this quote with me by Martin Luther King Jr., who was very much against violence, but he put it this way:

"When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty and shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up and express their anger and frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Of course, I want to be very careful here that I’m not endorsing violence.  I’m not pulling self-victimization.  We must examine ourselves too, for change starts with each of us. I will, however, promote protestation for the voice of the silenced.  This does NOT automatically mean finger-pointing or victimizing.  If this makes me a “bleeding softie liberal” or a “bandwagoner,” then I guess I’ll bleed with the band.  What’s most interesting is that we’ll cheer for protesting when it comes to the fictional characters of movies or books or for the rights that we enjoy, but we mock with generalizations when it comes to a group we don’t care to understand.  It’s okay for the cast of The Hunger Games, but not by real starving impoverished families of young dead men. 


To answer your final questions:

- “As a leader, I ask what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters who were/are affected by these issues?”

I’m not sure what words could suffice.  There are so many words already, just pages upon pages of drivel.  Perhaps I just want to listen, to hear you, to know you.

- “What do you say to a young black man who fears for his life whenever he sees a cop? What do you say to a young black woman whose brother was killed unlawfully by the hands police brutality?”

Here’s a quick story.  One of my best friends Andre is a wonderful black gentleman who’s going to be one of my groomsmen.  About ten years ago, when I tried to kill myself with a bottle of pills, he was there for me after I got out of the hospital.  For months, he encouraged me and came over and recorded songs with me and took me out to dinner.  I owe him my life. 

At times we discuss some of these race issues.  And from a period of years, the one thing I know is this: that it’s absolutely impossible to know what it’s like to be a black man in America unless you are one.  I can’t imagine the fear he lives with, the anxiety when he walks into a store and everyone thinks he’s stealing, the looks he got when he dated a non-black person, the constant paranoia of police officers who eyeball him all over.  Of course he’s well aware that everyone is capable of racism, including himself.  But racism affects everyone differently: and it’s not some abstract political issue for him.

To some degree, I can understand as an Asian that he and I are never on an equal ground with non-minorities because of that invisible unspoken wall of race.  Yet his hurt is magnified to a level I cannot comprehend.  He lives with the secret horror of a racial rape-culture, in which he must take extra precautions on every street corner because a wrong move could get him “legally” killed.  

The sad thing here is that I don’t know how to console him.  I’m not sure I could even try.  I can only hurt with him in the trenches, to hear him out and to be there in his pain, and to never belittle his very real struggle in a world that is often mad.  Yet still, he believes in hope too, for a better world.  And that begins with us acknowledging in our homes and churches and streets that this pain is a reality, and we need each other.

— J.S.

What About All Those People Who Never Got A Chance With God?

Anonymous asked:

I have been raised in a Christian household & attended a Christian school my entire life. However, I only started taking my relationship “seriously” with God after graduating. Why did God choose ME to know of Him and place me in my aforementioned environments? What about those who live life never knowing about God? Why doesn’t God reach out to them? Since I know God, is it my duty to spread His Word? What about Catholics/Muslims etc.? Am i just blessed? But Isn’t that unfair to the nonbelievers?! :/


Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very sensitive gentle heart about this.  As an Asian born in America, I know that I could’ve easily been a Buddhist in Korea or a Shintoist in Japan or a Confucianist in China.  Or even a Communist or Marxist or Socialist.  Or a tribal villager living on a Filipino island.  Or one of those Tibetan monks in the mountains who only eats apricots and lives to 120.

This issue has always bothered me, as I found it rather disturbing that God would geopolitically confine Himself to one people-group for millions of years, and only recently branch out in the church era.  Even then, I would think a “loving God” could offer every person an opportunity to hear about Him, at least once, if He truly loved us.

So let’s consider a few things, some which we might disagree on, which is okay.  This is only from my own limited understanding of doctrine, the church, and our culture.


1) We actually have no idea how God is reaching people in the world right now.

I think a Westernized Christianese churchgoer tends to assume that evangelism is a package deal in which we make a specific offer, and if someone “accepts Jesus in my heart,” then it’s a closed deal.  Like this is the only way to go.  This is very much a post-Enlightenment idea in which all information must be transmitted by systematic form, line by line, until we can regurgitate it verbatim.

Yet if we think Jesus can only be shared by the confines of human language, then our view of God is much, much too small.

While I’m 100% supportive of mission teams, evangelism, and preaching the Gospel as much as possible, I think we’re limiting God when we box Him inside an academic Western checklist.  The Bible makes clear that God can speak through dreams, circumstances, images, visions, and in one case, even an ass.  We simply have no idea what our creative God can do with the limitless spectrum of people in this vast world.

Of course I don’t rely on this to dismiss evangelism, and at the very least, our faith must contain words.  But you’ve heard those stories of isolated tribal villages that have received dreams about Jesus and are now faithful Christians, without any contact from the outside world.  It could be crazy, sure, but I don’t ever want to downplay it either.  And the only way to find out this happened is to visit them, and if you find out they don’t know Jesus, then dear Christian: it’s suddenly on you.

In the end, I would never put it past God to reveal Himself in an imaginative number of ways that do not fit our tiny paradigm. 


2) It’s difficult to determine whether a person has “enough knowledge” to “be saved.”

I’ve always said that the Gospel is simple enough for the five year old and deep enough for the eighty-five year old.  The criminal who hung next to Jesus was saved in the last minutes of his life; a man like Nicodemus who knew about God his whole life was more lost than the prostitutes and prodigal sons.

This must mean that someone who dies in a school shooting and calls out to his bare little knowledge of Jesus could be saved.  A child in a tsunami or a person with Down syndrome or a man who’s lost his memories could still, at some point, understand the Gospel and not merely be saved, but safe. 

I don’t mean to sugarcoat this whole thing and say that a tiny head-knowledge will work for everyone.  I wouldn’t bet my life on it.  I just want us to ask: How much faith is really enough to get saved?  At what point must our lives prove what we really believe?  Where is the cut-off for saving knowledge and how do we even determine that?  Is there some point where our faith activates salvation?  Or is our faith truly given by grace and more about the object of our faith than the amount?

Romans 1 tells us that God shows Himself through everything, so that none are without Him.  This could be a stretch, but I might even say that God sees our faith by the grace He apportioned to each of us, so that we’re each accountable for what we individually know.  A teacher who tests his students on untaught material is a bad teacher, and maybe I’m being too soft here: but I don’t believe God is a bad teacher.


3) Not just anyone goes to Hell. 

Prisons aren’t built for people who don’t believe in the police.  They’re built for criminals.  I know this analogy is not perfect, but the concept of Hell is simply justice for those unrepentant people who’ve been a part of rape, genocide, oppression, slavery, and abuse.  I’m sure it makes God sick to His stomach: but if He was not a God against injustice, then He wouldn’t be loving at all. 

I’ve written several posts on this here, here, and here.


4) Seriously, God chose you.  Which is both good news and a wake-up call.

I believe that we must absolutely rejoice that God has called us.  If you’re a Christian, I hope you never get over it.  The God of the universe knocked on the door of your heart and said hello, to you.  This is nothing to be ashamed of or to be guilty over, because contrary to church culture, God does want us to feel good about some things. As if Christians need one more guilt-trip to be all somber and morbid on Sunday mornings.  So be joyful that He chose you, my friend.

But also know: Growing up in a “Christian environment” is not the blessing we think it is.  In the West, being a “Christian” is as easy as praying a scripted prayer or sitting in a pew one hour per week.  In the East, being a Christian can usually get you killed in a variety of slow unpleasant ways.  I’ve hardly ever met a lukewarm Eastern Christian: because their environment has already weeded out the uncommitted.

If we ever think, “Oh I’m so lucky to be a Christian in America” — we’re not only disrespecting every other country and Christian in the world by assuming a better culture, but we’re thinking WAY too much of ourselves.  Certainly there are advantages to our country, but there are so many slick subtle disadvantages: which are the most dangerous kind.

Trust me on this: Most Eastern Christians are appalled at our abuse of religious freedom in America, and would laugh to tears at the entertainment culture within Western church.  I don’t mean to sound like a superior snob here, but I’m saying: being an American Christian is more reason to give, share, love, and talk about Jesus, because we have the freedom to do so.  I say this with all grace for you, but if you feel sorry for third-world people who might never attend church like you do, then that exposes a blinded arrogance and a wrong presumption about our “Christian nation.”  We must both rejoice in our faith and be humble in our fortune.

I’m saying this because I love you more, and not less.  Before we weep for some concept of the faithless person in another country, we so-called lucky Christians must first weep for ourselves.  Tears of joy, yes, and tears of grieving love for our neighbors who don’t know Jesus. 

— J.S.

Aug 4

Being “convicted” and “wrecked” all the time is too easy. Being cynical of church culture is too easy. Saying that we can “abuse grace” and “God is holy wrath” is too easy. Saying “you better not come at me with that guilt-fear-shame” is too easy.

You know what’s hard?

A balanced, thoughtful, nuanced, self-examining faith.

One that emerges from an increasingly accurate picture of God’s love AND God’s holiness.

One in which grace is both our rest AND resolve, in which God’s love is both our safe haven and our motivation.

What’s hard is to cultivate a faith that has room for sinners like you and me, for hypocrites who don’t get it yet, for bloggers who disagree with us, for Christians who love Jesus even if they differ on the way they do church, and for Pharisees and liberals and everyone in-between and beyond.

- J.S. from this post 

Aug 3

The Honeymoon Has To End: Your Church Ain’t Perfect




There will be a moment when you will hate your pastor’s smug little face and his grin and those quirky Christianese catchphrases out his grinning smiley mouth.

You will eventually resent your church.

You will hate the music, the seats, the bulletin font, the ushers, the way they force the offering plate in your lap, the self-promoting announcements, the tacky jumbo screen.

I mean just three months ago, you loved your pastor.  You were excited at church.  You loved the praise team.  But that moment comes when everything is too loud and too shrill and suddenly grating and irritating — and we think our best option is to leave.

The moment you find out your church isn’t perfect can be very disorienting.  Your pastor curses?  He watches Breaking Bad?  The praise team went out for a beer?  There’s gossip in the church?  How dare they.

We go from idealism to optimism to pessimism.  It’s inevitable.


Sometimes we wait for the pastor to make some theological mistake so we can justify our anger.  I’ve done it too.  I fuel my resentment with every last straw.  I build my precious hate-tent and mentally argue with the sermon and find all the ways I could make this church better.

I get tired of doing this.  I think many of us who secretly hate our churches just forget that the honeymoon has to end, and that the church was messed up long before we got there. 

If the church isn’t messy, then it’s not a church.  That’s why God calls us to be in a body of other people: to endure with those we would never hang out with, to persevere with different preferences, to overcome our loss of patience and our growing frustrations and our silly hang-ups, to really love others when we least want to.

There’s no real love that doesn’t push past the initial illusions of perfection.  The real kind of love that Jesus aims for is the kind that embraces the ugly underside of our faults and flaws, and looks not at who we should be, but could be.

I’m praying we are not so quick to force undue pressure on our pastors, churches, and fellow believers.  I hope we don’t pick on our human nature as a reason to quit.  Jesus didn’t do that to us, either.

— J.S.

Do Christians Have “Stockholm Syndrome” And Make Excuses For Their Abusive God?

eternallyforevereverythinglove said:

Hello! What do you think about the statement that Christians (and generally believers) have Stockholm Syndrome? I’ve picked this up somewhere and did some research. It’d make sense and it makes me feel weird about my faith now. Thanks and God bless!


Hey there my friend: I took some time to read about this, and it seems to be a new form of the argument that “Christians are brainwashed into unquestioning belief and indoctrinated to their oppressive church institutions and cultures.” 

Like all accusations against the Christian faith, there is always an element of truth to them because people are people, and we cannot perfectly reflect a perfect God.  We’re messy creatures with mixed motives in a gray-space struggle. 

What I mean is: Any argument against the Christian faith will make some kind of logical sense, because it will make sense against everyone regardless of their affiliation. We can blame religion just as much as we can blame human stupidity.

When someone says, “The church is full of hypocrites” — I always say, “Well that’s why you should go.”  Not in a mean way, but I’m saying: There are hypocrites at businesses, schools, hospitals, fraternities, non-profits, and the White House (gasp!), but the difference is, the church is the one place you can admit it and find healing.  Yes, hypocritical Christians have harmed many of us, and we need to confess that.  But as a tactic to dismiss faith, this is a cheap unthoughtful argument that’s a fluffy insubstantial defense mechanism.  Most of these arguments have NOT gone to the bottom of themselves, at all.

So when someone talks about “Christian brainwashing,” here are a few thoughts to consider.  As always, please feel free to skip around.


1) It’s true that the mainstream church has damaged people with cult-like behavior, and we must absolutely be aware of this and apologize.

If Christians can’t admit this, there’s no point to having this discussion.  When someone slams the church, I always end up agreeing with their criticisms.  I don’t mean that it makes me doubt God: but their feelings are valid and they’ve been genuinely hurt by the church.  We have to start there.  We need to talk about it.  We can’t defend all our behavior, because some of it has been atrocious, and we must apologize. 

Also, here are Five Signs You’re Probably In One Of Those Cults.


2) We are all indoctrinated, into a particular system of belief, no matter where we roll.

Most Western individuals don’t realize that they live inside a Post-Enlightenment individualistic “rational” mindset that’s Pavlovian-conditioned to reject anything outside of naturalistic explanation.  Our dear brother C.S. Lewis called this chronological snobbery, in which we believe our current slice of time is far more advanced than other any other time in history. 

We’re largely a product of our times.  We have ALL bought into paradigms that enforce certain restrictions on our values.  Even the value that “I’m above these values” is still a specific constrained worldview.  So when you accuse someone of being brainwashed, you’re just as brainwashed into the opposition of whatever view you’re accusing.

Of course, most Westerners who disagree with Christianity will say “You’re a narrow-minded intolerant bigot.”  A Westernized brain will instantly dismiss the spiritual realm and conservative values.  But dismissing an entire group of people because of their ideology is still an ideology.  To say, “I tolerate everything except intolerance” must deny its very own rule.  

If you’re beholden to your own particular views in fear of betraying your camp or being ridiculed, you’re being held hostage, and this takes a blinding self-rationalization that’s — oh right, just like Stockholm Syndrome.  This happens with both the very religious and the very secular: and if you deny that it happens with you, you’re proving this exact point.  Everyone is a captive to their own particular set of beliefs, no matter where you turn. 

I know what I’m saying will bother the typical Western person (and if you’ve been indoctrinated by secularism long enough, you’ll feel you’re superior to all this too.  You’re not, and neither am I).  But when I was an atheist, I became weary of atheists because they thought they were so enlightened.  When I was a Reformed Calvinist, I became weary of Calvinists because they thought they were so enlightened. 

Really, they were both nearsighted and full of retconning, fanwanking, and preprogrammed defenses for their own little gods.  And as an Eastern-Western hybrid, I recognize the arrogant self-important myopia of both sides.

If you’re still not okay with this, let’s try an experiment.  Stockholm Syndrome says, “I understand why he abused me, it’s probably for the right motives.  I get why he’s correcting me, because there must be a good reason.”  Those are bad rationalizations that could get you killed.  But let’s take that to the opposite extreme.  What if every time my future spouse did the slightest thing I disliked, I suspected a false motive?  And what if every time my future spouse contradicted me, I shut her down?  That wouldn’t be a real marriage.  I’m demanding a robot.

Someone who says, “I don’t want a God who could ever do something I dislike” or “God can’t correct me” really just wants a robot-god.  And someone who is enslaved to Post-Enlightenment Western thinking has already determined their own robot-god too.


3) The old argument that “God will send you to Hell if you don’t worship Him, so He must be a terrorist” is a tired argument used by only the most earnest first-time philosophers.

For that, I will point you here:

- Hell and Heaven As Motivation For Faith: A Mega-Post


4) God’s heart for us is that we freely choose Him.

Christianity in its purest form will invite questioning.  It’s open to deconstruction.  If you’re frustrated with God, you can yell about it, ask about it, shake a fist and vent.  You can disagree and stomp the ground and throw things and yell “Why.”  Just read the Book of Psalms or Jeremiah or Lamentations.  None of the writers were rationalizing what God did, at all.  There was a ton of unresolved tension, and some of my first questions in Heaven will be about that crazy Old Testament.

But really, I believe the God of the Bible is open to our challenges.  He’s okay with all our fist-shaking.  As I’ve said before, I would much rather be mad with God than mad without Him.

Also: Our entire world of false dichotomies forces you into one fixed viewpoint or another.  Most people get upset if you try to re-arrange their bottle of dogma.  Most systems of belief are self-contained dominions where nothing goes in or out.  A Democrat is expected to act one way, a Republican another. 

Which is why Jesus was so wholly unpredictable and angered both sides.  Jesus himself was a safe haven who is not defined by dogmatic party lines, but by his gracious solidarity with real human beings caught in the messy crossfire of a broken world.  There are no clean-cut solutions here.

I’ve managed to piss off both conservatives and liberals with my stance on homosexuality.  Take that how you will.  The Christian is able to keep multiple viewpoints within tension because true Christianity does not usurp our identity, but at once draws out the true self while creating a unified ground. 

In the end, God is not holding us at gunpoint here. He wants us to think for ourselves.  He also has our very best interests at heart, so of course, He would want us to choose Him.  If God was the most glorious being in the entire universe, He would be wrong not to point to Himself as the most worthy of all glory.  But neither He will ever force that upon us, because He gave us the free will to choose.  That’s what makes us human, and not hostages.  God wants the purest relationship with us, without coercion or agenda or even a mutual exchange.  How could we ever give to God more than He ever gives to us?  When we are with Him, it is always an abundance of grace.

I’ll leave you with two wonderful quotes by C.S Lewis once again:

"The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free."

"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

— J.S.

The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind
J.S. Park

Hello lovely wonderful friends!

This is a message I had the privilege to preach at an amazing college ministry in Gainesville, FL. 

The message is titled: The Reckless, Relentless, Sloppy Grace of God: The Church That Jesus Had In Mind.

Of anything I’ve ever preached, this one is the truest message of my heart: that we would become a community of reckless honesty that gets entrenched into the mess of real lives with thoughtful nuance and that costly love called grace.  Whether you hate church or you’ve attended your whole life, I believe this is what God is after.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: My time at the mental institution with drug addicts and sex addicts and recovering mental patients, the awkward harrowing nerve-racking experience of bringing your friend to church (and it happens to be sacrifice-a-live-animal day), the cringe-inducing moment when the preacher goes political, finding out what percentage of the church is actually God’s intention, the recent trend of movies where bad guys are not really bad but have a tragic back-story, what saying “I do” really means, that time I fought a pastor in a parking lot, and sculpting a real eye-to-eye face-to-face friendship over coffee.

Here are other messages from the podcast.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J.S.

Jul 7

On Racism, Bruce Lee, and X-Ray Vision

I am Korean, and I’ve been a victim of racism my whole life.  I hate to use the word “victim,” but really, your race is nothing you ask for, and in a melting pot like America I’m still painfully aware that I am not like most people.

More than my faith, my socioeconomic status, my intellect, my demeanor — this has been the one dividing wall between me and my white friends that is just as tangible as the seat I’m on.  I am an alien.  I have different traditions.  I also own a dog.  I keep explaining myself to people because they think I’m going to eat him.   

I grew up in the States but I’m still the token Asian guy.  When I visit an American church, they are proud to have an Asian person in their midst. They try to make me talk to the other Koreans. I am a victory for their diversity.

Since I’m this hybrid-Asian, it’s apparently okay to make jokes about chopsticks, Bruce Lee, martial arts, and eating octopus.  The thing is: I love chopsticks, Bruce Lee, martial arts, and eating octopus.  So do a lot of people.  I just don’t feel like making this a point every time I introduce myself.  I want to be a human being, not a flyer for AsiaFest or a punchline on South Park.  I don’t want to cater to anyone’s relaxed stance on ethnicity, as if “I’m cool enough to make racist Asian jokes because I’m friends with this one Asian guy.”

Probably the worst thing though is that Asians have zero rights in America.  I don’t mean legal or civil rights.  I just mean: If Abercrombie and Fitch decided to make racist t-shirts about you, or a news station read off some racist names for the pilots of a crashed Asiana flight, or a major Hollywood movie used yellowface for their white actors — then about three people would care for roughly two days.  Asians are known to have passive dormant voices in the Western culture because we do have passive dormant voices in the West, and if an Asian kid was killed in the middle of the street by a white guy, no one would know about it.  Except this already happened to two fourteen year old Korean girls, and no one knew about it. No viral blog posts, no outrage; just quiet grief.

This probably sounds like I’m endorsing racial entitlement, but I hate entitlement. No one owes me anything. I can only hope for X-Ray Vision, that perhaps some day more of us will see we’re just a bunch of skeletons walking around with the same frailties and weaknesses and hopes as the next guy. I want eyes to see you as a God-created fellow individual, with the same dignity due to your very existence. I want to care about your dreams and what you do and what you like to do and who you’ve become. If your race is part of that, I will love that too.

My race is an important part of me, but it’s not the whole story, and while I love my roots, I am way more than knowing how to say hello in my language. I want to talk about other things besides Asian things. I want a voice that at once distinguishes myself as an Asian-American with a rich vibrant heritage, yet also I am a person of color who is just a person. I like white people things. I like black people things. I like Latino people things. I like Middle Eastern things. And yes: I like people-people things. My eyes are probably smaller, but my heart can be just as big as yours.

— J.S.

Jun 2

Mary Vs. Martha: Distracted, Detached, and Itching For Intimacy
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the second part of a sermon series called "Snapshots: The Men & Women of the Bible.”  It explores how the people in the Bible were just as fallen as you and me, and how God worked through them.

This message is titled: Mary Vs. Martha: Distracted, Detached, and Itching For Intimacy.

It’s about breaking through the constant noise of distractions and truly being present and engaged with people and with God.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: When your brain goes off on a bizarre obscure thought-train, writing term papers before the existence of Wikipedia, four studies on the mind-warping effects of social media, the dehumanizing psychology behind flirtation, the secret competition of elaborate marriage proposals to get the most views on YouTube, and the simplicity of getting to know someone for who they are.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

The Power To Edit Your Own Life
J.S. Park

Hello beloved wonderful friends!

This is the sixth and final part of a sermon series called “Why You Christian?”  It explores the question of why anyone would ever want to be a Christian.

This message is titled: The Power To Edit Your Own Life.

It’s about the choice to change the story of your life and where you are heading: and it begins with confronting yourself in candid honesty.

Stream above or download here!


Some things I talk about are: That moment in the movie when the hero is down to nothing but-then-wow-comeback, the sudden epiphany when the villain’s henchman turns against him, that time my friend typed out my angry text messages and read them to me, those random heart-punching face-to-face encounters where you walk away different than before, and going to the movies with Jesus.

Be blessed and love y’all!

— J

What About The What-About?




Every time I’ve expressed a pretty clear opinion, someone always asks, "What about ___?  What about ___?  And what about ___?" 

Of course, it’s absolutely necessary to ask questions in discourse.  We need open dialogue and hearty discussion, and it’s okay to disagree.

But missing a “what-about” doesn’t mean I suddenly endorse the opposite of what I missed.  Because I’m human, and I miss certain angles, and I’m not always balancing my opinion with a billion different nuances — I am bound to leave cracks in opinions. 

We are way too quick to demonize each other on these openings, and you see it happen in the blogosphere like we’re just waiting for a lame duck to attack.  I wish I could address every single exception, and maybe we should try it, but to strive for an economy of words while balancing them is always an uphill task.  We could offer a bit of grace here.

If I say, “Love everyone” and you say “What about the Nazis?” — I’m not endorsing Hitler and eugenics and White Power.

If I say, “Have grace and be patient” and you say “What about my drug-addicted wife-beating money-stealing friend?” — I’m not endorsing heroin or spousal abuse or bank robbers.

If I say, “Don’t be a religious overbearing guilt-tripper” and you say “What about some grace for those guilt-trippers?” — then please know that I include myself in what I’m saying, and I’m not above my own criticism.

All this is the worst sort of logical fallacy that wouldn’t hold up with a college freshman in Intro to Law.  It’s a bizarre straw-man that makes us look tough by beating up a cartoon.

Can we maybe stop forcing words into other peoples’ mouths?  I regret doing this too.  It’s a misquoting massacre.  There are so many times someone misunderstands me and I want to get snarky and yell, “Yeah that’s what I was trying to say.  You totally figured me out, champ!  You showed me.”  But I just get sad about the whole thing.

Even if it sounds like you or I are making an implication: a slippery slope is not a cliff, and making arguments out of implications is the behavior of young children in a playground.  Dialogue is for grown-ups.  I’m terrible at this sometimes, but that’s exactly why we need grace.


When someone misses an angle and doesn’t cover all their bases, this does NOT make them an ignorant anti-polemical a-hole.

I suppose if we were to look line-by-line in even the most careful articulate blog, we could conclude “blasphemous heretic” or a “lying witch abortionist” (both of which I have been called), and we could find easy doctrinal flaws and supposed contradictions.  But we would’ve still failed to remotely come close to knowing a real opinion or knowing this person as a human being, and instead managed to hold up a hologram version of the person that we would all easily bash, too.

If you absolutely have to call out someone in disagreement, at least consider NOT speculating on what that person really believes. This is how we end up with quote-by-quote counter-arguments and all kinds of endless stupid semantics and pointless blog drama. It’s healthy to debate sometimes, but not when you attack someone’s character for the sake of hearing your own voice. Presumption will always make us pretentious.

I’m trying to remember that the person who expresses incomplete ideas does not mean this person is evil. It’s easy to ask for clarification without being a jerk. It’s easy to extend grace when you ask “What about ___?” It doesn’t have to escalate into blogger assassination. We are way better than this.

I’d imagine that if you and I could sit down for coffee and wrestle with these things, we would find we actually have a lot of common ground and even come to like each other. You’d see I am a little more conflicted and layered than you had assumed, and I’d find that you have insight which I never even considered, and we would exchange life in such a way that does not demean one another, but builds a bridge to a greater good. We might not agree, and that isn’t even the point.

It is the civil sharing of our commonalities that humanizes us into real individuals, and reminds us why we even fight to express ourselves at all. Over coffee, face to face, eye to eye, it all changes. I will only say to you what I can say to you across a table: and I will love you as a human being who struggles as I do.

— J.S.

May 7

I think there’s a double-guilt in the Christian community when we feel emotions. When we feel “bad,” we end up feeling bad about feeling bad. It’s because we falsely believe that we can’t feel bad if we have Jesus — so suddenly when we’re depressed or anxious or stressed, we think that we’re “betraying God” somehow. So there’s guilt, and then the guilt about the guilt.

But I want you to know, these are the everyday throes of being a human in a fallen world. We are broken by one or two or a dozen sin-tendencies while we live on this earth. Yours might be anger and mine might be lust: but we’re all saddled with a thorn (2 Corinthians 12). When you’re simply prepared for the thorn to poke you, you won’t be so shocked when it happens: and that’s half the battle. The other half is knowing how to handle it.

- J.S. from this post

May 7

Often, when I see articles about people sharing the downsides of porn, even from a non-religious view-point, I will see so many comments with backlash, telling the author that they are making the statistics up and that it's not harming anyone. It leaves me so discouraged, as if they do not care about men and women and children who are being exploited or even their own sex-life. Why do you think people go out of their way to express extreme hostility towards those exposing the harm of porn?

Hey there dear friend, thank you also for your very kind fanmail earlier.

I’ve actually never gotten this sort of question before, which is very insightful of you to ask.  I’ve noticed it too, and I believe it points to a much more systemic issue inside us that reflects the spirit of the world as a whole.

One thing I’ve learned is that everyone will inevitably demonize the opposite of what they idolize.  So whenever I talk about the dangers of sex before marriage, there is always someone who will lash out and say, “Monogamy is an oppressive ancient manmade structure like slavery that reduces human happiness.”  And the mainstream will jump on this preprogrammed automatic attack like it’s so right and logical and true.

This happens in Christian circles too.  When someone says, “Christians can drink alcohol in moderation,” there is always a Christian group that will lash out, “Alcohol killed my dad and beat up my mother, you’re a clueless moron.”  And while I can understand that: again, there is always an aggressive demonization at play.

Most times we’re not honest with our own motives.  We hate something else because we really want to continue what we “love.”  Even Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, admitted that his atheism was easier because he could just have mindless sex all the time.  It’s not that he logically concluded there was no god; it’s that he didn’t want there to be a god.  As a former atheist, I’m embarrassed to admit this was partially true.  No one approaches an issue with an objective viewpoint: the deck is always stacked against morality because we hate the idea of absolute authority.  No one wants to say that there must be a “law” which contradicts the self, and when we are contradicted, we become violent.  Or we purposefully remain ignorant of thoughtful introspection to perpetuate our destructive habits: because we’d rather take the first class train to hell.

People will go to great lengths to protect their babies.  Some of our babies are porn, sex, drugs, guns.  Sometimes it’s a certain civil right or a government policy.  Sometimes it’s “anti-bigotry,” which at times is still bigotry.  In all these cases, we’re certainly free to disagree.  But human nature entails that we will pick a side and attempt to dismantle the other, which always dehumanizes real people into a faceless enemy.  So you end up with very thoughtless, baseless ad hominem and reductionistic tactics, and no one is really trying to have a conversation.

The internet and blogosphere have made this infinitely easier to do.  I can yell angry words into my screen the second I think them.  Dialogue can’t happen when you’re not looking another human being in the eye.  We’re slower to ask questions and quicker to get more site views or affirmation from the choir.  I don’t think I’m saying anything new here, but we know it’s getting worse.  The polarized vitriolic dogma in this country is downright awful now.  Just go to any YouTube video.

The best thing here to do is continue raising social awareness in a non-partisan way that earns the respect of listeners while cutting through the deluge of trollish mudslinging.  Just know that the moment you stand for anything, especially an issue of morality, you will instantly become a lightning rod of despisal and deconstruction.  You will be labeled and taken out of context and twisted around.  But that still shouldn’t stop us from speaking up about what’s right, because that’s how history was changed, and it can still happen even in a time like this.  God bless you on that fight, my friend.

— J