Putting The “Justice” Into Social Justice

If you pay any attention to the modern world you’ll notice a buzzword floating around that might be a bit confusing for literalists like me. When I hear a term I pick apart it’s meaning just to be sure it’s being used correctly. Probably the most overused buzzword floating around right now is “social justice.”

Recently there was a meeting headed by John MacArthur to come up with a Christian response to the term. The group came up with a 14 part “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”. I plan on combing through it over the next few days and give a good summary of what I agree with and disagree with. From my initial scanning I will say I am not totally sold on it.

The more I research the term the more nebulous it’s meaning. Just like the term “toxic masculinity“, the definition of the term “social justice” seems dependent on one’s political beliefs.

What’s my definition of “social justice”?

The “social” part is not hard to understand and for the most part I think people use it correctly. It’s pretty hard not to. “Social” just refers to people. The term clearly refers to how we treat people.

The “justice” part is much harder to understand.

“Justice” is defined by the Google as: “just behavior or treatment”, “the quality of being fair and reasonable”, “the administration of the law” which is somewhat helpful, if we can define “just”, “fair”, and “reasonable.”

“Just” is defined as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair” which seems clear right? It’s also defined as “(of treatment) deserved or appropriate in the circumstances.

So who decides what is fair? Fairness is a rather subjective thing. “Deserved” is also a relative term, especially in this day and age of entitlement nonsense.

These definitions are pretty cut and dry when speaking in legal terms. When a civil violation or a criminal action takes place fairness and a deserved retribution can usually be pretty easy to parse out. In “Social Justice” however, fairness and deserts can mean just about anything.

That leaves us with “morally right” and “appropriate in the circumstances”.

As a Christian, I have a basis for the moral treatment of others in scripture: “Treat others as I would have them treat me” “Love my neighbor” and “love my enemy”. To be socially just I must take pains to ensure I am loving those around me. Add “appropriate to the circumstances” and this becomes a slightly more difficult task.

Social justice as a Christian requires a great amount of discernment and attention to individuals. We cannot approach the subject as the pagan world does with blanket platitudes and government programs. We have to be involved with individual members of all classes, races, genders, religions, and whatnot.

To be just we must know what our neighbor deserves (love, first and foremost) in their individual circumstances. We must treat our enemies with love, understanding that they may deserve different things than our family or neighbors (again, they deserve love, but tempered with caution).

Social justice is a silly term for Christians to use. We have had the golden rule for millenia, why use such a trendy buzzword?

I’m just going to keep on treating others with love and kindness.

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The Toxicity of Masculinity

A well articled subject.

Buzzwords are notorious for having hard to pin down definitions.

Definitions of buzzwords are frequently dependent on the social or political persuasion of the individual being asked. This is why I tend to avoid them, they are imprecise and often meaningless to a real search for truth.

One such buzzword (buzzphrase?) getting a ton of use lately is “Toxic Masculinity” (“TM” for brevity).

I have seen “TM” used by hard core feminists and not so hard core feminists alike. “TM” gets blamed for everything from manspreading to mass shootings.

Basically anything that men do in quantifiable measures more than women can be reduced to “toxic masculinity” depending on who you talk to.

I am a fan of one definition I found. This is the definition that describes toxic masculinity as a cultural push to make men into “manly men”.

In “TM” culture, men are supposed to be hyper-sexual, hyper-aggressive, unemotional, aloof, and unable to nuture or show compassion. Any man who is not “manly” on these terms is a “cuck” or any number of other derogatory terms. I have no problem opposing that kind of “toxic masculinity”.

It is destructive to men and women to define men in such terms.

It’s not just the culture at large where we see this push. The concept of “wild” men is quite prevalent in the church as well. Men are supposed to be “wild at heart” and their wives should not seek to “tame” (ie emasculate) them by insisting on their emotional availability. Men are supposed to be strong and quiet and never let their wives see them as weak or insecure (ie human). Godly men don’t need to be corrected by their wives, that would undermine his role as strong leader. He is to be left to his own devices, after all, God did make him strong for a reason.

This kind of “masculinity” is just as repugnant as the world’s view of men as womanizers and aggressors. But, as one article points out, it’s a culture, not a real masculinity. The problem is not masculinity itself, but the way we have defined it.

Frequently I see “toxic masculinity” used whenever any injustice (real or perceived) against women occurs. By this definition “toxic masculinity” is at play even when something as simple as a book without a strong female character is in question (or if that character is a “strong female“) .

If women aren’t proportionately represented in a particular job class, it’s probably the fault of “toxic masculinity”. If a man rapes a woman, he must have been raised in “toxic masculinity”. In the mind of many of the hyper-feminists out there, it seems like nothing ever happens apart from it.

Could it, in the definition I appreciate, be at play in any and all of these things? Maybe. But always? And to the point where every time a disproportionate hiring or a rape or a mass shooting occurs we need to automatically place it in the “guilty” category?

I don’t think so. Nailing down why a bad thing happens in this world is hardly ever simple, labeling it with a buzzword to raise “awareness” (another buzzword) is not going to stop it from happening again.

I also have seen “toxic masculinity” blamed when any gendering of a person takes place. If you call a girl “pretty” or a boy “handsome” or “strong” without correcting your speech to say boys can be pretty or girls strong you are guilty of a pernicious crime. In this view any promotion of gender differences is automatically supporting “toxic masculinity.”

Gender differences do exist. The problem is not that genders exist, the problem is that we gender things. We gender colors, blue is a boy color, pink is for girls. We gender toys, dolls are for girls, cars are for boys. We gender personalities, females are nurturing, males are rough and aggressive.

It is not the fault of toxic masculinity that boys can’t like pink and play gently with dolls. It’s the fault of a culture that likes efficiency in distinction. “Boys are boys and do these boy things. Girls are girls and do these girl things.” Our culture likes cut and dry distinctions, anything outside of the norms makes it uncomfortable.

I think this is also why buzz words and catch all phrases gain such traction. It is easier to blame a concept of “Toxic Masculinity” when men do horrible things than it is to dissect individual factors.

I have a hard time adopting phrases that get adopted by the uber political class. They water down and change meanings all the time to fit their needs. Words and phrases get overused and misused and no one can quite pin down exactly what is being communicated.

Words have meaning, and words without meaning have no place in rational discourse.

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The Groans of Settling

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Staring at a mountain of mess is not something you want to do when you come home. It’s even worse when it hasn’t been home for half a year. Those million annoyances I mentioned the other day make settling back into life much much more difficult than it ought to be.

In my head I had left the house much cleaner. I worked really hard the couple weeks before we left to get it ready. But when we walked in it was just scary. The way this house looked when we walked in is just another indicator that stress makes hard work far less efficient. Apparently I had just spun my wheels in February and March. Sure, I fixed the broken truck (this is beginning to sound like a broken record), but I let other things slide.

The best part of returning here is that after six months so much of this stuff has lost it’s usefulness to me. I haven’t seen it or touched it or used it in half a year. Why do I really need it? How much of our junk do we just keep because “one day” we might find use for it again? I have realized that is a very pauperish thing to do. Poor people keep things and re-use things almost compulsively. This is not wrong, when the situation calls for it. But when you have the resources to replace broken things or pass along unused things without having to “worry” about replacing them later, you should. I have not used so much of this stuff, why hang on to it when I can give it to someone who can, and if I need it later simply replace it?

Emotions are fickle also. I said I liked it out there and wasn’t so sure of here. But now that I am here I am not so sure. There are advantages to having the grocery store two miles away. There are also disadvantages to having fast food and shopping so close. There are temptations galore!

The biggest question right now is this: Is this vacation or is this life? when you spend equal time in different places it almost feels like you take on two different lives. We have different friends, different activities, different styles. It almost feels like we are entirely different people out there.

Settling in to a “new” place takes time. I’m still not sure this is home or not. But for now it will have to do.

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Home

A garden perhaps?

What makes a home a home?

For some it’s the noise of children, laughter, a crowd of family and the bustle of life. For others it’s smells: food cooking, trees and flowers, clean linens on a line.

For me?

I don’t know.

I’m on the precipice of moving back to the place that I called home for nearly ten years. But it doesn’t feel like I am headed home.

There is much I love about that place. There are people that I love, places that I love, and since driving Uber and delivery my intimacy with the city has grown. I know it in and out and I find every corner special in its own way. And the opportunities! Such a massive place with so many people and so many corners, there is food, nightlife, art, music, shopping, and jobs galore!

Yet, it still lacks something.

The place I grew up has long ago lost its “home” feeling, despite the family and friends that I have there. As soon as I left, the whole area changed. I get lost there now. I can’t stand the weather. The traffic is unbearable. There is a rush and a bustle which I have long since lost my stomach for.

Here? This is probably the only place I have ever been where no one says they want to leave. I have met more people and gotten to know them in the past six months than I ever have anywhere I have lived. The community here makes this place feel like home. For the first time in my life I feel like I am in a place where I can know and be known.

Of course I am conflicted. We have no physical home here like we do in Florida. Despite feeling home here I have yet to feel settled. But going back there for a season isn’t exactly settled. Back and forth is flux. And my mind is not good with flux.

But moving is change. And my mind is not big on change either.

And family? We have gotten accustomed to 700 miles away from them. This would be nearly 2,000. That’s hardly a short trip, and a family of seven can’t just hop on a plane easily, not with the cost of tickets these days.

So is this home? Could this be home? Am I just so unsettled I’m desperate to call something “home”?

I hope to find out the answers to those questions in the next few months.

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Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.