Novels, Announcements, and Manhood

This is the front.

This is the front.

First, you’re probably hoping for an update about something I’ve written. The Chimaera Regiment is pretty much finished. It’s all written. It’s all edited. Except for a few typos, the book is done. It even has a tentative cover (right), and a map, too (below). It has not, however, been published.

I'm a map!

I’m a map!

I know, I know, it’s terribly frustrating, watching me work. “When will it be finished?” you ask, “When can I read it?” Well, as you may recall, almost two years ago I began an ill-advised and sorely underfunded Kickstarter project, about which I am definitely not bitter. The goal of this project was to produce The Chimaera Regiment as an audio-book (I believe the kids these days call them “audio weblogs” or perhaps “pod-casts”), for which I myself would be voice and guide.

The long and short of it is that this plan forges onward, without the help of crowd-funding. I have less than half the book recorded, none of it edited, and completing all of that will take some time. (Frankly, it should take less time than will pass in its pursuit, but my time is at a premium, and some things take precedence.) It promises to be a grand adventure in roaring fun with a musical soundtrack specially composed to match. Look forward to it.

When the audio-book is complete (not only completed in terms of production, but completed also in terms of performance for the masses), then the book will be published, at which time, you can buy it and read it (in your own, boring voice). Since there are 19 episodes for the audio-book, that means that it will be (A) the rest of production time, plus (B) 19 weeks of release before the printed version (or Kindle version, for that matter) is available.

Certain contests may be result in certain contest-winners receiving signed copies early. Pretend you still have an analog radio, and that anything I produce will actually be on the radio, and then remain attentive to my station by avoiding the rotating knob on the front of your hypothetical radio-wave device. (“Stay tuned!” and “Don’t touch that dial!”)

With that out of the way, I come to my second bit of happy news: my wife is with child, and after the circuit of the days, she will bring forth a son. The joy of these times seems renewed every morning, and cannot be touched by the shadows of despair. I am ecstatic. And so, with my vast array of parenting experience (I have managed to keep the child alive for about sixteen weeks, which is more than a lot of fathers can say these days), I am endeavoring to comment on an issue that stands before our culture in a way that is very poignant:

Masculinity.

There have been a lot of books written about masculinity (especially in relation to Christianity). I’ve read plenty of them. There was Wild at Heart by Eldredge, A Young Man After God’s Own Heart by George, The Samson Syndrome by Atteberry, and probably a dozen others that I don’t remember now. You see, when I was a boy, I desperately wanted to be a man. That’s the dream, after all, of all boys: manhood. Whether we idolize our fathers or despise them, we want to be real men. And almost all of us differ on what it means to be a man. Most often, I hear two sides of this argument: “We have to stop feminizing men and attacking masculinity in this country!” versus, “The masculinity presented by society is too violent, and boys need to know that emotions are okay!”

In truth, these two positions are not opposed. As men, and as fathers, we must stand against the effeminacy of the modern man; but as men, and especially as fathers, we must stand against the violent tendencies that our high-spirited wildness seeks to engender. I recently saw a video posted on social media decrying the violence encouraged among the boys of society.

It was not terribly long ago that I was a boy, and – mostly from my peers – I kept hearing about how I should behave, especially around women. Most of their advice was, of course, terrible, and I saw that even then. I heard a lot of the comments echoed in the video above, and when I was teaching high school, I heard even more. The fact of the matter is that these comments are pervasive and perpetual, and they don’t only come from fathers. Perhaps they once did, but now, they are spread by peer groups, father-figures like teachers and principals, even mothers whose husbands and baby-daddies left them for less fertile pastures, so to speak. Society as a whole perpetuates the notion of the violently authoritative man. Only the violent man gains respect, because respect and fear are seen as one and the same.

But to be respected, a man must be loved; to be respected, fear must never enter the equation, because perfect love casts out all fear. You cannot beat respect out of another man; violence only elicits fear, and fear only resembles respect among the cowardly. No amount of violence can create respect in a man who is not cowed by his fear. A man like this has courage, and stands for himself – but more importantly, he stands for others. A man who deserves respect is not the one with the biggest stick, but the one with the strongest shield.

So certainly, we must teach our sons not to respond with violence when they are emotionally slighted. Such behavior is inherently unmanly; it is an expression of the fear that someone else could humiliate you, the fear that you have no control – but the truth is that adherence to this behavior, like all sin, is to cede control. In allowing violence to take over, you place your will beneath the fire in your heart.

Ironically, effeminacy is caused by the same thing – except the feelings in charge are seen as feminine, such as tenderness and sorrow. From the perspective of the modern man, there are three emotions: happiness, sadness, and anger. Happiness is what people would have if the world were perfect; sadness is feminine; and anger is masculine. From this perspective, when a boy is sad, he is seen as effeminate; when he is angry, he is seen as masculine; when he is happy, he is seen as naïve. Since he is a boy, the modern man sees feminine as bad, masculine as good, and naïve as foolish; the only emotion encouraged is anger, and uncontrolled anger begets violence.

That is not to say that effeminacy is a figment of the gangster’s imagination. On the contrary, many of those opposed to violence make the same assumptions, only they call sadness “tenderness.” Tenderness is feminine, anger is masculine, and happiness is foolish, because the world is a hard place. Since anger leads to violence, then masculinity is bad, so femininity must be good, and all boys should be encouraged to let their tenderness control them. And it’s true – when you make your will subject to your tender emotions, you will not be violent. But you will also not be manly. Instead, you will cower when threatened, and when someone attacks you or your friends, you will be defeated without contest. And every time a teacher punishes a boy for fighting back against a bully, s/he perpetuates this problem – after all, the bully still hears about how he must be masculine, angry, and violent at home, but now the bullied learn that even self-defense will be punished.

We see here two sides of the same coin: allow your anger to control you, and you will be “masculine,” which means violent; allow your tenderness to control you, and you will be “gentle,” which means effeminate. The real solution is to attack the root of the problem: we’re still flipping the same damn coin.

Violence is not the answer; neither is pacifism. The right answer is the victory of the will. Do not let baser things rule that which was designed to rule. When your urges command your decisions, you have already lost – regardless of which urges are in command. If your violent urges rule, then you will be violent; if your tender urges rule, then you will be effeminate.

But if your will rules, you will be a man.

Our violent tendencies can be dangerous, but when tamed, they can protect the ones we love from harm. Our tenderness can weaken us if left uncontrolled, but when harnessed, it can lead us to lay down our lives for those we love – both literally and figuratively. It is not enough to die for your family; first, you must live for them.

I pray that these are the lessons I will teach my son about masculinity.

To Be Arrested, or Not to Be Arrested?

I recently came across this story in the social media sphere – it declares that 54 people have been arrested for kneeling to pray. It caught my attention because, at first, I thought people were being arrested for some trumped-up charge, just to keep them from praying. It seemed unlikely, though, so I read the whole article to figure out the truth. (As wonderful as pro-Christian news sites are, they tend to ignore little things like legal charges and official regulations being violated. “Christian Man Arrested for Hosting Bible Study” is catchier than “Man Arrested for Blocking Residential Streets with a Hundred Visitors,” for example.)

At any rate, upon reading the aforementioned article, I learned that these people being arrested chose to be arrested as an intentional protest against the HHS mandate. In short, they knew the ordinance that protesters could not remain stationary during a protest, and they – with full intent to disobey the law – took their signs and knelt down and stuck to one place all day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of the HHS mandate, and I am a fan of religious freedom. But you can’t seriously think this is the best way to get that message across. We can (and should) write letters to Congress, both Representatives and Senators, opposing this legislation and seeking to have it removed; we can (and should) write letters to the President, voicing our concerns; we can (and should) protest with our votes this November; we can (and should) peaceably protest outside legislative and executive offices according to all prescribed laws and ordinances.

What we cannot, what we must not, do is violate laws for the sake of violating laws. In this case, these people have chosen to get arrested for violating a legitimate law (whether you agree with it or not, there is no restriction on religious freedom in an ordinance about remaining stationary during a protest – no religion absolutely requires you not to move while praying). They have done this in order to prove that they are willing to get arrested for violating an illegitimate law (the HHS mandate, which does violate religious freedoms, and therefore violates the Constitution of these United States).

This makes no sense whatsoever. To tell the government that one of its laws is unlawful, you break another of its laws, which is lawful? I may as well say, “I have chosen to protest the HHS mandate by driving at 88 mph in this 70 mph zone. My religion, dear officer, requires that I be moving fast enough to travel through time in order for my god to hear me.”

While you are trying to defend your religious freedom, you are telling your opponents that you consider your religious freedom more important than even the laws which do not impinge upon it. This behavior suggests that we Christians are, politically, a mix between anarchists and theocratics. To our opponents in court, we seem to be saying, “Any law which does not proceed directly from the mouth of God is unlawful, and we will not obey it if we do not wish to.”

This is, in short, preposterous.

In the first place, Christians have always been able to maintain the defense of our religious freedom on the grounds that it makes us good members of society. This was one of Justin Martyr’s arguments in his apologies to Roman emperors: Christians do not break laws, they do not kill or steal or maim or destroy, and in fact are opposed to the breaking of these laws by the very nature of their religion; all you cannot ask us to do is violate our religion by praying to other gods. But this argument only works so long as it is true; as soon as we start breaking laws arbitrarily to prove our point, we no longer can hold this defense, and in the public eye, we shift from law-abiding citizens to fanatical anarchists. This in no wise helps our cause.

In the second place, this behavior directly contradicts the commands of Christ and the apostles. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” the Lord said (Mark 12:17); Paul tells us to be in subjection to government, for governments are established by God (Romans 13:1-7; Psalm 22:28; Proverbs 8:15; ), even the governments that are opposed to His people from time to time  (Isaiah 10:5-11; Habakkuk 1:5-10) or the pagan rulers of pagan nations (Isaiah 44:28). God uses government to establish order in society; whenever that order is being righteously established, we should not oppose it. When, however, it is not order but persecution, when it commands disobedience to God, as the HHS mandate does, then, and only then, is it acceptable to oppose the government (as Daniel did, and as the apostles did, in their own times).

If you wish to prove that you will get arrested rather than obey the HHS mandate, then get arrested for not obeying the HHS mandate. Don’t go around getting arrested for disobeying legitimate ordinances, just to prove how serious you are. This is foolishness, and it undermines our position as Christians, as lawful citizens, and as morally upright people. Do not disobey for its own sake, but be as Daniel, such that even your hateful enemies can find no reproach against you, no condemnation, until they create a law that tries to seize your loyalty away from your God.

I am glad that people are willing to oppose the HHS mandate. But what you’re doing up there in D.C. makes just about no sense.

Kindle Lending Library

I have decided to include the “31 Prayers” series in the Kindle Lending Library.

This has several important effects for readers.

First of all, if you have Amazon Prime, you may now borrow any of the “31 Prayers” books for free without late fees. Starting immediately. Completely free. Except, of course, for whatever you pay for Amazon Prime. Read more »

Review in WordJourney Magazine

“31 Prayers for Courage” has been reviewed by WordJourney magazine, and Matt Keegan has some swell things to say:

Merriam-Webster defines courage as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” That sounds like the typical Christian’s life, right? Courage is something that we want, but often don’t have. Our present circumstances may require us to have a courageous heart, but we may find ourselves lacking in that department.

And that is where God comes in: by responding to our prayers and petitions, He equips ordinary people to do extraordinary things. By your personal definition of extraordinary, those feats may not be big in anyone else’s eyes, but they are to you – instances where you have overcome doubt, fear or despair, and gained an important spiritual victory.

A number of years ago I was taught to pray the scriptures. That means when praying, I may include an appropriate verse as I praise God or ask for His guidance in a matter. I believe that incorporating scripture is important as it serves to do two things: it speaks truth as the word of God is true. It also serves to build up our faith, giving us the courage to face difficult circumstances.

Read more at WordJourney.com.