What are trigger warnings? Are they bad?

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photo credit: Giorgio Galeotti Non-Violence – UN, New York, NY, USA – August 18, 2015 via photopin (license)
Trigger warnings have gotten a bad rap from abuse of them as an excuse to shut down dissenting viewpoints. This has tragic results for everyone. The growing lack of respectful debate leaves us all poorer off intellectually, and the backlash against it is understandable. My concern is with the backlash’s tragic potential to endanger our ill neighbors’ health.

The abused word “trigger” comes from conditions like PTSD, migraines, and seizures where those conditions’ symptoms are triggered (or worsened) by environmental stimuli; flashing lights, loud noise, and the person consuming specific foods can all be triggers along with detailed accounts of violent acts. A trigger is to mental health and neurological health what an allergen is to immune system health. Some patients, with some conditions, with much, intensive medical treatment, may eventually be able to overcome their triggers. However, avoidance is always part of the treatment plan. And some triggers, just like some allergies, can only be treated by avoidance. For example, migraine patients and seizure patients can’t stop having a migraine or a seizure when exposed to their own specific triggers.

In a similar fashion, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD can also have a legit medical sensitivity to sensory stimuli that needs managed by the patients or their parents and teachers in the case of young children.

Some believe the adult patients’ and the child patients’ guardians’ above responsibility means we are not responsible to look out for them. If they were being responsible, they wouldn’t need us to look out for them, right?

What you may not realize is most people with legit trigger-sensitive medical conditions DO take ownership of their illness and do take responsibility to manage it. They must in order to live with it each day. As their neighbors, especially if we are Christians, we do have a responsibility to be kind and compassionate, to love our sick neighbors and avoid knowingly exposing them to stuff that we’ve been made aware is harmful to them.

Perhaps, when we’re hosting our neighbors, we can’t avoid all legitimate common triggers and common allergens to protect our ill neighbors’ health. After all, this would mean unfairly depriving ninety-nine healthy sheep for the sake of one sick sheep. Christ would leave the ninety-nine spiritually healthy sheep to go after one lost sheep, but to ask the ninety-nine to go without for the sake of even one ill sheep?

That is a Christian love that not all are ready to walk in. If so, the least we can do is love our neighbors as ourselves by alerting them to any hazards to their health that we know about, but they don’t have reason to expect.

Note it is not necessary to label a trigger warning as such. In fact, with all the present negativity, it’s probably better not to use that phrase except in articles about them. To give a trigger warning, simply make it clear upfront a common trigger is coming and give anyone who needs to avoid it for health reasons a chance to leave or otherwise protect themselves.

It’s important to only use trigger warnings properly, as the equivalent of letting people with peanut allergies know a dish contains peanuts or peanut oil. You know, so the allergic person can avoid the allergen. Avoid wording trigger warnings in a way that discourages everyone from enjoying. And they should never be used as a weapon to silence dissent. Labeling all dissent as “triggering” is bad for everyone in and of itself and bad in that it has a crying wolf effect that potentially puts people with medical conditions with genuine environmental triggers in real danger to their health.

That said, after we’ve been made aware of the legit needs, it is unkind, selfish, and uncompassionate to refuse to warn ill people of something that will make them ill. Yes, we are our brother’s keeper. It’s only due to a widespread lack of love and consideration for others that ill people can’t expect all common allergens and common triggers to be clearly identified to them in advance so they won’t be caught by surprise. Our not looking out for our neighbors leaves patients with a bad choice between risking exposure to something that will hurt them, and assuming they’ll be exposed and staying safe but perhaps needlessly deprived and isolated from the world.

Triggers crop up all the time in places that had previously been safe for the patient. Leaving them guessing can do real harm. Let’s love our sick neighbors by making ourselves aware of the legitimate needs that trigger warnings do have their proper usage for. Again, their proper use is not to shut down debate or to deprive you of a pleasure that is safe for you to enjoy. Used properly, trigger warnings simply make people with legit needs aware of the presence of a trigger they must avoid for health reasons.

Disclosure: I suffer migraines that are worsened and occasionally caused by flashing lights and blinking images. Information overload causes my brain to either meltdown or shutdown but I can tell from an event’s description and its posted length whether I’ll need to excuse myself from a session or two to decompress, if my brain requires more breaks than are scheduled. God used my suffering to raise my awareness of these issues and to teach me compassion for others. My goal here wasn’t to benefit myself but others.

[tweetthis]What trigger warnings are, when to use them, how to use them correctly, and how not to use them.[/tweetthis]

Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does

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Red Cup & Coffee (close-up)

photo:

Progressive Christians are having a field day because one guy, an Internet Personality, has decided he’s mad about red coffee cups. Let me go ahead and say it wouldn’t be fair to call these concerns stupid. It’d be fair to call them extremely stupid.

Let me say, you don’t have to have anything to do with a particular chain of coffee shops. I don’t drink coffee. If I have a Chai Latte, it’ll be at Dutch Brothers or a church coffee shop. Aside from a couple of gift cards, I pretty much gave up on [the chain getting enough free advertising] when they decided baristas were going to randomly lecture people on race relations. A red cup doesn’t have much to do with issues some people have with that place. And to passively not to go somewhere takes very little of my time.

However, I’ve noticed a subtlety in the commentary from many progressive Christians. People aren’t just suggesting that this is a stupid thing to be upset about and that the guy is behaving badly.

Rather, it’s indicative of a larger “problem” of Christians being concerned about the state of our culture: issues like the removal of God from the public square, immorality in the media, and a society that forces Christians to violate their conscious or be ghettoized. Why can’t we focus on things that really matter like people’s needs?

We should care for the needs of people, but we should also care for the state of our culture and the soil in which people grow and are influenced. Many children are orphans because their parents listened to cultural messages to “follow your heart,” and “be true to yourself,” and ended up in a world of trouble. It left them so broken, they couldn’t care for their own children.

When you look at the trail of broken and destroyed lives that so many ministries deal with, you can find the messages that led them astray are in the schools, the government, and the entertainment media. Saying, “Why not just help hurting people and forget about the culture,” is kind of like saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, let’s just bail water.”

For those who are concerned about evangelism and bringing people to Christ, I would plead our government doesn’t just hand out inoculations against disease. In public schools, our government attempts to inoculate against the Gospel of Christ by trying to remove the very idea of sin, a creator, and the need for a Savior.

What can a healthy culture do? It can’t compel faith, but it can point the way to faith. I have a relative who grew up in the 1940s and 50s raised by an Atheist. In the early 60s, he wrote a song about Noah’s Ark before becoming a Christian. When he got into trouble and decided to turn to God to help, he knew: 1) he needed to be humble before, and 2) he needed to confess his sins to God. (A lot of people won’t get that from church.)

No, red cups don’t matter. However, culture does matter a great deal. A culture that spits on God, encourages sexual immorality and self-idolatry is a culture that hurts a lot of people. Yes, let’s care for those in need, but part of that is caring for the cultural climate of the world we live in.

[tweetthis]Coffee Cups Don’t Matter, Culture Does. Guest Post by Adam Graham @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”Care for the needs of people and for the cultural soil people grow in.” Adam Graham, @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_url=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Saying, “Forget about culture, just help people” is saying, “Forget about turning off the faucet, just bail water.” ow.ly/UudcL[/tweetthis]

“Haters Gonna Hate” or “Seek First the Kingdom”

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Dear Andrea,

Some fellow Christians I know and love have said critical things about Christians having their own “Christianese” language, their own books and movies,  their own methods for finding a spouse, etc. They accuse fellow believers who try to live according to the Word and defy the ways of our secular culture of living in a bubble and can be so harsh and condemning. It is hurtful and confusing when Christians say such things. What should I do?

Yours,

Gentle Reader

Dear Gentle Reader,

Christians having their own Christian culture isn’t wrong. In fact, the Bible says we are a holy nation, citizens of spiritual Israel, and we should live like it. We are called to forsake the culture of the Children of Darkness and walk as Children of the Light. The Word warns us also that the Children of Darkness sometimes falsely claim to be Christians. You can spot such wolves in sheep’s clothing and their disciples by the fact they call themselves  our brothers but openly hate us, lack the fruits of the Spirit, and walk in darkness, that is, they wallow in indisputable, textbook sins without any twinge of conscience.

Wolves in sheep’s clothing have blasphemed the Holy Ghost in their hearts and put themselves beyond redemption.  Don’t regard your friends as that sort unless you’ve heard them blaspheme the Holy Spirit with their own lips  and/or have discerned Holy Spirit confirming it as such souls are beyond help and are abusive to the citizens of Heaven. Once God exposes a wolf, maintain minimum safety clearances unless God personally directs you otherwise.

The Bible tells us to remove known wolves from the local church so they don’t poison the whole body, but we must leave them alone otherwise. Our brothers who’ve been taken captive by the enemy may look a lot like them, and we don’t want to mistakenly shoot our own brainwashed POWs.

So assume they’re POWs being brainwashed into attacking their own country and pray for them to have their eyes opened and their hearts convicted that they should be Citizens of Heaven first and allow the Holy Spirit to both reveal to them and assimilate them into the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, there are three basic problems with Christians and Culture:

1) We remain so separate from the mainstream cultures of the various nations our people have dual citizenship in, we have no contact with outsiders.

This is the problem the enemy gets the above POWs focused on. He distorts it in an attempt to keep them from allowing God to fully assimilate them into the Kingdom of Heaven, a tactic that renders the victim ineffective at best.

2) We’re so assimilated into the mainstream cultures of the nations of our earthly citizenship, those who don’t have dual citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven can’t tell that we do.

All Christians who weren’t raised by parents already fairly assimilated in the Kingdom of Heaven suffer this problem at their rebirth. Even Christians raised in the Kingdom from their physical birth who remain in it have their blind spots where they’re not really in line with Kingdom ways, but think they are. None of us are off the hook here, in terms of the lesser degrees of this extreme. If we’re prone to problem 1), Satan attempts to distract us by tempting us to focus on this one. I’m afraid I have direct personal experience with that.

3) We treat outsiders like they should of course be in the know on Christians’ language, traditions, values, beliefs, and expect them to know and adhere to the rules of a Kingdom they haven’t been born into.

This is another problem Satan wants us to focus on, but he doesn’t mind if we’re guilty of it in our own way, so long as we only take issue with others’ ways of messing up here. His end goal is to get us to accept the deceitful “solutions” he offers us that again at best will neutralize us as a threat to him.

The truth is, when a non-Christian steps into a Christian’s space, they should feel like they’ve crossed over an international border and entered a foreign country, as they sort of have. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever its citizens abide. However, we should always be kind and respectful to strangers and help them navigate our peculiar, foreign land as best as we know how.  To convince them to become citizens of Heaven and embrace life in our culture, they need to feel welcomed, but they also need to see a clear difference between our way and the way they’ve already got and be shown, through our testimonies of what God has done for us, proof that God’s way works where theirs doesn’t.

Our concepts of love and right and wrong are extremely different from our enemies’ concepts,  though, and some Children of Darkness are hardened past the point of redemption. No matter what we do, “Haters  gonna hate ” if we’re seeking first the Kingdom of God that we’re naturalized citizens of. So let us learn to rejoice and be glad when we suffer for the Kingdom’s sake, for God will reward us  greatly, and restore to us in full everything we lost for Christ’s sake.

If you’re asking where’s the limit, you’re over it

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Is oral sex still considered sex as far as losing your virginity? My girlfriend keeps pressuring me to let her…

–Anon

I believe the optimal word in “oral sex” would be “sex.”  It would at the very least destroy your purity. Such an intimate act belongs on the marriage bed and is sin outside it.

Look at it this way. Biblically, in this context, your body does not belong to you. It belongs to the woman you will marry someday.  The best gift you can give your future wife on your wedding day is a husband who hasn’t already shared any more of her “property” than you’ve already given away.

By the way, I would dump the current girlfriend. Anyone who pressures you and shows you such disrespect isn’t worth your time, and certainly not what I’d call a healthy relationship. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into doing something you know is wrong, or aren’t comfortable with.

In Christ’s Purity,

Andrea

Tough Love and Biblical Compassion

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Andrea–

A friend’s twenty-year-old daughter has made a series of terrible choices. Always headstrong, she began sneaking out of their Christian home in her early teens. First pregnant at fifteen, she’s now carrying her third child. All three children share the same father, but she divorced from, was jailed because of, and now lives with this absentee father. While in jail she swore she’d change her ways, but now it’s back to business as usual, depending on extended family to support her ex-husband, herself, and their children. Should the family temporarily cut her off and force real-world consequences for her actions, or allow her to keep using them? I have a forty-year old cousin who still depends on family for money, when he’s not in jail. I wish someone had shown him “tough-love”. How does one Biblically define “compassion” for souls so thirsty that they simply drink from anyone nearby?

Faith,

A Concerned Friend

Dear Friend,

I have a relative I wish had been shown tough love, too. Maybe she wouldn’t be pregnant out of wedlock and living with her boyfriend’s family if someone had taught her early on she can’t go through life screaming and manipulating people until she gets her own way.

You hit on part of the problem, in our culture, love has gotten misunderstood. People define love as a biological process, physical attraction, and a blind acceptance that denies the reality of sin, offering a compassion that tends to a person’s physical needs, completely indifferent to their spiritual condition, or worse, patting them on the head and telling them it’s okay, come as you are–and stay as you are. But Christ didn’t die so we could stay enslaved to sin and go to Heaven anyway. He didn’t die to merely wipe out the law so we could do whatever the heck we want. He died so we could be forgiven for our sins–and set free from sin.

Many today don’t want to deal with this, but the fact is, something is required of us–repentance. That simply means we have to decide we don’t like sin and we want to be free from it, rather than we like sin and we want someone to pay the penalty of it so we can go on sinning and not suffer the consequences. Persons who teach the latter heap damnation to themselves and all who follow them, as you cannot have Christ as Savior without Christ as Lord. Without Christ, it is impossible for man not to sin, apart from him, we can do nothing, but we can do all things in Christ, who strengthens us, and He who began this good work in us, shall carry it on to completion, in the very day of His return, amen. So let us eagerly run the race, not as one who has already apprehended, but trusting Him to do in us what we could do alone.

To put it another way, Christ died to set us free from sin, not to free us to sin.

With that established, the first job of a parent, then, is to bring their child to the place where they decide, not that they want someone to take the dive for them so they can keep on as they are without consequence, but that they want someone to pay the price for their freedom. The compassion we show them should reflect the later reality. If we show them a compassion that implies they can walk all over Jesus the same way they do us, we are doing them a disservice that will leave them to an eternity in Hell, as whether you will let yourself be mocked or not, God made clear in His word He most certainly will not.

So what is compassion? Love. I’m sure you know the list, “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices not in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

A hard list, indeed. Love them no matter what they do, but love, true love, does not lie. It does not offer the false hope of rejoicing in–or accepting–the evil in their lives. And it certainly does not enable them to continue sinning. That is the first question to ask yourself before reaching out to tend a physical need. Will your action draw this person closer to the Lord and bring them to repentance, or will they take your gift and use it to keep on rebelling against the Lord? If you know the later to be the case with any reasonable certitude, the only truly compassionate thing to do is to not reach out and relieve their physical pain–lest you interfere with God’s efforts to draw them back to Him and by your actions end up leaving them to the pain of eternity separated from God.

In this case in particular, you need to consider the welfare of her children, their grandchildren. This does not sound like a particularly healthy environment for them. No doubt she would hate them all the more, but they should pray about whether they should intervene in those children’s lives and take steps to take them out of a bad situation. In short, I’d recommend, if at all feasible, the daughter and hubby leave–the children stay. Those babies should not have to suffer for their mother’s sins–yet in this world, as scripture observes, so many do suffer, until even the fourth generation. Love them, and their mother–but don’t enable her to keep on sinning and inevitably hurting her children in the process. Our relatives certainly won’t feel loved when we stop enabling them, but love is far more than a warm fuzzy feeling. Our Lord Jesus Christ didn’t submit to the cross just so we could continue in sin, and neither should we place temporary comfort over eternity.

Love in Christ,

Andrea