What I’ve Been Learning About “Father Wounds”

Married mom and dad best for children

I’ve been mildly obsessing over this topic for the past few months.

Recently I went to an intense and unusual men’s conference. There was almost no verbal teaching there. Instead it was very hands-on and experiential. That weekend I saw man after man experience emotional release around the issue of his relationship with his father. Some of these were mature Christian men who had been stuffing their feelings down for decades. Since then I feel I’ve been noticing the father wound issue everywhere, in friends, family, and strangers, and in seemingly every movie I see.

On the ride home from the conference, our carload of guys debriefed each other and compared our experiences for 12 hours. When I got home I wanted to learn more. I began meeting with all of my adult children to be sure I hadn’t wounded them as I had seen so many others wounded. I thought I’d share with you some encouraging thoughts that have come out of all of this.

First, it would be more correct to speak of “parent wounds,” because it’s not only dads that mark their children with unmet relational needs. But it is true that it is more often dads who are absent, whether physically or emotionally, from the lives of their children. However, I want to hasten to add here that the point of this post is to encourage you! Whether you are a parent, or whether you aspire to be one, I would like to hold up the following vision before you:

It is not unusual in Christian circles to think of children as a gift from God. In fact, the scriptures explicitly say this (Psalm 127:3-5.) I don’t know that Mollie and I would’ve had 5 children if not for believing this. However, I think it is also true to say that we as loving parents are a gift to our children. If this was too obvious to point out in earlier generations, I would suggest that is no longer the case. As a parent I hope that you can see yourself this way. If you fulfill your parenting role well, your children will certainly grow up to see you as among the greatest of their earthly gifts. More importantly, they will have a much better chance of entering adult life without the emotional baggage that weighs so many people down.

What a parent wound is and is not
As I’ve talked with other dads about this, I’ve sometimes sensed some uneasiness around the topic. Perhaps this is because we are all aware that none of us are perfect parents. We all know it is inevitable that we will let down or hurt our children. But when I speak of parent wounds I am not referring to the occasional mistakes that we all make. Parenting well is not about being flawless. Furthermore, sometimes we’ll intentionally need to make decisions that will disappoint our children. But our children can understand and forgive these hurts if they occur within an overall context of love and affirmation in our family culture.

Rather, when I speak of parent wounds I’m referring to wounds that occur as a result of a regular pattern of deprivation; the withholding of good, healthy, emotionally rich relational expression from parents. If parents do not give their children a secure sense of being loved, accepted, and valued, those children will very likely seek these things elsewhere in a variety of unhealthy ways.

Since we all do make mistakes, humility is an essential part of loving, in both marriage and parenting. A parent who will admit a wrong to a child, and ask forgiveness from that child, is an amazing role model! Apparently there are a lot of people in the world who have never heard the words, “I was wrong” from a parent.

What was your “normal” as you were growing up?
To a great extent, much of family culture seems to be passed down, for better or for worse. For obvious reasons, we tend to repeat what was normal in the home in which we were raised. Think of your own upbringing. If you had a parent who rarely or never verbally expressed his or her love to you, it is likely that parent grew up in a home where love was never verbally expressed. For such a parent, verbally expressing love may feel awkward, forced, or perhaps unnecessary.

Realizing this can help us break the cycle of deprivation with our own children. We can learn from our own parents either way – whether their example was great or poor. Rather than conforming to a poor example, we can commit to be conformed to the image of God in our parenting. I would like to think that parents who are followers of Jesus would naturally excel at creating a family culture of love and acceptance, but unfortunately, dysfunctional patterns from our upbringings can easily assert themselves if we don’t keep our heads in the game.

It IS possible to do this well!
I recently finished a book by PhD psychologist, John Trent, and Gary Smalley entitled, The Blessing. It’s not a new book but I think the message is timeless. The authors contend that children naturally look to their parents to confer a blessing on their lives. If this blessing is withheld for whatever reason, those children will almost certainly feel a deficit in their being, and may spend a lifetime seeking to compensate for what they feel they never received from their parents. Trent and Smalley describe the parental blessing as consisting of 5 parts:

  • Meaningful and appropriate touch
  • A spoken message (because silence creates uncertainty)
  • Attaching high value to the one being blessed
  • Picturing a special future for him or her
  • An active commitment to fulfill the blessing

Do these things resonate with you as they did for me? If not, imagine withholding one of these things from your child. Think of your own upbringing. Can you think of ways that your parents expressed these things to you? My parents were better at some of these than others, but I can clearly remember feeling, for example, their “active commitment,” not only to me but also to my three siblings. One of the ways they did this was by attending our events and involving themselves in the things we enjoyed.

My daily reminder
Over the years when our kids were still young, Mollie and I attended several parenting conference with our church. During one of them in particular, I consciously chose to take home a practical suggestion from one of the speakers. He said,

“Every day, give each of your children a loving look, a loving touch, and a loving word.”

I figured even if I only managed to do this once a week for each kid, the cumulative effect would be very great. So I wrote out a small reminder in abbreviated form and kept it on my nightstand where I would see it. It’s been there now for years. I felt a little sheepish that I needed a written reminder to express love to my kids, but I know I am prone to getting busy and forgetting things. I wrote it in abbreviated form because I was afraid one of them might wander into our bedroom someday and see my reminder, and feel like my expressions of love were items on a “to do” list and not from my heart. I still have my note, now a bit worn:

reminder to love every day

Do whatever it takes to remember. I wish you all the best in creating a rich culture of life and love for your kids! You can do this as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or caregiver as well.

I can testify to the power of parental blessing. My dad was an “uneducated” construction worker, while I was a skinny, weird, sensitive little artist kid. My mom was only schooled as far as the eighth grade and never even learned how to drive. I doubt if my parents ever read a parenting book. Nonetheless, they created a home environment that met my and my siblings’ relational needs as small human beings created in God’s Image. That truly is a profound gift.

Soon I’ll share some research on how wounded people have shaped our culture.

If may offer a postscript that might appear to be just a wee bit self-serving, reading storybooks to your kids every day is an enjoyable way to cover at least 3 of the 5 aspects of blessing our kids.
(They don’t even have to be my books!)

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What Happened at Loveland’s Fire & Ice Festival

Mona Lisa public art Loveland CO

Actually, a lot happened, with lots of local sculptors and musicians, but I’m going to tell you about a community art event that I and my church, Beggars’ Gate, put on there.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know how troubled I am over how divided and uncivil our nation has become. I got an idea for a project that would bring diverse festival-goers together in a fun, creative process that would end in an exciting collaborative result.

With my peeps at church and the Festival organizers on board, we contacted the owner of a boarded-up building downtown. He gave us permission to beautify his blank wall. Already there was lots of trust going around.

I should mention that Fire & Ice is the city of Loveland’s annual Valentine’s Day festival. Valentine’s Day is kind of a big deal here in Loveland, Colorado.

Here’s how it worked:
We laid out a giant 13 x 15 foot grid of 12 inch squares on the wall and painted a gold frame around it. We numbered the squares 1 thru 195. On my studio floor I transferred a (secret) design to 195 wooden foot square tiles. So each tile had part of giant drawing on it. I designated how each area of each tile must be painted in order to make this work: “L” for light, “M” for medium, and “D” for dark paint. Plus a few rare tiles with white, black, and red areas.

At the festival, our small army of volunteers instructed festival-goers in the process. Some of the tiles were impossible to mess up, provided the right color values were used, so even very small children and people with disabilities could (and did!) participate.

It was crazy and fun!

Loveland Fire and Ice Festival

Unfortunately, this being our first time, there was a lot of guessing and estimating going on. We ran out of tiles and completed the image before the end of the second festival day. But Fire and Ice is a three day festival. So…one of my peeps ran out and purchased a stack of floor tiles. Another one cut some that needed cutting until we had another 100 blank squares. We contacted the building owner again for permission to attach a second mural to his wall. I worked into the wee hours to put together a (much simpler!) second design, and we were all ready for day 3 on Sunday.

A pastor friend, (who ended up hanging most of the Mona Lisa image on Saturday,) must’ve been struck with some deep thoughts while nailing up the creative expressions of nearly 200 people. What follows is what he wrote when he went home Saturday night. He read it to our little Beggars’ Gate congregation on Sunday morning. His name is John Meyer, and here are his thoughts:

The Mona Loveland

What do you see?

This community art piece is a great picture of one of the good things we believe about life.

Everyone is an individual, with different talents, different experiences, different likes. It is those differences that make this picture fun, interesting, and a bit unexpected.

But there is a bigger picture that comes together in a way that makes a beautiful whole out of all the individuality. It happened because each individual brought his or her own expression within the plan of an artist who had an intention from the beginning. It would have been nearly impossible for hundreds of individuals to make the Mona Loveland by talking among themselves. But by accepting (even without understanding) the greater plan of the artist, the unique expression of each individual created something that included everyone, and has a greater meaning and beauty that only exists because everyone came together.

We think this is a good picture of God’s plan for life. Each of us is made wonderfully unique by Him. Just as no two snowflakes are alike, and no two sets of fingerprints are alike, every person has unique and wonderful traits that are found in no other life.

But none of us are meant to be a complete picture alone. We are made for community. The Designing Artist has had a plan from the beginning to allow us to experience both our individuality and the greater good of a community living together.

It is from both living out who we are, and expressing that uniqueness within the “lines” and plan the Designing Artist has for each life, that allows us to experience the beautiful picture of human community to come together.

Our goal is to help individuals appreciate their own uniqueness, and to understand the plan of God that allows all of us to experience His good and bigger picture together!”

Beggars’ Gate Church
Loveland, Colorado
beggarsgate.com

blg-loveld-monalisa-fnl

The finished mural: “The Sweet Heart City’s” own Mona Lisa, painted by local citizens…

I want to extend a big THANK YOU to the army of volunteers who enabled this event to happen for the community. They gave time, energy, and resources to make this event free for everyone else. ‘God bless em’ all!

If you’re new to this blog, please visit my KIDS’ STORYBOOK WEBSITE and sign up in the blue box to hear about my upcoming new storybooks!

Love peace dove mural scott freeman

This is the completed second mural.

Guaranteeing Time for Family in the Midst of Busyness

Sabbath Keeping-Big Picture PublishingI admit that I might be a work-a-holic, just a wee bit.

Perhaps this is partly because my work tends to be enjoyable and meaningful, and partly because I’ve rarely made enough income for our large family. Or maybe it’s just the way I am wired. I don’t really know.

At any rate, my wife once had a come-to-Jesus talk with me about this that proved to be a turning point for our marriage and family. Had she not called me out, I think I would’ve been too oblivious to make needed changes. After all, my time-sucking pursuits were good, and so were my intentions. I wouldn’t have guessed how important an intentional “work-free” day would turn out to be for all of us.

What started out as an experiment turned out to be a practice on which we have never looked back. In fact all five of our kids came to think of our practice of Sabbath-keeping as an expectation. My wife and I now consider it to be a weekly blessing that we wouldn’t want to do without.

Since it’s the beginning of a busy new school year for many of us, I thought it might be helpful for me to share my story, and hear from others on what works for them.

Before our experiment, here is how my life went: I worked full-time at as a Hallmark artist, and also did free-lance illustration work on the side. I also created a monthly comic strip for an alternative, free newspaper. Nights and weekends were a chance for me to work on my on-the-side stuff. So, on weekends, I would look around the house, and if everyone seemed to be occupied, and no kids were crying or poopy, I would tend to sneak off to my drawing board and get some work done.

Eventually my exasperated wife would come looking for me, usually holding a kid or two. She felt abandoned. We searched for a solution. We had already been toying with the idea of observing a formal Sabbath, but I had pretty much balked at the idea because I was too busy. (What a waste of time. A whole day – shot!) But I remember Mollie telling me, “If I knew I would get you for a full day on Sunday, I think I could live with you working the other six days.”

We decided to try it for one month. Sundays would be solely dedicated to church and family, and I wouldn’t do any paid work at all. Even if no one was poopy, I would be fully present and focused on Mollie and the kids. That was something like 20 years ago. Looking back, I shudder to think of what I almost missed.

Our Sabbath has taken various forms over the years. Mollie and I are interested in the Hebrew Roots of our faith, so for a time we observed a traditional, Saturday Jewish Sabbath as best we could, complete with the lighting of candles at sunset, challah bread, and citing a blessing over each child over dinner, (which my kids thought was weird.) At other times we tried formal family devotions on our Sabbath. But mostly, our Sabbaths have been very unstructured, with the focus being on taking a rest from work, eating together, and, at some point, doing something together as a whole family, usually playing games.

We have tried to not be religious and legalistic about this. As our kids grew older, sometimes they would have homework that had to be done, or there would be a birthday party or a meeting that had to be attended. But for the most part, our kids’ friends knew not to ask our kids to get together on Sunday because that was our family day. Eventually, our kids didn’t even mind that their friends thought our family was weird because they were having too much fun with us.

At times we had fight to keep our Sabbath set apart. We’d make an occasional exception, but we had to say “no” even to some good things. Once, our church’s youth group leadership was considering moving youth group meeting day to Sunday. We felt we had no choice but to decline participation should that change be made. Our Sabbath had become a non-negotiable priority. One parent argued that Sunday youth group could count as our family time, but I knew the dynamic would be different. Fortunately the change was never made.

Today all but one of our five children have left home, but they are closer now to each other, and to Mollie and I, than ever. We attribute this partly to regular, face-to-face time every week. Now that two of our kids are married, some of them decided that we should all get together every other Sunday; whoever can make it. On the off Sundays Mollie and I still observe a Sabbath, and we sometimes use this time to get together with people that we want to “get together with sometime.”

We believe that life is about relationships, and our Sabbath observance has become a practical application of this. (Though honestly, sometimes we’re too exhausted to entertain people!)

For those who may be wondering about my loss in productivity, I believe that observing a Sabbath has actually made me more productive, because I’m never burnt out, and I hit the ground running on Mondays. But even if it hasn’t made me more productive, if I could have all the money I lost because of keeping a Sabbath, I wouldn’t trade it for the wealth of relationship I have today with my family.

If you find yourself frazzled and frustrated by an overfull schedule, why not try keeping a weekly Sabbath for one month, just to see what good might come of it? I’d also love to hear your stories of how you ensure regular family time.

My latest book, Bear Island, reinforces family-time and our need for loving relationship. CLICK HERE for easy ordering!

Why It’s Impossible for Followers of Jesus to Hate Gays

T-shirt design by Scott Freeman

Because gays are people.

Several years ago I stopped referring to myself as a “Christian” because I felt the term was too broad. It simply doesn’t communicate very well. So I started referring to myself as a “follower of Jesus” because it’s descriptive and actually communicates something that anyone can understand: a follower of Jesus tries to follow what Jesus said and did. Simple.

On the other hand, “Christian” is such a broad label that it can encompass pretty much anyone who wants to claim it, which can be confusing. It includes me, but it must also include:

  • Cults of unorthodoxy such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, whose extra-biblical authoritative writings depict Jesus as a created being, among other things. Yet, I think we have say if the central figure in a person’s religion is a version of Christ, then their religion is a Christian religion.
  • Members of liberal Christian denominations, who don’t believe in the virgin birth or the miracles of Jesus, and who discount many statements of Jesus in the Bible. Same as above.
  • Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, whose message is that God hates the world; especially gays, apparently. Same as above.

All of these people can be said to be Christians in some sense, but none of them can be said to be followers of the Jesus of the Bible.

It’s impossible for followers of Jesus to hate gays, because if they hate gays, then they’re not following Jesus. Boom. Jesus simply doesn’t give His followers the option of hating people.

Jesus inseparably linked loving both God and people with following Him. He stated that the first and greatest commandment is to love God, and then to love people (Mt 22:35-40; Mk 12:28-31.) He said those who keep His commandments are the ones who love Him (Jn 14:21.) The Apostle John says that he who does not love does not know God, for God is love (I Jn 4:8.) He also equates loving others with following the commands of Jesus (2 Jn 1:5,6; 1 Jn 5:2,3.) In a definitive statement, Jesus claimed that all people would know who His followers are by their love for one another (Jn 13:34.)

Furthermore, Jesus is like no other moral teacher in that He didn’t merely talk about love in His teachings. He demonstrated love in an ultimate way, and in doing so He literally created a new option for humanity: He made it possible for us to freely love each other by creating the possibility of internal change through spiritual rebirth (Jn 3:1-7; 1 Pet 1:23.) By spiritual rebirth we receive a new identity as children of God, receiving His very Spirit into our hearts (Gal 4:4-7; Ro 8:9, 14-17.) By His redemptive death and resurrection, Jesus made possible for us a restored, unified, and loving relationship with our Creator, whose image we bear. Thus we are motivated to obey His commands, not out of fear, or guilt, or to earn points. Instead we obey from the best possible motive: that of wanting to please someone we love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19.) It’s a brilliant plan.

So, no. Followers of Jesus can’t hate gays, even if the natural, redneck part of them wants to.

But then, what about all of those stories in the news about Christian business owners discriminating against gays out of anti-gay hatred and bigotry? Aren’t the Christian butcher, baker, and candlestick maker discriminating against gays simply because they’re gay?

Actually, no – they are not discriminating against gays simply because they’re gay. The proof is that these businesses had been knowingly serving gay customers for years. Here’s the issue: These businesses all drew the line when they were asked to essentially become participants in a ceremony that would violate their religious beliefs.

The same Bible that defines all people, including gay people, as bearing the image of God also defines marriage as a heterosexual institution designed by God having something to do with sexual complementarity (and therefore, the probability, at least, of procreation and child-rearing.) These businesses often explained to their gay customers that they would be happy to provide other services for them, just not wedding services. In other words, they were not willing to become a party to the redefining of something they consider sacred; something that had already been defined by their God.

So these cases are about religious liberty, as guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. They have nothing to do with “anti-gay hatred,” or even personal dislike of gays.

Underneath it all, for these business owners it’s a question of authority.

A True Story About Lying
I once joined a respectful, online group discussion about gays and the church. An older gay participant frequently claimed that an average of one gay person per week is assaulted, raped, or murdered by evangelical Christians. He repeated this in the discussion several times. This was news to me.

I finally called him on it, told him it was ridiculous, and asked him to provide some proof. I told him it was like saying most vegetarians eat raw squirrel once a week. Or that two thirds of Mormon housewives home brew their own beer. His claim was self-refuting. He immediately provided a link to the US government annual FBI hate crimes statistics.

The FBI. That certainly sounded credible. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the church of Jesus Christ was actually a hate organization after all, and it had somehow escaped my notice.

I thought of the evangelical families I knew. I pictured the dad coming home after work, exhausted. I pictured the mom, also exhausted after simultaneously homeschooling 7 kids all day, and then preparing a nutritious meal for 9. They all gather around the table, say grace, and then talk about the day over dinner. Afterwards, the kids clear the table and load the dishwasher. Then the dad announces, “Okay kids! Everyone into the mini-van! It’s time to find some gays to beat-up, rape, or murder! Hurry up – we still have to do baths tonight before bedtime!…”

I don’t think so.

I checked out his FBI link. Um…first of all, the FBI does not track the religious identity of perpetrators of hate crimes, only the racial identity. My gay acquaintance was simply assuming the offenders must be evangelicals. Second, in 2006, (the latest year that completed stats were available when I had this discussion,) there were 0 rapes and 0 murders of gays recorded in the FBI stats. That’s rare – the next year there were 0 rapes and 5 murders reported. That’s still too many, but it certainly isn’t a weekly occurrence, and if it was, I guarantee we’d be hearing about it. As always, there were hundreds of assaults reported across the board, including verbal assaults. Of all hate crimes reported each year, nearly 50% are still racially motivated, with the remaining crimes divided up between the categories of sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and disability. It turns out you are still far more likely to be a hate-crime victim in America if you are black than if you are gay. Here is THE LINK to the latest FBI hate crime statistics, for those interested.

Was That Guy an Exception?
Perhaps you’re wondering what my point is in telling this story. Obviously the guy falsely accusing Christians was an unscrupulous butthead. So what am I doing? Painting all “marriage equality” supporters as liars because of one exceptionally dishonest guy’s propagation of a vicious lie?

But was he exceptional?

I don’t see how. It has now become routine for the media to characterize any opposition to redefining marriage as motivated by hatred. Disagree with the politically “liberal” position on this topic and you are “spewing anti-gay hatred and bigotry.” If you believe that marriage is a uniquely heterosexual institution, you are a hater, period. My question is: Really? And what do people who hate people do? Well, we can look at groups around the world who actually do hate people, and see what they do. They assault, rape, purge, and kill the people they hate. Think ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, and Hamas.

I suspect that most of the Left knows better than to believe that Christians hate gays. I think repeating these accusations of hate is a political tactic intended to manipulate and shame Christians into shutting up and leaving the field. Fortunately, the if-you-repeat-a-lie-often-enough-people-will-believe-it tactic has its limits. In this case the Left is lying about too large a percentage of the population. It’s like trying to convince the nation that all brown-eyed people smell bad. Except that a lot of us are brown-eyed, and we all know lots of brown-eyed people who smell nice.

I get why my liberal friends support “marriage equality.” I think you honestly believe you are standing for civil rights and equality. I totally understand how it seems bizarre, backward, and hateful to you that anyone would think otherwise. But the fact remains that there are some very stubborn problems around the issue, and the interests of adult gays do not trump the interests of everyone else. We’re going to have to all settle for the freedom to respectfully disagree. Liberal bigotry and intolerance is no more virtuous than conservative bigotry and intolerance.

For further non-hateful reading, here’s a great non-religious case for marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Art from The Swimsuit Lesson-Scott FreemanOn a lighter note, check out my newly released storybook, The Cocky Rooster, available only through MY WEBSITE.

My Top 5 Differences Between the Quran & the Bible

Opening Minds - Scott Freeman

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know that I’m a great fan of the Bible. For me the Bible is like the North Star – a transcendent light around which all other constellations of light revolve. I contend that all of the problems in “Christianity,” both historically and in the present, stem not from following the Bible too closely, but from not following it closely enough.

I could cite many examples, but here’s a whopper: The Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was not a bunch of liberal theologians improving on the words of Jesus, or intentionally modifying the Bible. It was a bunch of people defying theocratic state power in order to return to a movement called Christianity that had fundamentally veered from its biblical roots and from the original message of Jesus. It was an (imperfect) step toward the restoration of a revolutionary movement of God.

That movement has always had its human leaders and martyrs, but the head of the movement has always been its resurrected leader, not innovators who would come later. The salvific work wrought by Jesus was supernatural and so fundamentally profound as to make any “improvements” on His work impossible. Therefore, the church’s departures from His course have always resulted in less than the best for the church and the world. At times it has resulted in inhumanities at complete odds with what Jesus taught. (More.)

How does this relate to Islam? Could Islam undergo a reformation similar to that which Christianity underwent? Many have wondered if such a reformation could be possible in Islam, especially in light of the recent inhumanities committed by the Islamic State (IS.)

Unfortunately for the world, (including Muslims,) it appears as if Islam has already had its reformation, and we are seeing its fruit. The word “radical” means “proceeding from the roots.” In the same way that radical Reformation Christians sought a return to the original teachings and vision of Jesus, so radical Muslims seek to return to the original teachings and vision of Muhammad. The problem is not in being radical and fundamental. The problem is being radical and fundamental about false teachings and a bad vision.

Is it wrong to radically follow a leader? That depends upon the leader:

Jesus lived a brief, celibate life of self-sacrifice. He was a healer and a teacher who summed up all of God’s commands in the command to love both God and people. He laid down His life for others.

Muhammad was a polygamist who consummated his marriage with his youngest bride when she was nine years of age. He was an illiterate warrior who fought in over 80 battles. He took the lives of others.

Several years ago, I realized that I needed to learn about Islam. I didn’t want to learn about Islam from the news media or from academicians since I already knew how rarely they get Christianity right. I figured that since they seldom get their home religion right, how likely is it that they would get a foreign religion right? So I bought a Quran. I also started dialoguing online with Muslims, to see if I was understanding things correctly.

It was very educational for me.

The Quran was given to Muhammad some 600 years after Jesus. The Quran repeatedly states that it confirms the Jewish and Christian scriptures that came before it (2:98; 5:44-48; 12:111.) However, in our literate culture this is a bizarre claim. It’s just weird. To cite what is perhaps the defining example, the Quran claims that God rescued Jesus from being crucified, (apparently because it would be wrong to let His prophet suffer such humiliation,) and instead put an imposter in the place of Jesus (4:157,158.) By contrast the Judeo-Christian scriptures repeatedly state it was God’s will for Jesus to die on behalf of the human race, as His means of reconciliation and salvation. The Koran calls the story of the crucifixion of Jesus a “monstrous falsehood.” This example alone shows there is simply no harmonizing the Bible and the Quran.

Beliefs dictate behavior. The differences between the Bible and the Quran touch on the most fundamental aspects of life, and the fruit of these differences can be seen in the actions of those who radically follow their respective holy scriptures. Below, I briefly list what I found to be 5 basic differences between the Bible and Quran. I refrain from making judgments, and simply describe what I found. For each point I include one representative verse from each book:

MY TOP 5 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE BIBLE AND THE QURAN

1 – The Nature of God (relational vs non-relational)
The Bible presents a Creator-God who is one in essence yet revealed in three persons. God’s triune nature implies that God has always existed in loving relationship and unity. Loving relationship existed eternally, before matter existed. As beings created in His image, we were made for relational unity and love as well. (More.)
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24.)

The Quran considers God to be unknowable; we can know his will, but we cannot know Him. The idea that God could have a son is considered to be a “monstrous falsehood” (19:88.) It states that the falsehood of a triune Godhead would result in a power struggle (23:91.) The phrase “God is love” is necessarily absent from the Quran.
“So believe in God and His apostles and do not say: ‘Three.’ Forbear, and it shall be better for you. God is but one God. God forbid that He should have a son!” (4:171.)

2 – The Nature of Humanity (the basis for human worth)
The Bible states that human beings, both male and female, bear the image of God. It follows then that all human beings have intrinsic value regardless of distinction. Biblical apostolic teaching affirms that there is no male or female in Christ. Marriage was designed to be a complementary unity of equals, reflecting the Godhead (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6.) The New Testament often states that God loved us, despite our fallen, sinful state, and that the sacrificial death of Jesus was the supreme expression of that love.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27.)

The Quran states that God created men superior to women. While it states that women shall have rights similar to men, it states that men have a status above women (2:228.) The Quran also gives instruction regarding child-brides who have not yet menstruated (65:4.) God’s love for humankind seems to be conditional – He loves those who do good, who are just, who fight for Him in battle array (61:4), etc. God does not love unbelievers (3:31-32, 30:43-45.) (More.)
“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior over the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme” (4:34.)

3 – The Nature of Salvation (life, heaven, and hell)
The Bible frames salvation relationally and holistically, in keeping with God’s relational nature. Ultimately, eternal life is relational unity with God, beginning in the present and continuing on into eternity. Salvation can only be a gift; un-earned (Eph 2:8,9.) There is a heaven, but the stated point is the presence of God and loving communion with God and His people. Conversely, “hell” is a place of separation from God (1 Thes 1:9.) Jesus spoke of an afterlife with an authority and clarity that hadn’t previously existed in ancient Judaism. He certainly warned about “hell” as a reality – at most around 50 mentions, directly or indirectly.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3.)

The Quran frames salvation primarily in terms of gaining paradise and escaping punishment. Salvation is earned by becoming Muslim and doing good deeds (22:49; 33:35.) The differences between the Bible’s and the Quran’s depiction of heaven and hell are substantial, but in reading the Quran what stood out to me most was the overwhelming emphasis on hell. By the second paragraph, and then again in the third, punishment is mentioned, and it never lets up throughout the rest of the book. In the 433 pages of my Quran there are nearly 500 references to hell, fire, punishment, and doom.
“Those that deny Our revelations we will burn in the fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge. Surely God is mighty and wise” (4:56.)

4 – The Nature of Faith (the basis for belief)
The Bible uniquely presents faith as relational, historical, and evidential. The God of the Bible never asks for blind obedience or irrational faith. Biblical faith is trusting in the proven character of a Creator who has taken pains to demonstrate His trustworthiness through acts in history and verifiable signs. The authors in the Bible, in both old and new testaments, continually refer to eyewitness accounts of historical events, citing times, places, events, genealogies, fulfilled prophecy, and other historical reference points to provide a basis for belief. (More.)
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you eternal life…” (1 John 1:1,2.)

The Quran often refers to itself as a guide from God. It could not refer to biblical events firsthand since it came hundreds of years after Jesus. Instead it repeatedly claims to confirm the Torah and the gospels. However, in the many instances where it refers to the Torah or the gospels it adds embellishments and/or flatly contradicts the biblical accounts. It does provide a test for its own authenticity in saying that if it had not come from God, then it would have many contradictions (4:82.)
“This Quran could not have been devised by any but God. It confirms what was revealed before it and fully explains the scriptures. It is beyond doubt from the Lord of the universe. If they say: ‘He invented it himself,’ say: Bring me one chapter like it. Call on whom you may besides God to help you, if what you say is true!” (10:37,38.)

5 – The Nature of Spiritual Life & Practice (written code vs Spirit)
The Bible presents the Holy Spirit as a person with a mind, will, & emotions – as God Himself. Jesus and His apostles teach spiritual rebirth and the indwelling of God’s Spirit within every believer. Thereafter we walk in the Spirit, rather than “according to the flesh.” In the new covenant of Jesus the old written Torah is not abolished; it is fulfilled and surpassed by something better – a “new life in the Spirit.” Paul specifically says we are given the Spirit because we have received “adoption as sons” in Jesus (Galatians 3:23-4:7.)
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6.)

The Quran also presents the Holy Spirit as a helping, strengthening entity, but not as God Himself. Apparently most Muslim scholars believe that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel, (a spirit-being who is holy.) There is no indwelling of the Spirit as in the New Testament. There is no concept of God as Father in the Quran, and accordingly there is no adoption for us as his children. Muslim spiritual practice consists of obeying God by obeying what his messenger has revealed in the Quran.
“Had it been God’s will to adopt a son, He would have chosen whom He pleased out of His own creation. But God forbid! He is God, the One, the Almighty” (39:4.)

This has not been a critique of Islam. This has been a respectful comparison of what I have found the Bible and the Quran to say about topics that matter to me. If you are Muslim (or Christian) and you feel that I have misrepresented your holy scriptures in any way, I welcome you to offer correction in the comments below. To all others I would urge reading these sources for yourself to verify the accuracy of what I have written. May God reveal Himself more clearly to us all.

On a lighter note:
If you haven’t already done so, please check out my newly released kid’s storybook:
THE COCKY ROOSTER!

A Humongous Mural Project Outside of My Comfort Zone

 

Lake Providence mural 1
Can public art make a difference in a town’s identity? I think I now believe it can play a part.

I certainly don’t think that painting a huge mural on an old building is going to solve anyone’s problems. However, perhaps living alongside inspiring words and images can help to create a climate favorable to positive change. Perhaps it can announce that there are those present who are willing to see change come, and even willing to do something to make it happen. Perhaps seeing a life-enhancing message every day may work on a person’s spirit, at least raising the possibility of new possibilities.

If there were ever a town that could use an identity change, Lake Providence, Louisiana, would be a good candidate. This town has gotten more than its share of bad press. Here is just a sampling of national and regional news stories singling out Lake Providence and the county where it is situated:
–  In 1994, Time magazine designated Lake Providence the poorest place in America.

–  In 1996, the Shreveport Times reported that East Carroll Parish, Louisiana, had the highest rate of child poverty in America.

–  In 1998 George Magazine named LP as one of the most corrupt cities in America.

–  In 2013 CNN called East Carroll Parish “the most unequal county in America.”

This northern Louisiana town of under 4000 people is a Mississippi River town, situated around a lake.  80% of the population is black. Traditionally there has been a white side, and a black side of the Lake, (although this is beginning to change.) There is a public school with no white students, and a private school with no, or few, black students. Though the town is filled with churches, they tend to be either black or white.

When I say these things to non-Southerners, they tend to be appalled, incredulous that such a situation would still exist in 21st century America. I admit that it’s taken me some time to wrap my head around the situation. I was born in 1960 in St. Louis, Missouri, and my siblings and I grew up assuming that racism was stupid and backward, despite having close relatives who sometimes made racial slurs. As a young parent, when my family lived in the inner city of Kansas City, my wife and I sent two of our boys to an all black charter school, partly because we thought it might be good for them to experience how it feels to be a minority. Especially before moving to Loveland, Colorado.

But despite the demographics in Lake Providence, it would be wrong to assume that LP and other towns like it are brimming over with racial hatred today. At this point it seems to be more a matter of ingrained patterns and inertia, especially with younger generations, who haven’t lived with the actual acts of hatred that the older generations have seen. Political power is no longer held by whites. For the past 20 years, LP has made great strides in pulling itself out of the ashes of a nasty history. There are concerned citizens working to turn the town around, and making improvements. I spoke at length with an older gentleman, who grew up in Lake Providence, and who is an agent of change. It’s interesting to hear him describe his upbringing:

By way of background, segregation in the South meant there were two of everything. Two entrances to the only movie theater in town, for example, & two seating sections…Blacks sat upstairs in the balcony; whites sat downstairs. That’s the world I grew up in & I didn’t think much about it at the time. That’s just the way it was…In a small town like Lake Providence, we associated with blacks. Our family had a black maid and I grew up around black folks, played with blacks as a child. In the army I roomed with a black man. Once in TX, we were denied service at a diner because he was black. Though he “took” it, it was my first experience with bigotry and it made me angry on his behalf and helped me to understand a little of what he went through.  

In the courthouse here, there were two drinking fountains – one for whites & one for coloreds. I drank out of the one labeled “white” and didn’t think anything about it. Three restrooms – one for white men, one for white women, one for coloreds (men & women). I went to the one labeled “whites”. That’s just what I did. No one made a “to-do” about the separateness of it…Of course, that’s all changed and you’d never know it even existed now. Everybody shops together at Walmart now.”

Today, I think people still tend to assume racism and hatred where it may not exist. One of my white Lake Providence friends told a story of going to the black section of the mall to have her hair done. She was totally well intentioned, trying to build bridges, and wanting to support a black business. She was met with cold stares, and was refused service. She insisted, saying, “but I want you to do my hair.” The hairdresser refused, saying she had never done a white person’s hair before. My friend insisted again, but the hairdresser said she didn’t have the right supplies, and told her to go the white salon. Is this racial hatred?

Not necessarily, though it probably felt like it to my friend. I don’t know the hairdresser, but I do know that black people hair is really different from white people hair. My wife had dreadlocks for ten years, and she definitely had to go to way more effort to make that happen than black do people. I once had a friend in Kansas City tell me that it was kind of a hassle for her to come to Colorado because the stores didn’t carry the right products for her hair and skin. These is not an insurmountable problem, but it illustrates the point that it’s just more work to accommodate differences. That is not to say it’s not worth the effort.

I can tell you from experience that it is way more work to racially integrate a church congregation than to remain separate. This is partly because integrating involves figuring out how to bring together different, sometimes very personal, cultural aspects such as dress, speech, music, and worship styles. Again, it’s just more work. It requires humility, forbearance, and cooperation from all sides. The multi-racial churches I’m familiar with specifically have a vision to be multi-racial, and are committed to making it work. Yet this is only fitting for any New Testament church that claims to believe the biblical call to love and unity under a universal Savior.

A Brief Word About Hate
Leaving the specific topic of racism for a moment, let’s consider the topic of hate-blaming-and-shaming in general.

I assume everyone has noticed by now the political left’s current tactic of assigning hateful motives to those who hold views it doesn’t like. This is not helpful. Assuming hatred where it doesn’t exist has a polarizing effect on the culture – it promotes a false picture of a society consisting of people who are politically liberal versus people who are motivated by hate. As if the picture is that simple. It’s a lame political tool used to manipulate and shame those with “incorrect” opinions into getting in line. This tactic is being used to shut down honest dialogue, so desperately needed between those whose opinions differ. But accusation is much easier than dialogue. It promotes sucking up to popular opinion over actually thinking about the issues. It’s also blindly arrogant: “If you disagree with my viewpoint, it is because you hate.” End of discussion.

And, by the way, if you’re a liberal hate-shamer, this business of broad-brushing people’s motives isn’t ultimately going to work. Those relative few who actually are haters don’t care what you think (because they hate you,) while the majority of us whose views differ from yours resent having our motives maligned by you. We know we’re not motivated by hatred, we’re not ashamed of our beliefs, and we’re not going to be manipulated or forced into silence.

Racial hatred, homophobia, misogyny and other types of irrational prejudice exist, but probably not to the extent that the ankle-deep news media would have us believe. For example, if you think the millions of people who oppose gay marriage are necessarily motivated by hate, I am thrilled to inform you that you are simply wrong. We’re actually motivated by truth, love, and tolerance. If you think opposition to abortion-on-demand and to Planned Parenthood constitutes a “war on women,” you should be relieved to know that we’re actually motivated by a desire to create a culture that upholds the innate value of all human life; in other words, truth, love, and tolerance. Disagreement does not equal hate.

Attempting to shame people into conformity ultimately won’t work because it doesn’t change people’s hearts. Government force does not change people’s hearts. There is simply no easy substitute for the hard work of building relationships.

The Humongous Lake Providence Mural
Resurrection Fellowship, whose pastor was once a worship leader at a church in Lake Providence years ago, has committed to building a long-term relationship with the town of Lake Providence. This Loveland church sponsored the LP mural project. A local black business owner in LP agreed to let a bunch of (mostly) white people from Colorado paint on his building. The team consisted of 9 adult artists and their families. Most considered themselves to be amateurs or non-artists. As the only full-time professional artist, I headed the project along with my wife and our leader, Eric Holmlund. Our team had one week to paint a very complex design on a huge, already primed, old building. I had my doubts that it could be done in a week.

Lake Providence mural 2
The design, which Eric had named “Destiny Words,” consisted of a crossword puzzle-like grid with interlocking words. In the spaces between we were to paint images reflective of the town and region, based on input from local citizens. Eric created the basic design for this using photos .

I felt that giving inexperienced artists photographs to paint from on such an ambitious project would probably not have ended well. So Mollie and I translated the photos into basic flat shapes, with gradated color, and incorporated heavy line work. We used the design approach of poster artists David Lance Goines, and Michael Schwab as inspiration. We felt that this would unify the overall look of the mural despite the large number of people involved, (some of whom were children.) I also felt that the simplicity of the shapes and flat color would give us a chance of actually finishing in one week.

Lake Providence mural 3
This was uncomfortable, but good for me. When it comes to art, I don’t see myself as a person who is naturally great at collaborating with other people, but for this project I determined to do the upfront design work and then “let it go.”

We arrived in Lake Providence at night in a freaking downpour, but for the rest of the week we had great weather. Our first morning there, Mr. Brock, an LP local took us on a bus tour of the town and impressed on us how different Lake Providence, LA was from Loveland, CO:

Scott Freeman painting mural

The author working on the trumpeter.

Population: LP – 3,991, Loveland – 66,859
Median hh income: LP – $16,900, Loveland – $47,119
Poverty rate: LP – 55%, Loveland – 4%
Race demographics: LP – 16% white, 80% black; Loveland – 91% white (2010)

Wow.

Then, we were off and running, working hard from morning ‘til night. The LP locals were very generous hosts and fed us extremely well all week. Even strangers fed us: one night, a black lady, dressed all in white and wearing a big white hat, was on her way home from a revival meeting. After stopping to talk with us, she went home and brought back the remains of a cheesecake for me! Really?!

The whole week was a big, crazy, colorful party with people stopping by throughout each day, many of whom joined in to paint. We were on the corner of a very busy, very close intersection, so we painted to a serenade of honking horns and encouraging shouts.

Lake Providence mural gator

Rene, Sandy, and me hard at work. The gator is my favorite.

In the end, we went right down to the wire and got the mural done with the help of many hands and much support. (Well, there is this one little area that didn’t get painted, but I’m not going to point it out.) On the very last night Eric and I went up and painted the url to a website that Eric had set up that day, so that passers by can look up the meaning and inspiration behind Lake Providence’s newest downtown public art addition. You can read about it here: www.LPmural.com.

 
Title: “Destiny Words”
Artists: Sandy Beegle, Mollie Walker Freeman, Scott Freeman, Aubrey Grieser, Margie Gray, Eric Holmlund, Sabrina Peterson, Rene Prinsloo, Marcus Robinson
Opinions expressed here are not necessarily the views of the other artists or Resurrection Fellowship.

Lake Providence mural 4

At the center of the mural is a depiction of two recent high school graduates. These girls, both prom queens from their respective LP schools, agreed to appear on the same parade float for the first time in LP history. Both were members of Providence Church in, which supported our team while we were there.

 

LP Judah

Zeitgeist – Recent Paintings by Scott & Mollie Freeman

Mollie and I opened our art exhibit at the Loveland Museum-Gallery last weekend. In this post I will share my opening comments for those of you who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it. Many thanks to those of you who did come – you certainly made it a special evening for us! Art is, after all, a communal undertaking.

Of course I can’t help but do a little embellishing along the way, but here’s the gist of what I said:

First I want to say that Mollie and I are inexperienced travelers, and we claim no expertise in things German. What follows are simply our observations and contemplations around our wonderful visit to Germany.

Mollie and I chose to title our exhibit, Zeitgeist, which means “spirit of the times.” Why Zeitgeist?
Well, it strikes us that the spirit of our times has to do with unity, community, and communion. This is what we’re all seeking, to some degree. We’re all now familiar with the idea of the world getting smaller, and the reality that international communication has become ridiculously easy and cheap. For me, it’s like a miracle that I regularly sit at my dining room table and communicate with people around the world. The fact that this art exhibit grew out of an unexpected international friendship initially set the tone for our show. Our trip was only made possible by the generosity of friends here at home, and especially by the generosity of the Taube family in Germany.

When we arrived in Germany, we saw the human urge to create community, to varying degrees, visibly expressed everywhere. It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the smoldering reminders of someone’s attempt to create a better, unified world. I happen to be fascinated with utopian idealists and their visions. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. It seems obvious to me that the world is broken and that there is something terribly wrong with the human condition. I believe we’re all seeking unity between Man and God, between Man and Man, and between Man and Nature. I would guess that all of us are giving our energies to one or more of these pursuits. I give utopian visionaries props for at least trying to make the world a better place.

But there is a maddening paradox.

Part of what fascinates me about studying utopian human movements, ideologies, and isms is how they seem to always go horribly wrong. Despite the best intentions of men & women, our plans to make the world a better place often create a situation worse than what existed before. The worst examples of this are seen in political revolutions carried out “for the good of the people” that have often resulted in the bald slaughter of the people they claimed to liberate. It’s astonishing how good intentions can go so wrong.

Germany’s tumultuous, world-shaping history is extraordinary, profoundly contributing to the world both for better and for worse. This tension is reflected in the paintings here, to varying degrees:

With Nazism and World War 2, much of Germany was destroyed, and the entire country has been tirelessly rebuilding ever since; reconstructing its old historic structures, as well as creating new ones, often blending the very old with the very new. Several of Mollie’s watercolors feature the reconstructed St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lubeck, which was extensively bombed on the night of Palm Sunday in 1942. It’s important to note that Germany’s massive reconstruction campaign is not designed to cover over and forget the unspeakable horror of Nazism.  Often the ruins of the war have been left as a monument, or documented with public placards, so that future generations will never forget what occurred.

Other structures are reminders of the remarkable positive contributions that Germany has given the world. My painting, Coexistence of Centuries #2 shows St. Michael’s Church in the town of Luneburg, rising up behind the harmonious modern architecture in the foreground. Johann Sebastian Bach sang soprano as a choirboy in this church from 1700 to 1703. St. Michael’s, which opened in 1409, has stood through the invention of the printing press and the Renaissance, the Reformation, two world wars, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and German re-unification.

blg-Coexistence

Coexistence of Centuries – oil, 24×36 in, Scott Freeman

After the Second World War, Germany was split in two by Communism. The city of Berlin suffered a bizarre fate, becoming engulfed behind the iron curtain, making West Berlin an isolated island of freedom well inside of East Germany. Stories abound. Though the Berlin Wall is now gone, city planners have marked and memorialized where it once stood, so that it is impossible to go through the city without seeing the remains of the utopian Communist experiment gone wrong in the midst of a now re-unified Germany. Two of my paintings resulted from a midnight walk in Berlin where I watched gentle people enjoying the night hours on Alexanderplatz, the site of the largest anti-government demonstration in GDR history, just days before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I’ve posted thoughts on these paintings HERE and HERE.

Our German hosts also took us to visit the site of a much smaller utopian experiment. In the town of Worpswede, an artist from Bremen named Heinrich Vogeler joined an artist community in 1894. The next year he bought a cottage there and named it Barkenhoff, (which means birch tree cottage.)

blg-Barkenhoff

Barkenhoff

I took this quote from the museum exhibit:
“Upon returning to Worpswede, disillusioned by his experiences in the first World War and highly politicized, Heinrich Vogeler tried to create a “new world” at his Barkenhoff. Here a commune was supposed to realize his social utopia of a self-governing society without class structures and private property – an ambitious experiment that was to fail after a few short years.”

After the failure of the commune, apparently due to various human infidelities, Vogeler joined the Communist party, his art became propagandistic, he emigrated to Russia, and was eventually deported to Kazakhstan where he died, sick and destitute.

Blg-Worpswede

Worpswede – Near the Artists Colony – oil, 20×24 inches, Scott Freeman

blg-Synagoga

Synagoga – part of a trytich entitled,
The Wall Remaining
– oil, 20×48 inches, Scott Freema

Mollie and I have also included our personal visions of unity, community, and communion in the exhibit. My triptych, The Wall Remaining, quotes tragic medieval iconography, and looks forward to what I believe will be a new unity emerging between the Synagogue and the Church. We shall see. I have posted on this painting in detail HERE.

One of my favorite pieces of Mollie’s is a large piece (4×5 ft) entitled, Jacob’s Ladder #8. She has painted several variations on this theme over the years. It refers to ideas of unity and communion in that the biblical theme of Jacob’s Ladder ultimately has to do with uniting heaven and earth. She has posted on this theme on her art blog, HERE.

blg-Jacob's Ladder 8

Jacob’s Ladder #8 – water media, 4×5 ft, Mollie Walker Freeman

 

“Zeitgeist – Paintings Inspired by Germany” will be open through Feb 23, 2014 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado – 503 N. Lincoln Ave – 970.962.2410 – http://www.LovelandMuseumGallery.org. Admission to the Foote Gallery is free.