“Vive la Difference!”

Bold contrast can evoke great wonder. Sameness, on the other hand, can be boring.

Music is built around contrast. Holding one note hardly qualifies as music, let alone as beautiful. Music needs ups and downs, ins and outs and many orderly variations of timing and sound to be good. The Bible resonates with this. Speaking of music, Paul praised “distinction in the tones.” (1 Corinthians 14:7).

The awesome power of electricity is based in contrast. No polarity, no power. The splendor of nature is also seen in its contrasts. Yosemite Valley staggers the mind with its astounding vertical and horizontal contrasts.

Along with wonder and joy, human understanding itself grows more out of contrast than sameness. Communication would cease with the elimination of distinct contrasting shapes and sounds. No one would need hearing aids or glasses in a world where all sounds and sights were the same. A bit hyperbolic? Perhaps, but stay with me.

Not everyone sees this. I know an art professor who teaches that all artistic expression is equally valid. Thus, garbage hanging from a gallery ceiling is equally valid with the Statue of Liberty and Daniel Chester French’s Minuteman; an aborted fetus displayed in formaldehyde is on par with Handel’s Messiah and da Vinci’s Last Supper; and a picture of a crucifix dipped in urine is just as lovely as Henry O. Tanner’s Banjo Player and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. Andy Warhol’s definition of art as “anything you can get away with” wipes out all standards of truth and beauty. Yippee!

In 1971, John Lennon imagined a world with no countries or possessions. We would all live in the same big country owning all the same things with the same beloved leaders, rules and TV channels. Imagine having one story, one dialect, one flag, one anthem, one party, one uniform, one mindset, and “no religion too.” That might resolve a few frustrations but we might also need one drug to keep us all in line.

Imagine a year with no holidays, no one day more special than another. Envision a world where men and women all looked, thought and acted the same. Women would always show up at social events in the same outfit. Sesame Street could dispense with those childish skits that distinguish “up” from “down,” “on” from “off,” “hard” from “soft” and so on. We could get rid of discriminatory concepts like “wise” and “foolish” and “right” and “wrong.” How liberating!

One of the first things an infant learns is the difference between mommy and daddy. Just think if, instead of “mommy” or “daddy,” a child’s first coherent words were “parent one” or “parent two” (or three or four). We could pretend that gender is nothing but an oppressive social construction and use the same restrooms, locker rooms and redefine marriage and life itself to be genderless. The “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Scouts” could become the “Same Scouts.”

No! No! No! The wonders of life and love rise more out of contrast than sameness. Our Creator knew we needed the seasons, with all their glorious contrasts of color, climate and conditions. He knew we needed the distinctions of night and day, hot and cold, wet and dry, and yes, male and female. The sacredness of marriage is built on contrast. Sex loses its regenerative meaning when you replace sexual contrast with sameness. If you want to minimize the mystery, meaning, luster and ongoing thrill of sex, then replace the glorious contrast of gender with sameness. Turn the ol’ French maxim, “vive la difference” into “vive la sameness!”

No! Such thinkers should be sentenced to ten years of listening to Disney’s “It’s a Small World” over and over.

The ultimate contrast involves good and evil. Blending them into oblivion (as our current academic and popular cultures seek to do) kills moral clarity and replaces it with moral blindness. Living in a peaceful moral coma free of shame, we lose focus and slink toward a dense fog of boring sameness. No thank you!

Photo Credits:

Featured Image

The Banjo Lesson

America: Imagine Your Limitations

In 1971, John Lennon imagined a world with no countries, possessions, hunger and “no religion too.” This, he presumed, would create “a brotherhood of man” wherein “the world will live as one.” Sweet!

Remember President Obama’s election victory speech in 2009? He boldly proclaimed:

    I am absolutely certain, that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment — this was the time — when we came together to remake this great nation.

In 2010, at the signing of a huge health coverage bill, Vice President Joe Biden introduced the President as the one making it possible “…that every American from this day forward will be treated with simple fairness and basic justice.”

This was like claiming that the Chicago Cubs had finally signed a contract ensuring that they would never again lose a game or make an out.

And the fans went wild!


Do those who cheer such brazen bilge actually believe it? The advertising industry suggests they do. I once heard a radio commercial that promised, “If you can dream it, you can become it!” A recent television ad for the Sprint Corporation pitched the idea that life can be “unlimited.” In it, a young man says, “I have a need, no; I have the right to be unlimited.”

In today’s pleasure-pursuing luxury-loving culture, Americans do not like to think in terms of limitation. We want to have it all and we love (and enrich) those who tell us we can. The human potential industry keeps churning out unlimited utopian promises for people who will pay anything for them.

Listen to President Obama on the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade (a 1973 Supreme Court decision that mandated the legality of abortion):

    On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere. (January 22, 2009)

In other words, let’s not let human life itself stand in the way of our dreams.


What makes Americans so gullible? Why do we pretend that a politician can forge fairness and basic justice for all? How is the popular mind so easily seduced into longing to be rescued by heroic speech-makers, celebrities, self-styled spiritualists or anyone who will tickle our ears with flowery rhetoric? Once seduced, we hardly notice when the proverbial flowers don’t grow. We just want the feelings. We hope our lives will change without doing the changing. We reward campaigns that make us emote over dreams of “hope and change”

I’m all for treating every American with “simple fairness and basic justice.” But the notion that a politician can sign a bill that provides this is beyond absurd. In the real world, when politicians pander, government frameworks falter, dreams become nightmares, and yes, when the Chicago Cubs lose, I am not shocked. Accepting life’s limits and responsibilities is called growing up. If you don’t like stifling boundaries, don’t try out for the basketball team. If limits on your sex life bother you, don’t get married. And stay away from people I care about!

Living well with limits is not a surrender to cynicism or apathy. Instead of longing for politicians to make our dreams come true, wake up and go to work. America cannot endure on imagination alone. Be inspired by the epilogue of a 1936 western titled “The Plainsman:”

    It shall be as it was in the past… Not with dreams, but with strength and courage, shall a nation be molded to last.

My Dad
(Happy Father’s Day to Horace Spurgeon Solliday)

As a boy, rising early in the morning enabled me to spend private time with my dad. He was always on his way to work before my mom or brothers got up, so this was our time. He would make an egg and toast breakfast for me with yoke soft enough to dip my toast into it. Is there any other way to have eggs and toast? If he broke the yoke, he would take the disqualified egg.

I was an avid sports fan as a boy – a walking sports encyclopedia. If any kid had a dad less interested in sports than my dad, I didn’t know him. He preferred reading Scientific American or Sky and Telescope to playing catch. Still, he did play catch with me. And for my part, I learned how to tell the difference between DC-8s and Boeing 707s (passenger airplanes).

Despite his love for science, his “birds & bees” lecture to me was not very scientific. He simply inspired me to bring virginity to my future marriage. There was no double-standard on that score for girls or boys in his mind. Any moral standard he tried to pass to his sons were held even more firmly for himself.

Throughout my childhood, any notion that I was like my dad was lost on me. I loved him but being like him was not my dream. Decades later, I learned to take pride and joy in many similarities with him that I feared as a child. And it all happened against my conscious will.

In hindsight, I see how some similarities got passed to me. My dad read Bible stories to his sons on a regular basis. His enthusiasm for both the words and the pictures cultivated in me the two great passions of my life: faith and art! His love for church was contagious. I did not view him as a social animal but at church, his social skills blossomed. It was real. How could I not catch that love?

Dad and I have butted heads on some theological points over the years. Thirty years ago, we had a knock-down drag-out argument over the question of Christ-like headship in the family. I had the graduate degree in theology and he had the experience. I had risen above the archaic “patriarchal” notions that were going out of style and he still believed that stuff. Despite all my disrespectful presumptions and talking-points, he still loved me. It took me decades to figure out that he was right, not just about the “headship” principle but also about the “Christ-like” part of it.

After reflecting on the book of James, my dad once wrote;

    We are to live every moment of our lives ready to go to the Lord the next minute. Keep prayed up, studied up, loved up, worked up and every other up we need to live the Christian life that will keep us ready to go.

My dad is a product of old-time gospel preaching and in many ways for which I am now grateful, I am a product of him. His convictions remain slightly more old school than mine but the way he holds and applies his convictions commands tremendous respect from me.

Dad is honest with himself. For as long as I remember, whenever he failed in any small way, he could admit his flaw to his sons or others. Not all dads can do this. He never allowed himself much distance from God’s refining hand. Better than most men, he never seemed to realize it. In time, I did.

Love Lessons!

What can we learn about true “love” from Samson and Delilah? (If you need to be refreshed on their story, read Judges 16).

  1. “Love” is not enough. Samson “fell in love” with Delilah (Judges 16:4, NIV). But love (or was it lust?) without wisdom got him into big trouble. Always be sure to add wisdom to your love.
  2. Real love is priceless. Delilah was enticed by an enormous amount of money to deceive Samson. Watch out for lovers who can be bought.
  3. Love and lies don’t mix (including lies to ourselves). Both Samson and Delilah were lying to each other. If you think you are in love with a liar, you may be lying to yourself.
  4. Don’t shop for bargains when it comes to love (you tend to get what you pay for). Samson learned that getting “love” without marriage was no bargain in the end! What seems like a great deal on the front end can get quite costly later. And don’t lower your own price tag. If you sell yourself short, expect to be considered “cheap” by whoever got the bargain.
  5. Good relationships do not require ropes. If your partner keeps tying you up in your sleep (or when awake for that matter), you might want to reconsider that relationship.
  6. Don’t let your feelings be your guide. Enjoy them under healthy circumstances, but don’t seek them anywhere or follow them everywhere. Samson was controlled by his passions. He was tossed to and fro by lust and he lived and died for vengeance. Nothing weakens a strong man more than living on feelings.
  7. Excessive nagging can be harmful to your love (and your life). Delilah was effective as a nag because Samson forgot #1 above. Learn to discern legitimate encouragement and fair criticism from blatant manipulation.
  8. Real love comes on a two-way street (and stays on it too). Both Samson and Delilah loved the other on a one-way street. Maybe they were just using the other to love themselves.
  9. “It’s all about me” is a lousy way to love (in fact, it’s the opposite of love). Samson was a man of his turbulent times, which were defined rather selfishly: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25, NASB).
  10. Real love should be able survive a bad hair day!

Photo Credits
Samson under Assault

Delilah and Samson