Happy Easter, White Jesus

Ain't Nobody Like This Buddy

Ain’t Nobody Like This Buddy

Remember last Christmas when there was a minor kerfuffle going on with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. She was talking about an author who wanted to do away with the idea of a white Santa. Ms. Kelly found the idea to be ludicrous and insisted that there are some people whose ethnicity you cannot touch. Jesus, for example, was a white guy – you can’t change what it is.

Here it is…

Now, here’s the thing. There were a lot of people making fun of Ms. Kelly. I even cracked a few jokes like:

Of COURSE Jesus was white. Who on earth would want to worship a middle eastern Jew?

Please understand that the previous sentence is a joke – I’m not serious. The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus was a middle eastern Jew.

In the midst of the discussion about Ms. Kelly’s goof there were some accusations of racism. We need to be careful about the words we use, because I don’t think racism is at play here.

Racism is treating people as inferior because of their race.

What happened on Fox News was not about inferiority. It wasn’t racism. It was racial bias but not racism. And racial bias is normal. It is a normal human trait to imagine stories from our own perspectives. When we read our imaginations usually make the characters look like us. Even when the author is clear about a character’s description we will often overlook that description in our heads.

There were many fans of The Hunger Games who were upset when the character Rue was cast as a little black girl. They failed to recognize the description the author provided and filled in their own gaps from their own perspectives….

The story of Jesus is no different. We don’t have any photos of the man, so we are left to use our imaginations to see him. Left to ourselves, we fill in the blank spots from our own experiences, culture, and background.

Megyn Kelly wasn’t being racist. Ignorant, sure, but not racist (and honestly, it’s hard not to see Jesus as white when the majority of sacred art we’re exposed to is European…).

One of my most prized possessions is a book called “The Life of Jesus” (1978, Buechner and Boltin). I don’t think it’s in print any more, but you can get it used on Amazon.

It’s the story of Jesus combined with sacred art from around the world. Let me show you some famous art of Jesus…

Christ Crowned with Thorns. Wood. Philippines, 20th Century

Christ Crowned with Thorns. Wood. Philippines, 20th Century

Virgin and Child. Oil on Canvas. Uruguay, 20th Century.

Virgin and Child. Oil on Canvas. Uruguay, 20th Century.

The Last Supper. Crayon on Paper. U.S.A., Contemporary.

The Last Supper. Crayon on Paper. U.S.A., Contemporary.

Mother of Divine Grace. Textile. Japan, Contemporary.

Mother of Divine Grace. Textile. Japan, Contemporary.

Crucifixion. Bronze. Italy, 1933.

Crucifixion. Bronze. Italy, 1933.

Adoration of the Magi. Rome, circa 200.

Adoration of the Magi. Rome, circa 200.

The Holy Family. Painting on Silk. Japan, 20th Century.

The Holy Family. Painting on Silk. Japan, 20th Century.

We all tend to fashion the Bible from our own background. Is it wrong to see Jesus as a white guy? As Japanese? As African? Historically, sure – he was a middle eastern Jew. But the whole point of the Incarnation is that Christ is WITH us. God is not far away and removed – He is one of us. So the God who left heaven to be like me might look like me. What other god ever bothered to become like us?

The mystery and magnificence of YAHWEH is the Incarnation. His name is Emmanuel, which means: God with us.

Ms. Kelly should have apologized for her cultural bias and ignorance but I don’t fault her for seeing Jesus from her background and heritage. I don’t really expect my blog will ever cross her path, but if you do know her send her the link, okay? 😉

This Easter season take some time to reflect on the idea that God cares enough for us to become like us. To feel like us. To suffer like us. To die like us.

Yes, even to look like us.

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How to Get Money From God

You can’t.

Sorry.

Today I actually heard a Christian minister say:

If you give money to God, He’ll give money to you. NOT so we can get rich, but so that we can live generous lives & be a blessing to others!

Boy that sure makes us feel good, doesn’t it?

It’s a promise of getting money (which we all love) and it comes our way when we first give money to God.

Here’s the kicker – the part that makes us feel better about the whole exchange is that the money that God gives us needs to be used to bless others.

Everyone got that?

Give money to God. God gives money to you. Go and bless others with what God has given you in return.

Here’s the thing. IT’S GARBAGE! TOTAL BALONEY!

Boy, this really got me steamed up today.

There’s no equation by which we can coerce God into giving us cash. Moolah. Greenbacks.

I know plenty of righteous poor people who give to God and never get money in return. God’s not a bank paying you interest on your investment.

Telling people that if they give then God will give back is ludicrous.

“But Pastor, what about the poor woman who gave her last two coins?”

What about her?

That’s a great story, but the point is not, “Give to God and he’s gonna give you more in return.” There is no Heavenly CashBack Plan. The point of the widow giving is about the heart of the giver.

Jesus says, “So what if you give a little out of your abundance? Look at this poor woman who gave a lot out of her poverty!” Her heart was in the right place – not because she wanted God to return her money ten-fold, but because she prioritized giving to God above everything else. She gave until she had nothing left to give.

What a heart.

I’m not there. I haven’t met a whole lot of people who are. But shouldn’t that be our goal? Can we grow and mature and get to the point that we’re willing to commit to God 100% of everything we have and everything we are?

Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always.” There’s not divine get-rich plan. Giving to God may get you no earthly reward. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently.

At the same time, when we cultivate generous hearts then we reap unseen rewards. We may never experience them in this lifetime – but that’s not the point.

So examine your heart and your motivations for giving.

You won’t earn money back. But how’s your heart?

Forced Gay Part II—My Hypocrisy

Permit me to get on my soap box. I waited a few days, debating whether or not I should even bring this up again. But the firestorm that I caused in my circles only solidifies in my head that we need to be talking about this…

If you had told me a year or two ago that I’d be arguing against Evangelical Christians in support of civil rights for same-sex couples I would’ve told you that you were nuts. Yet here we are.

A few days ago I wrote a post about Xians refusing to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that some photographers had violated a same-sex couple’s civil rights – and the Evangelical Xian community roared.

After a lot of thought about it and an eventual change in my own position, I publicly stated that I think the photographers were wrong to discriminate against the couple and that all Xians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).

I knew that my position would clash with mainstream Evangelical thought, but I never expected the backlash I saw. And, not being one to back down from a verbal sparring, I’m going to write about it some more. I’m convinced more than ever that the Church has got to make some changes in how it approaches the LGBT community – for Christ’s sake. So…here we go.

I am a conservative Evangelical Xian (at least I thought so). I believe that God designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman who are married to each other. This means that adulterous relationships, fornication, and same-sex relationships are not part of God’s intended design. I believe that the Bible makes this case. I believe that nature and human physiology itself bear this out.

At the same time I believe that the Church should not be party to mistreating and discriminating against people – any people. I believe that the Church has been complicit in such discrimination. In my last post I compared the photographers’ behavior to establishments in the south that used to post “Whites Only” signs out front. I received criticism from Christians who told me that I cannot compare the racially charged civil rights movement with same-sex issues. I was told that the gay marriage issue is different from REAL civil rights.

To me it’s not an issue of gay marriage, racial equality, or any other issue. The topic at hand is about businesses refusing to serve certain elements of the public because of a personal disagreement with that element. Who gets to decide who is worthy of service or not? If conservative Xians can refuse to serve the LGBT community, who’s to say that racist business owners can’t refuse to serve other races?

I know, I know. “Racism is different.” That’s what I was told by other pastors. “You can’t compare racism with LGBT discrimination because racists distort the Bible for their own ends while we understand that the Bible is clearly against homosexuality.”

Excuse me?!?

Do you understand what was just said? “It’s wrong for racists to discriminate because they believe the wrong thing. It’s okay for us to discriminate because we believe correctly.” This infuriates me. The whole idea of freedom of religion is that we don’t hold another person’s private beliefs against him. You can believe anything you want and I can believe anything I want and we still come together as citizens in the same nation.

You can’t claim that your discrimination is okay because you read the Bible correctly and say another person’s discrimination is wrong because they misread it. So the civil rights laws step in and say, “We’re going to make sure that all people are treated the same no matter what their status or what your personal beliefs may be.”

If you have a business that serves the public you are not allowed to say, “Well…I won’t serve THOSE people.” I was told by other Xians that vendors ought to be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples because a gay marriage might violate the vendor’s idea of marriage as a covenant between the couple and God. I agree that marriage is designed to be a covenant between the husband and wife and between the couple and God. But being a vendor does not endorse the views of the couple.

A baker can bake a wedding cake without endorsing the couple. The florist can arrange flowers without endorsing the couple. A Xian waiter can wait tables if it were an engagement party for a gay couple.

A Christian owner of a candle store doesn’t vet her customers to make sure that no Wiccans buy candles. “Excuse me, are you Wiccan? Because I won’t sell these candles to you if you’re going to go conjure up spirits with them.”

In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that Xian wedding vendors are performing background checks to make sure that every couple they serve fits the biblical model of marriage. Would the vendor refuse to provide services for a man who divorced his wife so that he could marry his mistress? They never even ask that question. At least I was never asked about my relationship background when my fiancée and I visited vendors. No one double-checked to make sure it wasn’t an adulterous relationship.

Rather than pretending that we care about God’s ideal for marriage, we should simply admit that we’re picking a particular segment of society to discriminate against. It’s the thing to do. Gay relationships offend our sensibilities more than an adulterous relationship. It’s become socially acceptable within the Church to single out the LGBT community for condemnation.

The natural follow-up question I received: “If you believe this way would you marry a same-sex couple?” And without hesitation I answer all who ask, “No, I would not.” As I said, I believe that God’s design for sexuality is for one man and one woman who are married to each other. It was at this point that I was called a hypocrite, putting myself and other pastors up on a pedestal while calling out non-clergy Xians.

I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Xian that there is no difference between a pastor and any other vendor or justice of the peace. Am I not obligated being licensed by the state to perform same-sex marriages?

Let me clarify in case you did not know: pastors are not licensed by the state. I have never been nor will I ever be licensed by the state. I am ordained by the church. The state merely recognizes the church’s endorsement of the clergy. I am not a vendor – I am a pastor and spiritual care-giver. I do not claim to serve the public through my service. Pastors are not the same as vendors. We’re not the same as a justice of the peace. When I marry a couple it is more than a ceremony. I pastor them – talk to them about what marriage looks like from a biblical point of view. I talk to them about God’s ideal for healthy relationships. I read Scripture to them. I’m not a vendor, I’m a pastor. That might not make a difference to you – it makes a difference to me.A friend commented to me that any issue combining civil issues and moral issues is messy. It is messy. There is no easy solution or answer to this stuff. But I see too many Xians behaving poorly. We’re not acting like Jesus.

There were several times in Jesus’ public life that he encountered “sinners”. In these encounters we see him acting the same way. He talks to them. He touches them. He cares for them. He loves them. THEN he tells them to go and stop sinning. Not so much the Church today. Our attitude is often, “Go and stop sinning. Then come back so we can love you.”

I’m ready for the Church to lead the way in loving people. Too many Xians think that loving people means encouraging and allowing sin. I’m not for a soft-sell faith. I’m not for white-washing Jesus. I still believe in the Jesus of the Gospels who proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But we forget that he loved first, called for change second. And, honestly, I think most people in the LGBT community know my position as an Evangelical pastor. I don’t have to beat people over the head with my view of the Bible. I can love them in spite of our differences.

So…call me hypocrite. Quote Proverbs to me. Tell me you think I’m going against sound judgment. Tell me that you can’t believe I’ve fallen away.

Me? I can’t believe the Church has become so coldhearted. We don’t have to stop preaching righteousness. We don’t have to stop talking about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sin. But we don’t have to discriminate, no matter what our differences may be.

We can still love people, no matter who they are or their type of sin. At least – I think that’s what Jesus would do.

So I’m off my soap box. Please feel free to share this with CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be quoted as the Evangelical pastor who is against gay marriage but for civil rights. But keep it away from Fox News – I don’t want to be crucified… 😉

Related Posts:
~ Forced Gay: The Battle for Straight Xian Rights

Forced Gay – The Battle for Straight Xian Rights

I originally wrote this when the battle between Evangelicals and the LGBT community erupted over business service. It’s just as appropriate today with what’s happening with Arizona’s SB1062.

If you haven’t heard by now let me tell you. New Mexico is a hot mess. Just recently there was a State Supreme Court decision that a Christian-owned photography studio violated a gay couple’s human rights when the studio declined to do the couple’s wedding pictures.

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog says:

Under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, it’s unlawful for a public accommodation to refuse to offer its services to someone because of the person’s sexual orientation. The same law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry and gender.

The phrase “public accommodation” generally means public and private places (even retail establishments) used by the public.

As a business used by the public, the New Mexico Supreme Court says that the Christian couple needed to accommodate the same-sex couple with their services. I’ve seen a lot of Evangelicals (my own camp of Christendom – and yes, I know Christendom is an historically loaded word, for all of you theologians and church historians) get their noses bent out of shape about this New Mexico case.

But before we jump on the bandwagon of martyrdom and outrage at the persecution of Christians let’s think through the whole thing. Ready? Thinking caps ON!

The whole idea of disallowing businesses to refuse service to people is actually a good thing. It was a critical piece of the civil rights movement. It’s the piece of the puzzle that tells restaurants, ”You cannot refuse service to colored people.” It’s the piece that says landlords cannot refuse housing to someone based on a personal agenda. It’s a good thing…until we feel it is working against our own beliefs.

When we get called on violating someone else, rather than respond with humility and an apology, we get all in a huff. HOW DARE YOU TREAD ON MY RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! Slow down, turbo. Think about it. Let’s ponder the case of the photographer.

The business didn’t want to be seen as supporting a cause they disagreed with. I understand that – I really do. But I have a hard time believing that they only serve good Christian folk. Would they take pictures of an atheist wedding? Would they take pictures at a reception where people would be getting hammered? Do you really mean to tell me that this business weeds out all sinners and only serves the perfect elect?

Hi there. Welcome back to earth. I really don’t see that happening.

It doesn’t matter that the couple was able to find another photographer. If my wife and I tried to eat in a restaurant and were denied service because we’re a mixed-race couple IT DOESN’T MATTER IF WE CAN EAT AT THE SUBWAY DOWN THE STREET – IT’S WRONG! Was I clear about that? Unfortunately it still happens. As recently as 2004, Cracker Barrel was discriminating against brown people (segregated seating and giving colored people poorer service). This is not the stuff of theory – this is too true in our “modern” society.

On the flip side, the law also protects Christians. It means that we can’t be denied service from an atheist shop owner/operator simply because we’re Christian. The law is geared to protect ALL people. We don’t get to pick and choose to apply it to some people and then exclude others. Otherwise any shop can turn down anyone for any “belief” the owner has. And there are some crazy beliefs out there. We don’t want personal beliefs dictating service.

So let’s get off our moral high horses and recognize that we goofed this time. If you can’t do it, then I’ll do it for us.

To everyone who has been denied service from an Evangelical Christian, I am saddened that you were treated in such a manner. You did not deserve to bear the brunt of discrimination.

To the rest of us – we can do better. Jesus said that we’re to treat people the way we want to be treated (that thingy called the Golden Rule?). We don’t get to treat people based on whether or not they fit our preferred profile.

So like this post and share this post with the world (shameless plug, yes?) because there are too many of us out there that think we can pick and choose who we will be decent to; who we will serve or cast aside.

And that’s really not Christ-like, you know?

How about you? Have you had to face discrimination for any reason? Anything you are able to talk about?

The Rebellious American Spirit

In case there was any doubt in your mind, yes – Americans have a rebellious spirit. You can see this most evidently in political diatribes on social media. We love to stick it to each other. We rail against the horrible policies of our opponents and those of differing agendas and parties.

In extreme cases, I’ve seen people call for Soldiers to openly rise up and seize the White House and remove the President from power. In less extreme cases, I’ve seen people call all sorts of horrible names and level all sorts of wicked accusations against politicians with whom the accusers disagree. It seems that there is no such thing as civil discourse any more.

What really saddens me is how quickly Christians jump on board with this kind of behavior. It’s as though we are giving in to our basest nature and forgetting the Godly nature that is supposed to now guide us. We justify our behavior and our language in all sorts of ways – trying to find an excuse for why we’re calling Senator So-and-So a poo-poo head or linking the President to Hitler.

It’s like we revel in seeing ourselves as the Rebellion and anyone who disagrees as the Empire.

The simple fact is this – I don’t see any cause in the Bible for treating people like this. The Apostle Paul seems pretty straightforward:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.

Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Of course, Paul’s “governing authorities” were not the duly elected officials of our era. We’re talking about the Emperor and his governors. You know…the ones who put Christians to death. And still Paul calls us to surrender our rebellious spirit to God and to subject ourselves to the authorities. If God is really in control of this world, then even the authorities we despise are part of his plan.

Politically minded Christians are the worst, because we tend to justify our behavior with the God-card – trying to mix our politics and faith. Missiologist Ed Stetzer once wrote: When you mix politics and religion you get politics.

Even when we disagree with the policies and decisions of the elected officials, let us make sure that we are not embracing a sinful rebellious spirit but can submit; Republican, Democrat, Independent, whomever.

No matter what happens in the country, this world is not our home. Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag but to our God. Eventually you will get jerked around by government and organizations – it’s the nature of the beast (yes, pun intended). But take it with a measure of grace and know that God’s got bigger plans than American health care, or gay marriage, ____________ (insert the issue of your choosing).

No matter what happens God is still God.

So, What Kind of Racist Are You?

So this week a friend send me this video to watch. I was laughing so hard I nearly died laughing. Seriously, it was pretty bad. Fortunately my wife was able to revive me. Then I watched it again.

Have at it:

While it’s incredibly funny, the video highlights an all-too-true reality:

We judge people based on external qualities and then form opinions based on those judgments.

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh boy – here we go again. Another post on race.”

Well…yes.

While some deny it or try to trivialize it, the truth is that this is a common experience in the world. As husband to a mixed-race woman I’ve been there and have heard people ask:

“So…what are you?”

“Where are you from originally?”

Here’s a true story – Years ago we were interviewing for a church position. We had sent in a resume, photograph, sermon sample, etc. The search committee called me to conduct a phone interview. Over the phone one of the deacons asked, “What ethnicity is your wife?”

My response? “Um, why does it matter?”

We did not end up going to that church.

Our problem is that, in these questions we pretend that we’re not racist. But we are. If we weren’t racist why would we even need to ask the question?

I know, know. You’re just curious. You just want information.

Baloney. That’s the kind of question you ask when you have a real relationship with and you end up having a conversation about family trees. It’s not something you ask someone superficially.

The Apostle Paul tried to address the way we view each other and the ways those views play out in behavior. He said that there is no class distinction in Christianity. There is not race distinction in Christianity. There is no gender distinction in Christianity. In Jesus the playing field is leveled.

We are no longer this or that. We simply are.

When you ask a person what he is and where he comes from you are taking away his ability simply to be. That’s not Christian. Well, I suppose it too often IS Christian.

But it’s not supposed to be…

Xian Cursing

I posted this at thexiansatirist.wordpress.com, but it’s worth re-posting  🙂

If you have a sensitivity to coarse language you may want to skip this post…

So the other day I played a little game with some friends. I asked a group of people to help me come up with as many Xian swear alternatives as we could (those are words Christians use when we feel a need to swear but don’t feel comfortable using any of the words the world uses). Keep in mind that Xians have different standards of what is or is not acceptable. But here is the list we came up with.

1. **#%%#*#&#*
2. Fahrvergnügen
3. mother frito
4. Shazbot!
5. CHEEZ IT!
6. Jeepers!
7. Jinkies!
8. Zoinks!
9. cheese and crackers.
10. “crumb” instead of “crap”, for the very conservative 🙂
11. oh my word, oh my stars
12. Gadzooks!
13. crappydoodle
14. Holy Canoli!
15. Horse feathers!!
16. Crapola
17. oh my Gosh!
18. Cat Hair
19. Shut the front door!
20. Well I’ll be dipped in buttermilk
21. Ticked Off!
22. Razz ma-tazz!
23. Freak
24. Frickin’
25. Frickin’ A.
26. Jumpin’ Jehosaphat!
27. Good gravy
28. D’OH!
29. fudge ripple
30. GOOD GOSH!
31. FUZZY MUFFINS!
32. son of a biscuit
33. He’s full of shiitake mushrooms!
34. Goshdarnit
35. What the frick?
36. sugar
37. shoot.
38. Crap
39. fudge
40. snap
41. darn it
42. good grief
43. Goshdarnit
44. Holy Schnike
45. oy vey
46. garbanzo
47. crud
48. durn
49. darn
50. poodledoo
51. shut the front door
52. fiddlesticks
53. fiddledeedee
54. Bob Saggett
55. What in the blue bless?!
56. Oh. My. Cow
57. Jeez Louise
58. Jesus, Mary & Joseph.
59. Poodle-fruiter!
60. dad-gummit!
61. SUGAR MONKEY FUNKY BUTTS!
62. gee whiz…
63. ska-douche!
64. Sugary pops
65. Peas and Rice!
66. Dag nab it!
67. Fudge Buckets!
68. That sucks!

Goodness! That’s a long list. Every once in a while I’ll get someone who asks me a question about what the Bible says about swearing/cursing/profanity. The truth is that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about it.

There are two verses in the Bible that most Xians use to justify a no-profanity position.

a) Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…
b) Ephesians 4:29 – let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.

While these are great verses, neither one is talking about profanity. In Exodus God is commanding the Israelites not to use his name lightly. There is a little bit of ambiguity here, because the Bible never says exactly what it means to take God’s name lightly. It could mean not to use the name casually. It could mean not to use the name to back up your promises (swear to God…). There is no general prohibition here on profanity.

The Ephesians verse seems compelling at a cursory look, but Paul isn’t talking about profanity. In Ephesians he’s talking about not lying, speaking truth, not sinning in our anger, and building people up. In the context of the passage it would seem that “unwholesome talk” is not profanity but is language that seeks to hurt or damage others. The Greek word can literally be translated as “trash.” It’s like Paul is saying, “Don’t engage in trash talk against each other. Use your words to build each other up.”

On top of the lack of biblical direction against foul language we run into the problem of the fluidity of language. That is to say, language changes. What words mean now could be very different from what they meant 300 years ago. So which culture and era do we use as the standard for acceptable and non-acceptable words?

I grew up in a conservative home, where there were very few acceptable alternatives for swearing. I have a very clear memory of the first time I EVER used the expression, “Man, that’s screwed up!” I felt like such a rebel.

In our home “sucks” was not an acceptable word. But I remember the first time my mother was so upset about something she declared, “Well that…that just SUCKS!” She doesn’t use it regularly, but she needed to express the depth of her emotion and used that phrase to do it.

In the end it is another case of Xian liberty. If God’s Spirit is convicting you and telling you not to use certain words – DON’T! If you have freedom in Christ to use certain words – FEEL FREE! We just need to make sure that we’re not imposing our freedom (or lack of freedom) on others.

In the end, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Even if I’m free to use words it doesn’t mean that I should flaunt my freedom in front of others. Out of respect for people I can choose to change my language to fit the circumstance.

That’s the Xian thing to do.

And it doesn’t suck.