The Robe of His Righteousness


A shot was fired a few miles from my home, February of 2012. That gunshot, which resulted in the death of a young African American, marked the beginning of a disquieting conversation over race. For a while however, people argued over a different question—would the young man still be alive if he wasn’t wearing a hoodie? One controversial comment was made by Geraldo Rivera: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was” (Fung, 2012). The comment quickly found opposition: “I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie… because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white” (Skolnik, 2012). How important are our clothes?

Regardless of your stance on the controversy, clothes can be symbols of discrimination. A hijab, a hoodie, even a Make America Great Again hat, can all influence our perceptions of a person long before we’ve met them. It makes us categorize people into boxes, and expect certain behaviors from them. Studies have found that our perception of a student’s intelligence is influenced by the student’s style of dress (Behling & Williams, 1991); they’ve found that women which dress masculine are more likely to be hired (Forsythe, 1990). Truly, “a person’s character is judged by his style of dress” (White, Education, 1903, p. 248).

Besides the sociopolitical aspects of clothing, psychologists are interested in a different question—how they affect our minds. Clothes carry information, those cultural stigmas and social symbolisms with which they are associated. When an artifact of clothing is worn, it influences the wearer’s behavior and cognition, making them likely to “embody” those associative attributes (Adam & Galinsky, 2012). For example, researchers found that wearing white makes people see themselves as more moral than when they wore black (Uebayashi, Tao’oka, Ishii, & Murata, 2016).

What comes to mind when you think of a lab coat? Most likely a doctor or scientist—professions which require intellect, focus, and attentiveness. In one study, participants were divided into two groups; both were given lab coats, but one group was told the coats belonged to medical doctors, and the other was told they belonged to painters. Both groups then performed a visual search task, which involves finding small differences in two otherwise identical images. Interestingly, results showed that those told they were wearing a doctor’s coat were significantly better at spotting the differences than those who weren’t.

The psychology of how dress affects behavior is termed Enclothed Cognition. How interesting that we see this same embodiment in our spiritual lives. Our current apparel consists of filthy garments, and to no surprise so does our behavior and character (Isaiah 64:6). But like the doctor’s coat, which imparts its influence upon the wearer, we are offered a heavenly coat made of fine linen, clean and white (Revelation 19:8); a robe which when worn, also imparts its attributes on the wearer: “the white robe of character, which is the righteousness of Christ” (White, 1952, p. 518). As Christians, we can take off our filthy rags and be clothed with the coat of our Heavenly Doctor. When we decide to do so, we will be influenced to behave accordingly, reflecting Christ’s character.

“For He has clothed me with garments of Salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His Righteousness.”

Isaiah.61.10.

~John Bryan


REFERENCES

  • Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 918-925.
  • Behling, D. U., & Williams, E. A. (1991). Influence of dress on perception of intelligence and expectations of scholatic achievement. Clothing & Textiles Research Journal, 1-7.
  • Forsythe, S. M. (1990). Effect of applicant’s clothing on interviewer’s decision to hire. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1579-1595.
  • Fung, K. (2012, March 23). Geraldo Rivera: Trayvon Martin’s ‘Hoodie Is As Much Responsible For [His] Death As George Zimmerman’. Retrieved from The Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/geraldo-rivera-trayvon-martin-hoodie_n_1375080.html
  • Skolnik, M. (2012, March 19). White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin! Retrieved from Global Grind: https://globalgrind.cassiuslife.com/1807268/michael-skolnik-trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-race-sanford-florida-photos-pictures/
  • Uebayashi, K., Tao’oka, Y., Ishii, K., & Murata, K. (2016). The effet of black or white clothing on self-perception of morality. Japanese Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 130-138.
  • White, E. G. (1903). Education. Mountain View: Pacific Press Publishing Association.
  • White, E. G. (1952). The Adventist Home. Hagerstown: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

 

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21. Stars


There is a small issue with looking at the stars; and that is that they may not exist. We equate them with the beauty of a girl’s eyes, or with the heights of intellect that humans may achieve, but seldom consider that they are nothing more than a distant photograph of a time long past. Light takes time to travel and when we account for the distance of some of these stars and compare them to their average lifespan, it is easy to understand that we may be looking at a sky full of memories.

This may be a saddening idea to contemplate, that those stars which so beautifully remind us of who we are, may no longer exist. Yet it is also an idea which brings us closer to the past. The SH2-106 nebula for example is about 2,000 Light Years away (NASA, 2011). This means that the youthful light emitted by this nebula when a man named Jesus walked the Earth, is just now reaching us today. In other words, when we look at this celestial object, we are looking at the exact time when our Lord walked among us. How poetic it is that this nebula has the form of an angel; that like the angels of old that once gave glad tidings to the lowly shepherds, this angel of light now preaches the same message to Earth from the heavens.

~John Bryan


References

Ghosts: A Short Tale


To whom it may concern,

I never believed in ghosts. But I don’t believe I’ll win the lottery either, and someone always does. It’s funny—the lies we tell ourselves. We go so far in order to protect and conserve our tiny image of the universe. We fear the end of the silent hour, when truths begin pressing against our ears. The paranormal is something we try hard to mythicize, but I hope you will listen.

I don’t know what made me start looking into it. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but the idea intrigued me, and the curiosity pulled me in. I found things in my search that shattered my delusion. Cassidy Wolf had won the Miss Teen USA crown (Botelho, 2013). She went about her daily life like most of us, oblivious to the darker truths of this world. “I wasn’t aware that someone was watching me,” she said. She had been noticing strange and ominous signs for some time; signs telling her that something wasn’t quite right, that there was more to this world than her eyes could see. Certain things began acting a little strange around her. The suspense increased until one day, the ghost started communicating with her, removing the safety net from beneath her, and making unhallowed demands. After months of search, paranormal investigators uncovered that Jared Abrahams, a colleague of hers which had passed away a year earlier in an accident, was communicating from the other side. Ghosts tend to haunt those whom they know, extorting, distressing, and terrifying them.

An expert parapsychologist was asked by the news anchor to give commentary. She said things I was not aware of. Human behavior becomes amplified when we pass on to the other side, particularly our negative qualities. She said, “A bad person in the real world typically focuses on one victim at any given time, but as a phantom they can stalk multiple victims simultaneously…. Hauntings are considered an evolution of a real-world criminal behavior. The spiritual dimension is a breeding ground for mutations. Real-world behavior migrates there and escalates or accelerates” (Aiken, 2016).

I didn’t want to believe in ghosts, but a year has passed since I first began searching. I’ve been noticing strange and unsettling things recently too. Unsayable happenings which write themselves upon the pages of my life. I know someone is looking at me. My ghost follows me, of that I’m sure. It watches me, though I cannot see it. It listens to me, though I cannot hear it. The thought is always there, as I sleep, as I change. I’ve taken whatever little precautions I can. I placed a sticky note over my laptop’s camera. It only brings me mild comfort, I know my ghost is still watching. It is more of a delusion than a solution, but it’ll have to do for now. The world is not yet open to the idea of the paranormal, and I am trapped inside the lies other people tell themselves. I hope you will be able to see I am telling the truth. The world is full of ghosts, and someone is already watching you.

Sincerely,
~J. Bryan


P.S. In case you’re wondering, this story is a metaphor for something else. Can you figure it out?


References

-Aiken, M. (2016). The cyber effect: A pioneering cyberpsychologist explains how human behavior changes online. New York: Random House.
-Botelho, G. (2013, Semptember 27). Arrest made in Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wof ‘sextortion’ case. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/26/justice/miss-teen-usa-sextortion/index.html

 

20. Against Skepticism



The human mind, despite its claims to intellect, is easily swayed. It makes no struggle. It puts up no fight. It passes judgment without experience; makes decisions without data.

True, the right question can open up a veil we did not know was there. But a question can also be mistaken for the answer. Questioning someone’s fidelity is enough to stain their every act with malice. Questioning an idea is enough to consider it disproven. A question can close our eyes.

Questions should be the beginning of a search, not the conclusion of our verdict. We’ve elevated the notion of doubts and skepticism upon an intellectual pedestal. We feel smarter for having asked them, despite them being uninformative.

Look for the answers. Do not stop at the questions.

Happy New Year

~John Bryan

Ask Me Anything No. 1

Submit your questions here

B.J. – “Who is your favorite author?”

EasySteven Pinker, Oliver Sacks, and C.S. Lewis.

C.T. – “As a seventh-day adventist do you only draw your inspiration from those sources or do you also consider ‘secular’ sources.”

I think anyone that attempts to be creative has noticed that inspiration comes from everywhere except one’s self. Ideas seem to have a mind of their own and my job is to feed those ideas accurate information, regardless of the source.

M.L. – “Are angels male or female?”

Never met one before lol. But they do seem to be described as sexless but not genderless.

B.R. – “What were your thoughts on the Weinstein aftermath?”

I think its normal for people to immediately blame the victim, partly because there’s an underlying assumption that they can just walk away or report the incidents. We’re all optimistic about the world we live in. However, the stories which surfaced demonstrate that these assumptions are wrong. Reporting incidents of harassment can get you fired, if you’re not ignored altogether. So, the stories will definitely improve the process of filing complaints, and diminish the negative consequences of it.


 

What are you Thankful for?

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One study by Watkins and colleagues (2016) found that narcissism (extreme selfishness), cynicism (the belief that others are motivated by self-interest), and materialism (valuing material possessions over social and even spiritual possessions) inhibit your sense of gratitude. Like water and oil they do not mix. Can you identify what things are inhibiting you from being grateful?

 

The Feeling of Awe

Awe—three letters that define the feeling of reverence as it intermingles with fear and wonder. In the simplicity of those letters is captured the emotion felt by all who witnessed the eclipse this August. It is difficult not to have been overtaken by the event: Joy and fear mixed into a single voice as the thousands of people around me began to howl and cheer at the sight of a blackened sun. A decidedly secular event marked by the smell of food and gasoline quickly transformed into a sacred and spiritual experience for everyone in attendance. CONTINUE READING…

Truth and Lies

There is beauty in words. A sentence well written—a phrase that captures a thought and holds it for a moment—these are the moments for which readers search. But the nature of a sentence is a strange thing. Words by themselves are not bound by any ethics; they are empty vessels in which nothing but a single unit of information is contained. Claiming that the words “fruit” and “tree” are true or false is meaningless. However, the moment words are grouped together into a sentence, they gain a truth value. That is to say, a sentence has the emergent property of “truthfulness” not found in the individual nouns and verbs that compose it. Take, for example, the sentence “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.” It makes a claim about the state of both the fruit and the tree, which can be verified by reality. CONTINUE READING…

Turtles

Every story must begin somewhere. And this one begins on the seaside. Nature loves to hold on to mysteries, as if to disclose them meant she’ll lose a part of herself. For a long time, it was a mystery how turtle hatchlings found the sea. Perhaps the gentle sound of waves was calling out to them, saying “come, this is the way home.” But there is a stronger explanation. Not the call of the sea, but light from the moon glistening upon the horizon (Rivas, Tomillo, Uribeondo, & Marco, 2015). These turtles follow the moonlight as it reflects over the ocean. They keep their eyes on its glow, as they make their way towards the freedom that the ocean brings. CONTINUE READING…

Reference- (Rivas, et al., 2015)

19. Eclipse

Awe—three letters that define the feeling of reverence as it intermingles with fear and wonder. In the simplicity of those three letters is captured the complex feeling experienced by all those who saw this eclipse. I never knew how close the sun looked before today. As near and big as the moon on a clear night. As palpable as a low hanging fruit, just barely out of reach.

An ominous sound began to overtake the atmosphere, like the sound of rushing water, as the thousands of people around me began to cheer and wail in awe and excitement. Joy and fear mixed into a single voice which made the hairs on your neck stand as it spoke. A secular event marked by the smell BBQ and gasoline, quickly became a spiritual and sacred experience for everyone.

It is difficult not to be overtaken and pulled by the event. Its as if our brains are prone to spirituality. In the face of overwhelming grandeur and mystery our psychology inclines towards worship and reverence.

How interesting that scripture tells us not to be pulled in by it, as if knowing the weakness of our minds in the presence of natural majesty:

“Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:10, ESV).

~John Bryan