Appellate Law and Mathematics

It’s been a while since I last wrote. Here’s my attempt at writing about something after all this time.

I read a transcript of an interview recently of a government appellate lawyer. I thought it was so interesting how he likened appellate law to mathematics.

“First, logic proofs give you concrete and irrefutable results. Second, incomprehensible writing gives you results that are up for grabs. Aristotlean logic and math proofs always get you where you need to go, by the shortest route possible.

And so it is with the law. Write what you need to say, and no more. Structure your appellate writing like a logic proof. While you may win friends in trial courts with fuzzy logic or appeals to conscience, you will come closest to winning the day if you treat appellate law like mathematics.”

I find this so interesting because through it I can begin to “connect the dots” in my life. This week, I start my job at the California Attorney General’s office, in criminal appeals. Criminal appeals is very different from criminal trial prosecution. Most of the day, you are in front of a computer–researching, reading, and writing–all day. You start with a stack of the hundreds or thousands of pages of court transcripts of all the proceedings for that particular case. You dive in and wade and swim and explore the nitty gritty areas of criminal law–reading case after case for hours, days, or even weeks. And at some point, the universe of case law and precedent and arguments begins to converge in your mind, and you can finally see how all the cases fit together. How each case builds on the next, and yet how each case is distinguishable from the other. You come up for air. And then you begin writing.

Appellate writing demands excruciating exactness, painstaking precision, and immaculate attention to detail. Every case within that particular strain of jurisprudence must be dealt with. Every cite must be precise. Cutting corners is unacceptable. The brief must direct the court to the desired conclusion by clearly stating the rules of law in earlier cases, the facts of the current case, and how those rules apply to the facts of this case, which gives rise to your conclusion.

Good appellate briefwriting is structured like a logic proof. State the undisputed facts. State the undisputed law. Analyze similar cases to argue that the law should be applied in the same way to the facts of this case. Go through each of the elements of the particular crime or constitutional test. Anticipate and respond to arguments from the other side. State your conclusion. With each section of the brief, you lay the foundation, build your case step-by-step, and shore up any possible holes presented by gray areas of the law.

When I was a kid, I was very good at math. It just made sense to me. The precision, the exactness, the victory in solving a problem. If you mess up at any point along the way, your final answer will turn out wrong. Attention to detail was key and being sloppy would get you nowhere.

Law is not as precise. Sometimes the arguments on both sides seem plausible. Unlike math, where one answer is right and all the others are wrong, there are unsettled areas of law. Sometimes, the facts or the law are not “on your side,” yet you still have a professional responsibility to argue zealously for any position that is not frivolous. But like mathematics, appellate law rewards logic, precision, and clarity. Constructing an argument as thoroughly as I would a mathematical proof is the key to success in appellate law.

It makes sense now why God had me go in this direction. I love seeing a legal issue and finding the best way to frame it and argue my side to the court. I like coming up with my arguments and perfecting them over time, rather than having to come up with them on my feet and on the fly. I like to look at all sides of a problem, and I have the patience to painstakingly set up and follow through on each step and element. I don’t mind following citation rabbit trails and digging up hidden cases.

I thank Him so much that God opened this door for me, even when so many other doors (in fact, ALL other doors) were slammed shut. I hope that I will be faithful with the opportunity He has given to me, and I pray that He will show me favor as I begin my career as a lawyer.

Thoughts from Korea – Part 3

The last time I visited Korea I wasn’t aware of red light districts, and I didn’t see any signs of prostitution and the sex industry. I didn’t know how commonplace and accepted it was. I was so appalled when I read the 2006 San Francisco Chronicle 4-part series on sex trafficking, which featured a South Korean woman who was trafficked through Mexico into LA and then SF. I was doing research for a paper I was writing on human trafficking and though I had heard of sex trafficking and the fight against sex trafficking by organizations such as IJM, I always thought the women trafficked into the US for prostitution and slavery were from Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe. It infuriated me to know that even in Koreatown in LA, there are people kidnapping women from Korea and trafficking them into the US to profit off of their forced sexual labor.

I wasn’t able to visit a red light district firsthand during my second trip to Korea. But on a Friday night, while relaxing at Tom N Toms Coffee, I did some research. I remember running into some websites identifying well-known red light districts in Korea, and I wanted to identify them on my map of Seoul and see where they were in relation to the places I had visited or passed through over the course of my trip. While doing that, I ran into a now-defunct blog whose writer (an English-speaking foreigner) discussed almost all things sex-related in Korea: maps and directions to red light districts not only in Seoul, but Busan and other cities, how much it costs to buy a prostitute, how prostitution takes place in massage parlors, hostess bars, and room salons. It made my blood boil to see him talk so matter of factly about this “industry.” The ins and outs, from a personal experience perspective. It not only made me mad that foreigners were coming to Korea for sex tourism and treating Korean women like objects for sale, but it also infuriated me to think about how if a foreigner knew so much about the sex industry in Korea, how much more would Korean men know about all the things that go on. The blogger did mention how most brothels excluded foreigners, saving the “best” for native Koreans.

As my brother and I went running through Gangnam at night, we saw littered on the ground business cards advertising prostitutes. We talked about the things we had heard about corporate culture in Korea. How business deals and functions take place in room salons and hostess bars, where paying for female hostesses and alcohol is essential to making and closing deals. How most of the men who patronize red light districts are working men with wives and children. Younger single people, on the other hand, don’t need to resort to prostitutes. They just sleep around with each other. They run off in groups to “love motels” and hook up. Sex is so out in the open–red light districts, room salons, love motels–and yet it seems like no one wants to acknowledge it. My dad’s friends told him that so many married men commit adultery by soliciting prostitutes or having mistresses on the side, who are themselves married women. I asked my dad which description he thought better fit: 1) Women have no idea of the extent of the sex industry in Korean culture, or 2) Women know about it but assume their husbands aren’t the ones participating. Without pausing, my dad said he thought it was #2. It made sense. Korean people tend to sweep things under the rug. They know all this crap is there but refuse to talk about it. It’s the culture of shame and saving face. “I know the problem is out there, but it’s not my problem, it’s their problem.”

After I came back to the US, my brother and dad stayed another two weeks. My brother was able to get in touch with a church in Seoul that had a ministry dedicated to reaching out to the red light districts and prostitutes. He was able to visit and walk through a red light district just south of the Han River. Of the many things he observed and was struck by was the fact that just across the street from this red light district was a huge shopping mall. Families with children walked by the glowing red windows, minding their own business. It was a tangible example of the entrenched willful ignorance toward the dark underbelly of Korean society.

I know there are going to be some pervs that stumble on this blog post from the Internet after entering some prurient search terms. There is already one guy who got to my previous post using the keyword “sex in lotte hotel seoul.” Wtf? These people who hide behind their computer screens, indulging in their sick fantasies…I just want to beat them with my fists.

This is the kind of permissive and passive attitude toward sex and marriage that I saw in Korea the second time around. I have one more observation that I wanted to throw out there. Something that seemed peculiar to me. One curious thing I noticed was that almost no one wore wedding rings in Korea. Even couples that had children. Even some of my dad’s Christian friends. Even my extended family members here in the States. There’s probably some cultural reason for it, even if it’s something as cheesy as the fact that wearing a ring is uncomfortable (which I’ve heard before from my parents). But it’s such a stark contrast to America, where some men go to great lengths to remind themselves of their wedding vows and to signal to others their faithfulness. I know that what ultimately matters is having a good marriage, not looking like you have a good marriage. I know that many American marriages are in shambles, even if spouses “faithfully” wear their wedding rings. But if Koreans can’t even do something as simple as keep a ring on every day as a reminder of their marriage vows, is that an indicator of deeper issues?

Thoughts from Korea – Part 2

I only spent 7 days in Korea, and only 4 days in Seoul. But the perspective I’ve gained from living in big cities like New York and LA helped me to apply the correct filters in processing and learning what life in Seoul is like.

The last time I went to Korea, I was struck by the luxury and excess and consumerism of Seoul. It didn’t help that I stayed at Lotte Hotel near City Hall in downtown Seoul. My dad and grandpa and I would walk often through the Lotte Department Store right next door, mostly for the food court. But along the way, we would walk through the bustling cosmetics section on the first floor, and then take escalators from floor to floor, from 2nd to 3rd and up and up…more than 10 floors of clothes, more clothes, home furnishings, and electronics–all expensive.

This time we hit up all the top department stores. Lotte, Shinsegae, Hyundai. And I again rolled my eyes at how outrageously expensive some of the clothes were. But this time it was easier to see that there are different levels of consumption and pleasure-seeking in Seoul. There are a lot of prettied-up people spending a lot of money, living in excess, and pursuing ephemeral pleasures, to be sure. But that’s to be expected in any world-class city with a lot of wealth. I thought, for every person hanging out in Gangnam and shopping at Hyundai Department Store there’s probably another staying at home relaxing or studying. It might feel like the entire city is partying when tons of people are out and cars pack the streets at 10 pm on a Friday or Saturday night. But tucked away in the middle of each city block are probably apartments with families quietly preparing to go to bed, preferring more sedate routines. Living in New York has helped me to realize that even while some parts of a big city never sleep, there are still parts that do.

I think it was easier to mentally counterbalance my own observations like this after noticing the stark contrast I saw in the crowds at Coex Mall depending on the time of the week and time of the day. During the day, there were lots of married women with their mothers-in-law or older people in general. I assumed any young people hanging out were playing hookie or were unemployed. At night, all the young people came out. If it was night on the weekend, there were even more young people. But during the day on Saturday and Sunday, there were all sorts of people out, including families. I remember particularly the difference at McDonald’s on Saturday night versus Sunday afternoon. It felt strange being there on Saturday night with my dad, because only young people were there. McDonald’s was the only place open late in the mall, so this was where they came to spend a lazy hour or two eating dessert or chilling on their phones. We came back the next day, Sunday afternoon, after church. It was packed full of people but this time there were lots of families with children. It felt so different.

It also helped with my perspective that my brother and I didn’t do much hanging out with people our age. Instead we hung out with our dad’s friends. It was interesting to see them hesitate when, during a stroll through Daehakno looking for dinner, we said we were in the mood for samgyupsal (barbecued pork belly). We found a gogi-jib (Korean BBQ restaurant) next to a shabu shabu house (which they felt more comfortable eating at) and we were at a crossroads. They were reluctant at first, saying “that’s a place where young people eat,” implying they would feel out of place if they went. And it did feel kind of weird walking into that restaurant with 3 middle-aged men, taking our spot among the young people, smoke, and soju. It helped to see things from the perspective of older people that didn’t really find the revelry and ruckus of the youth very appealing.

I realized that visiting any big city like New York or Seoul as an outsider without having a quiet, homey place to retreat to whenever you want a break can trick a person into thinking life is only about consuming and playing and partying. But just because a city offers such things doesn’t mean everyone indulges in them all the time. Living in an apartment in Morningside Heights in Manhattan and having seen the cycle of activity and inactivity through the various times of the day and the week have helped me realize that there are quiet parts of the city too. It’s much harder for visitors and tourists to get a sense of that.

Now on the topic of couples. I remember last time I was nauseated at the number of couples hanging out at cafes and date spots. Don’t get me wrong, 3 years later I still snickered and rolled my eyes at many couples, especially the twinsie couples wearing matching shirts. But this time I was more careful about observing the different kinds of couples that I came across. I noticed that even in crowded malls and popular spots for young people in Gangnam, the rich part of Seoul, there were lots of “normal-looking” couples mixed in with the prettied-up couples. It was even more the case at more perennial hot spots like Namsan Tower (N Seoul Tower) Occasionally I would also see husband and wife couples with babies or small children. What I also noticed though was how normal the married-with-kids couples looked. None of the high-maintenance, heavy makeup, expensive clothes, look sexy business. I realized all the beautiful couples that overwhelmed me during my visit were in all likelihood not married. And that realization made it much easier to have perspective on the whole couples “epidemic.” While I’m sure media influences like K-pop and Korean dramas have done a good job breeding a relationship-thirsty culture, the perception of it being an epidemic was tempered by the realization that any city that has as many people as Seoul does–10 million–is bound to have a decent number of people in love. And not all of them are for looks only.

But I still wonder what these relationships are like. I’m sure many are built on shallow romance. Given that the average age of marriage is 32 for men and 30 for women (compared to 28/26 for American men and women), I wonder how many relationships people go through before they finally get married. There’s got to be a lot of emotional issues that people bring into their marriages after having been through so many relationships.

Can’t say I know that much about dating, sex, and marriage in Korea. But there are a few other thoughts about it that I’ll offer in my next post.

Thoughts from Korea – Part 1

I recently came back from my second trip to China and Korea in 3 years. It was interesting being back because of the different kinds of observations and thoughts I had. With 3 more years of life experience and perspective behind me, I was more able to process the things I saw from a wider perspective. For instance, having lived in a big city like New York for almost 2 years, I can better put the consumerism and excess of Seoul into perspective. Stay tuned for that post.

But first, a post on the most moving of my experiences in Korea.

I visited Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery during my time in Seoul, with my father and brother and one of my father’s old friends during his childhood in Korea. It was a deeply humbling and challenging experience.

It isn’t a big plot of land, but unlike most cemeteries, where it’s difficult to know the stories of the people buried there, there was plenty on the grave markers (not to mention metal museum plaques erected with further explanations) to tell the stories of the people buried there.

I read a pair of grave markers, one of Floyd Williams (1923-1974), a US Army Sergeant who fought in both WWII and the Korean War. On his grave marker was a quote from his wife, Kum Ok Williams: “Though he were dead, yet shall he live. ‘We love you.'” And beside it was the grave marker for his wife, who was laid to rest in 1995, whose marker was entirely in Korean. There was something about seeing both English and Korean markers, knowing that a man and a woman from two very different cultures, at a time when mixed marriages was uncommon, shared their lives in marriage in service not only to their respective countries, but to God (there were also crosses).

Another like this was a shared grave marker of another couple, this time a white woman and a Korean man. Agnes Davis Kim, born December 29, 1900 in Chillicothe, Ohio, USA, died December 29, 1980 in Seoul, Korea. David Chu-hwang Kim, born July 1, 1899 in Chongju, Korea, died March 16, 1986 in Seoul, Korea. Married October 2, 1934, with this quote underneath: “Companionship so rich that life is blessed.” I was humbled that this woman, who grew up in a cozy midwestern town in America, felt God’s call to go to a foreign land, which at the time was a poor, Third World country, and share her life with the Korean people, and even enjoy over 50 years of marriage with a Korean man. Equally as moving was the fact that she died and chose to be buried in Korea, where her heart was. There were many grave markers like this, of children with American last names born in Seoul or even Pyongyang (it’s crazy to think about how revival in Korea happened in Pyongyang before WWII), and who spent their whole lives in Korea and died in and were also buried in Korea. Like William Hamilton Shaw, who was born in “Pyeng Yang Korea” in 1922 and died in Seoul in 1950. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13” Just 28 years old.

Shaw and many others died young, like the first missionary nurse sent to Korea by the US Presbyterian Church, Anna Jacobsen, whose grave marker reads: “MISSIONARY / SEOUL / DIED JANY. 20TH 1897 / AGED 29 YEARS”. The plaque said this: “Jacobson worked to actively combat cholera which spread soon after she came to Korea. She served as a professor of nursing…and particularly loved Korean children. She is recorded as having said ‘I have now come to like all Korean children. I would be happy if the children would feel close to me and not think of me as someone to fear.'” She succumbed to dysentery. Just 29…

Most sobering was the plot at the corner of the cemetery with tiny tombstones for the infants. Markers that read simply “STARK / Baby Girl” or “Ladner . Infant / 63.2.9 – 63.2.9”. So many had birth and death dates that were the same day. It was heartbreaking.

And then there was the Underwood family. Horace Underwood was the first Protestant (and Presbyterian) missionary to Korea in the late 1800s. He founded Yonsei University, the Bible Society, the YMCA, and the Christian Literature Society, as well as a church. Four rows of grave markers rested in front of the prominent Underwood memorial plaque, standing for the four generations of Underwoods that loved Korea and served the Korean people. It was a huge challenge to all of us, especially considering the fact that Andrew and I are the third generation in our family to believe. It made me feel a burden to pray for the fourth generation, that God would mercifully preserve our children as He so mercifully showed grace to my grandparents, my parents, and finally, us. It was truly humbling to realize that if it wasn’t for Underwood and the many missionaries who faithfully endured hardship and suffering to bring God’s love to Korea, I wouldn’t be a Christian today. How much we owe to these faithful servants!

And to think that, in the world’s eyes, these lives don’t mean much. While Seoul’s sprawl continues its relentless expansion and its young urbanites indulge in materialism and revel in prosperity, these grave markers lie in silence. But how precious in God’s sight were these lives! How precious these people who laid down their very lives for the sake of the gospel.

Seeing the four generations of the Underwood family also made me think more about the decline of faith in Korea. The young generation in Korea today has departed far from the faith of the first believers. It really is in the span of 40-60 years, three generations or less, from the Korean War to today, that the fire of faith has fizzled out (more on this in a later post). There’s a saying that the first generation believes the gospel, the second generation assumes the gospel, and the third generation forgets the gospel. Very few of my second cousins, if any, are Christians, much less strong, faithful believers. I also see how this has played out in my “closer” extended family in America, my grandfather’s children and grandchildren. I thought all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were Christians when I was a kid, seeing our family have full-on worship services during family gatherings on New Year’s Day. But as I grew older, I could begin to tell from people’s tired faces and impatient restlessness and lifeless (or nonexistent) mouthing of hymn lyrics that there was no faith. Just empty, once-a-year religious tradition. My grandparents have been so steadfast in the faith. But my father’s fervent faith is the exception among the second generation. The third generation doesn’t even go to church anymore. We have forgotten the gospel.

Why me? Why my family? It is only God’s grace that has kept us from going the way of our relatives. I pray and pray that the fourth generation, the generation my brother and I will bear as our responsibility, would receive the gospel with faith and would live out their lives in grateful service to the kingdom.

Judges 14 – Samson

Today was the first Sunday after the death of one of our members from a long battle with stomach cancer. She was just shy of 40 years old, leaving behind a husband and 8-year-old daughter.

Today’s passage was Judges 14, about Samson. It was, like many stories in the book of Judges, a bizarre tale. Yet, as he has done for the last 6 months, P. Charlie preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God through this difficult, strange account. Again and again, I am blown away by the teachings God prepared for His people through these narratives.

The first point of the sermon was that God works through people. He does not control them as automatons and machines but instead works through their (less than ideal) characters and personal foibles to bring redemption to Israel. In His love He has chosen people to accomplish his plans.

The second point was that God works through people for the Church. We looked at Judges 14:4. “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” “It” here was Samson’s desires (indeed, his lust) for a Philistine woman (not Delilah, she comes later in chapter 16). It was Yahweh, though, not Samson, who used Samson’s sinful desires to accomplish his plans for Israel.

One point stuck out to me in this section: Yahweh loved Israel too much to let them stay in deadly peace. In Genesis 3:15, God promises to put emity between the Enemy and the Church, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Over the years, the borders between Israel and Philistia had grown too porous, and Samson’s life was just a reflection of Israel’s assimilation with foreign, godless peoples. In this crazy story of Samson’s burst of anger and murder of 30 Philistine men (his groomsmen at his own wedding!), we see a blessing in disguise–God was reintroducing the enmity that should properly have existed between Israel and this godless nation.

What did this mean for us today? P. Charlie encouraged us to broaden our perspectives from the meaning of our experiences for ourselves to the meaning of our experiences for the Church. What is God doing for the Church through what I am going through?

And here, he shared some words on the recent loss of our sister and friend. He did not want to minimize the personal grief of their family, or appear arrogant for trying to explain the reasons for this tragedy, but he did want to share that already because of this trial there have been things happening for good. Love has been multiplied within our community. The sharing of testimony and the gospel has taken place among unbelievers in schools in the Upper East Side, where her daughter goes to school. God wants His Word and glory to go out to the world, to the people He desires to save. One way of understanding why God allows tragedy is to see how these events, though it makes it no easier to explain them for those personally involved, can draw others closer to Him.

I felt chills through my body as P. Charlie concluded by speaking of the death of those 30 Philistine men. Samson took the life of 30. But Jesus gave his own life for many. It was almost prophetic. His presentation of the gospel felt so much more weighty given the tragedy before us.

During Communion I meditated on several verses regarding death. From that point until the end of service–through the communion hymn and ending hymn, through the closing prayer and benediction and dismissal–I felt like I was looking at myself from a distance, with my life as just one small part of God’s epic plan.

He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death. (Hebrews 2:14)

For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Corinthians 5:4)

Destroying the power of death. Life swallowing up what is mortal. It all felt so immense.

These were the stakes Paul and the apostles faced. Today, unlike every other time, I felt the weightiness of his famous words to the Corinthians:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Wasting away. Their bodies were weak. They had seen and touched death. Affliction. But the eternal weight of glory unseen far surpassed any present affliction–no matter how prolonged, no matter how severe.

That is the hope that we have in Christ. It is not a trite hope. It is not a warm fuzzy feeling. When we say we will see the dead again, we mean it. Our loved ones will be waiting for us on that day when we join our Lord and Savior Jesus in heaven. We can be sure and confident of this.

Oh the glory of the Lord!

Update: Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC

I wrote about this religious liberty case before the U.S. Supreme Court a few months ago. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously today on the side of the church. It upheld the ministerial exception, which prohibits employees of a church (or in this case, a Christian school) from suing the church for employment discrimination. This is good news! Get the state out of the church, and let the church do its job.

Washington Post: Supreme Court says judges cannot get involved in church-employee discrimination dispute

Supreme Court slip opinion

Why and How I Work Out (Hard)

I’ve had several conversations with friends about why I exercise. I was inspired to put some of my thoughts into writing by John Piper’s blog post, Physical Exercise: What I Do and Why (Part 2). It seems like girls push me harder on the issue than guys do, and that puzzles me. Girls seem really concerned that vanity can be an issue. If John Piper admits that it’s possible that his justifications for exercising might come across as vain, then how much more should I, a young, single man in his “prime” who lives in New York City, a city full of vanity.

But to start, I think vanity (pride in one’s physical appearance) is, in general, less of an issue for guys than girls. The pressure from culture is so much less for guys than girls, although it is still there. I think most of us would agree with the anecdotal observation that there a ton more guys who care very little about grooming, hygiene, and fashion than girls. Maybe that’s why fewer guys than girls mention vanity when we talk about exercising.

Here are some of my reasons for why I work out:

1. Discipline and active recreation are virtues

People who are disciplined about working out are often disciplined in the rest of their lives. They also realize that life is not all about work or school. For those who are sitting all day on a computer, engaging only their minds, vigorous exercise several times a week can provide mini-Sabbaths. Work with your mind, Sabbath with your hands and feet. Just as mindless amusement is not proper Sabbath observance for those who are in very physical occupations, neither is physical slothfulness proper Sabbath observance for those who have very mind-intensive jobs.

2. Physical pain is a reminder of weakness

I can’t really relate to people who enjoy exercising because “it gives them energy.” My workouts are intense and I am worn out by the end. But intense workouts are great opportunities to be reminded of my weakness, my limits, my frailty, and my finitude. To feel pain, fatigue, and defeat during the course of exercise reminds me that this life is not perfect, it is not comfortable, and that this earth is not my home. Physical weakness reminds me to be thankful to God for the use of my body, and when I am sore I am thankful that it only means that I am becoming stronger, not that I am deteriorating. At times, I am even reminded of the suffering and persecution of the saints when I am hurting and tired during a workout.

3. It gives me street cred that I can use for good

Guys like to size one another up. It’s funny how easily you can shut guys up if you are stronger or bigger than them. There is a certain amount of respect that some guys give to guys who work out and are in shape. There are some who respect the discipline it requires, on top of the discipline required to do well in school or career. There are others who simply respect the fact that you’re “better” than them. I can’t quantify these effects in my own life, but whatever “street cred” I gain, I want to be a good steward of it and use it for good. Not to puff myself up but to build others up.

4. Curls for the gurls wife

While lifting weights and exercising in order to attract superficial physical attention from the opposite sex is not a pure motive, what about doing it as preparation for marriage? This, I find, is a harder motivation to convince people of. I see physical fitness as preparation for serving my future wife. It’s the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the total package. If I am being faithful with all my other responsibilities as provider and spiritual leader, and as long as devotion to exercise doesn’t diminish devotion to my wife, is she ever going to complain that I’m fit, healthy, and strong?

And here are some thoughts on how I approach working out as a Christian:

1. There is always someone stronger than me

More often than not, there’s someone pulling or pushing more weight than me at the gym. So those are good reminders not to get too full of myself.

2. My (spiritual) heart

What is the state of my heart when I enter the gym? Most of the time, my workout is so intense and I’m so tired that I physically can’t care about what other people think about me. I don’t care whether people are staring at me. All I’m thinking about is how many seconds I have until my next set. I’m wincing in pain and burying my drenched face into my shirt. But even when it’s not intense, I try to purposely avoid eye contact with others, especially the more egotistic guys who think that every lift you’re doing is a direct challenge to them. But not only does avoiding eye contact keep them from getting puffed up, it also keeps me from getting puffed up with pride. It’s possible to be considerate to others who are sharing gym space. Even though sometimes I do circuit workouts and super-sets where I need continuous access to a piece of equipment, if it’s crowded and someone asks me how many sets I have left, I ask them if they’d like to work in between sets. I still occasionally recite Philippians 2:3-4 before I set out for the gym. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That is the posture I strive to have when I work out.

I’m so curious about how a female point of view might differ from this. Haha.

80% of unmarried evangelical young adults have had sex? Hmm

CNN Belief Blog – Why Young Christians Aren’t Waiting Anymore

This CNN blog post says that 88% of unmarried adults ages 18-29 have had sex. And not only that, but 80% of “unmarried evangelical young adults” have had sex. I don’t know how the author of the Relevant Magazine article who is cited for the 80% stat got that number. I looked at Chapter 1 of the “Fog Zone Report” of the website of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy which had data on young adults’ sexual activity and found nothing of the sort.

I don’t believe the statistics, especially the 80% of evangelical young adults figure. Most of these studies that cite such “shocking” statistics about how Christians don’t live much differently than non-Christians probably use watered-down definitions of “evangelical” or maybe don’t provide a definition at all and ask people to self-identify, which is always going to end up overcounting because everyone thinks they’re Christian.

I don’t believe the widely held view, based on “studies” that probably have similarly flawed methodologies, that Christians divorce at similar rates as non-Christians. I’m sure if you account for very basic variables like weekly church attendance (to weed out the holiday-only attendees) and consistent Bible reading (to weed out those who are horribly Bible illiterate)–very basic marks of solid, mature Christians–you will find that Christians do live differently than the world.

Just some cursory thoughts. No hard data or rigorous critical analysis.

Edit: Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition has posted a critical response to this study.

Upcoming Supreme Court case has grave implications for religious liberty

I have not written in a while. When my writing gets this sparse, I usually try to make my updates only about those things that I consider important.

I’ve been wanting to get practice commenting on current events, especially after a summer discussing issues in sanctity of life, family and marriage, and religious freedom. Many of the Fellows this summer were well-versed in speaking about these issues. I have always been weak in keeping track of important issues in politics and law, and I want to practice being up to date on these things. It is a lot of work. Some days I will read a lot of news articles, but my mind has not processed them enough to be able to speak intelligently about them. I am like this with my law classes, too. I will read so much, thinking that I know something, but then when I am forced to speak about them in class, I fumble over my words and my brain locks up. It is pretty pitiful.

So I think taking some time to write about what I read will help me process it. I hope I will be able to speak intelligently these issues and be able to convince others of their importance.

Up at the US Supreme Court next week is a case that was mentioned often this summer as having deep implications for religious liberty in America. It is the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.

Here are the facts. Cheryl Perich, a teacher at a private Christian school, was diagnosed with narcolepsy after going on a disability leave of absence. The doctor said she would be able to return to work and be fine as long as she took medicine. But the school said that they were concerned her condition may jeopardize the safety of the students in her care. The school asked her to resign, which she refused. She was then fired, not because of the disability, but because she had threatened to sue. The Christian school felt that her threats of legal actions went against the biblical principle of Christians resolving things without going to court.

This was the reason she was fired, or at least that’s what the school says. I guess it is possible for the EEOC to argue that she was indeed fired for her disability, not because she opposed a Christian belief.

At issue for this particular case is whether Perich was a secular or religious employee at Hosanna-Tabor. She taught non-religious subjects at the school but she did lead morning prayers and devotionals. She also attended chapel and taught a religion class. But the far more important issue for the future is the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination law. Under this exception, a religious institution is exempt from employment discrimination lawsuits because of the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment. A church or religious organization has the right to “discriminate” in choosing leaders based on their religious beliefs.

Lower courts have ruled against Perich by holding that she couldn’t bring the case because of the ministerial exception. The Supreme Court has decided it will hear the case and review the ministerial exception. If the Court decides the ministerial exception should not exist, then you can expect there to be a lot of lawsuits in the future in which religious institutions are sued for all kinds of discrimination.

A ruling against Hosanna-Tabor would be an erosion of religious liberty. Separation of church and state gets a bad rap because people use it in talking about the encroachment of the church into the state. This case is the complete opposite–the encroachment of the state into the church. And I think most Christians would intuitively agree with the separation of church and state in this case. The state should not be able to say what the church can and cannot do in terms of who it allows to become leaders and members. What would make a ruling against Hosanna-Tabor ominous is that, with the increasing acceptance and normalization of homosexuality in American society, we would begin to see a growing assault on the church’s right to preach against and condemn homosexuality.

That is why this case is so important.

Huffington Post – Supreme Court To Examine ‘Ministerial Exception’ Case

National Review – What’s at Stake for Religious Liberty in the Hosanna-Tabor Case

Reflections from India – Part 3

It is encouraging to hear a people gathered and worshipping the Lord in their own tongue. But not everyone at the church in Orissa was singing joyfully. Some instead stared blankly, wondering who these guests sitting in front of them were. I knew that not everyone there was a perfect Christian full of bold faith, willing to profess Christ in the face of death. I didn’t know what the preacher was preaching, but it was powerful and forceful. Even if it was an excellent sermon, though, I know that there were those whose hearts weren’t fully open to hearing the gospel.

The anti-Christian violence was widespread, and I know it wasn’t only the strongest of believers that endured the persecution. People have moved out of the villages for fear of their lives. I heard of how some people in Orissa had backslidden in their faith. Some had broken down in the midst of intense persecution and pressure, reconverting to Hinduism to avoid being killed or tortured. I know there are many who have doubts, who struggle to understand God’s love and grace in the midst of untold suffering.

I prayed that this realization wouldn’t harden my heart to the suffering of God’s people in Orissa. Seeing the rustic poverty there didn’t hit me like the poverty in Tijuana did when I was in junior high school, when I saw abject poverty for the first time. But realizing the humanness of the Oriyan believers–that not everyone responds like a saint (indeed, how would I have responded?)–actually makes me pray harder, with brokenness, because it shows me how much of a spiritual battle this really is. But I know that God will prevail, and so I pray with confidence.