Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Prayer in School

In America, some people of faith experience frustration because they believe religion is not allowed in our schools. This is because they do not understand that there is a difference between allowed in and promoted by.

My students talk about religion frequently. They sometimes pray over their snacks. They occasionally read their holy books.

Nevertheless, some people desire for me, as a teacher, to lead my students in prayers and scripture readings. More specifically, prayers and scriptures from their tradition.

Reasonable people from every faith tradition understand why this would be problematic. I have students who come from a variety of faith traditions and some from no tradition.

I support every student in my classroom. When people of faith ask that I promote their faith tradition in class, they are asking me to break the neutrality that allows each student to feel supported by me.

I had a number of traditions represented in my class this year. None of the children knew where I stood. They all felt equally supported by me. Please do not ask me to take sides.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Christianity in America

I wrote an article back in 2012 about a conversation where I found myself defending the teachings of Jesus to a bunch of Christians.  I had recently started identifying as an atheist so this was a surprising turnabout.

Nowadays, I am no longer surprised. American Christianity is drowning in members who have little interest in the Way of Jesus. They want the team membership that comes with name association, they want an imparted sense of morality (while eschewing the work of adhering to an ethical code), they want a Hell escape route; but they find the actual Way of Jesus (if they even know it) to lack the control they desire, the power they crave, or the practicality they believe they need.

I watch Christian after Christian defend taking screaming children from their mothers. When asked if they could really picture Jesus doing that, they happily admit that Jesus wouldn't... but Jesus lives in heaven and we live here. If we follow the Way of Jesus, we'll be taken advantage of. Let's leave Jesus at the church building and Bible study so WE can get done what needs to be done.

These Christians have taken their walk in the desert and were offered the same bargain as the Nazarene.
The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
I don't believe in the supernatural. There is no Devil. However, this is a poignant allegory for our time.

Christians have weighed the offer and have chosen the kingdoms of the world.  They rally behind the name of Jesus but want nothing to do with his Way.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Disc Golf and Church

Summer is a time of almost daily disc golf for me.  Whether by myself or with friends, it is the exercise my body desperately needs and the Zen my soul craves.

However, when I approached Valley Regional Park the other day, the lot was overflowing.  Valley is a multi-purpose park, so it is not unusual to see it jam-packed due to sports tournaments, fairs, or other community happenings.

As I pulled in to meet a friend for a round, I saw a sign at the entrance -"Free Event!"  I knew instantly what the temp stage and bouncy houses in the distance meant.  Such vague signage could mean only one thing: Church Event.

Not just any church... these were obviously evangelicals.  No one else could be so gauche.  I know the Evangelical playbook well.  "Church in the Park" is one way that a completely insular group can convince themselves they are a vital part of the community.

I have been out of church life for about 6 years.  I have returned on occasion for a few Catholic Christmas services and a Mormon baptism or two.  In that time though, I had forgotten how truly awful Evangelical services really are.

First, there was the music.  What a cluster @#$% of mind control.  Chorus lines repeated over and over and over reminding everyone how terrible they are... and how lucky they are to have a God who condescends to love them in spite of how terrible they are.  After a few dozen cycles of that message, we moved on to various choruses of "Our God is so much better than everyone else's god!"

I was having a noticeably more visceral reaction to this than my ex-Mormon buddy, but he did agree it was pretty tacky.  Though annoyed by the triggering cult music of my past, I was still on par by hole 3.

We were out of earshot on holes 5-7.  I was grateful for the brief respite.

Somewhere along the eighth fairway, we came back into audio range.  The service had moved on to the sermon and the pastor was dutifully hitting every trope - the "world" thinks it is enjoying life, but they aren't.  Other religions think they know God, but they don't.  Meaning can only be found in our faith.

He wrapped up the sermon with an emotional appeal to Jesus.  I was grateful to be heading out to the back nine before he could build to the ol' sinner's prayer.

When I got home, I looked up the church to take a peek at their event calendar.  I now know which days this summer to visit another course.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

May Was A Little Thin

You may be used to my monthly sum-ups by now, but I will tell you that May was a little thin.  I only have 3 new movies to comment on.  I went to the movies a grand total of 5 times, but two of those were repeats.

On the topic of repeats, Moviepass has now declared that a no-no.  Overall, not a big deal to me, but I do take it as one more indication that they are not long for this world.

I did slip in one more repeat before the hammer fell.  I woke early one Saturday morning to see folks bemoaning the fact on Facebook that their Moviepass had updated overnight and now was informing them on their listings that, "You have already seen this movie." 

I don't auto-update, but I figured it was just a matter of time before they forced the issue.  So I grabbed a quick shower and headed out to the first showing of Avengers.  They forced the update just after I bought my ticket.

Whew!

But I have already reviewed Avengers, so let's get to the few new offerings I did view in the month of May.

Overboard:  C+

I like the storyline of this movie overall and it had a few good laughs - but not nearly as many as one needs to make a comedy work.  In many ways, I feel this would have fit better as a family movie on the Hallmark channel.

Anna Faris is just darling in this movie and she carried it for me.  However, Eugenio Derbez's character as the rich brat with amnesia, duped into thinking he was her husband, was disjointed to the point of distraction.  Sometimes the role seemed to fit him like a glove; at other times it could not have felt more awkward.

Faris's daughters in the movie were charming.  I think the movie would have been better served by giving them more screen time with Derbez.

I can't give it high marks, but it was worth a view.

Deadpool 2:  A-

I love it when a sequel comes together.  DP2 built on everything that was successful in the original.  Reynolds dry, sarcastic humor is non-stop in this movie - and for me, that just works.  I laughed more in any given 15 minutes of DP2 than I did in all of Overboard.

In addition, the movie has the potential for a broader appeal than I thought.  My wife decided to join my son and I on our Deadpool run.  She is not much into movies, fuzzy on most pop culture, and clueless on comic/nerd references.  Yet, she loved this movie.

Maybe she just digs Ryan Reynolds.

Solo:  B-

At this point, seeing Star Wars movies is a bit like homework.  I am a fan from the old days, so I gotta see it.  However, nothing since the original 3 has been satisfying.  Solo proved to be no different.

It is... ok.  There wasn't anything I disliked about it per se, but there was nothing all that engaging either.  It felt at times that the writers had a checklist of things they dutifully needed to hit and did so.  Donald Glover as Lando was probably the highlight.

Kevin Feige is in charge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  He has given direction to the arc of their (presently) 19 movies.  I feel Star Wars needs that kind of oversight.

I plan to hit more movies in the month of June, so hopefully, my commentary will be more plentiful next month.


This article was originally posted at Salt Lake Film Review.

Monday, June 04, 2018

America That Was

A few years ago, my son (14) and I watched the mini-series "11/22/63".  In the story, James Franco goes back in time in an attempt to stop the Kennedy assassination.

There are a number of scenes that depict the racism and sexism of the time.  In one instance, a black woman runs out of gas and walks 12 blocks to a service station.  The attendant refuses to service her and points her to a station a mile away that will serve "her kind".

My son was taken aback by these scenes.  He could not wrap his head around such blatant inhumanity.

It reminded me of a conversation he and I had a few years earlier.  Utah's 10th court was deciding whether gay marriage would be allowed in our state.  There was a leader from the LDS church on the radio stating why the church stood against gay marriage.  My son was concerned about how this would affect friends of ours who had been married in a state that honored gay marriages.  He asked me, "What does the church want?  For them to get a divorce?"

I envy the clarity and openness my children have on these issues.  I did not start to work on things like equality until I was in my 30s.  Even now, approaching 50, I find I am still digging out roots of bad thinking.  For my kids, seeing clearer on issues of race, gender, and equality seems so much more second nature.

My kids give me hope for a better future.  We will need it because many Americans have forgotten where we came from.  They seem eager to undo our progress and send us back to a time when it was acceptable to point to a sign and say, "We don't serve your kind here!"

 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Full Disclosure: I Am Racist

A regular complaint I  hear from some of my fellow white people on Facebook is that they are sick of being called racist.  They often make this complaint between their posts about the Confederate flag and various derogatory observations concerning black people and Mexicans.

My first thought is that, in general, I am not accused of being a racist.  I won't say it has never happened but it is not so frequent that I have put it on my list of topics to refute.  So, if this is something you are feeling a little singled out about, you might want to consider that maybe underneath all of your annoyance with the accusation, you are just reacting negatively to a fair description.

Second, I don't think this is an accusation one should run from.  I don't.  I am racist.

I am also bigoted, homophobic, sexist, and an ageist. There is hardly a week that goes by where I do not unfairly categorize someone.  I often do not give individuals proper respect based on some prejudicial notion swimming around in my head.  The truth is I give favor to the people who most resemble me and suspicion to those least like me.

Now I don't beat myself up over this too much.  Evolution has developed us as pattern makers and conditioned us to be tribal.  It is our default setting.  However, natural is not always best.  Many recovery programs list admitting you have a problem as paramount.  I admit I am all these things... because I don't want to be any of them.

It would be arrogance to deny these states of being in my life.  What?  Would I really think a little enlightenment given to me over the years would change century upon century of societal inertia?  Would having a gay or black friend uproot all the paths of thinking that were laid out for me before I was even born?

So if you find yourself being annoyed at being called racist, I have news for you - it's true.  But don't lose hope, now you know- and as we learned from G.I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle".  What you do with that knowledge will determine how you tend to be known.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The God I Don't Believe In

“When somebody says to me, “I don’t believe in God,” my first response is, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.” Almost always, it’s the God of supernatural theism.” 
- Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

Another version of that ends with the asker responding, "I don't believe in that God either."

This is a common misunderstanding among some of my liberal believing friends.  The assumption is that my lack of a belief is a response to their deity.  Either I abandoned faith because of a faulty view of God... or that my remaining Atheist is because I do not have a right view of God.

They seem to struggle with the idea that I don't believe in any deities... not just theirs.  Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna, old, new, liberal, conservative... I don't believe in any of them.

Because they hold to a notion that I just haven't "met" the right god yet (theirs), I am regularly encouraged to listen to this or that speaker, read this or that book. They spend zero time reading the books and listening to the evangelists of other religions... but they can't understand why my eyes glaze at the thought of reading theirs.

Beyond that, I sometimes get the angry liberal believer who chastises me for only addressing conservative, fundamentalist religion.  "Why do you not address liberal belief?  Why do you only go after "the easy targets""?

When liberal Christians start petitioning the state to make my students pray to Jesus, I'll bitch about that too.  But they're not, so I don't.  The vast majority of my outward complaints concerning religion concern its tangible negative influence on humanity.  If your belief in God encourages you to do things like smoke pot and save the whales, I'm not going to have much to say.

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