Friday, April 18, 2014

Facebook Faith #43 Look Kids, Big Ben!

The American Atheist association is in town this week for their annual convention.  I was able to attend a discussion/debate between David Silverman (Atheist) and some local Mormon professors.  One point the professors kept trying to underscore, and which they kept coming back to, was the uniqueness of their faith. I recognized their thought lines because I felt the same way about the uniqueness of my faith when I was an evangelical.

I run into this problem regularly of Facebook.  Either on my page or a friends, a believer comes in to instruct all of us about "the true religion".  The common element in conversations like this is that many believers enter with a bagful of assumptions that they hold, and because they spend so much time in their own circles, they assume everyone holds those same assumptions. They start from a place where their god, scriptures, and practices are a GIVEN.

The skeptic insists they back up and first legitimatize their claims. The apologetics that worked so seamlessly for the believer while in church, doesn't tend to translate so well outside. Believers often mistake the reaction of others as stubbornness or rudeness.  The reality the believer struggles to see is that their claims have no more validity than any other religion.... and believers hate it when you lump them in with every other religion (because everyone should KNOW that THEIR religion is different!)

So conversations often sound a bit like this:

Believer: My Faith is the one true faith.

Skeptic: Yeah, but the guy down the street says that about his faith.

Believer: But mine is REALLY the one true faith.

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: But my faith has miraculous signs.

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: My faith has revelation!

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: My faith has holy scriptures!

Me: That's what he says!

Believer: My God speaks to my heart!

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: You are just going to have to believe what I am telling you on faith!

SkepticThat's what he says!

and so it goes....

If you get this far into the conversation, a believer of this stripe will then return to the top of the list - rinse and repeat - just like Clark Griswald in the roundabout. There really is no choice for this believer. The only alternative is for the believer to admit the claims of his or her religion are more or less identical to every other religious claim out there.... and that simply will not do.

So into the roundabout we go!

Monday, April 07, 2014

For My Liberal Religious Friends

I feel for all of my more liberal and independent religious friends, I really do. They have all these subversive notions of love, acceptance, and equality that their conservative religions just want no part of. My friends want to change these religions, re-work their texts, and make their houses of worship a more livable place for everyone.

But they keep ending up disappointed. They can't seem to square this circle.

A few weeks ago believers watched as Christian Evangelicals shamed their faith by using starving children as pawns in their never ending war against homosexuals.

This week, Mormon women were given the cold shoulder by many in their faith, and they watched as once more the door was sealed against them.

Take heart my friends, if Jesus showed you anything, it is that loving outside the boundaries and breaking down the divisive walls of religion will.... well, it will get you crucified.

Personally, I would prefer you join me on the other side... really, the water is fine.

But if you want to keep at it.... I have your back. Keep preaching love, acceptance, and equality... and who knows ... maybe someday those walls will come down.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Am I Happy?

One of my friends wrote this status on her FB page:
below, please list one, two, three, four, or five words to explain how in the world you are surviving.
I usually enjoy the challenge of working a whole thought down to a single phrase, but this was stumping me. Then it occurred to me that the reason I couldn't come up with anything was that I am not just surviving. I am really, really happy.

Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on WHY I am happy and I found that all of my analogies kept spinning back to Fight Club.

In one scene of the movie, the Narrator and Tyler Durden pull a convenience store clerk into a back alley and threaten to kill him.  Tyler asks the clerk some questions about his life goals and finds the man had given up on his goal of becoming a veterinarian because it was too difficult. Tyler tells him that if he is not on the road to being a vet again within the next six weeks, he is going to come back and kill him. The Narrator can't understand Tyler's point until Tyler responds:
Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.
Death has a startling ability to focus you in the present moment.

Leaving religion gave me a death sentence; something I had never had before. Rather than living forever, I only have another 40 years or so at best. Religion often encourages people to disdain this life and pine for the next. Suddenly, this was the only one I would get.

Most religious people tend to find the notion of no after-life depressing. I had thought that way. However, when I truly came to grips with the fact that I probably have less years in front of me than behind, something shifted. My days became more beautiful.

My breakfast tasted better.

I also realize I have been living by another piece of Tyler wisdom:
The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
Religion has a way of heaping a myriad of dogmas, pressures, and tasks into one's life under the guise that these things matter. I did not leave religion to get away from these things, honestly I did not realize how much these things held me back until I was out. Nevertheless, leaving brought a beauty and freedom I had not anticipated. An endless list of things that seemed so pivotal were now able to slide. I was like Dorthy, stepping from a world of Black and White to one saturated with vivid color.

Is my life perfect? No. There are areas that I hope to change. There are other areas I cannot change. And here is where I use my last bit of Tyler wisdom:
I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.
My religious notions of perfection always left me feeling like I did not measure up. No matter how hard I pushed or how fast I ran, it was never enough.  I never realized until I was out that it was just one big hamster wheel.  It never let you progress and never intended to.  It simply makes you exhausted.

Everything in my life does not have to be complete or perfect for me to enjoy myself - to do things that are important and to do things that are fun.

My life is a brief opportunity to enjoy relationships, experience beauty, breathe deeply, and leave this world a little nicer for those who will come after me.

I don't need eternity.

This is enough.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Facebook Faith #42 Stronger Than Superman

I read this conversation on Facebook this morning between a mother and her son:

Mother: Well you at least believe in God still don't you?

Son: I think that all gods were invented by people because of and to take advantage of people's insecurities and superstitions.

Mother: So you think you're smarter than the God who created you?

Son: Do you think you're stronger than superman?

Mother: Superman is a counterfeit created by Satan to distract us from the truth.


I have had numerous conversations online with various religious friends, family, and complete strangers whose logic progression follows a similar path.  Once you enter into that vortex, there is little hope of escape.


It is similar to escaping Earth's gravitational pull; you have to be traveling over 11km a second or you just end up spinning around the planet.

Over and over.

Just like these conversations.

I still get sucked into these conversations on occasion, spinning around the same illogical points, never reaching an escape velocity to break through.

When someone is tethered to an idea and they feel safe with that tether, or too scared to let go of that tether, no amount of explanation will keep them from spinning back to where they were.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Facebook Faith #41 Phelps is Dead. At Least He Died Honest.

It has been good to see so many folks taking the high road when it came to Fred Phelps' death. Even people who had been personally wounded by him chose to turn the other cheek and wish his family well.

It would be easy to hate Phelps. When I first heard of his death, I must confess that my internal response was not a gracious one. So much pain perpetuated by one man did not seem deserving of even an ounce of good will. I reminded myself that here was a man so plagued by his personal demons, so wounded and broken, that he fashioned himself a god that demanded him to wound others. His religion became the vehicle for his venom.

Yet, I have to give him this... he was honest. You knew where you stood with the man. He and his god thought the rest of us were lower than the gunk on his boot - and he did not hesitate to look you in the eye and tell you so.

Contrast that with so many other religious folks who smile at you warmly, speak in soft tones, and tell you they love you. Meanwhile, they are preparing their blade as they invite you into an embrace. What they say to you, and what they honestly feel, are two different things.

I watched this play out on a Facebook page recently. Phelps' death was being discussed and one Christian man commented that his treatment of the military was regrettable. Apparently, he only viewed the military treatment as problematic. He then went on to clarify that homosexuals were an abomination.  They should not be allowed to marry and they should stop being gay. To have an alternate view is to stand against god. Still, he said he didn't hate anyone and would pray for all of us.

I hear a lot of Christians giving very similar rhetoric. I think of it as Phleps-Lite. This is where you get to hold to every position of Fred Phelps, but believe you are somehow different because you deliver that same message with a smile and a hug.


To me, the only difference between Fred Phelps and the average conservative Christian is delivery style. It is similar to Delores Umbridge and Voldemort in the Harry Potter story. Both stood against Harry. Both wanted him eliminated. Both hated him.

Voldemort's hate blazed in his eyes. Delores hid hers behind soft tones, feigned concern, and a predator's smile.

But both had similar plans for Harry.

I don't believe there is an afterlife, but if I did I would hope that Phelps can now rest from the burden of his hostility, and that his wounds have been healed.

In the end, I preferred the bigotry Fred wore on his sleeve, to the slippery words of "love" offered by so many Christians who quietly share Fred's heart.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Facebook Faith #40 - Oh Sweet Irony!


I am going to have an impish grin on my face for the rest of the week. Yesterday one of my former Pastors and I were in a discussion on Facebook. He had used the phrase unconditional love in a context about god. I questioned him about the use of that phrase, considering that his church also believes that same god will be consigning a good portion of creation to eternal damnation. We had a cordial conversation about Hell theology. At the close of our conversation, one of the church's congregants weighed in with John Piper's view of unconditional love (it is only for the elect).

Her perspective, I believe, is the end game of keeping Hell in your church theology - even if you minimize it. Her closing comment could not have been more perfect - and is evidence to me that the Universe has a wonderful sense of irony... and thinks I rock! :)
_________________________________________________


Kacy This conversation was very interesting to me. I had a very simple statement, which I have come by on my own accord, but then I found this article that I think sums up God's unconditional love perfectly. My simple statement, that I have come to through God, bible studies and a community of Christian brethren, is this...God loves you no matter what, period. Of course there is punishment for not answering His call. If you child disobeys you, do you not discipline them in some manner or another? I may have taken something completely different away then what you two were discussing, but felt compelled to answer in simplicity. Also, this was just too perfect not to share :)


Is God's Love Unconditional?
www.desiringgod.org
Provides God Centered resources from the ministry of Dr. John Piper. Features free sermon videos, audios, books, articles, Bible studies and online store.


Andrew Hackman Disciplining a child for their good is infinitely different from the notion of eternal damnation. I accept the former and condemn the latter.


Kacy -  You have until your very last breath of life on this Earth to believe and accept Jesus as our savior. This simple act is enough to live eternally in Heaven. That being said, how would you discipline your child, taking this in to account, if you were a supernatural being that breathed the universe into existence? How exactly do you punish someone fairly, for turning away from you at every opportunity, knowing his/her choices, knowing there was a possibility of hell, and still choosing to deny you. What then is a fair punishment?


Andrew Hackman I am not so insecure as to be that put out... nor do I see a need to punish any of the "infractions" you describe... let alone doing it to my son or daughter. I honestly would see such behavior as being the work of a petty psychopath... not a decent father, or even a bad one for that matter. I would work to protect people from the creature you have described.


Kacy -  Thank you for your insight. Out of curiosity did you read the article I posted?


Andrew Hackman Yes


Kacy - Good :) Well one of the most beautiful things God gifted us...free will. Much love to you Andrew. Have a great evening! And if you ever change your mind, you are always welcome at K2!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Facebook Faith #39 Phantom Numbers

I am sure there is a psychological term for the sort of behavior that I am about to describe (and if any of you know it, please share).  In the teaching field it runs like this - A parent comes to me to complain that I am giving too much (or too little) homework.  Instead of making a case, they appeal to an argument of phantom numbers:

"Every other parent feels the same way!"

In reality, they have no idea who may or may not also hold this view.  However, it gives them confidence to enlist this phantom support group. I am sure that approach has its similar sibling in other professions, but that is how it goes down in mine.

I have noticed phantom numbers cropping up a bit on Facebook lately.  I tend to get involved in religious discussions which, for the most part, are about the issue not individuals.  However, I have a couple people in my friends list who interpret every inquiry that is not blowing flowers up their religion's rear-end to be a personal, full-on, frontal assault.  Within moments, everything about me as a decent human being is called into question... not just by these individuals but, in their estimation, everyone I know.

For example, during a discussion of where charitable inclination originates, one "friend" jumped in:
"Andy, once again, journeyed into a sarcastic, opinionated tyraid about what he perceives as what is wrong with everyone who doesn't see the world the same way he does. He takes his arrogant, condescending attitude and looks down his upturned nose at us all with contempt."
I did not feel any of the attitudes or emotions with which he labeled me.  When I tried to clarify that his use of "everyone" was a bit broad and that most of my friends are religious and yet they do not paint me in the light that he does, he responded:

"...most people are just way to [sic] polite with you to tell you how they really feel about you..."

The argument of phantom numbers.  This person knows my life and my relationships SO WELL, that he is able to kidnap them for his argument.

Everyone else has the SAME view as ME about YOU!

There is a term for this..... I will find it.
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