Sunday, October 30, 2011

The War on Halloween?

We have all heard about the War on Christmas. As December approaches, there is a subset of Christians who will get their undies in a bunch if perfect strangers do not show deference to their worldview. They take the greeting of "Happy Holidays" as if it were an insult. They flood Facebook with Fox News stories about liberals trying to tear down America through Christmas marginalization. They will strictly adhere to Focus on the Family's list of stores to avoid for not being sufficiently pro-nativity. In their view Christmas (and by extension Christians) is being targeted.

However, for the past few weeks, I have observed my school wrestle with what to do about Halloween. We have various religious families who will not celebrate Halloween. Other parents want the costumes and parades they remember having as a kid. Teachers were all over the map with their opinions. Folks wanted class parties, or felt we couldn't spare any academic time, or believed it was unkind to have all of these poor families feel pressured to buy costumes. When I went to my college class, I got to hear from other teachers about how their buildings were handling the question of what to do about Halloween. Every school seemed to have a different spin.

There are a lot of angles to consider. There are considerations that oppose other considerations, yet each has a valid point.

There are no conspiracies.... there are just a lot of voices to acknowledge.

It is the same with Christmas. I know it was just "easier" for Christians when they were the dominate voice on the block; when everyone in the room had to adjust their schedules around the Christians. Now there are all of these other voices in the room. There now has to be give, where before there was only take.

However, rather than becoming a sore spot for our nation, Christmas presents Christians with a real opportunity to live out their faith. Rather than suiting up for this year's battle over Christmas, they can choose to live the words of their scriptures:

Phillipians 2:3 "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ohio Animal Tragedy

"It's his property. He can do what he wants."

This was said by a neighbor of Terry Thompson, the man who released dozens of wild and jungle animals from his farm yesterday before shooting himself.

I hear this kind of statement often in the very Red state of Utah. Doing what you want, when you want can be regarded as a virtue here. Any kind of regulation or rule made by the government tends to get a knee-jerk reaction - it is resisted without regard to reasonableness.

I remember listening to a local talk show host who was berating some of his neighbors - for trying to get the city to enforce codes on a resident who was letting his home and lawn deteriorate. He used the exact same words:

"It's his property. He can do what he wants."

These statements are made by people who do not know how to live in a society. They have a romantic view of libertarian-ism that could only exist if one lived alone on an island.  The rest of us have to live with family, neighbors, co-workers, fellow citizens, etc. Therefore, we must learn to give and take. Compromise and courtesy are what allow us to function as a civilized society. He can do what he wants is not sufficient or practical. Rules and regulations are not the enemy.

Ohio is one of 8 states who have little to no regulation regarding the ownership of wild animals. Not surprisingly it has a death and maiming rate by wild animals that is in line with their view of regulation. Yesterday's events were tragic on many levels; most of these animals had to be killed by local police.

"It's his property. He can do what he wants."  

This is the mantra of the irresponsible; those who give all power to the individual while looking with derision at regulations that insist one also be responsible to society.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Conversations at Gardner Village

My kids and I had today off school (ML still had to work).  So we went out to lunch and took the train to Gardner Village.  We always have good chats.  Here are two of them.

Kathryn:  Dad, I think most kids have to believe what their parents believe.

Me: I suppose that is mostly true...

Kathryn:  But you and Mom have never made me feel I had to believe what you believe; in fact, I think there are items that all three of us see differently.

Me:  So, what do you think about that?

Kathryn:  ......... thank you ........

Me: <grin>  You're welcome....

Kathryn:  So Dad, are you even a Christian anymore?

Me: That is a good question...

Kathryn:  So what are you?

Me: What do you think I am?

Kathryn: (considers thoughtfully for a moment) .... an agnostic, Christian, Buddhist....

Me: ...Hmmmm... I'm cool with that....

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pastor Numb Nutz

God HATES You!

“Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is “meritous” [the word he's looking for here is "meritorious"]. He doesn't care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.”  ~Pastor Mark Driscoll

Did you think Fred Phelps ("God Hates Fags") said this?  No, this was said by an extremely popular evangelical pastor and author.  He runs a church business in Seattle, and thousands upon thousands hang on his words each week.  Aside from his congregants, his books sit on the shelves of many of the evangelical Christians in your town. 

Do you know evangelicals who are caustic?  Negative?  Angry?  Bitter?  Hateful?  If so, they are probably taking their social cues from guys like Driscoll.  Many reasonable sounding Evangelicals quietly appreciate his "punch in the face" attitude, and quote his nastier bits amidst high-fives when non-Christians aren't around.

Still, I find his rants somewhat encouraging.  To me, they are the angry, dying gasps of a group that is becoming more and more marginalized - like the man who gives the finger to the witnesses observing his execution.

Ugggghhhhhh!  Hackman!  You are just becoming SO anti-Christian!

Perhaps.... but not Anti - Christ.  I don't think Driscoll represents Jesus in any way, shape, or form.  A Christianity that defends him, I believe, has nothing to do with Jesus.

Lest you think he was just having a bad day, realize that this is pretty typical material from him.  If he had no followers, like Phelps, he probably wouldn't be worth mentioning; but Christians by the scores march to the beat of his drum.

Honestly, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Guys like this are always hiding something....

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ooma Telephone Review

I had been with Vonage for about 6 years. When we first switched, it was amazing - only 25 dollars a month for unlimited calling. We had just moved to Utah which required me to take a substantial pay cut, and our long distance bills were huge. Vonage was a savior.

However, about 2 months ago, call quality became drastically reduced. We heard everyone fine, but the other end of the line was getting regular drop-offs in audio. I began to research other options. Maybe we would join the trend of just using our cell-phones.

One of the options I heard about was Ooma. Like Vonage, they work on a Voip system. They differ in that Ooma charges for the unit and not a monthly subscription. An Ooma router typically costs between $200-$250.

When I saw that Costco was charging $179, I decided to take the plunge. Hook up was fast and easy. I placed it between my modem and my wifi router. It took less than a half an hour to be up and running.

Unfortunately, Ooma had similar audio drops. Not as bad, but still unacceptable. I was looking for my receipt when the age of my modem occurred to me. I had bought that modem when I moved out to SLC seven years ago - in tech time, that is forever. I considered that modem technology must be wildly more efficient today, so I researched a bit and picked up a new one. Problem solved. My new modem is not really any faster, it is just more consistent. Packet loss is a thing of the past.

So we have been using Ooma now for a few weeks and it works like a champ. The only thing I pay for is $3.50 in taxes monthly. Ooma does have a premium service with more advanced options at $10 a month, but for now, the phone is fine.

It seems that a new modem would probably have solved my Vonage issues as well, but this worked out for the best. What I paid for Ooma and the modem is the equivalent of 10 months with Vonage - any time my Ooma works after that is bonus!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Ok... Let's Back Up....

I had this conversation with a friend today on Facebook. Overall, it actually occurred with his Pastor. It hit me a few ways. First, parts of it just served as Grade-A examples for my post from yesterday. It also reminded me of another South Park scene from that same episode. :)
It helped me understand and to give a little more grace to politicians who speak in sound bytes and catch phrases. I used Mormonism within an analogy about a larger point, and all of a sudden everyone thinks I am Mormon. Then I am on the receiving end of the perfunctory evangelical anti-mormon sermon. How can a politician dare say anything substantial when everyone goes bananas on key-words?
I have also noticed a tendency amongst many religious folks to take it personally if someone does not accept their faith.  Atheists get a double dose of this disdain.
Lastly, it demonstrates that when people want to believe something... the needed logic will take care of itself.

This is one of thsoe statements where you could insert a "Wayne's World" "NOT!! after you say it. The universe shows the evidence of intelligent design so their must be an Intelligent Designer (God). One main reason people deny their is a God is that they don't want to be held accountable for their actions and sin, but rather live life in rebellion against Him.

Click 'Share' below!

 ·  · Share · 13 hours ago · Privacy:

    • Andrew Hackman To be in rebellion against, you would have to first believe. You are not in rebellion against Shiva, or Zeus, or Joseph Smith... you simply don't believe and therefore pay them very little mind. Athiests simply do not believe in Yaweh in the same manner in which you do not believe in other gods.
      11 hours ago ·
    • Eric  To not believe in intelligent design is to be in denial the evidence is very clear, so anyone that refuses to believe in Yaweh and intelligent design and Jesus Christ, enjoy your trip down De- Nial. The Bible tells us as BELIEVERS, that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free.
      9 hours ago · 

    • Andrew Hackman 
      But Eric, even if one were to believe in a creator, there is not a clear connection to Yaweh. Again, from a Mormon's perspective, you are in clear rebellion to all that Joseph Smith taught and have rejected the restored Gospel and God's true church on the earth. Do you feel you are in active rebellion to that? or do you simply not believe it? You may think your religion is obvious and clear... but so does every other subgroup. The way that you do not believe in Mormonism is the same way an Atheist feels toward Christianity - no rebellion or denial required. :)

      6 hours ago · 
    • James  Andy, my dear friend, please don't tell me that you have converted to Mormonism! You and I were in Bible quizzing together as teenagers. You know the truth, man! Mormonism contradicts true Christianity in many ways. Mormonism teaches that man can become a god. This is the same lie that Satan deceived Eve in the Garden. We are heirs and servants of God spreading the hope and truth that comes through a relationship with Jesus. I will be praying for you, my friend.

      2 hours ago · 
    • Eric 
      John 1:1-16 confirms who the creator was and is and it reveals the work of the son of God Jesus Christ. Why base our faith upon a man (Joseph Smith) who was created by God when we have direct access to the creator God and salvation through Jesus Christ the son of God. We can back up the work of Christ through Gods word, historically and archeologicly how much proof is needed before the Morman belief is seen for what it truly is? Where is the evidence of all of Joseph Smiths claims?

      2 hours ago · 
    • James  Amen, Pastor. It is a proven fact that Joseph Smith was under the influence of Satan when he wrote the Book of Mormon. The golden plates that he received from the angel Moronai (a fallen angel) have no historical proof to stand on, as the Bible does. Joesph Smith often stared into a hat to receive dreams or visions. This was an occult practice.
      2 hours ago · 

    • Andrew Hackman 
      Gentlemen, gentlemen... you are both in perfect sync in misunderstanding my point. I am not promoting or critiquing Christianity, Atheism, or Mormonism. My point had to do with the initial assertion that Atheists are not Christians because they are in rebellion or want to sin without consequences. I just think that is making a whole lot of presumption, and probably falsely in most cases, about the motives and attitudes of Atheists.

      I used Mormonism as a contrast, trying to make an analogy between the way an Atheist would respond to Christianity, and a Christian would respond to Mormonism. I don't think an Atheist avoids Christianity so he can sin, anymore than a Christian would avoid Mormonism so he can sin. I think there is no inherent connection there. Same goes for the thoughts of rebellion. You two simply don't believe Mormonism to be true... but in order for you to be in rebellion to it, you would have to first believe it so you could rebel.

      In the same way, John 1:1-16 only confirms who the creator is IF you give validity to that text. Your quoting it to an Atheist has as much traction as a Mormon quoting First Nephi to you. Quoting the Book of Mormon to you would be meaningless, because you don't believe it in the first place. :)

      I think this is why many Christians have difficulty effectively communicating their Faith to someone not of the Christian faith. They simply can't picture what their words sound like to others. Approaches they recognize would never work on them personally, they nevertheless keep trying on others. Years of being in Christianity's echo chamber have atrophied their empathy... they can no longer step into the shoes of the other.

      about an hour ago · 
    • Eric  
      Andrew I understand what you are saying and respect your argument. Anyone knows that any belief system is only as good as the results it produces. Atheist have nothing show for there disbelief that proves they are right in their denial of Gods existence. Mormons have nothing to show for their beliefs, Buddhist have nothing to show for their beliefs but Christianity has proven itself over and over through the miracles of Christ and his disciples. Today over two thousand years after he walked the Earth we continue to see miraculous healing, lives transformed and the power of his Spirit still very much alive; all as a result of his love for mankind. I don't know you but I love you enough to tell you the truth because I have seen it and experienced it first hand. Have a wonderful evening and know that I have no hard feelings toward you.

      about an hour ago · 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Hear Voices In My Head

I grabbed a beer with a friend yesterday evening, and this comic today reminded me of some of our conversation.  We have both experienced a "falling-out" from our evangelical church life and we noted that it changed the way we "hear" typical church speech.

I was never a fan of Christianeese, even when I claimed the name Christian.  However, now that I spend the vast majority of my time outside of Christian circles, I have become more sensitive to how awkward it all sounds.  Like Jesus indicates in the cartoon above, some phrases and terms just shouldn't be uttered by responsible adults.

The problem I see with even writing this blog is that no one will get it (unless you are in what Bishop Spong calls The Church Alumni Association).  If you are Christian, odds are you are fully immersed in this kind of dialogue.  You salt and pepper you conversation with things that God is "doing" in your life, or what he "told" you recently.  God is working in you, and you are trying to find the center of his will, or you are feeling guilty because you are just not serving him enough.  It all sounds perfectly natural... spiritual even.

Or, you don't travel in such circles because the few times in your life that you drifted into them... you quickly drifted back out.

I like how Jesus in the comic said, "... if your grown son ...."  I actually started to use that frame of reference a year or two ago to judge some of the things I heard said by various Christian artists, preachers, and church attenders.  How would I react if my son and daughter talked to me in such wording?

My daughter goes up to receive an award for a job well done.  Instead of a gracious thank you, she steps to the podium and points at me in the audience.  "This isn't about me, it's all about my dad.  I can't do a single thing without him.  My whole performance was garbage compared to him, and it is only of value because I am offering it to him."

or how about this one from my son....

"Oh Dad, I am so grateful that you chose to love me though my horrible-ness and wretched-ness. I am forever a failure before you and I am only worthy of your anger... yet because of my sister, you will talk to me ... I thank you for that!"

Gross eh?  I would be MORTIFIED if my children had that view of themselves or me. Yet that kind of talk goes on all the time in churches throughout the globe.

Or, there are the Christians forever running in circles, mumbling to themselves, trying to figure out "what God wants them to do". Does he want me here or there? Should I do this or that? What does he want? What does he want? What does he want?

I'll wager an answer for him since he probably has no intention of SPEAKING to you this evening.  I would venture a guess that he would like you to "MAKE A DECISION LIKE AN ADULT, STOP WHINING, AND LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ADULT CHOICES!"

Again, picture your adult children coming and asking your call about every detail in their lives... not advice, your call! You would really have to come to the conclusion that you had raised some truly helpless human beings if they were being that clueless.

The icing on the cake is that the person who speaks like this will tell you that God "told" them this or that. If one is a particularly intuitive person... they will get the reputation for being very close to God. Once you are at that status, anytime you "hear him" wrongly in future will be ignored and forgotten.

It is like this scene from South Park. Kyle thinks that his Grandma spoke to him though Jon Edwards (the psychic).  Stan goes to Jon Edwards to ask him to tell Kyle that the whole "speaking to the dead" thing is just a trick.

"We all hear voices in our head. It's called intuition. Get over yourself!"
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