Sunday, December 20, 2009

De-friended on Facebook

I was voted off the island today.

I know that not all Christians behave in the way I saw earlier. I know many Christians who defy the stereotypical behavior I am about to present. However, as I stated in a previous post, they do not own the name. I know that in writing this, I am just fueling the stereotype.

But this just has all the makings of a good blog post. :)

Still, I will change the name even though there is no one innocent.

Curtis wrote a Christmas poem this morning and posted it on Facebook. Envision all of the forwarded emails you have gotten from ultra-right friends and relatives (or maybe that you have sent) and you can get a sense of the tone. In it he referenced a smiling president and congressman happy about all of the abortions that would be soon made available.

Below the poem a woman whom I did not know replied. She was actually very gracious and gently reminded him that things are not always so simple and she shared a personal experience. I always appreciate when a contrary opinion is stated politely.

Curtis wrote back (this I can quote because I get follow-ups in my email):

"I don't debate God-
'God overthrows the thrones of those who are disobedient to His law.

My political views are those of the Our Father'. -- St. Avitus of Vienna"

I believe this kind of reply to not only be weak, but rather blasphemous. After internally debating whether to say anything, I decided to remind Curtis that there are many people who hold various differing opinions they believe to be God's. I stated that he had every right to hold and defend his political views; but that I did not believe it is right to use God as a trump card or a lever to end the discussion.

I do not know if the lady was de-friended, but I was immediately ousted. A short time later, I received the following in my Facebook email box:

please don't tell me not to post political or religious views on my site. You accepted my request for friendship- but, I have now retracted that request.
Your posts have been quite controversial over the past several weeks and I have left it as freedom of speech. Keep voting for these liberals and that will be taken away too.
God Bless you and your family-"

Apparently, I have not only been defriended, but blocked too since I can't reply to his email.

Now, of course, I never said anything close to telling him he can't post political or religious views. This is a good example of the digital/analog thinking comparison I had made in an earlier post.

I could dissect all of the ironic elements in his email, but I will leave that to you, dear reader.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How Would Others Refer to You?

There is debate amongst some in Christian circles about the term "Christian". Some have quit using it, and instead take on various euphemisms such as Christ Follower, Follower of the Way, etc. Others most often go by their particular sect - Lutheran, Mormon, Catholic, Pentecostal, etc.... Others stick with Christian because they either agree with all the baggage that now comes with the name, or they are determined to reclaim it from the more fundamental faction of the religion that now seems to typify the word.

I find myself rather ambivalent about it. I discover I am rather more interested with what word comes to mind when people get to know me. It seems rather pompous if I give myself the name Christian, but everyone else is thinking asshole.

Still, I see myself more and more on the outer edge of Christian circles ... and am finding myself happy there. The things that impassion the majority of Christians are no longer even a blip on my radar. For example:

• I do not believe God has any more investment in America than anywhere else. It is pure ego and insecurity that drives us into all of this "God is on our side" language.

• There is no "War on Christmas".

• I believe abortion is the murder of innocent life, but our attempts to legislate it away is closing the door when the horse has already left the barn. It is easy to shout against abortion, it is a sacrifice to work for the changes that need to come about to make a real difference.

• Christians are no different than anyone else.... really..... at all.

• I do not believe that any soul will spend an eternity in a place called Hell. Nope, not one.

• I believe prayer in public schools is motivated by a desire for power, not piety.

• I do not believe it is a threat to my children, nor to my marriage, if homosexuals marry.

• I believe the world would be a better place if the head of every ministry quit, then went and got a job at their local hospital.

• I do not believe in any kind of "rapture". I believe God wants us to redeem this world.

• I believe God is as close as out next breath, but that most Christian rhetoric shields Him from view.

• I believe Christianity competes with other religions, and that is a mistake.

• I believe most Christian parents lead their children to make spiritual decisions that they are not yet equipped to make.

• I believe organizations like Focus on the Family do more harm than good.

• I believe most churches indoctrinate their congregations and are houses of theological inbreeding. Inbreeding is bad in genetics and worse in theology.

• I believe Christians spend a lot of time working on "belief" rules (inerrancy of scripture, hell, trinity, salvation, etc..) so they can divide people into in/out and thereby give themselves a higher position.

• I believe Christianity has completely jettisoned the command to "love your enemy" and in doing so we have lost the heart of the gospel.

• I believe God stands with the poor. Christianity honors the poor while inside church doors, but mocks them in political discussions.

• I believe there are Christians who live contrary to what I have said, but they do not own the term "Christian" here in America.

I was motivated to write this after reading a quote this morning by Dorthy Soelle on Catholicanarchy. Her definition of Christianity would probably not be favorably received in many church circles.

“In a theological perspective it is evident that the content of this fascist religion [right wing Christianity] contradicts the message of the Jewish-Christian tradition. The God of the prophets did not preach the nation-state, but community between strangers and natives. The apostle Paul did not base the justification of sinners on the Protestant work ethic, but on grace, which appears for young and old, for diligent and for lazy people! And Jesus did not make the family the central value of human life, but the solidarity of those deprived of their rights. The most important norms of the Moral Majority are not contained in Christian faith, as we can see from the many critical remarks against the family that appear in the gospels. It is characteristic of Christofascism that it cuts off all the roots that Christianity has in the Old Testament, in the Jewish Bible. No word about justice, no mention of the poor, whom God comes to aid, very little about guilt and suffering. No hope for the messianic reign. Hope is completely individualized and reduced to personal success. Jesus, cut loose from the Old Testament, becomes a sentimental figure. The empty repetition of his name works like a drug: it changes nothing and nobody. Therefore, since not everybody can be successful, beautiful, male, and rich, there have to be hate objects who can take the disappointment on themselves. Jesus, who suffered hunger and poverty, who practiced solidarity with the oppressed, has nothing to do with this religion.

“At a mass meeting a thousand voices shouted: ‘I love Jesus’ and ‘I love America’—it was impossible to distinguish the two. This kind of religion knows the cross only as a magical symbol of what he has done for us, not as the sign of the poor man who was tortured to death as a political criminal, like thousands today who stand up for his truth in El Salvador. This is a God without justice, a Jesus without a cross, an Easter without a cross—what remains is a metaphysical Easter Bunny in front of the beautiful blue light of the television screen, a betrayal of the disappointed, a miracle weapon in service of the mighty.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Darwin Fishy

Back in 1976, I remember sitting at a Christian music festival listening to Keith Green banging away on the piano. Between songs, Keith bluntly ripped on the merchandisers who were selling "Jesus Junk" at the back of the festival grounds. It seemed good to me though. I had my Christian comics, Christian t-shirt, and Christian frisbee.

Thirty-three years later, I practically have an alergic reaction to "Jesus Junk". The merchandisers of the seventies were amatuers compared to what is available today. One item I always thought was beyond absurd are the Testamints (little candies with a cross on it). So I was a little suprised when my daughter had a knock-off tin of mints called "Fish Mints". (Their website claims to "Be Reaching the World one piece at a time.")

"Sweetheart, where did you get these?" I inquired, turning the small tin in my hand. The lid said these were sugar-free and promised a bible verse inside.

"At the Hobby Lobby," she shrugged.

"Let me rephrase... Why did you get these?"

"I don't like Altoids, and these were cute," she replied.


"Yeah," she answered, taking back the tin. "They have these cute little fish named Darwin."

I choked on my drink and spluttered, "Darwin??"

"Mm-Hmm," she smiled. "These little fishy are called Darwin Fish."

I have obviously been neglectful in my duties to raise my children in the Christian subculture. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Ebenezer Scrooge Could Write a Best Seller in America

Scrooge may be one of literature's unsung heroes. He is the victim of having been created at the wrong place and in the wrong era. His value system was scorned and treated with derision. How would he be judged today?

Today, there are scores of Americans loudly trumpeting and rallying for his values. He is not a miser, but a hero! In the past, he was the archetype of a failed human being; today he would be doing book signings and preaching his message on the AM radio dial.

Consider some of his quotes which used to earn him the reputation of a miser and wicked man...

"I wish to be left alone, sir! That is what I wish! I don't make myself merry at Christmas and I cannot afford to make idle people merry. I have been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they're worth. Those who are badly off must go there."

Here he articulates a belief that anyone receiving assistance is "idle".

"Another word from you, Cratchit, and you will celebrate Christmas by losing your position."

Scrooge uses his financial advantage to further line his pockets while paying as little as he can. The abuse of workers does not bother him because if they do not like it, they may go elsewhere. In his mind, he has committed no foul. This is a completely justifiable position to many Americans.

Scrooge believes virtue comes from making money and being shrewd in business. The following statement by Jacob Marley runs in complete opposition to his worldview:

"Business?! Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

Yes, Scrooge may have been a failure in the mind and era of Dickens; but in many town halls across today's America ....

He would be the featured speaker.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration - Who Cares?

The latest get together by well-known Evangelicals has produced The Manhattan Declaration. It seems that every few years now, someone in this genre of Christianity writes up a new manifesto and sends it around for everyone to sign. So once again, we have another written proclamation stating that Christianity's primary concern is with abortion and making sure that gays stay in the closet.

One thing the writers and signers of this document all have in common is that they think everyone is out to get them and that they must protect themselves.

I disagree.

I don't think anyone cares.....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dualistic Thinking Leads to Raising the Ante'

I have been devouring Richard Rohr's "Everything Belongs". It has been giving me new directions to try, since various aspects of my faith historically direct me to places I no longer find to be helpful.

One of the primary issues he deals with is how Western dualistic thinking has permeated most of the religious faiths we have grown up with. By dualistic, he means putting everything in an either/or context. We do not see things as they are... we see things as WE are. This leads to self deception. I touched on this thought in a previous post on digital thinking. Since an item needs to be pushed in to one of two camps (either/or), this prevents us from seeing it with its true gradients.

I saw this played out in real life this weekend. The University of Utah and BYU have a football rivalry. In most cases, it is all in good fun. I have two neighbors who are absolutely entertaining in the shenanigans they will pull on each other. However, after BYU won yesterday's game, the quarterback of BYU had some sharp words for his opponents:

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything. .... I think the whole university, their fans, and their organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

Now, I know nothing about either of these teams, and even less about football. However, one does not need to be into sports to recognize us/them, either/or, dualistic thinking. Perhaps he has legitimate gripes with individuals who are U of U fans... but the WHOLE university?

Here he presents the Achilles Heel of dualism. Blame and anger are shotgunned across the board. People whom he does not know and has never met become the targets of his insults. Dualistic thinking often gets presented by its defenders as being logical and rational. I would submit that its real appeal is that it requires less effort and plays completely to our egos.

This reminded me of a scene from MASH. After a long night of treating burn victims, the doctors and a visiting general go to the mess tent for coffee. Over the radio, a communist announcer accuses their MASH unit, and specifically Hawkeye, of war crimes. She accuses Hawkeye of conducting experiments on prisoners.

General: You know, that really roasts my butt! Why don't we put out some propaganda of our own?

BJ: Like what General?

General: Like those burn victims... why don't we say they were firebombed by the enemy because they cooperated with us?

Hawkeye: Why should we say that?

General: Because it is a very effective weapon Pierce. Every time they put out something, we should put out something worse!

Hawkeye: So they lie and then we lie... where does it end?

General: Hmmm... maybe you're right, but it still steams me.

Hawkeye: Steams me too, but it's gotta stop somewhere.

(MASH Season 5 Episode 15 - 38 Across)

Anger, spite, violence, gossip, envy, greed, insults, lies.... we all get hit with these at one time or another. How do we respond?

Let it stop with us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Say NO to More School! - Teacher Perspective

Last month, I wrote a commentary about President Obama's thoughts that we, as a nation, should consider lengthening our school day and year. I spoke from a parent's perspective, since I have two elementary age children.

Now I want to look at it from a teacher's point of view. I have been teaching elementary school for 18 years and have taught to the very wealthy and the very poor. I am against adding time to our day and year. I truly feel there would be nothing to be gained by increasing our children's time in school. TIME is not really our issue. Most time in school is not being used efficiently; so to add more inefficiently used time will not provide any real growth.

In order for a student to progress at a good pace, I believe they need three things:
  1. A teacher who is competent in the subject matter
  2. Pre-requisite skills for the learning that is taking place
  3. A commitment by the student and/or parent(s) to learn the material
Most school reform movements will address my first item, but you will NEVER hear anything about the other two. Worse yet, most school reform believes that changing the structure of the day, or the curriculum, or how we house children, or how we assess or deliver instruction will be the key. I have watched for 19 years as legislators, districts, and school boards have tweaked these items... it never delivers.

The reality is, most teachers are competent to teach their class. As much as the anti-unionists would have us believe there are scores of clock-punching lazy teachers being protected by unions, it simply isn't the case... and teachers are certainly not what is driving the condition of our schools.

I believe our largest failing pertains to pre-requisite skills. The truth is that up to two-thirds of the students in a given classroom do not belong there. The subject matter is simply too advanced or too easy for the student.

In an inner-city environment, such as I teach in now, the subject matter is too advanced. But in American schools we have a "ready-or-not, here-you-go" view of class advancement. Whether or not a student has the skills in place to move on... we move them on. Students are placed by age, rather than what skill they are ready to acquire. I have used this example before, but it would be like if I wanted to switch careers and decided to go to medical school. The registrar at the University looks at me and says, "Well, normally we would put you on a pre-med schedule to get in your sciences.... but if we did that, you would be in class with a bunch of twenty year-olds. You look like you are about 40, so why don't we put you in 2nd year medical school ... that way you would be in with classmates closer to your own age." To be on a class track that I am completely unprepared for could not be more demoralizing.

Consider also what it would be like for the professor, trying to teach surgical skills to folks who failed Biology 101 or couldn't stand the sight of blood... along with students who were ready to move on to their next year of medical school. Does that sound chaotic and wrong? In my class I have an even spread of Harry Potter readers, down to See Spot Run. My students are expected to be taught, and later tested on, the division/conversion/and reduction of mixed numbers - yet many struggle to add 13 and 7 in their head.

Anti public education folks will often point to studies that show that our students do worse the longer they are in the system. I believe this is because of our determination to advance kids by their age rather than their readiness.

I believe this also has a negative effect on my third category - student commitment. The longer a student, who is not ready, gets pushed to higher and higher levels... the more their commitment wanes. This of course brings out the misbehavior that is more and more prevalent in our classrooms. How frustrating it is to be pushed on to the next level, when you felt completely helpless in the previous one.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we approach education in our schools. Simply lengthening the time in a bad system will only increase everyone's level of frustration.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quotes From Articles I Have Read Recently #8

I have this gadget on the side of my blog that lists blog articles that I have shared within my Google Reader. However, it is things like Google Reader that keep people from actually going to blogs anymore. A lot of folks are probably like me and only go to the actual blog if they are going to comment. So I have a feeling that my list of articles I have read recently doesn't get seen much. So I am going to try to be more diligent in creating lists like this, with quotes, so I can add some traffic to these articles I enjoyed.

And yet, when I joined the blogging world I discovered there were a lot of people out there like me, trying to find a spiritual worldview that makes sense to them. It is in that spirit that I have tried to help articulate Christian Universalism, as expressed by the CUA, as a comprehensive spiritual paradigm that goes beyond-far beyond-simply rejecting belief in Hell. I see Christian Universalism as a new alternative to both traditional, conservative, orthodox religion and the many forms of liberal religions that surround us today. Those of us disillusioned with traditional religion often find that our alternatives aren’t particularly appealing: “Rational” religions that have been stripped of any real spirituality; liberal political activism that invokes religion when convenient; and the New Age movement, which offers plenty of spirituality but has forgotten that real spirituality is not indulging ourselves. For those of us who feel spiritually homeless, with no labels to describe our beliefs, no one we can relate to, and nowhere to go, I am happy to announce that it need not be this way. This is where Christian Universalism enters the picture. The Christian Universalist

I don’t know what I believe. That’s kind of a relief, actually, as it’s taken me about seven years to say. Since my fundamentalist upbringing never left a lot of room for doubt, I spent a lot of time bottling up the truth, which was that I no longer knew what capital-T Truth was. Admitting this to myself was difficult enough, but I also found myself faced with a somehow more daunting dilemma: how do I continue to function honestly in the Christian community without people I love rejecting me or—worse—worrying about me? Each time I would come close to exposing the true nature of my (un)belief, I could think only of a time when I had been kept up at night in anguish over a lost soul. What did I do now that that lost soul was me? Emerging Toward Something Redeeming

Increasingly I see the church as an organization for the spiritually immature. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying this in an elitist way, thinking I am better than others. I am not. However, the traditional church seems to be like a body of children vying for the approval of a heavenly parent. Also, it is engaged in a medieval attempt at the manipulation of the divine, for their benefit. I see the church increasingly retreating into unreality. Reflections

I love how Whitman absorbs and identifies with all of humanity. Male and female, slave and free, saint and sinner, rich and poor. Whitman, to use his words, embraces multitudes. And I want to embrace multitudes. Whitman embodies what the theologian Miroslav Volf calls a "catholic personality," making space within the self to accommodate others. And I think that is often missing in religious people. We fail to make space in our hearts and minds for other people. Experimental Theology

The funny thing about religious dogmatism is the lack of unanimity among those dogmatists who proclaim the certainty of their own pet belief system. Dogmatism is good, we are told--but of course, my dogmatism is right and yours is wrong. How this serves as an argument for the absolute knowability of God is anyone's guess. Mystical Seeker

It's always struck me as rather odd that there is a field within Christianity called "apologetics." Perhaps the clearest definition of apologetics is, "The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines." I think of it more as trying to prop up the dubious.

After all, if something is true should that truth be not hard to see? Certainly there are some things where that is not the case. One that springs to mind is scientific truths. There is nothing about truths in physics that is at all self-evident to me. Shouldn't theology be different? Why do we need a whole "department" that spends all its time defending declared truth? May I suggest it's because such "truths" are really little more than WAGs (wild-assed guesses)?

If a truth is a truth it doesn't need anyone to defend it. Gravity is a truth. If you don't believe it, jump off a bridge and I promise you will be convinced. There are certain things in the spiritual arena that are relatively easy to verify and/or experience as well. The truth is that apologetics isn't concerned with truth at all, but rather with propping up arguments and theories. Why do these things need propping up? The need propping up because in what they declare they go too far. They go to far because those who propose them are essentially insecure. In the name of honesty, apologetics should be called "argumentation." A Real Bishop's Reality

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Total Depravity is Depraved

One of the most self serving doctrines that man has ever created is "Total Depravity". It is the idea that man is born into a state in which he cannot do anything that is good. Goodness only comes when one has crossed over into Christianity. This doctrine was popularized by a 16th century preacher named John Calvin, and it is the cornerstone doctrine of many Christians today.

Last week, a local Pastor wrote an article for the Salt Lake Tribune extoling the virtues of Total Depravity. His motivation was an advertising campaign that was launched by Athiests in New York. Ads were placed in the subways that stated, "A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?"

As a Christian, I believe that the fascination most of my fellow believers have with Calvin's doctrine is driven by a desire to control. Total depravity gives the user a trump card (in their mind) whereby they can be better than everyone else around them... without, in fact, being better.

This is why many Christians react to campaigns like the Athiests in New York created. The ad spotlights goodness, rather than doctrine, and puts the Christian and the Athiest on an even playing field. The Christian does not like to lose their trump card, so they loudly insist that everyone play by their rules.

I can quote scripture with the best of them, and I know that many Christians reading this are pulling out their favorite scriptures to justify their pet postition. I already know them, so put away your Gideons. As with most "scriptural" positions, an easy scriptural rebuttal can be made.

Rather than scripture fencing, I would like to look at fruit (what actions result from positions) John Calvin is held in high esteem by many Christians. Yet he did not really do anything worth emulating. He created doctrines that gave Christians power over people... little else. Cities where Calvin's doctrines reigned were oppressive. Calvin had a man arrested for disagreeing with him. Convicted of heresy, Michael Severetus was burned at the stake. Calvin thought that was a bit extreme... he would have preferred a mere beheading.

Could any of us picture Ghandi calling for somone's death for holding a different position? Of course not! He was too GOOD a man for us to even imagine such a thing.

To me, that is where Total Depravity falls apart. It renders words like good, bad, right and wrong completely meaningless. Instead, it simply seeks to elevate a particular people group.

I do not believe the teachings of Jesus line up with a doctrine that causes us to render human goodness meaningless.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Annie Opens this Friday!

This Friday, the South Jordan Community Theater production of Annie will hit the stage. My daughter is the orphan Tessie, and I will be singing and dancing in the Hooverville scene (got Man 2 lines there also), various Warbucks mansion scenes, NYC, and playing the soundman in the radio scene.

It occured to me the other night while doing a sound check, as I was singing out a few lines from the stage, the strange twists and turns my life has taken these past few years. My politics & faith have taken a sharp Left turn, I am live in Utah after being a life long Michigander, and I have been in 3 musicals this past year (never did theater before) ... heck, I even sang a solo in one of them!

Curious to see what is going to happen next....

Before You Start Your Christmas Shopping

I can "Consume" with the best of em'. So before the shopping season starts, I sit down with my family to watch "What Would Jesus Buy", produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), and the Reverend Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping. It is a comedic look at America's obsession with buying things. In our country, we are encouraged to buy products to bring happiness and to fight terrorism. Our cycle of working more, to buy more, to live less - is the best in the world!

Do your part to help forestall the shopocalypse, watch this movie!

Here is the preview:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Say NO To More School! - Parent Perspective

Recently, President Obama took up the cause of extending the school year and the school day. A recent AP report said:

"Obama says American kids spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage with other students around the globe.

"Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

The president, who has a sixth-grader and a third-grader, wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go."


I am a parent of two children, ages 11 and 8. I am also a public school teacher. I have many academic thoughts on this, but in this post today I want to speak as a parent.

I do not want my children spending ONE more second in school. Seven hours a day for 180 days is more than enough.

My children are involved in many things outside of the classroom that I deem just as important as that which is occurring within the classroom. Martial arts, theater, dance, music, and time with family and friends is sacrosanct. I will not offer any of it in trade for more time in the classroom.

I firmly believe that most of our kids are over saturated with peer socialization; much of which happens at school. Our children simply do not have enough time with adult mentorship; and as important as I think classroom teachers are, they are not mentoring 30 children. The students are mentoring each other; and it is most often a case of the blind leading the blind.

One of the greatest indicators of future stability for a child is that they have 3 or more non-custodial adults who are investing into their lives. My children have many adults who are serving as mentors, and for this I am eternally grateful. More classroom hours would undercut the precious time they have with their scout leaders, theater directors, music instructors,
senseis, dance teachers, and family friends. I am not willing to sacrifice this time.

I also do not want to cut into the time that my wife and I get with our son and daughter. Children in America already spend a fraction of the time with their parents that children did a generation ago. Extending school hours would exacerbate an already troubling trend.

When my children were home-schooled, they received more education in half the time. Extending the quantity of time in school is not the solution that I want to pursue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Story of Stuff

This is a wonderful 20 minute video that talks about the TRUE cost of all of our STUFF! Here is a preview:

You can download the whole 20 minute video here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jake Loves The Wimpy Kid!

Yesterday, the family took a surprise run up to Barnes & Noble to pick up the newly released fourth installment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid . My son, Jacob, loves this series (the book was a birthday present from his Aunt and Uncle).

When we got into the store, Jake went straight to the Wimpy Kid display, grabbed a copy, and sat beneath the pyramid of books and began to read. He read the book non-stop until bedtime and was up before me this morning reading it downstairs. In less than 24 hours, he had finished reading the book.

This brings me no small amount of joy as a father. To see my children love their books fills my soul.

Sitting around bookstores and coffee shops with friends holds some of my fondest memories. My good friend Brook, who has been with me on many of those occasions, also shares my love of books; and articulates that love much better. Seeing Jacob happily position himself on the floor there at B&N, not wanting to wait another moment; I knew that Jake and I were connecting on a level that will last a lifetime.

My other little reader and I were envious of Jake's joy, and went off to search for some printed goodness of our own. Mary Lee helped Kathryn find The Lightning Thief, and I drifted over to the religion section to treat myself to a little Marcus Borg.

All is well in the Hackman household.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Certainty Built on Sand

I was reading an editorial column entitled "Politics as Religion" by an LA Times writer in the Tribune today. In it, the columnist contends that modern politics, in many circles, has become a religion. He reasons it this way:

"For centuries, American democracy as a process of conflict resolution has been based on give-and-take; negotiation; compromise; the acceptance of the fact that the majority rules, with respect for minority rights; and, above all, on an agreement to abide by the results of a majority vote. It takes compromise, even defeat, in stride because it is a fluid system.... But religious fundamentalism rests on immutable truths that cannot be negotiated, compromised or changed....

He goes on to say:

"The fundamentalist political fanatics will always be more zealous than mainstream conservatives or liberals. They will always be louder, more adamant, more aggrieved, more threatening, more willing to do anything to win. Losing is inconceivable. For them, every battle is a crusade -- or a jihad -- a matter of good and evil. "

This reminded me of a video I saw where a man went and interviewed people who were protesting at the 9/12 event in Washington. People there had very strong opinions. What caught my attention was that, very often, it seemed that the weaker the knowledge an individual had on the subject, the more vehement they were in their stance. As the author of the article said, their opinions almost seemed to have more of a religious bent than a political one.

Not that I am against people having strong opinions. However, I do wonder where we are headed politically when there seems to be little relationship between our knowledge of a topic and the tenacity with which we will hold an opinion.

I hold fairly strong opinions on the educational system and on aspects of the Christian religion... but I also have a fairly deep level of knowledge and experience. When it comes to things like the present health care argument, I hold my thoughts a little more open-handed. I tend to be a proponent of universal health coverage... but I try to keep my opinions to a personal level and reasoning. The matter is too nuanced and complex for me to be very emphatic with my opinions.

In this video, you will see people who are passionate to the point of anger, disgust, and frustration. Yet, it takes only the simplest question or bit information to upend their view and leave them stumbling. These are cases of fundamentalist-like belief on a political topic. They are 100 % certain... on a topic of which they have little, to no, experience or education.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tonight's Kathrynism

While my wife was away at work tonight, the kids and I sat around the fire pit out back roasting marshmallows. Once the marshmallows were gone, Jake headed in to watch a movie. Kathryn and I sat and talked.

"Oh it is starting to feel like Halloween," I said. "I need to start watching some spooky movies!"

"What on earth for?" Kathryn replied.

"To get in the spirit of the season," I countered.

"Yuck! I hate gory movies. What's the point?"

"Well, I don't like gory movies either," I corrected. " I just like spooky. Besides, you've never even seen one."

"Yes I have, I came down one night and saw part of Heroes that you were watching. That was like rated R scary!" she said.

"Heroes isn't rated R and it isn't scary."

"To me it is!" Kathryn admitted.

"Which is why you are not allowed to watch it or other similar things," I said.

"One of the boys in my sixth grade class says he saw a rated X movie," Kathryn announced.

I coughed.

"Really? and what else did he say?" I inquired cautiously.

"Nothing, I think he was lying. I mean if I thought Heroes was rated R, then real rated R would give me nightmares for years. Rated X? How could anyone really want to watch something THAT scary!?"


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Lesson I Would Never Have Learned From Rush Limbaugh

"For years, I never doubted the truthfulness of what I was taught. This is not surprising considering that virtually anything will make sense if it's all you know." ~ Robert Kirby

Jay Leno recently interviewed Rush Limbaugh. It was a very good interview and I was reminded of how generally likable Rush can be.

As Rush spoke, I began to listen critically in ways I would never have thought to do 15 years ago when I was a Dittohead. It is not that I completely disagree with him, but it is clear to me now that he only tells half a story. This is something I never caught when he, and those who share his views, were all I listened to.

Here is an example of when he presents half a story:

RUSH: The economic pie is growing. It's not a zero-sum game. Just because somebody has $800 million doesn't mean somebody lost it. It means the market produced it. It's none of my business what they make, Jay. It's certainly none of yours, and it's certainly not Barack Obama's what anybody makes.

To me, this is how one would fail to get a true perspective. Rush presents a true statement... to a degree. He wants capitalism to be viewed favorably, so the example he gives is when capitalism is working at it's best. But corporations and shareholders pockets are not lined ONLY when the pie grows. They are also lined when they use their positions of power to strong arm workers into sweatshops. They are lined when perfectly healthy companies are gutted to make a quick buck. They are lined when they use their bank of lawyers to avoid paying their obligations.

Leno attempted to bring this up, stating that HOW one makes money is important.

RUSH: No, no, it's not. If you believe in the capitalist system, then you have to erase from your whole worldview what does somebody need. It's not about need. Capitalism is not about need. It's about providing; it's about growing; it's about opportunity; it is about doing whatever you want to do.

Rush accurately points out here that capitalism has no conscience... and it doesn't want you to have one either. This is where I agree with Leno. How we make money does matter.

I was in my late teens when I went with my parents to visit my cousins in California. We decided one evening to go over the boarder to Tijuana, Mexico. There are street vendors everywhere in Tijuana in addition to the stores. Many items were to be haggled over, rather than having a set price.

Toward the end of the evening, I had some money burning a hole in my pocket and there were some necklaces I had been eyeing. An old lady was sitting on a blanket stringing such necklaces by the side of the road. I asked her how much she wanted for two. I don't remember how much they were, but I remember that it was a decent price. However, never wanting to miss a potential bargain, I offered her half. She shook her head, but I knew it was late and I figured I could get her to realize that some money was better than no money. After some haggling and my threatening to walk away, she sighed and took my money. I strutted away, jewelry in hand ... victorious.

Amidst the noise and bustle as I looked for my family, a small voice spoke in my heart:

"To you it was a game, to her it was food for her family."

My heart froze as this insight grew. It was as if the breath were being taken from me. I ran back to where the old lady had been, but she had already packed up for the night. I stood there starting at the empty spot by the side of the road. Shame washed over me.

To me, the few dollars here or there were less than nothing. To her, it was her lifeblood.

It matters Rush.... it matters.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maybe It Isn't Lack of Prayer

In my last post, we talked about a prayer in public schools video. In it, the producers put forth the postulation that the world is going to hell in a handbasket because we do not force school children to pray.

I think a more logical cause of many of the world's ills is accurately addressed in this video. (The language is R, so be careful where you watch this).

Idiocracy - Opening Sequence - Funny bloopers R us

Friday, September 25, 2009

Christians Need to Get Over Prayer in Public Schools

I had a friend on Facebook post a video promoting public school prayer. It was based on an email that was circulating years ago where a school child asks why God did not stop the various school shootings. A voice from heaven sarcastically replies, "Because I am not allowed in public schools anymore."
I find the video very troubling. First, because people who claim the name of Christ are putting words into God's mouth (I seem to recall that that being a commandment violation) and second, because they are just really bad words.
I went to the Facebook comment section where the video was hosted and read some of the comments. Here are some examples:
  • This was truly inspirational. Why should we stand back and let people tell us what to do. We need to step up as Children of God and put God back in schools.
  • US as Christian's have to stand up and shout his name out loud and let people know he is here for us ALL of us and those who don't believe need to sit back and take good look at the world since God has been taken out
  • We are definitely reaping what we have sown. Now we need to take back what the enemy has stolen from us and our children!
  • When we ask..."What has happened to society?" or "What's wrong with people?" Here is your answer.
  • I am Thankful to the few Teachers that still have prayer with the students in class. They are risking their jobs for our Children .
It always amazes me how myopic these folks can be. There is absolutely no empathy for how these statements might sound to someone who is not a Christian. If someone of another religion were wanting things from their religion (ancestor meditation, reading the Gita, prayers to the goddess) inserted into the school day, Focus on the Family could not contain all the money that would roll in from Christians to fight it. Yet we cannot seem to get it through our thick Christian heads that when we demand "Prayer in Public Schools", we are doing the exact same thing. We condemn in others behaviors we praise for ourselves. I don't blame non-Christians for being scared of us. I'M scared of us!

I believe the public schools are correct in choosing not to force children to pray. Christianity has a deep history of forced baptisms and conversions. Let us show that we have truly renounced that part of our past and let the issue of prayer in public schools go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Maher interviews Wendell Potter

I have to post another Maher interview. He really has some of the best on television right now.

This week Bill interviewed Wendell Potter, a former Cigna exec and head of their public relations. Just over a year ago, Wendell had an attack of conscience and has now become one of the health insurance industries biggest critics and staunch advocate for public health care.

I thought it was interesting that prior to his leaving, one of his responsibilities was to refute Micheal Moore's movie Sicko. He has this to say at the end of his interview:

Wendell: We were working overtime to discredit the movie...

Bill: But he wasn't wrong...right?

Wendell: He was not wrong. He got it right.

Watch to see why he left Cigna.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Moyers on Maher

A great interview. I found it on Youtube in three parts. It is worth viewing.




Saturday, September 12, 2009

Reading Tea Leaves

Tea Leaf Reading: A form of divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves.

Once or twice a month, I get an email or a comment on my blog from an enthusiastic Christian who wants to point out the error of my ways. Sometimes it is done gracefully, but more often than not it is proclaimed by someone who has become overly frustrated because I have the audacity to hold a view of God that is different than theirs. If this were the 16th century, some commentators would probably have me burned at the stake - as John Calvin did Michael Servetus. Since present laws and culture will not permit that, they must resign themselves to caustic comments and emails.

The latest comment on one of my Truth Project (a DVD series by Focus on the Family) blogs finished off by warning me not to comment further, lest there be eternal consequences. Interesting theology... but I actually want to focus on the beginning of his comment. He said:

"I am simply amazed at how on earth you got to be on the top of Googles searches regarding the Truth Project but it simply goes to show me how powerful the enemy is and how important things like the Truth Project really are. Your views are not only wrong they are a terrifying example of why the project exists in the first place."

His interpretation of what has placed my articles at the top of Google searches is very typical of how some Christians read random events. He doesn't like what I have written, so he interprets that this blog's high placement in Google searches must be the work of Satan.

However, one could just as easily say that Focus on the Family is spreading a poor interpretation of God though their Truth Project seminars, and God was getting a little tired of the misrepresentation; so He bumped a nobody blogger to the top of Google's list to try to get the word out that Focus on the Family has gone way off the path.

Of course, either view is just Tea Leaf Reading... looking at a random happening and assigning an outside meaning to it. Not too different from thinking that fluffy white cloud bears a striking resemblance to Scooby-Doo.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Parents Pay Down the Road

Well, some parents had good reason to fear Obama's education speech. They were right to try to shield their darlin's ears from what the President might say. Listen to these reactions from students:

"I didn't know [about] his dad. My dad died; it's kind of weird to have that personal connection."

"There was no hidden agenda."

"It just surprised me that he's human, you know."

The last thing reactionary parents wanted was for their children to see a president who stood in stark contrast to the strawman they have been building in their children's minds. What do you do when you have made the president out to be a madman and a demon.... and he turns out not to be??

This is why we hear so many stories of children who have radically different beliefs and politics than their parents when they move out on their own. Some of it, I believe, is a genuine difference of opinion; but often I think there is a swing reaction to discovering that your parents presented a very skewed view of reality. In their enthusiasm to "protect", parents often cross the line into exaggeration, misrepresentation, and flat out lies.

If you really desire your children to follow in your footsteps, I suggest you make those steps humble ones.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Happy Labor Day

The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882. Labor unions are as much needed today as ever. They were created to protect workers from corporate abuses. If anyone feels that times are different now and that unions are no longer needed, one need only look at the sweatshops that have been created by American companies that have moved off shore. Out from under American laws that were crafted due to unions, American companies often revert back to horrid and oppresive working conditions for workers.

There is this great scene in A Bug's Life, when the ants realize for the first time that they are not powerless against the grasshoppers when they stand together. The grasshoppers don't like having to face the group... they would rather deal with one ant at a time. When I hear managers and buisnesses complain about Unions, I realize they are a grasshopper who would rather only have to deal with one ant at a time.

Not that Unions always play fair when they have the upper hand. Abuses can occur on both sides. Balance must be maintained as best as possible.

So on this Labor Day, I am thankful for unions. History shows why they are needed, and history is forever repeating itself.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Listening to Rush made me think of Alice Cooper

I tuned-in to Hannity, Beck, and Rush today. I listened to their messages of gimme, gimme, gimme, mine, mine, mine, me, me, me. The crowds they stir up reflect their attitude. Regardless of their arguments for or against changes in health care delivery, there is an underlying attitude of me, myself, and I. A friend of mine said (and I paraphrase) "Liberals tend to be concerned with the OTHER person's health care, if their children are being taken care of. Whereas conservatives typically use phrases like MY health care, MY money, MY interests."

Me... Me... Me....

While the talk show hosts droned on, a song from Alice Cooper came to mind. This is from the album "Brutal Planet" (an album where Alice does a fair amount of social commentary).

Though this song deals with the issue of world hunger, I couldn't help contrasting it to the message of endless, bottomless indulgence that I was hearing over the radio.

Eat Some More by Alice Cooper

Sixty million tons of meat
Spoiling in the stinking heat
Train full loads of moldy bread
Millions will still go unfed

Acres full of dying wheat
Burning brightly at our feet
A billion tons of roasted fish
Some with nothing on their dish

We can't see we're going blind
We're just dying on the vine
We're all sinking from the weight
Open wide and salivate

Do you like the taste?
Stuff it in your face
Its not nice to waste

We're not happy 'til we're choking

So we eat some more
Throw up on the floor
Go back to the store

We're so hungry
So pathetic

Lots of melting cheddar cheese
Spreading instant meat disease
Rotting veggies on the ground
Where hungry little kids are found

Worms in fruit an ugly sight
They're begging for a single bite
Our garbage dumps are mountains high
While other people sadly die

We can't see we're going blind
We're just dying on the vine
We're all sinking from the weight
Open wide and salivate

Do you like the taste?
Stuff it in your face
Its not nice to waste

We're not happy 'til we're choking

So we eat some more
Throw up on the floor
Go back to the store

We're so hungry
So pathetic

Saturday, August 29, 2009

All The Things Jesus Said About Homosexuality

(insert sound of crickets chirping here)

Friday, August 21, 2009

You continue to impress me Mr. President

This is one of the many reasons I voted for Barak Obama. In the following video, he respectfully extends his best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world for the month of Ramadan. He is taking us in a new direction.

Video at Youtube
HT: Bruce

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jon Stewart on CNN's Crossfire in 04'

Perhaps many of you have already seen this, but I just found out about this clip today at Out of Ur. It is amazing to watch someone who is independent befuddle two intelligent men - because they cannot see beyond their own partisanship. Stewart is sarcastic, but I do not actually believe that is our main draw. Sarcasm yes, but honest. That is why he makes the other two seem like buffoons. They are so tied to their partisanship that they can see and hear nothing else. I think the coming generation is rejecting, and laughing, at partisanship.

Jon could not have been any more profound in describing what is wrong with our discourse in America.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Conservatives Are Usually the Last to Get On Board

Universal health care is coming. Be it today, or tomorrow, or next year... it is coming. Many conservatives will rant and rail against this, but in the end they will come around. They always do.

When it comes to looking backward, they tend to see clearly. The reforms fought by them in the past would now be admitted by most to be good things.

For example:

In the 16th and 17th centuries, conservatives fought against medical and scientific advances (often on religious grounds). Progressives were threatened with torture and death.

Conservatives typically defended the Aristocracy and the Right of Kings.

Most conservatives in the past fought against:

The Abolition of Slavery
Humane Treatment of Prisoners
Child Labor Laws
Worker Safety Laws
Worker Rights
Voting Rights for Women
Civil Rights Laws

In all these cases, the arguments made were similar to conservative arguments today: businesses will fail, families will break apart, government encroachment, etc.

Of course, once the reform becomes commonplace and the world fails to implode, conservatives move quietly on to the next issue they will be behind the curve on.

So, I am not worried. Universal health care is coming. Conservatives will moan and complain the whole journey, but in the end they will get on board; failing to make the connection to their previous track record on issues.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Frank Schaeffer Speaks Out On Right Wing Protesters

Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author and helped found the religious right movement. He is a survivor of both polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood.

More on Frank Schaeffer here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

I do not care what the critics thought, my wife and I just returned from seeing this movie and we both loved it. Parents of 11 year old daughters are going to be extra susceptible to it's tear jerking moments. I think folks who didn't like it probably had trouble staying with it's "non" linear story line.

The story tells the relationship of Henri to his wife. He bounces uncontrollably about time. Because of this, his wife has known him since she was a small child and is already in love with him when he meets her for the first time when she is 20. If you can follow it, the Time Traveler's wife is an endearing love story with just enough fantasy to make it magical. A+

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Joy and Beauty Without Christianity

If you travel at all in Christian circles, you may hear a theology about how depraved we all are; useless and good for nothing. The logic behind this brand of Christian thought is that apart from Christ we cannot do anything good. Probe a little deeper and you may hear that only a Christian can really do anything "good", and that only through Christ.


I choose to quote a scripture in Acts uttered by St. Paul.

"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being."

Good is good and does not need a label.

The scripture above was actually a quote taken by Paul from a Greek poet, Epimenides (c. 600 B.C.) If Paul shared the above version of Christian thinking - that good things are only good based on their Christian labeling - I hardly believe he would have been quoting Greek poets in such a positive fashion to make his case for Christ.

This whole thought came to me because of a video I saw today. It was beautiful and filled me with joy. I believe its goodness stands independently. As a Christian, I also believe that its goodness pleases the heart of God because He is good; but its goodness can happily stand apart from Christianity.

Watch Matt as he lives, and moves, and has being :

On a related note, this video also made me think of people who always have to thump their chests saying "America is the greatest nation in the world!"

I don't think so. I think America is a pretty good place, amongst a lot of other pretty good places. All of them together make a pretty great world.

An HD copy can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yesterday I completed my 300th blog post. I started this blog on April 22, 2003 with a few random sentences. I think my initial intention was to keep a diary of sorts, but instead it became a place for me to editorialize on life.

The first 3 years were kind of thin as far as posting goes. I used to hate to write. Back in college, I would drop classes that had any serious amount of writing required. It just took too long for me to construct a few paragraphs. I would stare at a blank screen or page and endlessly re-write. Now I wish I could write full time.

A few facts about this blog:

I usually get about 35 visits a day, but I had one freaky day two years ago when I got 215 for some reason.

Half of the people who come to my site have never been here before.

About a quarter of my visitors come straight to this site, whereas the other 3 quarters get bounced from other sites or through search engines.

The Truth Project Part 2 is my most frequented page other than my home page. It naturally is also the article with the most comments (51).

I love when people comment on my posts, even if in disagreement. This awareness has made me more intentional about commenting on the many, many blogs I read.

The good folks of Troy, MI come to my site more often than the next 3 cities combined.

After America, most of my hits come from Canada and then Austrailia.

I really want to know what happened to Jim of the Burrs and Mike from Ifs of Og.... I don't think bloggers should be allowed to drop off the map like that. :)

I get hits from IP addresses on a regular basis from people who NEVER comment. Who are you? Don't be shy. :)

I have made one "real life" friend through blogging. Thomas and I meet with a small group monthly to discuss life and God over coffee.

I type most of my blog entries from my computer desk in the family room while looking out at the mountains.

The busier I am the more I write. When I have lots of time on my hands, my writing slows to a crawl. Weird.

My wife proofreads my blogs 9 times out of 10 before I post. She most often corrects my awkwardly worded sentences.

I am grateful to have gotten to "know" so many of my regular readers over the years. I feel I have a band of friends whom I have never met. I wish I were a rich man who could fly you all out here so we could spend an evening around a campfire in the mountains discussing this thing called life.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Our Central Piece Is Missing

I think it becomes clearer to me daily as to why Christianity is failing on the world market. We have jettisoned the nature of God, his defining attribute, that which makes him tick.... and then we wonder why the god we present to the world is not desirable. Rather than consider the possibility that there might be something wrong with our presentation, we attack and speak down to those who reject our vacuous message.

One example of this hit me as I was reading an interview with John MacArthur recently. John speaks for a fairly large section of Christendom. When asked to define the church, he stated:

" I believe the church has one function, and that is to guard the truth, to proclaim the truth and to live the truth. So you take the Word of God, you teach it, you proclaim it, you protect it, you defend it, and you live it, and that’s a church. The Word of God rightly divided, rightly understood. "

His definition is all about disseminating and defending theology. Notice anything missing?

Then there was the test of my "Worldview" I took today over at Worldview A friend of mine signed me up for their newsletter last year. Through it, I am treated to the most extreme in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. The test labeled me as having a Secular Humanist worldview (this was of course considered bad and they had many suggestions for how I might cure myself). The test was about 40 questions long and asked about my politics, economics, theology, and so on. Here are some example statements, which you would rate from strongly agree to strongly disagree:

Making the incomes of its citizens as equal as possible should be one of the top priorities of any legitimate government.

When you study the Bible as a whole, it becomes clear that God is very supportive of an economic system that is based on private property, the work ethic, and personal responsibility.

The Bible says, judge not lest you be judged, which means we are not to judge the choices or behavior of a person as right or wrong. We all make mistakes, and thus we should not judge someone's actions or behavior according to any particular standard.

These 40 questions were written to determine whether or not I have a "Christian" worldview. Interestingly enough, I found it had the same omission as John's definition of the church.

The word LOVE is not to be found.

The bible says that God IS love. Not that He works at being loving, or that He chooses to love; it states that love is who He IS.

I find it incredible that we can define His church, or determine if someone's worldview is aligned with His, without once using the word (or even hinting at the concept) that best describes HIS worldview.

Let's face it, most of the American church likes to avoid that word. They feel it would give people license to not obey, I mean God. When it does get used, there will often follow a string of qualifications.

We are way off the path....

Related Posts with Thumbnails