Thursday, July 30, 2009

Save Your Kids From Hell!!

Really! Just go over the 4 spiritual laws, have them repeat a prayer after you and WHEW!! They are safe! No more having to worry about roasting over a spit for them! ;)

Ummm.... No.... this is bad practice. VERY bad practice!

I would detail why, (and I did touch on this with my article on child baptism) but my friend Bruce has already written the definitive blog piece on this issue and it should be required reading for every person of faith. Read here:

Don't You Want To Go To Heaven When You Die?

I do want to add my personal experience on this issue. I remember as a 5th grader running around at recess telling kids about the tortures of Hell (in Rated R detail) and that Christians were going to be executed by having their heads chopped off (I saw those Thief in the Night movies as a small child). To top it off, as I was telling kids they needed to be Christian or burn in Hell, I was by far the worst behaved kid in the school. Picture Bart Simpson armed with Hell theology. Oy....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Finding an Unseen God - Alicia Chole

When I selected this book to review for, I did so because of the description. I was intrigued that the author had moved to Christianity from an Atheist point of view. I find the views of the truly atheist intriguing, and I was curious how she got around some of the common barriers that would keep one from theism. However, I ended up leaving this book deflated because I felt that none of my questions were satisfied.

So overall, this review is truly a critique. I don't like writing this kind of piece because someone poured their soul into this work. Also, because I feel unqualified. She is a published author... let's see... where are my published works? None to be found. Somehow it feels like I am backseat driving.

So let me start out with what I did like. The author is a wonderful story teller. Her book goes back and forth chapter by chapter between the narrative of her life, and the commentary on those parts of her life. She brought me into the tale of her journey and I cared about the directions she was taking. Particularly fulfilling were the parts that dealt with her relationship to her father. She knows how to translate love to the written page.

What I did not like in her book was the commentary. To me, it seemed very contradictory and inconsistent. She seemed to vacillate between speaking of the large God of the Universe... to the smaller god of evangelical Christianity. She wanted to speak of the freedom of questioning... but only if you come to certain conclusions.

For example, she presents four filters with which she determines that Christianity is true. Christianity passes these tests, whereas other religions don't. They are that the religion is:
  • Livable,
  • Consistent
  • Sustainable
  • Transferable
She uses examples to show where Christianity passes each of these markers. The problem is that each of her points could be used against Christianity as well as for it. They also are passable by many other religions. These kind of logic efforts only work for the convinced.

I also feel she made a weak argument against pluralism. She falls into dualistic premises that require you to agree with her definitions to move forward in her argument... and she is rather prideful at that. She says that "world religions are incompatible at their core", and of pluralists:

World religions are NOT saying the same thing, but that is okay because religious pluralists either (1) understands each world religion better than those who practice it, or (2) is enlightened to the point where they can comprehend a reality ("all roads lead to the same god") that either eludes or offends actual adherents of the great world religions.

In this, she insists on the same "either/or" arguments that pluralists resist. To her, every Christian is a fundamentalist Christian; every Muslim is a fundamentalist Muslim, etc... What she ignores (or is unaware of) is the overlap that can exist. Where the Muslim who is genuinely moving toward the way of God finds himself having more in common with the Jewish man who is on the same journey, than he does the fundamentalists of his own faith tradition.

Also, she spends a lot of time using her filters trying to rationalize why Christianity is true. Yet in the end, it was a "Damascus Road" experience that brought her to Christ. She wants to show that Christianity can be rationally discerned... but that was not her route to conversion. It kind of felt like a bait and switch.

I have no problem with a "Damascus Road" experience because I had a similar conversion. I thought church and church people were annoying and God was far away. In less than an hour, God became my personal obsessive compulsive disorder.

But the more I learn about other religions, I discover that all my Christian experiences and arguments can be duplicated in those religions as well. The author tells the story of how a certain miraculous event stumped her atheistic mind. However, I have heard similar tales in every branch of Christendom and other religions as well. Her conversion story can be told in every religion since time began.

My difficulty is not that she had these experiences... but that she tries to make them sound unique. That somehow these validate Christianity, while invalidating everything else.

So in the end, I didn't see where she had anything new to offer. When she was an Atheist, she was right and everyone else was wrong. Now she is a Christian; and she is right and everyone else is wrong.

She switched jerseys, but is still playing the same game.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Our need to be better than someone else

Mississippi Burning is a movie based on the true story of two FBI agents investigating the disappearance of 3 civil rights workers back in the 60's. William DaFoe's character is a by-the-book agent who was raised in the North. Gene Hackman's character was raised in the South and understands the mindset. Because of their investigations, the locals became agitated and began a campaign of violence and intimidation against the black population. The two agents have this discussion later at their hotel:

[DaFoe] Where does it come from, all this hatred?

[Hackman] You know, when I was a little boy... ...there was an old Negro farmer lived down the road from us, name of Monroe. And he was... Well, I guess he was just a little luckier than my daddy was. He bought himself a mule. That was a big deal around that town. My daddy hated that mule. His friends kidded him that they saw Monroe ploughin' with his new mule... ...and Monroe was gonna rent another field now that he had a mule.

One morning that mule just showed up dead. They poisoned the water.
After that there was never any mention about that mule around my daddy. One time we were drivin' past Monroe's place and we saw it was empty. He'd just packed up and left, I guess. Gone up North or somethin'.

I looked over at my daddy's face...
...and I knew he'd done it. And he saw that I knew. He was ashamed. I guess he was ashamed. He looked at me and he said..."If you ain't better than a nigger, son, who are you better than?"

[DaFoe] Do you think that's an excuse?

[Hackman] No, it's not an excuse. It's just a story about my daddy.

[DaFoe] Where does that leave you?

[Hackman] With an old man who was so full of hate... ...that he didn't know that bein' poor was what was killin' him.

This scene reminds me of a pastor I once heard. He was marching back and forth across the pulpit, talking about the corruption and decadence of other religions. He stated that even if these religions seem to be doing good, it isn't true... they are tools of Satan! He finished his diatribe by shouting, "The WORST Christian is still better than Gandhi!!" The crowd erupted into applause and amens.

Somehow I can picture this Pastor, or one of his congregants, sitting by their child's bedside stating:

If you ain't better than a (Jew, Muslim, Hindu, etc.), son, who are you better than?

When we think like this, we show our poverty.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

He's going to be a very popular Freshman

The title of this post was a comment made by a friend when she saw this pic on Facebook. Too funny!

This picture was taken at Greenfield Village while on our vacation to Michigan. We bought the hat he was wearing at the gift shop. He was fixated on getting that particular hat even though it bordered on being too small and he had a lot of other style options. While I was paying for it, he ran with it outside. Through the window I saw him step forward, while tipping the hat on and off his head. Then he spun, put his arms out and tipped, and finished it with a box step.

Now I understood why he wanted the hat. He thought it looked like a fedora and he was doing one of the dance moves we did in Joseph. He was imitating his old man. Brownie points awarded!

With Kathryn gone this week, my wife and I have been trying to do some special things with Jake. Last night I had a meeting, so my wife decided to take him to a local rodeo. I had my reservations about what Jake would think about that, but figured I would let him make that call. It turns out I was right. Halfway through my meeting Mary Lee texted me:

..... Jake thinks this is barbaric ...

That is such a Jake description!

Mary Lee told me that Jake was angry and that he could not understand why the cowboys were being so mean to the animals. He had enough and decided he wanted to leave. In frustration, he took one last look at the arena and declared, "Why can't they just leave the circle of life alone!?"

That's my boy!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Drew and Mike are back!

There are few items in Michigan that I have not able to find the Salt Lake equivalent for. However, I have never been able to replace "Drew and Mike in the Morning". They are the morning show guys at WRIF Detroit.

I was disappointed a few years ago when I went back to Michigan and found that Drew had left the show. However I just discovered that, after 2 years, Drew and Mike are back at it!! In fact, their first show was broadcast on a day I was in Michigan... and I missed it!

Regardless, I am glad they are back. Better yet, I have discovered that my phone will tune in to their station. So now I will once again be able to Drew and Mike in the Morning on my way to work! I love technology!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Heard a funny...

Every once in a while, one of those forwarded emails makes me genuinely laugh:

Scientists have discovered a food that diminishes a woman's sex drive by 90%.

It's called a Wedding Cake.

I laughed til I nearly peed myself.

Then I thought... What the hell am I laughing at!!!?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another stage passes...

This morning my daughter left for Girl Scout camp. It occurred to me as she left that there probably has not been a day in her 11 years in which I have not spoken to her. Now I have to do 5. Whew!

She has been completely ecstatic about going. They will be up in the mountains with lakes and horses. Her usual hesitation about lions and moose in the mountains was not even broached. When her ride came, she jumped in the car and instantly started giggling with her friend. We are blessed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Death-Wish Theology

I have been in Michigan this week visiting friends and family. It has been great to get caught up with people, and it has been a rare occasion to get the my brothers and I under my parent's roof at the same time.

It has also been a time of comparing life in Salt Lake City to life in the Detroit area. Each has it's plusses and minuses, but on the whole SLC wins for me hands down.

One thing that struck me is how often I hear (and am put off by) pop Christian theology here. I go to a fairly moderate church in Salt Lake, and spend the rest of my time paling with Mormons, so I think I have gotten used to not hearing goofy (imo) theology as a part of everyday speech.

For example, people often state how horrible and corrupt the world is and how folks can't wait for Jesus to come back and deliver us from this hell-hole (Obama being the proof of the end times). "Really?" I reply, "I am in no hurry to leave. I am actually having a good time!"

This just assures them that my predalection towards liberalism is taking me down a dark path.

Then there was the church visit. If you saw Borat, picture his church scene at the end so you can get the proper visual. The pastor kept going on about the sickness of the world, our evil presidential administration, the educational system that is guiding kids to hell, etc... The audience clapped and cheered for this borish and broken view of life.

Then he talked about the mis-guided "peacemakers" in this world. "There ain't gonna be any peace in this world," the pastor shouted while bouncing on the front of his toes, "until the Prince of Peace returns!!!"

Death wish theology. Let's just blow this place.

Now I may be an unusual father, but it would not be acceptable if my kids trashed the upstairs and then sauntered past me on their way out the door saying, "Hey Pop, we left a mess upstairs for you to take care of... thanks!"

God may, or may not, be returning any time soon. But if he is anything of the Father figure I hope he is - he will be expecting us to grow up first.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

An Observation

I was recently listening to Bob Lonsberry, our local conservative morning show radio host. He was explaining that there was money coming in from the Fed for one of our military bases here in Utah. Since Bob is typically against government spending, I was waiting for him to rail against it. However, he proceeded to talk about what a good thing this was: good for the local economy, good for families, good for the military.

If this money had been coming to a local school district, I suspect we would have heard about government waste and over-paid teachers for the next 20 minutes. In conservatism, the military gets a pass while education can never get too little.

This even translates into churches... which are primarily conservative. As we go though our 4th of July weekend, many church services will focus on honoring the military. Not that I mind honoring men and women who have served, but I do take issue with how often churches tend to weave militarism into Christianity. Somehow, they seem to make them go hand in hand.

Also, like morning show Bob, churches tend to be critical and suspicious of education. Days that promote education and schools tend to slip past church notice. Again, mention the military in a church and you will see members lift their chin up and puff out their chest; mention education and you will probablly get furrowed brows and a scowl.

Interesting dichotomy.
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