Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Low View of God

Fellow blogger Wes wrote an article recently that expressed an idea that has been gaining ground in my mind over the years. For all our rah-rah God talk, Christians often articulate a rather low view of him to the public at large.

Wes made reference to a well known evangelical pastor who was reminding his listeners that our wives should be taking second seat to God on our priority list. This kind of view was something I heard a lot in my Christian upbringing. Anything one might enjoy or place importance on was in danger of becoming an "idol", taking God's rightful place. I remember one woman, whom I considered to be quite godly when I was young, tell me she had given up her autumn ritual of canning vegetables because she enjoyed it so much that it had become an "idol".

I held this view for a long time, carefully weighing every thing in my life to make sure it wasn't becoming more important than God. I now realize this interpretation of God was nothing more than self-perpetuated oppression.

I look back on this thinking as absolutely ridiculous and an embarrassing misrepresentation of God... as if he could be so insecure. What kind of lame father would I be if I became jealous of the things my son or daughter enjoy? On the contrary, I find myself absolutely fulfilled when I see Kathryn's passion and love of theater or Jacob's joy with books. I love the affection they hold for their friends. Their happiness and joy makes me proud and content as a father.

This is what appeals to me about panentheistic theology. God is not separate or apart from these things; He is in them. God is not in competition with my love for my wife; He resides there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Thank God for Taxes!

I just finished my taxes. I know it is in vogue to use tax like a swear word, but I notice an inconsistency. People forever want to complain about taxes and state why they shouldn't have to pay them... but they are happy to use all of the services that those taxes provide.

It reminds me of a Home Owners Association board that I sat on back in Michigan. Everyone at the condo complex was complaining about our lack of street lights. The neighborhood wanted the Board to do something about it. The Board realized that our monthly dues could not cover this anytime in the near future and that we would have to do a small, one time assessment to cover the cost of getting street lights put in. It had to be put to a vote and everyone voted it down; they didn't want to pay for it. However, within a few months, everyone was once again complaining about our lack of street lights.

As I drove to work today, I remembered that the nice road I drove on for half an hour was tax provided. The station where I pumped my gas was building inspected for safety by taxes. The medication I took today was scrutinized using my taxes. My son spent a day in a safe place being educated through my taxes. The police who pulled over the crazy man who zipped past me on the highway were paid for with my taxes. The Apache helicopters that cross the Salt Lake Valley because of the local Air Force base are covered by my taxes.

I could go on and on and on about all of the positive benefits that we reap as citizens due to our taxes.

Of course we want our politicians to budget wisely. Of course frugality can be a virtue. But I for one want to push back against all of the heated rhetoric that inflames anger, when there should be more thoughtful consideration occurring.

On this note, it seems one of the loudest anti-tax proponents, Glen Beck, displayed his contradictions during a speech to CPAC. While ranting against progressives and their promotion of "community interests" (a bad thing in his mind), he let slip where he had done his research -

At the Public Library!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

An Atheist on Hell

"Our ideas about God affect the way we treat other people." - David Dark from The Sacredness of Questioning Everything.

I don't believe in an eternal Hell as described by the majority of modern Christians. I think there are just too many holes in the concept; whether you look at it from a scriptural point of view or simply by reasoning out it's necessity.

Most Christians, after a conversation about it, will admit that the idea holds no merit and will state that they don't like it but (as one Christian responded to me) "Many simply don't want to believe God would throw people in such a hell for eternity. Problem is we cannot hold God to our limited human standards of what is right and wrong behavior or worthy or cruel punishment. He's the creator of us. Not to accept that is just to hold on too tightly comfortable human notions."

This is where most of my conversations with Christians on this topic ends... God is beyond our understanding, so just accept it.

The God who, as Lewis argues, puts immense value on right and wrong behavior... suddenly can't be trusted to behave by the ethics he lays down? Suddenly black is white, up is down, and when it comes to God everything can go willy-nilly on a whim?

No. In the end, Hell is a religions trump card used as threat to get compliance for the absurd. It is a control mechanism of the insecure.

The author of this video presents a superb argument against Hell. We may disagree on theism, but we do agree that Hell is a notion that does little to persuade a non-believer and that it poisons the soul of anyone choosing to believe it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Year's Funniest Movie Review

Valentine's Day is here, so I have a movie suggestion: The Time Traveler's Wife. My wife and I saw it this past summer and loved it. It is a bittersweet love story, with a time travel hook similar to Somewhere in Time. I appreciated the love story, but what also grabbed me was the love that Henry (played by Eric Bana) had for his daughter. That pulled at my fatherhood heart strings and had me leaving the theater sobbing like a baby. :)

So, I was excited to hear that it was coming out soon on DVD and went online to check the release date. One of the Google summaries of a review caught my eye, so I clicked on it to read the whole article.

What I found was a Christian movie review site called Now let me first say that, in theory, I have no problem with a "Christian" movie review site. If they want to give reviews for a movie that like minded folks would be interested in reading, wonderful. I myself would like to have an idea how much violence, nudity, drug use may be in a movie before I take my muchkins.

However, what this site thought of as problematic was just too rich. You can read the whole review here, but I thought I would give you some of the big threats you should watch out for in this love story.
  • "the movie’s worldview is ultimately humanist, but in a light way."
  • "it includes some politically correct content attacking Republicans and hunters"
  • "a line of dialogue supporting the radical homosexual agenda trying to turn modern society into an anti-Christian tyranny."
  • "The movie’s politically correct content is not extremely didactic or constant, but it is annoying and gratuitous."
The review concludes by stating that the big problem is that the time traveler does not have God in his life, so he and his bride must make it on their own.
  • "as this movie clearly shows, our relationships can be torn apart by circumstances if we do not have God, Jesus Christ or God’s Law to guide us."
Mmmm-Hmmm...... because with God in your life, your marriage and relationships will do SO much better than those without him. Just look at the Christian track record in marriage, it's......

....exactly the same as those outside of Christianity.

Pesky facts.

This site did give me a good chuckle, and I have to admit I will be checking there regularly now for movie reviews.

Every day should have a good laugh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Truth of the Universe

My son Jacob is 8 years old. A year ago he was reading Captain Underpants and later this year he had moved up to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Journal of a Cardboard Genius. His sister, Kathryn, had recently finished The Lightning Thief and was looking forward to the movie. She was watching the movie trailer online and Jake became interested.

"Can I see that movie?" he asked.

Jake's mother and I have been pretty protective of his young eyes. A movie like that would not be one we would let him see at this age, so the answer was no. However, we had a weak moment when he proposed a deal to us - If he read the book, could he see the movie? To be honest, we felt the book was too high a reading level for him, so it was a safe bet.

"Sure, why not?"

Jacob all but inhaled the book. He read for longer periods than I had ever seen him do; tucked into the couch with his little bowl of goldfish crackers. Mary Lee and I quickly realized that he was, in fact, going to complete the book.

NOW what do we do....

We tried to persuade him otherwise, but in the end, he wanted to see the movie. From his readings, he pretty much knew where the scary parts were and would cover his eyes as necessary. For the Medusa scene, he wanted out of the theater all together.

At the end of the show he had a smile on his face and a spring in his step. He had read his first big-boy book and seen his first big-boy movie.

"So," I asked Jake as we walked out of the theater. "What didja think?"

"I liked it," Jake responded as he continued walking. Then he looked up at me and smiled.

"But the book was better!"

Monday, February 08, 2010

Persecuted For Being Annoying

I grew up in charismatic /evangelical circles. One of the mantras a young person in that subculture often hears is that "the world (non-Christians) will hate you because of what you believe!" or some variant on that theme.

So, it was quite a shock to me when I took my first real "secular" job (Wendy's) at the age of 16 and found that all of my pagan co-workers were quite pleasant. Rather than persecuting me, they were as polite and as friendly as could be. In fact, over the month's I discovered that their level of kindness and courtesy was actually better than many of the Christians I knew. I have seen this truth played out again and again over the decades.

Now that I am older and have those 20/20 rearview spectacles, it is clear to me why various religious people struggle with discourteous behavior. You simply can't spend your life thinking of others as being less than you, misguided and corrupt, being bound by sin, etc.. without damaging your ability to love and be lovable. In addition, any resistance a religious person might receive for their bad behavior is often misinterpreted as persecution. Negative social cues that would normally help correct poor conduct often rather serve as fuel for the religious person. As I read on a facebook comment today:

" I am always amused when (Christians) literally annoy the bejeezus out of others, get flack for it, and then attempt to claim they were "persecuted" for their faith."

Reading that comment made me laugh out loud, and cringe a little, because I have been guilty of having been absolutely obnoxious for my faith, got shunned for it, then walked away with the pride of the persecuted.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Obama Continues The Myth

Last year I wrote an article about why I believe inner-city schools score more poorly than their suburban counterparts. In the article, I referenced President Bush who said he wanted to "liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools".

Now, a year later, I find President Obama is continuing to spread the ill-conceived notion that inner city schools are to blame for the educational outcomes of the kids they serve. In his state of the union address, President Obama declared that he wanted to turn "around failing schools that steal the future of too many young Americans!"

Stealing the future of young Americans?!! Gee, I didn't realize that was what I was doing!

As one who has taught both the wealthy and the poor, I can testify that the inner-city teachers of America's schools are not stealing anything from anybody. They pour their lives daily into children who have every disadvantage. They work hard against incredible odds, trying to beat a system that is designed to work against them. Many of the kids they serve are dealing with constant chaos at home, where their studies are not even considered. These teachers often work in communities that do not know how to support them, with legislators who are hostile to them, and with a president who insults them.

Yet when the kids walk in the classroom door, some who have been wearing the same clothes all week, they set all those realities aside and smile. Today, the teacher will again teach all that he or she can.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Warning! Solicitation Ahead!

For the past few years, I have been slowly building my collection of books by Graphic Library. In the beginning I was using super-hero comics to encourage my reluctant readers (I teach in an inner city environment and most of my students are years below grade level). Then I discovered this series which does short comic stories of World History, American History, Biographies, Science, etc. So in addition to encouraging the students to read, they are building needed background knowledge (a very weak area for English Language Learners). The graphic novel approach helps my emerging readers contextualize their reading. These books are very popular with my students.

If you are one to make charitable donations, perhaps you might consider donating one or more of these books to my classroom. No pressure! :) But in a time of shrinking educational budgets (a third of mine vanished this year), I am trying to think of some ways to keep my collection of these books growing. You can click on my Amazon wishlist here. These items can be shipped from there straight to my school. :)

*UPDATE: Thanks to Cody, Krista, Chris, Barbara, and Mary who have donated books to my classroom!!

You can cut and paste this URL to get to my classroom wishlist:
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