Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

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Truly Unconditional Love

August 19, 2014

Hello friends,

It’s been a while. As in more than 3 years a while. If anyone bothers to visit when I publish this post I’ll be amazed. But I have something to say. I might have several somethings to say, we’ll have to see. Today it comes from the story of Vicky Beeching’s coming out. Yup, I’m going there.

There has been a lot of discussion around this. I think it shakes people in ways other Christians who have come out didn’t because she has been a part of so many different people’s regular worship. And this means that her coming out is personal for a lot of people because worship is so personal for so many people.

The backlash is incredible. So much hate masquerading as concern for her soul, her relationship with God. It hurts me. It hurts me more than if it were directed at me, I think. My cousin, who I will say is a liberal conservative Christian responded to a rather disheartening post with an incredibly profound comment. She said:

         “I have been wrong about so many things i was convinced i was right on in my life. Then i felt like God spoke to me pretty clearly that He really didn’t care too much about all the things i was wrong about, because more than likely, I’m still way off. He told me that He loved that i spent time being with Him and talking to Him; that relationship is the ENTIRE reason he sent Jesus. At this point, I would rather be wrong about what the Bible says on homosexuality, knowing that I have put every ounce of my effort into loving people with no strings attached. So if I felt that God spoke that to me, why would His desire for relationship with Vicky Beeching be any different? I think maybe He is a little less concerned about what she is getting right, and more rejoicing over her continued relationship with Him. I realize many opinions differ from mine, that is just where I am currently at.”

I love this. It’s exactly where I am at, although at the end of the day we may end up with different theologies the premise is identical. I can only speak to the relationship I know I have with God. I value the Bible. I value God’s Word. When I came out to myself, a weird idea to be sure, my relationship with God became stronger, better, more intimate than it had ever been before. I truly believe my realizing I am gay, my accepting my sexuality, was the direct result of God interceding on my behalf. I was blind, I was in such deep denial that he had to push his way through. And when he got through he wrapped me up in such intense love, such insane acceptance, that there wasn’t room for me to doubt myself. There was so much love from God for me that I could not have hated myself, nor could anyone else’s hate pierce that love. 

Over the years I have grown to truly believe that homosexuality does not go against God’s will. But more importantly because of the journey I took I am absolutely, positively, certain that God does not call us to judge for him. Our job, no matter what the “sin” may be, is to love. Love without question. Love without hesitation. Love with everything we have, even if we are utterly convinced that a person is wrong. 

God loves us all. Yes, God desires we grow closer to him. He desires that we do our best to live in such a way that we are living according to his will. But God desires relationship with us above all else. Who am I to judge another person and what relationship they have with God? I cannot know what is going on between you and God. I cannot know how the supposed “sin” in your life is affecting that relationship. It isn’t my place. It’s God’s. This doesn’t mean that we are changing what we view as sin. It doesn’t mean I am compromising on any of the things I believe. It means that I am loving. It means that I am letting God do his job, and I will do mine. It means that I refuse to be the person who tries to get in the way of the relationship another person has with God.

If there is one thing I can ask of a Christian it is this. I don’t ask, nor do I want, you to change your theology. I ask that you trust your relationship with God. I ask that you trust my relationship with God. He’s a good guy. He knows what he’s doing. If someday he convicts me that I am wrong, I hope that I will listen. But until that day I know that he loves and accepts me for who I am. You cannot change this, and I am certain he does not want you to. Love. It isn’t compromising your beliefs, it is trusting your almighty God to do his part and you do yours. 

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Burning the Quran

September 9, 2010

Perhaps you, like many Americans, have heard about the tiny church planning to burn Qurans on Saturday. Perhaps you have not. For the past day I have been debating whether to write about this or not, mainly because I agree with the general consensus that the church is seeking attention and so I don’t want to go giving them that attention in any way. But this has been outweighed by something I feel is more important- talking about what it means to live as a Christian in relation to people who hold different religious beliefs.

I am very firmly a Christian- I believe that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and rose again so that through him we can overcome sin. I also believe that anyone who does not believe this is not going to heaven. But in all of this, I do not think I have the ultimate hold on what is true. I do not doubt what I believe, but neither do many other people who hold different beliefs, how can we both be right? Ultimately that is the beauty and challenge of faith, truly believing something that you cannot fully prove in this lifetime.

Since I believe that any one who is not a Christian will not be going to heaven it is my responsibility as a Christ follower to do everything I can to show them the truth as I believe it. So how can I live in harmony and peace with Muslims or Jews or Hindus or any of the other theistic religions? There are a fair number of Christians who will say that we cannot live in peace and harmony with people of other faiths because we are ultimately condemning them to hell if we do. But I don’t agree with this.

When I talk to a dedicated Muslim or Jew I realize that as much as I believe what I believe they believe what they believe just as strongly. Am I going to become a Muslim though? I don’t foresee any reason that would ever happen. So why should I expect someone who is living a different faith with the same integrity and passion and intelligence as I live mine to change what they believe? I don’t think I should. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t talk about what I believe within the proper context, but it does mean that I should show these people the same respect I would hope to receive from them, and even more importantly the same respect I have for another Christian.

When I heard about the burning of the Quran I wasn’t concerned about the safety of the troops over seas, or the other people abroad who could be put in danger. I also wasn’t worried about the extremist groups using this as a rallying cry. Although these are all very valid concerns. When I heard about the burning of the Quran I immediately thought about how sad it would make me to have someone burn the Bible. Yes, it would make me angry too, but mostly it would make me sad. I would be saddened that they were unable to see the value of the book, saddened that we had done something so horrible that they felt the only way to show how they feel about us, and thus about God, is to burn our sacred text.

Don’t burn the Quran, not because it will insight violence or be used to stir up the masses. Don’t burn the Quran because someone might get hurt. That’s not a reason to not do something if that something really needs to be done. The reason this church, and all Christians, should not burn or disrespect the Quran is because it is the sacred text of a group of people who have beliefs and faith that to them is just as valid and real and true as our Christian beliefs and faith is to us. And for that reason if none other we should desire to hold the Quran in high regard as a way to show that we respect the differences. As a way to say that we recognize that your beliefs should be given the same regard as ours.

Burning the Quran doesn’t prove that Christians are better or more correct. The only thing burning the Islamic Sacred Text would achieve is to show how stupid and ignorant and hateful Christians and Americans can be.

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Church at Starbucks

August 12, 2010

I had an interview at Starbucks last week and then visited a church up in Michigan on Sunday. How are these two things related? It’s quite simple really- Starbucks has a better philosophy of church than most churches I have been to.

One of the very first things I was told during my interview was that Starbucks strives to be the “third place”- you have work or school, and home. Starbucks wants you to think of it as another place that is an integral part of your life. For some people, the closest the get to community outside of work, is at Starbucks getting their coffee or meeting up with people. It’s really sort of sad, but this is the way it is, and Starbucks is doing what they can to encourage this mentality among consumers, because it’s good for business. When people feel a connection to a specific place (ie: Starbucks or church) they are more likely to commit to that place. The best way people make connections to places is via relationships. Starbucks recognizes this and puts it to use to positively impact business.

It seems churches are missing this very obvious thing. When you ask someone about their church they are most likely to tell you it’s name, where it’s located, about the pastor/preaching/style of worship, and about the programs. None of these things are church, and none of these things are what people are seeking in life. A lot of people make snap judgments about a church based on one or more of these factors, but none of these things are what is going to keep people connected, because at the heart of church is community and fellowship and CONNECTION.

In this world the greatest thing churches have to offer non-Christians is connection. Church is community, it is people “doing life together”, it is not worship, programs, pastors, or bad coffee. We cannot do evangelism with programs or worship, we must do evangelism by connecting with people.

And this is where the church should be far surpassing Starbucks, but we are not. Starbucks is not set up to seek authentic, deep relationships. The connections are brief, and remain shallow within that setting. It’s inevitable. Sadly, the church seems to take this same approach. We are too scared to be authentic as a whole, we are too worried about keeping up appearances, about maintaining the right friendships, about our kids being exposed to only good things, to commit to connecting with everyone around us. We only connect to those like us, the other people are relegated to superficial relationships. Which we can get at Starbucks without feeling guilty or having to give 10% of our money.

I walked into the church in Michigan on Sunday smiled at people as I walked past, and was “warmly greeted” by the designated greeters, and no one else. I had coffee after church and had no one come talk to me. I walk into Starbucks and am “warmly greeted” by the employees. Who proceed to ask me about my day or make other conversation as they get my drink ready. And if I should happen to be a regular, they know my name and my drink order and even if they don’t actually feel this way, act excited to see me. Come on churches, we can do better than this. We MUST do better than this or church will be happening more at Starbucks than in the places designated as such.

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We’re the guilty ones

June 30, 2010

It’s been 3 months or so now, and still the oil spill is making the news nearly every day. And it still is a part of conversation on a regular basis as well. Typically what I hear is how tragic it is, how horrible it is BP didn’t do more to prevent this situation, how BP knows they can’t stop the leak but they have to keep pretending to try to keep the public happy, how BP did this, and BP did that, and occasionally how the government failed to do the right thing before or is failing now, how clean up isn’t going well, etc.

While all these things may be true, what we seem to be forgetting too often is that it isn’t BP who caused this mess, it isn’t the government who failed to regulate well enough, it isn’t someone else’s fault- it’s my fault and it’s your fault and it’s the fault of every person who relies on oil to go through a normal day. If we didn’t consume it, they wouldn’t be drilling for it. It the demand wasn’t so great, BP would not be the thriving business it continues to be even in the wake of this disaster. At the end of the day, they may be the ones responsible for building the drill that is now polluting the water and land, but I am the one responsible for them existing.

Until I step up and take the blame for my part in this catastrophe, until I am willing to change my behavior to reduce- or better yet, eliminate- my dependence on oil we are never going to see new energy sources take over. It has to start with me, it has to start with you. Because they aren’t going to see to it, they are going to do what’s good for business. And we, the consumers, determine that.

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Changing Traditions

June 15, 2010

I’m typically a person who likes to see us change things that have become “tradition for the sake of tradition”. In other words, if you want to get rid of the banners hanging in church I would probably be all for it, if you want to start using the screens to put up “bulletin” announcements I say why not?, if you want to sing contemporary songs at the traditional service or traditional hymns at the contemporary service I’m all about it. I think we need to keep changing things up in order to avoid getting stuck in the same place, doing the same things over and over and over.

But I realized something Sunday as I sat in the pews of the church I grew up in, there are some things I am holding on to. Little things, silly things. There are a pair of banners that hang up by the cross made by a woman who I knew well growing up who has since passed away. They say simply Lord of Lords and King of Kings, white letters on red cloth. I would be okay with getting rid of them, if you have a good reason, but if you say let’s get rid of the banners just to change things I think I would have a problem with that. In the basement we had a “youth” room that was also used for other things but in which we each decorated a brick with our name and a verse or a picture or something on it. It was kind of cool. They painted over it with this bright lime green paint and that bothers me. What’s the point of getting rid of the names? I mean, I don’t really care, but I want to know that there was a REASON for it and not that it was just done for the sake of doing.

Perhaps that’s the way more people are than what we realize. Perhaps people aren’t so much opposed to change but want to know that what they like and are used to is changing for a reason that they can get behind and support. Maybe it isn’t that people are so stuck in the past traditions that they can’t see the benefit in change, maybe it’s that they just need someone to take the time to explain why the new is better than the old.

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Faith Science

May 27, 2010

Faith and science, faith verse science, faith over science- we seem to have this belief in most Christian circles that faith must always be held above science, that science can only be valid in-so-far as it echoes what the Bible teaches. And to some degree I can do nothing but agree. Yet at the same time, I think that science and faith can live harmoniously together without one having to trump the other.

It all comes down to how we view science in regards to our faith. You tell me that the reason the sky turned pitch black when Jesus died was because of an eclipse and that is not something I will argue with- but God is in control of the science, so God is still the one who caused the eclipse that turned the sky black. You tell me that the evolution is real and while I have some issue with it, I also believe that evolution being a scientifically proven fact doesn’t in anyway negate the creation story. God still created me, God still created the earth and the creatures on the earth and the creation narrative is not meant to give us the details of this, just the parts relevant to our spiritual lives. You tell me that the earthquakes rocking the earth were caused by tectonic plates shifting, and I certainly won’t disagree: but who created the tectonic plates and who set them in such a way that they would shift? God. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires…science can explain what causes these things to happen, but God is still the one who created the situations that work together to create these natural disasters.

Scientists can claim that the entire earth never flooded, or that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by natural causes, or that the choppy waters that Jesus calmed were caused by shifting winds or whatever they want to say. The natural explanation doesn’t make me believe it is God’s work any less. The scientific findings actually make me marvel all the more at how God works. He created the world, he is not constrained by it, but he most often works within the parameters he designed for the world. Could he change everything? Absolutely. But I believe that God created a world where A+B=C for a reason and I believe he chooses to work within this formula rather than outside it.

Science and faith are not mutually exclusive, they do not have to be in battle against each other. I do not think that there is anything scientists can find that will make me believe that God is not behind it all working as the supernatural through the natural.

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Lost thoughts

May 25, 2010

I have been an avid Lost fan and viewer since season 3. Like many I have been looking forward to the Lost finale all season- wanting answers and resolution to what seemed to be a continually unwinding spool that would never be re-wound. Going into the finale I didn’t have high hopes. With all the religious symbolism that became such an integral part of the show the past season I didn’t expect to find a satisfying resolution for me, and while it was emotionally satisfying it was definitely not satisfying in other ways.

I have read several recaps/reviews of the finale with everyone having a different take on it- one person views it as being very Christian, another views it as a critique of thinking we can ever have all the answers/having a master plan, another views it as mystic, etc. I think the Lost finale is actually rather dangerous for the Christian faith.

The imagery seems very much “Christian”- light and dark (good and evil), a church, a bright light, Christian Shepherd as “God the Father” and Jack as the Christ figure, eternity, redemption, and so on- these are on the surface very Christian images. But when I watch the finale (or any episode really) I don’t see any of the elements of faith present.

At the end of the day what we see with Lost is love guiding the way- love is a pretty much universal thing. It doesn’t matter what your faith or religion is, you believe in love. Yes, love is very much a Christian concept, but it is in no way exclusively Christian or predominately Christian. While we do have the light/dark symbolism on Lost the being controlling which one wins are the humans- suggesting that we are in control of our own destiny and must decide whether we will let light or dark win in our lives. Which in some ways is true, but ultimately what we must decide is not whether light/dark (good/evil) will rule us, but whether we are willing to allow God to take over our life. There’s a subtle, but incredibly significant difference.

What I found most significant is how Lost never allowed any one religious belief to have dominate representation- even in the church symbols from other religions were present. To me this suggests that while the dominate imagery in the finale would be perceived as Christian in reality what Lost is saying isn’t so much embracing the Christian faith but saying that all faiths have it right and that in the end everyone, through love, will come together and walk into “another life” together.

In the end I don’t think Lost was anti-Christian or pro-Christian, I think Lost was saying to all of us; What really matters?, Are you sure you have it all figured out?, Is it actually possible to have THE grasp on the spiritual? And rather than giving us their answer, we are left to answer the questions for ourselves.