Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wake Up America! Its not the "Cops" or the "Criminals".......its us.

With latest grand jury ruling that a New York Police Officer will not be prosecuted for the death of a man he placed in a choke hold, we can expect a new wave of protests and social media wars between the pro-cop vs anti-cop crowds.

We can expect officers across the country to face the backlash of something they played no part in but will certainly deal with the hostility that arises from the public outrage.  That's the word right?  "Outrage."  Isn't that what we are good at in America?  We are good at "outrage."  People are "outraged" at the cops, they are "outraged" at "thugs" we are "outraged" at politicians...pick your topic and we are outraged.

The problem with all this is in the midst of our blame game, we always blame the wrong people.  The American public was "outraged" when George Zimmerman was found innocent by a jury, they were "outraged" when a grand jury ruled in favor of Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson PD, and they are again "outraged" that a grand jury has now ruled not to charge NYP Officer Daniel Pantaleo with homicide.  Anyone notice a common word in there?  How about "jury."  Well what does a jury consist of America?  That's right, they consist of us.  Regular people.  Unfortunately, the people who are going to make the most noise about these issues, the ones who are going to block traffic, lay in the streets and change their profile pictures are also the ones who work the hardest at getting out of jury duty.  We want to blame the "system" but then we forget the "system" is composed of us!  The system isn't the problem....sadly America....WE are the problem because WE are the "system."  

We are good at "outrage" but do something that actually makes a difference?  Not so much.  Jury duty is normally viewed as an inconvenience to most of us but juries are responsible for some of the most important decisions in America.  But that's the real issue isn't it? Convenience?  It's easy to change my profile picture, its easy to yell at a cop or dismiss a kid as a thug, its easy to take an hour and lay in the street for awhile, and most of all, its easy to complain!

Don't like what the cops do?  Then fill out the application of one of the most important jobs in America, a job that doesn't just deal with bad guys, but a job responsible for knowing where the line is when it comes to protecting our civil liberties in this nation.  But that's scary, I don't want to be a cop...that's inconvenient.

Don't like those "punk street thugs?"  How about you get involved in your community and mentor a kid?  Well wait a minute, that's a long term commitment, I don't have time for that.

Don't like the way juries have been ruling?  How bout not trying to get out of jury duty next time around?

Don't like the way our government is run?  How about actually showing up to vote in November?

Don't like women having abortions?  How bout you adopt a kid or figure out a way to help a pregnant mom who's considering the idea?

But all that's too hard....its easier just to do nothing and then blame someone and complain.  Cops, criminals, and juries all have one thing in common...they are composed of us.

So, next time you feel compelled to complain instead of act, go stand in front of a mirror and complain all you want......and then go lay in your driveway and block all the traffic you want.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Real Enemy of Peace in America

Imagine a large family composed of a number of children, all of different genders, ages, and ethnicities. Imagine this family had the capacity to love each other deeply, that they embraced their similarities and appreciated their differences.  And let's suppose, because they are a family, occasionally different family members might not always get along all the time, but in time they would work out their differences and forgive each other.  They are family after all.  But let's suppose during one of the fights between family members that one of the other family members recorded it and placed it on the internet as a joke.  And lets suppose that fight got a lot of attention, not just on the internet but even television, so much so that people offered the sibbling money for any other videos they might be able to share online of family members fighting due to the sheer entertainment value.  The worse the fight, the more people watch, the more money this family member would make.

 In that situation, this particular member of the family would have a financial incentive overriding the overall health of the family because of the great personal benefit from discord in the family. That personal benefit might cause this person to actually initiate strife within the family however they could so as to make more money. That person might say or do things to divide the family and even inject things that were not necessarily true, in order to be more inflammatory. But this person would also have a great incentive to be subtle in their actions so as not to be dismissed from the family and not be obvious as to their intentions.  This person would want to appear as being a caring and concerned member of the family so as to obtain the greatest impact.

As a result of this, the entire family would suffer greatly until they learned not to buy into the things that this particular member of the family was espousing. The family can not control the fact that there is a public demand for their disfunction, but they could come to learn that their dysfunction was harmful to them and that ultimately, the family bond is much more important than public entertainment. It would be only when the family learned to stop listening to this divisive member that they will begin to grow in harmony. At the same time, the family must remember that even though this member is to be heard with a skeptical ear, as a member of the family, this person must still be loved.

By the way, that family member's name is "Media."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"F*ck the Police" rallies may do exactly that.

Have we ever stopped to wonder what the world might look like if we got exactly what we ask for?  What would happen if those who participate in the "F*ck the Police" protests got exactly what they wanted?  Before I go any farther, I'm all for our rights to protest in this wonderful nation of ours but I think the nature and method of those protests go a long ways toward determining how effective they end up being.

It is no secret that we are a nation still healing from the long reaching effects of slavery.  As long ago as we might consider it to have been, we should remember the final Civil War Veterans died in the 1930's.  Children born as slaves would have been in their 80's in the 1940's.  Today we stand only a single generation removed from slavery as many who are alive today overlapped lifetimes with people who lived through and experienced those dark days of American History.

Many, many more today were alive to watch the Civil Rights efforts of the 50's and 60's.  As we have socially trudged forward since those days, one of the areas of great distrust has involved law enforcement.  Historically, the role of Law Enforcement has been a critical one, tasked with not only enforcing the law but also protecting liberty.  One need look no farther than the Holocaust to see the horrific effects of what can occur when line level law enforcers fail to ensure the liberties of those whom they are tasked to protect.

But, as a society, we also have a sad history of taking the actions of a few and projecting them on entire groups of people.  The fact is, most officers really are doing the job with the right intentions.  But when one officer somewhere in America does something controversial and then EVERY officer in the nation is subjected to "F*ck the Police" rallies, it can be a little discouraging for the majority.  So discouraging in fact, that the type of police officers you want to be out there on the streets taking care of your neighborhoods, might consider its not worth being accused of thoughts you don't have and blamed for things you didn't do.  If the officers who are really out there trying to make things better leave, who will fill those gaps?

I happen to know that most police departments are lucky to hire a single candidate out of every 100 candidates that apply.  ONE out of every HUNDRED!!!!  And that's just who gets hired!  That number shrinks even further when you consider the people we lose in the police academy and training to become an officer, followed by attrition.  Even through all that, a few questionable people still slip through.

It sometimes seems many of the people who tend to be most critical of the police also feel they could do a better job if they were officers.  And maybe they could!  But, most of them don't want to be officers.  It's hard to recruit high level, quality people who are capable of making significantly more money doing other things, to become officers.  It's especially hard, when they know they will have to put up with the emotional strains of dealing with the "F*ck the Police" type mentality.  "F*ck the Police" won't make bad police officers will only make good police officers leave and potentially good officers never even apply.  As will always be the case in any situation where unrelated people pay a price for that actions of others for simply sharing a single attribute of their life.

In the end, this doesn't just apply to police, but any group of people.  Any time we decide to take the approach of blindly condemning an entire group of people rather than seeking to hold INDIVIDUALS accountable for their actions, we contribute to a world that is overall worse, rather than better.  So by saying, "F*ck (insert group of people)" we might as well just say "F*ck (insert our own name)" because that's what really ends up happening.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Porn Stars, Pastor's Wives and Gay Football Players

Currently there is a video floating around the internet of Victoria Osteen, the wife of mega-church pastor Joel Osteen, making some comments at a church service that is drawing a lot of controversy.

This got me wondering a bit about the role of social media in relation to Christianity.  One of the negative aspects of media is it has created an environment in which we are dealing with "stories" rather than people.  So when we come out and attack the video of Victoria Osteen we forget that somewhere out there is a woman named Victoria Osteen who has the ability to see the terrible things people who don't even know her are saying about her.  When we lash out about a gay football player going to hell we might not think about the fact that somewhere out there is a football player who can see and hear all the negative at best and downright hateful at worst, things people are saying about him.  When a group like the XXXChurch posts a video of a porn actress talking about her kind and positive interaction with XXXChurch, people who feel compelled to be critical might say things and forget that somewhere out there is a young lady who can see the terrible things being said about her.

You see social media has allowed us the luxury of sitting behind our computer screens and lob verbal grenades while not having to be there to look into the eyes of the receiver.  Prior to social media when someone took issue with another person, it was much harder to reach them. In order to "call out" what you felt was wrong it required a lot more of a relationship with that person.  But not anymore, no now we have the ability to reach out and hammer people we have never met, and probably will never meet, therefore leveling attacks at people of whom we have the least possible amount of information.

Now many Christians might say it is part of our "calling" to "rebuke" sin when we see it, and therefore justify these remarks.  Except I'm pretty sure Christians are supposed to "lovingly rebuke."  How can I possibly "lovingly rebuke" someone where there is not a loving relationship established?  How can they possibly know that I love them when I don't even know them?  Do we really feel love in our hearts when we post such things?   It's one thing to call out a friend with whom you've spent time building a friendship, someone who knows you actually care about them, but to call out a complete stranger?  That's a little different.  Why can't we place enough trust in God that He has placed people in the lives of those we disagree with to address an issue on a personal level?  Maybe the most loving thing we can sometimes do is stop forwarding the controversy, and simply shut our mouths.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Worst Thing I've Ever Seen...

Yesterday I was having a pretty good day.....and then I saw a news story that it was the 70th Anniversary of Ann Frank's final diary entry.  A couple weeks later she would be dead, the victim of the worst attributes of humanity.  As a father I began thinking about how awful it would have been trying to keep your family safe as prisoners confined to an attic simply because other people wanted to kill you and your kids.  That's other reason....just want to kill your family. happened.....I saw the worst image of my that will be forever imprinted in my mind.  It was of a young girl, probably about 9 or 10 years old.  She was beautiful, dressed in a little lacy blue dress and white leggings.  The kind of little dress you can imagine this adorable little child probably standing in front of a mirror and admiring as she giggled.  All that was missing was one thing......her head.  That's right you read that correctly....her head was missing.  This little girl lived in Northern Iraq and was beheaded by ISIS terrorists.  One picture contained a man, who I can only assume was her father, holding the headless body of his little girl.  Why?  Just because.  These bastards are taking children and making their final moments on this Earth as terrifying as possible and cutting their heads off before sticking them on stakes around the town parks.  I am literally trembling with hatred as I'm writing this.  If there was ever anything to go to war for, its not oil, its not land, it would be to stop the torturing of children by a bunch of cowards.

I want to find the guy who did this and torture him....I really do....but then I got to wondering, how is it possible that anybody could become such a monster?  What circumstances take place in someone's life that allow them to go from being a child, not much different than this little girl, to becoming so depraved as to commit these kinds of atrocities?  That's when it got uncomfortable.....

Is it possible that had I been born into the same family as this terrorist scum that perhaps I might have been the one to mutilate this little angel?  Is it possible that the monster that harmed this little girl also lives in me and it was a simple roll of the dice as to where I was born and where he was born that kept that beast dormant in my life but awakened it in his?

My heart breaks that this isn't an isolated incident but that crap like this happens all over the world on a regular basis and has done so for thousands of years.  Countless children, innocent children like my young son, who likes to sleep with a night light because he is scared of the make believe monster in his closet, have the very real terror that there are men, evil men, out there that wants to come and kill them.  Men, who might be just like me had they been raised the same way and who I might be just like them should I had been raised in their situation.

And so my first step is to remember that same beast lies within me....and I must never let it even get a glimpse of daylight!  I will suffocate that hateful monster by trying to be the most loving person I can possibly be.  I'm going to be better at being kind to those around me, to strangers and friends alike.  I'm going to stop to help people more, I'm going to give that little wave when I switch lanes on the freeway.  When someone makes me angry I'm going to ask myself how bad the transgression really was?  How does it compare to what was done to that poor father holding his dead baby, and maybe with that clarity it will be easier to forgive the minor things that happen to me.  And should I ever come face to face with this kind of person, I will fight them, I will fight with every ounce of my body to protect what they want to destroy.

I must prepare to fight two battles.  I must prepare myself to go to war against the evil in the world and be willing to take action when I see it, to the point of death, while at the same time going to war against the evil in me and daily slay the monster within.  I must learn to love more and harder and stronger than these guys hate.......which will be quite the challenge......because they hate a lot.

In the mean time, God bless you sweet child, God bless you and every one like you....may we daily live our lives to rid the world of the evil that took you.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To Lose a Child

I've had the idea for this blog for quite some time now but have hesitated to actually write it due to the sensitivity of the concept combined with my fear of upsetting some readers because of the indescribable pain some of you may have experienced.  So with that, I ask for your grace and understanding as I attempt to carefully convey my point.

I was in a park today playing with my three kids and two of their little friends.  In between throwing a frisbee and giving pushes on the swings, I couldn't help but remember the fact that I won't always be able to do this.  Thankfully, I still have all three of my kids.  But....I won't always.  I pray I never experience the immense pain of a parent who has lost their son or daughter, and and I would never want to even begin to trivialize that suffering, but I think its important for us to remember if we live long enough....eventually.......we all will lose our "children."  We may never lose the son or daughter and with luck we will get to out live them....but our children....they are only here for a short time, maybe 10 or 11 years.  After that, they begin to move on in their journey toward adulthood and independence

I've heard it said that there is no pain that can compare to that of a parent losing a child.  Those who have experienced it confirm it first hand...those of us who haven't refuse to even think about how awful it would be.  But we must be careful...because instead of losing our child terribly and suddenly, many of us instead lose them gradually and quietly.  Day by day we forget these moments are precious and temporary for we will only have them in this innocent playful state for a short time, then before we know it the child that climbed into our lap with a book and slept with that silly stuffed animal, or held our hand when we walked, or asked us to play catch is gone, never to return.

Granted it is eventually replaced with a new relationship, one that is still good and beautiful but that will closer resemble a peer and a friend, one in with whom we can take equal pride and love, and one that should be equally appreciated and cherished, but the dynamic will be different.

So in the end, after speaking with many who have lost a child tragically, the truth they always plead for me to understand is that if we still have our children we must remember to savor every second with them because we are not guaranteed to always have is guaranteed we won't.  And it is with that heavy thought that I am going to put the computer down and, while I still can, snuggle onto the couch to take in some cartoons with some little people who won't always be little.      

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm losing faith in faith

One of the most important attributes of most religions is the belief in an afterlife and it is the belief in this afterlife that can motivate a great deal of action from people during the course of their lives.  It is the believe in an afterlife that can drive people to give to the poor or to quit drinking, smoking, and cursing.  It can cause people to literally sacrifice their lives in both negative and positive ways in hopes of spending eternity in bliss.

What is a little strange about this though is that in the end....much, if not most, of religion is based not on what we actually know but what we think we know.  Faith is not exactly obvious for if it were, we wouldn't have so many different religions around the world.  But we do, we have hundreds of different faith systems most of which are driven greatly by what we don't know.

Rather than calling this by a less flattering term like "ignorance" we instead use pretty words...words like "faith."  But if we were to be completely honest, the fact is for those of us who adhere to a faith system, much of our lives are governed by what we can't know for sure.

Personally, I believe the dirty little secret at the foundation of almost every faith system is a little thing called FEAR.  Most people who choose to follow a religion do so out of fear.  For some its the fear of hell for others its the fear of not obtaining heaven, for almost all its the fear of death.  Think about it, most of us are scared to die and it is our faith that helps to alleviate that fear.  It is in our faith that we draw hope.  The problem with hope being drawn from faith is the fact that it is impossible for that hope to be built on certainty, because if it wouldn't be called faith.

Sadly, it is this great focus on what we don't know that causes us to miss out on the opportunity to zero in on the things we do know.  Things that exist here and now in this life.  I'm a Christian, but I honestly can't tell you for sure that Jesus was the Son of God.  In fact, I can't tell you for certain that he was anything other than just a remarkable guy with some ideas that got passed down through the centuries.  If I could...once wouldn't be called faith.

But I can look at a number of things he said and see that they still have profound meaning and impact, not when I die, but right this second in the here and now.  He said things like "don't worry about tomorrow" which I translate to "live in the moment."  Things like love your neighbor and love yourself, to be kind to others and not to repay evil for evil.  He told us to forgive and to be generous.  I can't say for sure what these things will or won't do for us in the afterlife (assuming there is one....I have faith that there is) but I will say that I can see quite clearly the benefits they would have on this life, right now.  In fact, that requires almost no faith and as a result is very easy to believe.  So, perhaps the religions of the world might have a chance to look much more alike if we were to focus more on what we do know rather than what we don't.  It is what we don't know that divides so many of us, arguing about theories and speculations about how things might be, yet it is what we do know, it is love, that has the power to unite and change the world.  Perhaps the time has come to spend less time focusing on what we don't know and more focusing on what we do?    

Friday, June 20, 2014

Paying it Forward

We've all heard of paying if forward right?  The idea that if someone does something nice for you, you don't have to pay it back to the person but instead pay it forward to someone else.

I've come to the conclusion that this should be pretty easy as people tend to be really good at paying if forward.  I think the easiest place to see this is when we are driving.  As I'm sitting here typing, I'm in a parking lot and one woman just pulled up behind another who wasn't paying attention and honked her horn making it quite clear what an idiot she felt the other woman was being.

How often does that happen?  I know its true for me.  I know that when I accidentally cut someone off while driving and they let me have it I get ticked off.  My first thought is, "Yeah whatever buddy, like you've never messed up while driving."

But then it happens.....I start waiting......I start looking for that moron that will finally cut me off so I can lay on my horn and unload all that pent up frustration on them.  I can't wait to make sure they know what an idiot they are.  Yep, when it comes to paying if forward, we are actually pretty good at it.  The problem isn't that we don't do it, the problem is we just tend to pay the wrong things forward.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

What If Jesus Wasn't the Son of God?

When it comes to the most famous people ever to exist on the face of the Earth, none have become as well known as a simple Jewish carpenter who lived 2,000 years ago in what is today Northern Israel.  This man, who the world knows as Jesus, has had quite the long list of descriptions and attributes associated with him, the greatest of which claimed he was the Son of God!

I have to wonder how much the title of "Son of God" would influence and maybe even skew the memory of an individual?  Over the course of history it seems common that the legacy of a famed individual will continue to grow until the reputation of that person becomes "larger than life."  We can see this occurring in the lives of people who lived much more recently than Jesus as historians are now revealing that events like Lady Godiva's famed nude horse back ride likely never happened, or that Betsy Ross, although a documented flag maker for the colonial United States, most likely did NOT make the very first American flag.  There even exists a famous story of the Roman Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned even thought the fiddle didn't exist until hundreds of years later.

If such exaggerations can take place about so many others, then why would it not make sense that some of these things can and have occurred with the most famous human of all?  Keep in mind the stuff of legends surrounding these people was through no fault of their own but the people who came after them.  It is human nature to build things up to the point of folklore.....just ask your average fisherman.

So when it comes to Jesus, what if we gave skeptics permission to consider the idea that maybe he wasn't the "Son of God?"  What if the miracles were, like so many other stories surrounding characters if history, simply exaggerations and lore?  What would be the effects of such a thing?

After all, how many times in your life have you immediately stopped taking a story seriously as soon as you heard an impossible fact mentioned.  The old, "Yeah right!" moment.  How many people in todays world immediately stop listening as soon as things like walking on water or multiplying loaves start getting brought up?  

But what would happen if we took someone like Jesus and stripped away all of the supernatural allure surrounding him?  All that would really be left would be his teachings.  Teachings about love, about forgiveness, about living in the moment, about accepting one another.  One of the amazing things about Jesus is that these teachings, if applied by everyone, would change the world, it would literally create a Heaven on Earth if we all lived our lives like he taught.  But....that fact is obscured by miracles and stories of the fantastic.  Stories that now have his followers more interested in moving mountains and performing feats than simply learning to love someone who is different than they are.

As for me, do I believe Jesus was the Son of God......the answer is "yes."  But I don't believe this because of the miracles.......I believe it because what He taught has so much power to change the world that he didn't need the miracles.        

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Most Pastors Live a Lie

It is not good for man to be alone.........a statement we all seem to agree with until it comes to the men and women who proclaim it from their pulpits.  Of all the lonely people in this world, there are few who tend to live a lonelier life than that of a pastor or minister.  These individuals, although often surrounded by people, tend to live their lives in a secret solitude few will ever understand.  But why?  Why is it that people who are supposed to make a living at relationships seldom have any that are completely real?  Well.....I suppose it is probably because we won't let them.  

We love our pastors to be funny and intelligent, we like them to be warm and kind, but the one thing we don't like them to be is REAL, and boy do they know it.

Pastor's aren't allowed to struggle with the things with which the rest of us deal.  They aren't allowed to be tempted, to lust, to deal with pornography, or doubt, or anxiety.  We don't let them speak their true thoughts about what they may or may not struggle with in the Scriptures.  Pastor's aren't allowed to have rocky patches in their marriages or problems with their finances or to have a potty mouth when they stub their toe.

You see, we claim that pastors are called to be examples to the rest of us but in actuality, that's exactly what they are not.  We don't want them to be examples, we want them to be perfect.  And if they are not.....we fire them.

Who in their right mind is going to come out and admit to someone that they have a porn addiction or that their marriage is on the rocks or that they are doubting God when they risk their very livelihood and the livelihood of their families?  Who isn't going to be able to resist the temptation not to tickle the ears of their congregations with the traditionally safe theologies of their denominations?  Especially when this is their full time job?  

But what kind of an "example" can a person be when they aren't allowed to even be human?  If we are to learn from our pastors how to follow Christ, will we learn more by watching them run or by watching them get back up after they fall?  Ideally, shouldn't pastors be the most transparent and real among us?  Shouldn't it be by allowing them to publicly grow and wrestle with their demons that we learn how to do the same?

But instead we have conditioned them to hide and suppress their challenges, forcing them to try to overcome their issues in secret, which often leads to a festering mold that we don't learn about until they have a massive collapse with devastating consequences.  Who is really the greater hypocrite, the pastor who pretends to be perfect or the flawed people who demand perfection from their spiritual leaders?

Perhaps if we would like to get the most out of our pastors we should consider allowing them to lead by example rather than by perception.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Will Hathaway: The Trouble with Hell...

Will Hathaway: The Trouble with Hell...: The Hell know.....the belief that if you don't accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are destined and doomed to an ...

The Trouble with Hell...

The Hell know.....the belief that if you don't accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are destined and doomed to an eternity writhing in the fires of Hell?  This is one of the most foundational doctrines in all of Christianity and like it or not, it has profoundly sculpted the ways and reasons in which Christianity is presented.

In recent years there has been some different interpretations in regard to what Hell is and how it works but the intention of this writing is not to enter that debate.  The purpose of this post is simply to examine the effects of our current beliefs on Hell and how they might influence how Christianity looks today.

What would be the highest priorities for a follower of a faith system that believed all who fail to accept it are doomed to Hell?  After all the champion Bible verse of Christianity claims "whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

As a good person if you believe other people are going to Hell because they don't "believe" something, then wouldn't your highest priority be to get them to believe that very thing?  And when we boil it all down, "believing" isn't much more that what you think about something right? I think Jesus was the Son of God and that He died for my sins, therefore it could be said that I "believe."   If I don't think those things then it would be said that I don't "believe."  And according to the traditional Christian beliefs that is what basically determines who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. Essentially, do I think the right way.

So if that is the basic premise, then one would think the natural direction followers of such a religion might take would be to try to convince as many people as possible to "think" a certain way as quickly as possible so as to save their souls.  They might conduct activities designed to draw as many people as possible to attempt to convince as many as they can to think in a different way; to think in a way that can be defined as "believing."  That would have to be the highest priority, as anything else would be irresponsible.  Get them "saved" first and we can work on the rest later.  In doing so we create environments in which we try desperately to convince people by any means, be it by emotion or fear or euphoria, to change the way they think.  We create faith factories that attempt to churn out as many "believers" as possible.  Which by the way, is a lot like what modern Christianity does in fact look like today.

But, what might Christianity look like if the Hell Doctrine wasn't so prevalent?  What might it look like if the fear of Hell wasn't such a driving force?

Jesus stressed that we were to "love" God and love our neighbors, and love our enemies, and to do things like make "disciples," all of which are things that take time.  And time is something we don't have much of when we are in a race against it to save the soul of the lost.  With a fate as terrible as Hell, the focus becomes much more about quickly saving people from something dreadful rather than patiently trying to show them the better way of love.

All this to say that interpretation of the Scriptures can create vastly different Christian experiences.  Is our faith fear and dread based at its absolute core leading to a frantic breakneck race to save as many as possible?  Or does it provide us the time needed to properly cultivate the friendships and relationships of which love requires?  Perhaps it's a bit of both, but in the end it seems like the highest priority for Jesus was love over faith, I just hope we are giving ourselves enough time to make that our reality.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why Modern Christianity is No Different Than Any Other Religion

Its Easter Sunday..... the most important holiday of all for Christians.  Today is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The man we Christians believe was the very Son of God.  Through out the day, I've seen and heard a number of people either make or post comments about the fact that if Christ did not rise from the dead, nothing He taught really matters.  Everything He offered this world is in vain if He still remains in His grave.

So, naturally, in order to be a Christian, it is really important to believe in a most unbelievable premise, that being, a man rose from the dead.  According to most "Christian" teachers and preachers, failure to "believe" in this event jeopardizes the eternal security of one's soul.  But to believe.......well, to believe changes everything.  For it is our faith that saves us and therefore our faith that is most important.  It is our ability to believe the unbelievable and the unlikely, that ultimately paves our way into heaven.

But there is a problem with see, if it is faith that sets us apart, then we are in fact exactly the same as every other religion in the world, for every religion is founded on faith.  If faith is the most important thing in Christianity, then what we are ultimately saying is that you must believe the most unbelievable aspects of our faith MORE than the most unbelievable aspects of other religions.  By making faith the most important trait of Christianity, we have lowered our position to the same criteria of every other faith system out there and have created great pressure to seek out ways to prove and support the intangible.  We seek out ways to "prove" the resurrection, to "prove" the miracles, to "prove" the history of these stories, some of which are quite fantastic.  In seeking to "share" our faith, we first offer people the intangible, tell them they must believe, and then spend the rest of our lives trying to prove these things actually happened, negating the very need for faith in the first place!

Yet when one looks at the teachings of Christ, faith is important yes, but NOT the most important.  When asked about the greatest commandment did not Christ reply that we are to "love The Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind?"  Did He not place a close second to "love your neighbor as yourself?" (Matt 22)  I seem to remember the Apostle Paul stating in 1 Corinthians 13 that there are three great pillars of life: faith, hope, and love.  But then he went on to clarify that the "greatest of these is love!"

As Christians we have weakened our stance by taking an important aspect of our belief system and making it the most important.  As a result, Christianity is recognized more by "believing" in miracles and the following of rules than it is by its most powerful

Love is tangible, love is real, love is obvious.  Anyone can see that if everyone loved one another, the world would be an incredible place.  Yet, we don't offer that first.  We don't offer up the most easily believable aspect of what Christ taught first...instead we do the same as everyone else, we start with the impossible.  We say in order to believe in His love you must first believe in His resurrection.  But perhaps we have it backwards.  Perhaps it would be easier for a skeptical world to first develop a tangible faith in His love and through that tangible faith, grow to have an intangible faith in His resurrection.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What If Most "Christians" Aren't?

There is an old Christian hymn called, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love."  As a child sitting among the pews, I remember singing this almost chant of a song on a number of occasions.  Its really a beautiful concept when you think about it.  To be so loving as a person and a group that it actually defines the way people know you.  The song draws from the words of Jesus in John 13:35 which states: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)  If you've studied Jesus much, you'll quickly notice that love was a very important thing to Him.  He encouraged people to do things like love their neighbor, love God, love one another.  He even went so far as to tell people to love their enemies!  Within this message He also sprinkled some love supporting attributes of not judging, forgiveness, compassion, and encouragement.

I have to admit, it makes me a bit sad for Jesus to have lived such a committed life to loving, so much so even in the act of dying He cried out in compassion for those torturing Him, that today His followers are known for being judging and hypocritical well before loving.

Sadly, the old hymn I sung so many times in my small church has become nothing more than a bold lie.  If you were to ask the average person on the street what word they think of first to describe a "Christian" I'm certain the word "love" would not be the most popular.  I'm afraid through the centuries the church has come to find Jesus's call to love to simply be too difficult.  As a result, we have retreated to easier tasks of trying not to have a potty mouth or standing up for morality, or being conservative, or outspoken, or bold, or whatever else we can think of, but loving is simply too difficult.  It's hard to love.  Especially when someone disagrees with you, or wants to discredit you, or hates you.  And rather than focus on the difficulty of following Christ due to the high calling for love, we focus on the difficulties that come with simply trying to be good.  Being good is hard too, but not nearly as hard as being loving.

I have to pause now when someone asks me what I believe.  Before I can respond by calling myself a Christian, I have to ask if people would describe loving as one of their first descriptors of me?  After all, Jesus never said Christians would be known by their faith or by what they think, or their political party....simply by how they love.  If I can't honestly describe myself first and foremost as loving, I certainly shouldn't discredit Christ by call myself a Christian.          

Friday, February 21, 2014

Should Businesses Have the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone?

Yesterday, the Arizona House and Senate passed some very controversial legislation allowing businesses to "discriminate" by refusing to provide services to people if doing so violates their own personal religious beliefs.  This bill is being viewed as specifically as an anti-gay type bill (which it is).

But I think it does bring up an interesting question.  Should PRIVATE businesses be able to reserve the right to refuse service to anyone?  It makes sense to me that any sort of federal, state, or municipality should not be allowed to discriminate, or for that matter, any private business who accepts or has accepted any sort of taxpayer funding.  But for the solely private business, should they not be able to discriminate if they want to for ANY reason, not just religious?  Shouldn't that be one of the rights of a private business?  The State of Arizona was short sighted, and in my opinion somewhat foolish, by limiting this to a gay vs. religion type bill, which itself is discriminatory as it is a governmental agency selecting who can and cannot discriminate.  Either everyone should be able to or nobody should be able to.

And as consumers don't we also reserve the right not to shop at these businesses and to tell all of our friends not to shop there either?  It's one thing to sue a business because they cheated you or did not follow up with a service you paid for, but should we be able to sue them for simply refusing to take our money?

I know this conjures up images of segregation, whites only restaurants and what not, and maybe I'm naive, but I'd like to believe we now live in a country where we as a society would simply refuse to shop as such a business or that some enterprising individual would take advantage of all the money these businesses are refusing and set up shop next door offering their services to everyone.

Remember for America to remain great one of the things we must be willing to do is defend the rights of those with whom we disagree.  Although, I disagree with discrimination, I think we should be cautious limiting the rights of any other American to do so in their private business.  If consumers can sue business for refusing to serve them because of the business owner's personal beliefs, then when will businesses be able to start suing consumers for refusing to shop at their store because of that owner's same believes?  There are many people who won't shop at certain businesses not because of the business itself, but the personal beliefs of the business owner.  Consumers boycott businesses all the time for things like animal testing, religious beliefs, political leanings, etc... (See Chickfil)  Since we as consumers have the right to discriminate against a business because of the owner's personal believes, I'm not sure the business should not maintain that same right.  And not just because of their religious beliefs, any belief or reason they might have.  Remember, we don't have to shop there.      

Thursday, February 20, 2014

One Reason Relationships Fail- Our obsession with the Hunt

My wife and I finally took in our Valentine date the other day treating ourselves to a mid-day movie.  We weren't able to do much on the real Valentines day as I took a pretty nasty spill off a horse I was breaking.  After separating my pelvis and wrenching my back pretty badly I was off my feet for a few days with my wife having to be my nurse.

The movie we took in was the typical "chick flick" with the unlikely couple meeting and after getting off to an awkward start they fall in love only to have some type of conflict arise that threatens the relationship.  Then, as usual, the dude makes a fool of himself to demonstrate his great love and they get back together and all is well.  Take 90% of the chick flicks over the past 30 years, insert said plot and simply change out the characters and locations.

This movie bothered me a bit more though as in this situation, the guy was a total (feminine product) who's whole goal in life was to hook up with as many girls as possible and then bolt as soon as they start to get attached.  It concerns me when I look around our society and see the high number of failed relationships and marriages that perhaps we are starting to romanticize the wrong aspects of life.  

I understand movies are to entertain us so I'm not at all casting any blame on Hollywood.  I don't think Hollywood influences our actions nearly as much and they provide the mirror to show us who we already are.  After all, their goal is simply to run and business and make money, so they will give us what we want, and we tell them what we want by what we pay for.  

So with that, it makes sense to me that we worship guys who sleep with as many girls as they can, and we worship the girl that can finally tame this person.  (And if there is one thing I've recently learned its that when you set your mind to taming the wildest creatures you can easily get hurt). In both situations its not really about love or the relationship, its about the hunt!  For the guys its about conquering as many women as we can and for women its about conquering that guy and getting him to settle down with you.  

If this is the fabric with which we use to build our marriages and the foundations of the relationships with whom the raising of our children will be built upon, then is it any wonder we are having such vast relationship problems in our society?  

Mind you I had an extreme comparison as in the few days prior to see this movie, I got to watch my wife of almost 16 years helping me just to stand up.  Our life is probably pretty boring compared to what America is in love with, and sadly, I have to admit I haven't really done a great job of appreciating what I have.  It's pretty humbling to have someone else have to lift your legs into bed for you just so you can lay down straight.  Thankfully, my injuries aren't that bad and I should be back to normal in a couple weeks, but it reminded me of what true love really looks like.  And it reminded me that I have what so many are looking for although sadly, I've often taken it for granted.  So with that, Karra, I love you!  Thank you so much for being my wife and such a great mom to our kids!  I'm sorry I don't express that to you more and that it takes stupid things like this for me to see it.      

In America, we are quite consumed with finding love, but not very concerned with keeping it.  And thus as a society we remain on that never ending merry-go-round of finding then re-finding love, rather than finding and maintaining love.  We will know our priorities have changed when most of the movies are about maintaining stable and committed relationships rather than the hunt.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Christian Movie "Snub?"

Recently there has been a lot of chatter in Christian circles about a song called, "Alone Yet Not Alone" from a movie of the same name being snubbed for an Oscar due to the "Christian" content of the film.

I've seen a bit of an uproar on Facebook and other social media from the faith community claiming that the film is being discriminated against by Hollywood, and that Christians are now the victims of discrimination from the entertainment industry.

I have to admit this makes me a bit sad.  Not so much that Christians are discriminated against in the entertainment circles but that we actually care!

If we are going to get upset over a Christian movie not being nominated or selected for an award, I have to wonder what was the original purpose of the movie?  Was it to share a message of Christ's love with those who so badly need it?  Or was it to win an award?  It seems odd to me that we would create music or movies or whatever for a world with whom we normally disagree and then become upset when we don't receive their praise.  Since when was the praise of man such a high priority for Christianity?

How Christlike is it for us to produce material that is supposed to share Christ with others and then cry about it when we don't win awards for it?  Why is the opinion of the non-Christian so important to the Christian?  Unless of course we have begun to lose our way.  Unless our faith has become less and less about demonstrating love and more about winning elections and Oscars and whatever other prizes are out there.  If that's the case, why should anyone choose a religion that looks just like everything else in the world?