Category: "faith/skepticism"

Christian Parents

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

How Religious Parents Royally Screw Up Their Children

Good stuff for me to think about as a parent and youth minister. Let me know what you think. (from The Internet Monk)

Jr. high camp

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.


It's Monday night of my second week of camp. I'm staying up playing Risk with some of the camp faculty. Camp has been fun so far. I've been playing drums in the praise band here and otherwise just trying to do what I can to help. We've played some fun games with the kids (see photo) and since I'm co-dean of the camp, I haven't had to mess with trying to get them to shut up and go to sleep.

Married to Reality

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

The room is ripe with excitement. Fifty to one hundred adolescent girls arrive at a Christ in Youth seminar on marriage to hear barely post-adolescent women discuss a topic near and dear to each girl's heart: the promise of marriage. And the seminar leaders do not disappoint—familiar sappy drivel is spoon-fed to this willing audience, who wants, hopes, and must believe that marriage is the answer to their teen angst. As the older women discuss the amazing intimacy, the wonderful attentiveness, the sheer joy to be found in future husbands, one dissenting opinion emerges: that of the already married.
You see, these instructors were not highly qualified marital counselors. In fact, they themselves had never been married at all. They had not known the sheer joy of a husband who has to work late, or of one who simply will not work. They had never felt the amazing intimacy between two people who are mentally and physically exhausted after caring for their newborn. In short, they sold these optimistic girls a glossy picture of an often lackluster institution. It was time for the already married to step in and explain that marriage is not all eye-gazing and hand-holding. It's not that easy. It requires work. And many marriages will fail. (In fact, false expectations like these help put the divorce rate in perspective).
Unfortunately, this situation is not the exception. When it comes to marriage, Christians are often so concerned that young men and women will not take the plunge that they purposely omit survival instructions for drowning. I have to admit, the proverbial knight in shining armor is rather appealing. But it is not reality. So is it time to relegate marriage to its spot in history and evolve to a different type of relationship? According to some, the answer is yes.
Cultural icon Oprah Winfrey was heard last month touting her opinion that marriage has served its purpose over time, but has become outdated. She said she believes that it is nearly impossible to state what one will want twenty or thirty years down the road, a feat which the wedding vows "till death do us part" require.
Kerry Howley of Georgetown University agrees. "Weddings encourage people to make wild, irresponsible claims about who they will be in 10, 20, 30 years," Howley said at thehoya.com.
How can Christians argue with this sentiment? The answer is two-fold. First, we must consider marriage as a discipline which forms us into Christ's image and then promote this idea to young Christians. Without doubt, the continual practice of prayer, fasting, tithing and Bible reading is important for the Christian. As author Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote, "A spiritual life without discipline is impossible." But what if we considered marriage to be a spiritual discipline? Hosts of disciplined acts are required for this complex exchange between humans to work, including self-sacrifice, unity, conflict resolution and self-control.
Not convinced? Read Ephesians 5:22-33, and note the balancing act husbands and wives are asked to perform: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies…The wife must respect her husband." No wonder the vow reads, "'till death do us part." It would take more than a lifetime to get it right.
Ridding the church of its overly optimistic stance on marriage will take more than a fair number of married women speakers at teen seminars, however. As Wade Horn, President George W. Bush's marriage and family policy point man suggests, "We need to debunk the mystical view of marriage. There's this idea, believed by some and reinforced by television and movies, that a good marriage is magic. The more [realistic] good marriages young people see, the more a good marriage becomes the norm, not the exception" (Jim Killem, 'Promoting Marriage' in Marriage Partnership).
A good marriage involves misunderstanding, conflict and anger, as well as blind love and optimism. Young adults about to be wed should be exposed to the occasional spat as well as its imminent resolution. They need to understand that 'forgive and forget' is not only an essential part of a happy marriage, but is also one of the most difficult. By no means should we use scare tactics to move couples away from the decision to marry. These burdensome topics should be equally discussed with the benefits of a loving relationship between a husband and wife. But our overarching desire should be that, through marriage, couples become more like Christ.
Second, we must consider the image of marriage itself in a greater construct—its place in the rest of the world. How do our marriages measure up to those outside the church? Why are we failing, as a group, to raise the standard? According to David Neff of Christianity Today, "By practicing what we believe, Christian marriages can transform our society" ('A Marriage Revolution'). Here is his five-pronged approach to mainstream influence (paraphrased):
1. Admit that the current church's marriage record is no better than that of the world. "Divorce statistics inside the church are indistinguishable from those outside," Neff states.
2. Repent for allowing our culture's penchant for individualism to taint our understanding of marriage as a whole. Likewise, we need to:
3. Restore the community context of marriage, counseling other couples through difficult situations and providing positive reinforcement for a willingness to 'stick it out'.
4. Recover the sense of human limitation inherent in marriage and family life, re-establishing a focus on God's power.
5. Continue to help people learn the practical skills associated with all the challenges of married life.
Explaining the harsh realities of marriage may take more time and patience than selling a fairy-tale existence to hopelessly-in-love couples, but, in doing so, we improve their chance of success. And though more talk of marriage as an antiquated institution may surface, most of us are not ready to give up. As Wade Horn explains, "If there are groups out there that want to tell the American people that marriage is a horrible institution that needs to be deconstructed, they can do that. I just don't think that message resonates with most Americans around the kitchen table."

Church and State: Keep Them Separated

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

(This is the article I wrote for the June church newsletter.)

On my recent vacation I stopped by the Truman State University campus and visited some teachers and people I used to work with. One of them, a secretary who didn't know me well, but knew I was a minister, asked me this: "What do you think about them taking God out of everything? No prayer in schools . . . what's the world coming to?" I'm not sure if she honestly wanted to know what I thought, but I didn't tell her. We had one more stop to make, we were running behind already, and I wasn't about to try and start a discussion then and there. But it is something I've been thinking about, and my thoughts may surprise you.

Full story »

ChristianExodus: A Christian nation

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

I finished my article about church and state / theocracy. I'll post it here as soon as I can, but in the meantime, check this out:

Would you like to live in a Christian nation with government similar to the early United States? Well, here’s your chance!

ChristianExodus.org. Apparently a group of people are planning on moving en masse to a single state for the purpose of withdrawing from the US. The candidate states are Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.

I think this is a little scary. What do you think?

(via metafilter)

Church and state

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

I'm thinking of writing an article on this for our church newsletter. My main thought right now is that church and state should be separate, for the good of the church and the good of the state. I ran across this quote from C.S. Lewis about why he doesn't want a theocracy.

What I don't know is to what degree they should be seperated and how that would look with specific issues, like gay marriage, 'In God We Trust' on money, the pledge of alligiance, prayer in school, evolution in school, etc. I know that when prayer was 'removed' from my school (teachers couldn't lead students in prayer) I was in junior high and I didn't panic. I knew that I could still pray silently. I didn't want teachers making me pray and I didn't really like listening to a sermon at the school Christmas and Easter assemblies.

So I'm not too sure about what I think, and I'm not sure if I'm ready to handle the backlash of questioning the generally accepted idea that separation is bad. Help me out here.

Top 5 Worst Worship Songs

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

Okay, I know, many of you want to string me up after merely reading the title of this post. Let me explain: I'm a jerk. I'm cynical and somewhat of a music snob. In no way have I or would I ever pretend to be able to write a worship song, or any song for that matter, but I have been subjected to numerous worship sets which made me feel like laughing or puking. (Neither option is preferable when singing to the Big Guy.) Additionally, I am the director of our church's Worship Planning Team, so every week I consciously choose to let these and other songs which annoy me to be played, for the good of everyone else. So I am capable of group thinking. I just reserve the right to my opinion. And so do you. (So please tell me your own worst worship song).


5. I Will Not Forget You
I love Waterdeep. I think they are original and fun and somehow still serious and they usually move me in worship like nothing else. Here's the thing--I can't stand when songwriters want to use a word or phrase, then realize that using said phrase would mess up the rhythm of the song, but instead of rethinking the phrase, they add a word. In this case, the word is 'huge'. (As in, "a huge bell I ring"). I usually remain silent on this line or risk bursting into an inappropriate display of worship laughter.


4. Trading My Sorrows

Please don't kill me. I know that a lot of people love this song, particularly the actions (oh my goodness, don't get me started on action songs). This might be a little picky, but what am I if not detail-oriented? The bridge of this song includes the line "Though the sorrow may last for the night" and the music hits on each word in 'last for the night' in such a way that makes me think of hip-shaking. As in: Though the sorrow may last (stick hip out to right) for (to left) the (to right) night (to left). Get it? Anecdote--I was in a worship setting with my friend Marty and we were singing this song. We get to this part of the song, and, I kid you not, Marty does the hip thing. Completely his idea. I almost crapped my pants.


3.Draw Me Close Not a big fan of the emotional 'Jesus is sitting next to me' type songs. "I'd lay it all down again/ To hear you say that I'm your friend." Not so bad, I guess. Just wait. "You are my desire/ No one else will do/ Cause nothing else could take your place/ To feel the warmth of your embrace." What on earth does that mean? Grammatically speaking, we have a monster on our hands. To what does 'to feel the warmth of your embrace' refer? Peter, please back me up on this one.


2. Come, Now is the Time to Worship
This song is one of a few in a category I like to call "Ha, ha. You have to sing me first." For a Worship Planning Team director, this is maddening. Not to mention the weird chorus that doesn't seem to fit and the way we must all say 'come' at the end of the verse in an unnatural sing-whisper.


1. Your Love is Extravagant

I'm pulling out of the 'most recent' file on this one. My friend Hannah introduced me to this song, and when she sings it, it's great. She has a beautiful voice, and I can pretty much ignore whatever she is saying when she's singing. But when forced to sing as a participant, I found this song problematic. (Again, grammatically). "Spread wide in the arms of Christ/ Is the love that covers sin." No one told me we were moving back to Olde English on this one, and I spent an entire morning trying to figure out what I had just sung. I asked like 10 people what it meant, and understood even less when I was done. (I felt like a major idiot because it seemed like everyone else understood what we were saying. Maybe they just didn't care). Later, Danny explained that we were saying "The love that covers sin is spread wide in the arms of Christ." English majors.


Freebies:
Anything with the word 'river' in the title

This includes "Jesus Flow Like a River," "Let the River Flow," and "Dance in the River." My reasoning: no one can legitimately explain what the 'river' signifies. Seriously. Once, my friend Peter (whose list would be MUCH longer than mine) asked people why they liked a song with 'river' in the title. I believe he said, "What exactly is the river?" The answer? "Oh, you know, its Jesus and he's flowing through us. It's like the Spirit or something." Whatever.


Songs with lyrics that don't match the melody
Example: I Could Sing of Your Love Forever Here, we are singing a fun, happy verse, and then we move into the bridge with a depressing sound where we say, "Oh, I feel like dancing….." (Actually, this music makes me feel like crying.) "Like we're dancing now" (By the way, I have never seen anyone dance at this point. False advertising.)



**I Googled this topic and came up with nothing. So, from now on, when anyone wants to find the world's worst worship songs, they will see this list. So, if you want to be a world-famous jerk (and, really, who doesn't?), post your comments.

More Audition fun

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

Blues in Bufe.mp3


Here's another short clip I made in Adobe Audition. On this one I used loops to create the drums, bass, and Wurlitzer and the infamous Bufe Petty supplies lead guitar. It's only 12 measures long and under 700 kB. Oh, and Bufe says anyone who downloads this song owes him 99 cents.

Adobe Audition

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

We've now got a recording set-up here at the church. A few people were saying they'd like to have a worship cd from our band, so we purchased Adobe Audition (formerly known as Cool Edit Pro) and a multi-track sound card (Echo Layla). I spent some time yesterday and this morning setting it up and learning how to use it. Here is a link to a song I made while I was messing with the new set-up. I started with a drum loop from Audition, then recording myself playing guitar, bass and lead. Then I went back and replaced the drum loop with me playing drums. This is pretty rough (and I'm a crappy musician) but it shows what is possible.

This came in the mail

This post was written before I became an atheist and does not represent my current views. You can find more up-to-date posts on religion in my faith/skepticism category.

We got a flyer in the mail today for Lowell Mason, who refers to himself as 'The Singing Midget.' He has performed over 1000 concerts at the Precious Moments headquarters in Carthage, MO. Check the website for booking info.

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