Category: "faith/skepticism"

Civil religion

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.
Church with giant flag hanging in front of it

Architecture is the body language of the church - Real Live Preacher. I found this on Kristin's Blog and it comes from Real Live Preacher, a Salon.com blog that Matt has talked about before. He brings up some interesting questions in his brief post, but I mostly thought the image was really striking, so I thought I would post it.

Top 5 returns...

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.

Although not in its original sarchastic bent. (We'll save that for next week.) I observed Lent for the first time this year, thanks to our favorite ecumenical friends, Matt and MaryEllen. The details: I decided to give up snacks after dinner, since that is a vice that is hard to let go of, but not as hard as, say, TV or the Internet. I also did readings and prayers from the Praying Lent site (although not every day. Hey, I'm not perfect.) So, without further ado, here are my top 5 reasons for observing Lent:

1. Brings structure to prayer time
I am often at a loss for what to pray, which is probably why I don't do it very often. I liked the fact that there were opening and closing prayers, which helps my structured personality. I also liked praying through the intercessions, which focused on prayers for the lost, the poor, the church, etc.

2. Bible readings were relevant to the season
The site also had daily readings, some OT and some NT. I decided to read only the Gospels because I have a short attention span and I knew it would be about Jesus, the guy I'm trying to get closer to by doing this anyway. This became so important to me, especially during the last week, as I was reading accounts of Jesus' washing the disciple's feet; of his betrayal; of his crucifixion. By Good Friday, I think I was actually mourning the loss of Jesus from the perspective of those who knew him well. I was able to think about what they must have thought and experienced--extreme sorrow. Our church had a Stations of the Cross ceremony as well (apparently with revisions from a Christian church minister, which made it 'okay' for us to do). The night was very cold and as I stood there in various parts of the church yard listening to the readings and prayers, I felt sorrow, I understood the immensity of God compared with my own insignificance. I also felt a sense of community, which I will explore next.

3. Promotes community
While doing the readings and prayers, I knew that people everywhere, from different backgrounds (church and otherwise) were coming together for a common goal--to seek out Jesus, to understand him better, to feel in communion with him. I believe that my spiritual growth is increased when I'm in accord with other believers; these are the times I feel most filled up and closest to God's presence.

4. Teaches discipline
Abstaining from snacks after dinner might not seem like a lot, but when you eat like I do, it is. In the times we had people over during the 40 days of Lent, I served people food at my house that I couldn't eat. A few times I felt like I bent the rules (not eating dinner until late so I could have dessert right after), but all in all, I was successful. Although that wasn't the most important thing, of course. I decided that each time I felt hungry and couldn't eat, I would pray. Sometimes it was just a small prayer, akin to "God, I remember that you're there", but it was better than I usually do.

5. Makes Easter more meaningful
Instead of a random day in March (sometimes in April) where we go to church, I felt that I had been preparing for a celebration for over a month. Especially after the darkness I experienced on Good Friday, I felt that Easter Sunday was a release--of emotions, of celebration, of gratitude. I have to say that Easter 2005 was the most meaningful Easter I have ever had. For the rest of the week, I plan to continue with the Easter prayers and readings. They are meant to be reminders of the Good News. As I felt the sorrow of the early church when Jesus died, now I can read and pray about their celebration.

I know this post is totally out of character for me, but I felt that I should share this with you. Maybe you can join me in observing Lent next year. Any ideas for 'normal' top 5 lists? You can put them in the comments.

And now for something a little less ridiculous...

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.

Today I was privy to an interesting conversation in my Sunday School class. Four Bible college students were arguing with my mother-in-law about the nature of God; specifically, about how involved he is in our lives. She said she believes there are two schools of thought on this issue: one, that God set everything into motion and, though he knows what will happen, does not meddle in the affairs of earthlings, making all consequences are earthly; two, that God is specifically engaged in each of our lives, and he orchestrates each and every thing that happens to us or as a result of us. She was of the first school of thought, the Bible college students of the second. Since I have absolutely no idea, I thought it would be fun to see what you thought. The floor is yours...

Horked Off

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.

For the last couple of days, I have been extremely upset with Christians. Not so much with the ones I know, but with our representatives in public. Here are a few examples:

1. Tom DeLay
Dave posted about this speech here. It's another example of idiocy, or of complete disregard for human dignity; possibly both.

2. Star Jones of THE VIEW
Not that I really care what she thinks, or ever watch this show, but I did hear a quote from her that went something like this: "I was there on my honeymoon a month ago; it could have been me. God really blessed me [by making sure I wasn't there]." I don't know why exactly, but this rubs me the wrong way. I guess because it sounds self-centered and is of the "I have to make everything, even a global tragedy, somehow relate to my own piddly life" school of thought, which I also can't stand.

3. This article in The Lookout
For those of you who are not familiar with this fine piece of literary work (or with my sarchastic nature), I apologize. I also must apologize that it will not work in Mozilla. Grrr. I stumbled across this issue, all about the 'dating dilemma', when I had nothing better to do. I should have watched some more Dawson's Creek. Suffice it to say that this is the best (read: worst) quote in the whole article; it also sums up the guy's lack of credentials very well.

"I would never encourage Christian parents to allow their children to date unbelievers. I wouldn't want them to experience my anguish."

His anguish? The only thing that happened to him was that he was too controlling of his daughter, and that she rightfully got angry. Then, when they broke up, he saw this as the 'hand of God', thus proving him right. How convenient.

4. Yet another article
Another Lookout prize-winner, the very scientific writer of this piece of work writes, "Though I know of no studies that have been conducted, I suspect that the divorce rate among those who maintain their sexual purity before marriage is significantly lower than that of those who choose not to.

WHA?
(a) "Though I know of no studies...." is not a good way to gain credibility, especially when you are making erroneous claims.
(b) I'm not so sure that if this poll were to be taken, it would come out in this guy's favor. If you've ever been around those Christian couples who love to tell everyone how great their sex life is (in great detail) because they waited until they were married, you know what I mean. Yuck.

5. This
But if you read this site, you probably already know what I'm talking about.

And finally, the whole reason I decided to post this rant,

6. www.realrelationships.com
I got this book for Christmas from one of my good friends, and I was very excited because it has a special online evaluation that you get to access for free (a $30 value, so the book cover says). First, as I'm reading, I can't help but notice that there are several ploys to get me to purchase their workbook; namely, that I can't get all that I want out of the book without the exercises therein. "That's all right," I keep telling myself, all the while waiting for chapter 9 when they tell me about the online personality evaluation, the evaluation for my mate, and the couple's evaluation. Of course, I go to the website and am told this:

"To take your indicator, click here now and insert your passcode, and remember, you can always come back later and purchase an additional love talk indicator for your partner ($15) and receive your Love Talk couple's report."

Gee thanks for lying to me. And as if that weren't enough, I then read that I have to purchase the couple's report for an additional $15.

So, as far as I can tell, Les and Leslie, if I took your stupid test (which actually did sound interesting, and may have saved me from horrible communication blunders down the road--do you know how valuable that would be?), I wouldn't save $30, I would actually spend it. Capitalism at its best.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

In unrelated news, Emma performed her first successfully funny prank today. We were at a friend's house, and she ran in the kitchen saying, "Is there something on my teeth?" while laughing hysterically. She had strategically placed a raisin on her front tooth, making it seem like she was missing a tooth--Genius.

Ad in this weeks paper

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.

Concerned how our country is being
led away from God to socialism?

So are we! Big gathering in Branson on Saturday, January 8, 9 a.m.-4
p.m. For strategy and information by nationally known speakers and
organizations.

RSVP: 417-754-9253 or 4170754-8774 or 660-598-0011. Duane Klepel

That ad was in a local paper this week. I always thought that socialism was a form of government and God was a form of religion. How can being led away from one be the same thing as being led toward another? And how, exactly, is our nation being led toward socialism when our president and congress are both controlled by the capitalism-friendly Republican party? More to the point, is a socialist state inherently incompatible with Christianity? Why doesn't this ad identify the organization that is putting this meeting on? Sara suggested that I google the name "Duane Klepel." I guess he wrote a letter to the Truman State University Index last summer.

Christian Voters Make Tough Decisions

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.

Change occurs so often in our lives, and we are seldom responsible for its arrival. Every four years, however, we Americans are afforded the chance to change our futures—either by continuing on the current path or by selecting an entirely different one—at our discretion, and by way of Constitutional right. I speak, of course, of the national presidential election. The importance of this decision is obvious; yet the number of Americans who actually exercise this right continues to decline. Politically-minded people find this statistic appalling, while the disinterested public accepts it as reality. Neither mindset invokes change; both merely reinforce stereotypes and fatalistic thinking.
Accolades should be awarded to evangelical Christians for breaking the mold on voter indifference: evangelicals compose just seven percent of the United States' population, yet they are one segment of the population found most likely to register to vote (84%) and to actually exercise the privilege of voting (88%).
Mostly Republican (62%) and conservative (75%) in their politics, evangelicals vote accordingly. Eighty-three percent of evangelicals voted for our current Republican president in the 2000 election (Tight Presidential Race Influenced by People's Faith, www.barna.org). Given the lack of political understanding found in all segments of America's population, one could ask, "Are evangelicals voting this way based on personal contemplation of facts, or are they operating under the assumption that this is the way they must vote?"
Informed voters or no, we could all use a crash course in politics, particularly in a year when our vote, and thus, our opinion, is so crucial. To make the right decision, we must understand each candidate's stance on key issues; issues such as health care, the war on terror, abortion, stem cell research and religious freedom are important considerations when deciding on a candidate. But perhaps the choice is much more fundamental.
Kevin Beckner, Government teacher at Pattonville High School in St. Louis, Missouri, advocates a rudimentary understanding of government as an essential step in making voting decisions. "[We could believe that] government is simply an administrative body that carries out functions in order to help society run smoothly, [wherein] the people running the government are of little concern. Instead, it appears that government sets the boundaries for what our country will tolerate on an ethical and moral level," Beckner said.
To Beckner, a candidate's worldview, the "lens through which people view the world around them and how their lives fit in the grand scheme of things", is more important than his stance on a particular issue. To paraphrase Beckner: a government runs based on a worldview; that worldview is collectively decided upon by the worldviews of those in that government; and the voting public chooses the people whose worldview ultimately makes a difference.
So what does this mean to voters; specifically, to Christian voters? "I operate under the assumption that people should act upon their worldview," Beckner explains, citing that this action is based on a person's understanding of truth. And, since Christians believe in the Truth (objective moral law handed to us by a God who cares for us), Beckner believes that "We need to put people in office whose worldview makes it easier for the people of God to act on their beliefs, creating an environment that is least restrictive to the presentation and acceptance of the Gospel."
Beckner's most compelling argument for voting on the basis of worldview is that of Supreme Court appointment. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president and serve a life term, meaning that "the worldview of the person selected to be on the Court will likely influence the course of our country for the next 15-45 years," Beckner said. "[Appointing a Supreme Court justice] is arguably the greatest legacy any president can leave."
Voting based on worldview has far-reaching implications: namely, that personal, time-consuming research must be done to figure out the worldview of a particular candidate. Additionally, one must give up the notion that a candidate and his voting public are required to hold exactly the same position on issues—moral or otherwise. If worldviews are, as Beckner suggests, tenets to be acted upon, then individuals decide how to project their beliefs onto the world around them. Even those holding the same worldview interpret and react to certain issues in different ways. In these situations, Beckner's idea of voting based on the amount of ease with which the Gospel can be spread and lived out is paramount.
That said, there are some concerns that seem to fuel this year's election. According to an article in September's Christianity Today, evangelical Christians are most concerned in six areas: promoting religious freedom (at home and abroad); promoting peace; expanding access to health insurance; fighting AIDS wisely (including the use of abstinence education); abortion; and standing up for traditional marriage ("Values-Driven Voter", p. 32).
Whether you choose to vote based on worldview, specific issues or a combination of the two, the fact remains that you must be informed in order to make a difference. Beckner recommends reading websites (see inset) and, of course, prayer.
"We must be the kind [of voters] who press forward, knowing that God really exists, and that we must elect candidates whose worldview is least restrictive to the proliferation of the Gospel. This will not happen by watching the evening news, and it will not happen by voting based on looks. It will happen by prayerful consideration and intelligent discernment of the issues, candidates, and worldview inherent in both. May He give us wisdom."

They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts

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.

They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts, a blog about working in a Christian bookstore. This looks pretty interesting. I generally try to avoid places like this, so it must be tough to work there.

(via Linfilter)

Last Day

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.

Today was my last day at my old job. I taught my last Sunday school class and introduced the new teachers to the kids. I read the announcements for the last time. My office is cleaned out, my computer has a fresh install of Windows XP. I'm done. I feel relieved and maybe a little bit sad, but not much. It's going to be better. The kids will have some leaders who are excited about working with them. I won't be working at night any more. Church will be more fun for me now. Tomorrow I go in for a third interview. I really hope they offer me a job.

My resignation announcement

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.

Well, it's official now. This morning I announced my resignation from my job as associate minister at Adrian Christian Church. Here's the statement I made at church this morning:

I've decided that it's time for me to move on to something else. When Paul first talked to me about coming here as a youth minister I told him that I didn't think youth ministry was something I would really like or be good at. But we all agreed to give it a try. After two years I think I can safely say that I was right. It's not that I think I've wasted my time or wasted the church's time. I think our youth ministry has come a long way in these two years. I love all of the kids, but the bottom line is, I don't love the job. And the kids deserve someone who has a passion and a gift for youth ministry. So, effective September 19, I'll be getting out of the way.

I should make a couple of things clear. First, I will still be a member of this church. We're not moving or leaving the church. Second, Sara will keep her job. Third, I'm not leaving because of any problems in the church. Things are going great here, people are getting along, new things are happening, and despite all that, I'm ready for a break and ready to do something I'm more suited for.

You might wonder what I'm going to do now. Well, I wonder about that, too. Working with technology has been something that I've gravitated toward, even here at the church. I feel like I'm good at it and I plan to make a career out of it. And there are lots of new jobs being created in that field, they're just mostly in India. As for my involvement in the church, it's going to be scaled back quite a bit for now. I'm going to try to find my place as a volunteer, and I think some time off will help with that. I do intend for the website to continue to be timely and useful, so I'll do what I need to do to help out with that.

I believe that this move is the best thing for my family, for my faith, and in the long run, for the church, too. Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for making this the best job I've ever had.

I would appreciate your prayers while I'm making this transition and looking for a new job. I'm really looking forward to just being a member of the church and not being in charge.

Blogswap 4

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 didn't participate in the latest Blogswap, but you can read the entries here if you're interested.

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